Kythira is probably the place you wanted to travel with your bike and you didnt know. The island itself is a continuation of the Peloponesse countryside in a sense but a world away culturaly. It is traditionally listed as one of the seven main Ionian Islands, although it is distant from the main group. Administratively, it belongs to Attica suprisingly (although at large distance from Attica itself).
The island is strategically located between the Greek mainland and Crete, and from ancient times until the mid 19th century was a crossroads of merchants, sailors, and conquerors. As such, it has had a long and varied history and has been influenced by many civilisations and cultures. This is reflected in its architecture which is a blend of traditional, Aegean and Venetian elements, as well as the traditions, customs and the aura of its people which is miles away from the hard, edgy and stringy Laconian vibe. Influenced by centuries of coexistence of the Greek, Venetian, and Ottoman cultures – the Italian vibe is predominantly showing through the uplifting ongoings of the people.
We landed there in the middle of June, sun blazing up in the sky with summer heat and the locals preparing for the influx of visitors in the upcoming months. Kythira is not visited so much for roadbiking, mainly because it doesnt hold a circular 200klm distance so there is no rando or brevet event there and not many locals do roadcycling.
However, Kythira holds some of the most yummy roadporn you can find. Think of the quintessential Mediterranean scenery and then add some more and you will find it. Nice curvy lines, brutal grades, snake hilly roads, full gas straights next to the sea, descends with beautiful vistas and and lots of that kind of thing. Its a cycling jewel left untouched.
The island is cut in half historically and realistically between two parts. AnoMeria Kithira was the peasant working class part of the island while the south part was predominantly the landowners, administration and ruling class.
Cycling wise the island is cut from south to north by a backbone type of peak that crosse the island leaving a few other roads to branch off towards the sea creating little tricky ascends. Within the inland mass there are few variations of a round route passing Fratsia and Mylopotamos and we stayed there for the first day treating our selves on these yummy turns down the hills, drinking pink lemonade in the cafes and sharing saddle jokes.
Second day we woke up on a mission to do the most challenging round trip. Using the backbone road again as a connecting strip we rode southwards and dropped down to Kapsali. Then passed Kalamos towards the centre of the island again and through Fratsia to Avlemonas and back. Then towards Potamos passing through the stone bridge and dropping down again to Ag.Pelagia before climbing up Kouvara, one of the most beautiful villages of the island.
In Kythira it is not the size of the mountains or the great infrastructure that makes it so good for riding. It is mostly the crazy little roads with no traffic, like they were designed for road biking, it is the sense of isolation on a long straight line but then again you are not alone, it is also the super-positive vibe of the people and their great effort to preserve a culture based on positivity and traditional lifestyle of the countryside.
As the crisis brings out the worst in some and as all Greece is trying to lick their wounds against the monetary assault of neoliberalism, we have to think positive and forward-looking as it is our prevailing culture and mediterranean lifestyle that needs to be preserved.
Outside is free. Go out there and ride it…