The ‘Free Spirit’ of the Small CycladesSimilar to all the other islands of the Small Cyclades, Donousa has its own independent character. Wild landscapes of authentic beauty, gorgeous beaches and serene atmosphere could definitely seduce you, allowing you to take your mind off whatever thoughts might trouble you. From its untouched nature to its chill travelers, Donousa exudes an aura of freedom that is captivating. Its authenticity, tranquility and simplicity will make you forget what day of the week it is. Time goes by slowly here, but no one seems to mind. Locals will make you feel right at home and introduce you to their pace of life. Donousa is a laid back destination for those who wish to reconnect with nature and people. In this exotic paradise you will relax on sandy beaches, skinny dip in its amazing emerald waters, be overwhelmed by its dramatic sceneries, explore natural sea caves and coral reefs and lay under its endless stars.
- Fokospilia Cave: is a sea cave with stunning natural beauty located on the eastern side of the island coast and is accessibly only from the sea. Its name comes from the fact that it used to be a shelter for the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus Monachus (Fokospilia = Seal Cave in Greek). Its cool blue waters are ideal for snorkeling, filled with small fish, purple coral reefs and sea sponges. On its left side there is a smaller cave where light passes through an underwater cavity and creates the effect of a lit swimming pool. Fokospilia definitely deserves a visit and a few dives!
- Hiking: is the perfect way to discover Donousa’s natural beauties, rich fauna and monuments. There are 5 trailed hikes in Donousa. The shortest is 1km and the longest 4.4km. The walks offer dramatic views over the Aegean Sea and the surrounding islands.
- Mersini Spring: is a spring of fresh drinking water located in Mersini settlement on the northeast side of the island. The surrounding area enjoys lush greenery due to the abundance of running water.
- The Archeological Site of Vathi Limenari: holds ruins of an ancient fortified settlement dating back to the Geometrical period. The site is situated on the east of Vathi Limenari cove. Findings from the site are exhibited in the Archeological Museum of Naxos.
- Wall Cave: is located on the northwestern side of Donousa and is accessible only by boat. The cave has emerald waters and is filled with impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
- Windmills: are located in Messaria. Back in the days, they were used for the production of flour. Today they are a symbol of the islands history and their locations offers amazing views of the Aegean Sea.
- Chapel of Agia Sofia: is a charming chapel located on the village of Mersini and offers panoramic views over the Aegean Sea.
- Church of Panagia - Agios Ioannis: is a combination of two churches sharing the shame bell. This impressive construction is located on the eastern side of Stavros. Both basilicas have the characteristics of traditional Cycladic architecture.
- Church of Timios Stavros: is located in the settlement Stavros. This big whitewashed church is devoted to the patron saint of the island and stands predominately in the center of the settlement.
Towns & Villages
Donousa is a small island of just 14 square kilometers that you can walk around on foot, or rent a bicycle to discover its few villages mainly untouched by mass tourism. There is not much to do in its villages besides to relax under the Greek sun, enjoy their authentic Cycladic beauty and eat some local delicacies.
Stavros (or Kampos)
Stavros is Donousa’s harbor and its main settlement, situated on the southwest of the island. It has an authentic Cycladic architecture with whitewashed houses, flowery courtyards and paved alleys that spread amphitheatrically around the harbor. This picturesque village holds most of the island’s touristic facilities. There are taverns, mini market, bakery, cafes, bars and accommodation facilities available in the village. The charming churches of Timios Stavros and Panagia-Ai Giannis add to the picturesque character of Stavros. The village is also home to one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island. Α nice walk around the village will give you the opportunity to enjoy its beauty and some panoramic views of the Aegean Sea.
Mersini is a small mountainous village situated on the northern part of the island, 5 km from Stavros. It is built on a steep slope offering breathtaking views to the open sea and Amorgos island. Its standout feature is Pigi, a natural spring with fresh water and lush greenery. Two tavernas are open in Mersini during the summer months. From here there is a path to two of the most attractive beaches in Donousa, Livadi and Fykio.
Messaria is a small almost unihabitted settlement 4km east of Stavros. The village has as reference points the two traditional windmills and the beach of Vathi Limenari. Above the beach you will also find the ruins of a geometric settlement.
Kalotaritissa is the most remote village on the island in the northeastern region. It is an old fishing village with few only houses built on the foot of Mount Pappas. The bay of Kalotaritissa features three beaches, Sapounohoma, Vlychos and Mesa Ammos. In the village there is single tavern, famous for its simple and delicious dishes. You can reach Kalotaritissa by foot (1h and 30m walk), by car or by boat from Stavros port.
