Koufounissi is very flat in comparison to the other satelite islands of Naxos and another stop on the route of the Express Skopelitis. The port is a pretty enough place with a nice stretch of gently shelving sand and torquois water. Accomodation is mainly in the low hills around the harbour and we were met by Eleni (20euros Sept` 03) although there are rooms to let around the south coast nearer the beaches. If you are planning on self-catering it's not as easy as it could be due to the eclectic stock of some of these stores with bread being particularly hard to come by and interestingly you can only obtain 33cl bottles of beer and not the usual half litres as on most islands. But they still cost the same so if you are planning on using the camp site, situated very near the coast you may be better dining out.
The main reason people visit Koufounissi is for the beaches and the whole of the south coast has plenty. As is often the case the further you walk from the port, the more nudists can be found on display, but all the beaches have very inviting incredibly blue water and Finikas beach has a very convenient taverna. A small boat service can deliver you onto any of these leaving the port at 12:00 every day but none are too far to walk to. The last beach of Pori is the longest but on closer inspection is a little scruffy and perhaps not worth the expense of the boat or the effort of the walk. From here however you can walk 10 minutes east for fine views over to Naxos from the cliffs.
The islands only real settlement is the afformentioned Hora just back from the quay with a main cobbled path which is positively treachourous at night & would supply the 'Have you had a trip, fall or accident?' business with years of work. A number of bars, tavernas, gift shops & jewelleries as well as an interesting gallery & the ferry agent can all be found here. In particular the Skoleio bar is recommended for it's cosy feel and choice rock & blues and the Rementzo taverna must be doing something right because it had diners queueing in the street.
With little else to see or anywhere else to walk to on the island you need to be a keen sunworshipper to want to stay for more than a couple of days and because the quality of the beaches are no secret these are probably very crowded indeed during high season. You won't get much solitude in September either but with beaches like these, you may note care.
The Rough Guide says that Schinoussa is 'just waking up to it's tourist potential' but if you arrive on a gloomy day (like we did) you could be fooled into thinking that it had a quick cup of coffee and dozed off back to sleep. As with most first impressions you would be wrong. It is less geared up for visitors than it's easterly neighbour and very laid back but this really is rural Greece with pleasures of it's own.
Some room owners meet the ferries but don't tout very aggresively for your business and if you don't ask they may well jump back into their mini-buses and drive past you without saying a word. The harbour at Mersini is a pretty place with a couple of rooms & cafes but most people stay up in Hora or locally called Panagia which is a 10 minute walk up the hill along the islands only asphalt road. We stayed in Pension Pothiti (17Euros Sept` 03) but isn't particularly recommended and a better option would be the Meltemi at the eastern end of the village or a number of other possibilities in this area.
The islanders have to rate as some of the friendliest we have come across and they delight in your attempts at their language even when Panathanaikos get thrashed by Man' United. After a day or so you begin to realise that with some tasteful development the island does indeed have huge potential. There are a load of very good beaches dotted all around the coastline that are neither far away or difficult to get to with the closest being Tsigouri, now the base for Mr Grispos who has some lovely rooms and the ferry ticket office. Over the headland is Livadi, another quality sand beach backed by tamerisks and only 30 minutes walk from Hora. Our favourite though has to be Lioliou, signposted from the village and worth the 2.5km walk just to play in the surf and when the rooms here are finished will make a very relaxing base.
If this beach is not to your liking you could try Aligaria, Almiros, Psilli Ammos or Foudana. For splendid views over the island in addition to those of Southern Naxos, Iraklia & both Koufounissi's head along the Hora-Messaria track and turn up the path to your left 100m or so before the 90 degree bend leading to the latter. This track takes you to the highest point on the island with a sadly neglected, but still impressive windmill.
With no nitelife to speak of you will find yourself relaxing in one of the tavernas ranging from the Pothiti, with traditional Greek fare and good views (in the day) of Iraklia & Ios, to the pizza & spaghetti specialist Loza at the centre of the village. A number of small supermarkets and part time Post Office round up the ammenities.
If you are tired of the 21st century already then Schinoussa is a step back in time and despite efforts is going to take more than a couple of years to catch up, we hope.
You may also be interested in:
The Photo Gallery of Koufonissi & Schinoussa