Donousa by far offers some of the best beaches in the Aegean. The island’s wild sandy coastline with crystal emerald waters will take your breath away. All of the beaches on the island are completely unorganized and maintain a secluded atmosphere. However, you can explore its wonderful coastline by taking SUPs available for rent or snorkel around its sea caves.
Stavros: is a striking golden sandy beach right in the harbor of Donousa with beautiful blue-green waters and natural shade by tamarisk trees. Due to its proximity to the port and capital, Stavros is one of the most popular beaches in the island, with easy access and many amenities nearby. It is also a nice sunset spot.
Kedros: is the largest beach in Donousa, with golden sand and turquoise-green waters. Kerdos is ideal for free campers, since it is only 1 km away from the port, easily accessible, with many trees offering natural shade and a chilling beach bar on site for snacks and refreshments. Kedros wonderful natural scenery is also very attractive to naturists. On its seabed there is a shipwreck from World War II which can be viewed from the surface with a mask.
Livadi: is considered by many the most stunning beach in Donousa. It is completely remote and unorganized, with white sand and emerald waters. Tamarisks trees offer natural shade. Its natural beauty attracts many free campers and naturists and is ideal for serenity and relaxation. There is a short steep path starting from Mersini village that leads to Livadi. The beach is also accessible by boat. A definite “must see”!
Kalotaritissa: is a long bay consisted of three beaches, each one different from the other. Sapounohoma is a pebble beach with cool crystal clear waters, Vlychos is a fine pebble with tranquil, turquoise waters and Mesa Ammos is the largest and most remote out of the three, with sand and small pebbles and turquoise waters. You can reach Kalotaritissa from Stavros by foot (1h and 30min walk), by car or by boat.
Stefanokampos: is a totally secluded bay near Kalotaritissa shaped by high yellow rocks and beautiful green waters. It can be visited only by the sea and is found only by the most experienced captains.
Fykio: is a secluded sandy beach with emerald waters, close to Livadi. It can be reached through a steep path (30min walk) from Mersini village.
History & Mythology
According to mythology Donousa has taken its name from God Dionysus, the God of wine, who was thought to have lived on the island. Donousa was also the place where Dionysus took Ariadne, in order to hide her from her lover Thiseas, with the intent to make her his wife.
Ancient Times: Donousa was inhabited since the Early Cycladic Period. Findings in Vathi Limenari reveal that the island reaches a peak during the Geometric period.
Middle Ages & Turkish Rule: During Roman Times, Donousa was used as a place of exile. Later the island came under the domination of the Venetian and the Turks and was used as a pirate hideout.
Greek State: In the 1830, shepherds from the island of Amorgos settled to Donousa to cultivate the land. In the beginning of the 20TH century, Donousa was home to 3000 inhabitants who mainly worked in the copper mines in Kedros, until they seized operations in 1938.
World War I: Donousa had a dominant role in the battle of Gallipoli. Aspros Cavos cape became a supply station for German battle cruisers.
World War II: The island came under Italian occupation. There is a German shipwreck in Kerdos from that time.
Recent Times: In the 1950’s Donousa economy was mainly based on the cultivation of tobacco and onions. In the 1960’s the island struggled with poverty. Most inhabitants chose to emigrate. In the 1980’s, just before electricity came to the island, tourist “discovered” Donousa and things started to pick up again. Today the island is the permanent home of just 167 people.
Gastronomy & Local Specialties
- Aranista (a sort of “trahanas”, a milk-wheat flour combination)
- Axialomizithra (type of cheese made of yogurt
- Dry figs
- Giaprakia (stuffed cabbage)
- Hortopites (fried pies filled with greens, fennel and onion)
- Kavourmas (spiced pork braised in its own fat and juice)
- Klosta (homemade local pasta)
- Diples (fritters with honey and sesame)
- Local Goat meat (free range meat)
- Local red wine
- Patatato (meat cooked in tomato sauce served with potatoes)
- Pitaridia (long noodles cooked in milk)
- Rakomelo (local drink with raki and honey)
- Souvli (cream made of barley)
- Kakavia (mixed fish soup)
Events & Festivals
- Assumption of the Virgin Mary: is celebrated on August 15th at the Church of Panagia in Stavros. A big feast with food and live music is held in the evening at the port.
- Timios Stavros (Holy Cross): is the patron of the island and is celebrated on September 14th at the chapel of Timios Stavros with live violins and local food.
- Agia Sofia Day: is celebrated on September 17th in the church of Agia Sofia in Mersini.
- Treasure Hunt: takes place every August and is rooted in the old tales that wanted pirates to use Donousa for anchorage.
- Inkeepers’ Festival: is held on July 27th featuring a series of exhibitions of photography and folklore art.