The ‘Aegean Volcanic Arc’, which sweeps from the Argo Saronic Islands, through Santorini to Nisyros and Kos in the east, lies just to the south of Siphnos. Leaving the limestone hills and watered valleys of Siphnos and head south to Kimolos and Milos it is clear one is enter a different geological world. The coast of Kimolos is shot through with veins of orange and purple, and the shoreline is fenced with outcrops of jaggedly eroded volcanic rocks. The first glimpse of the island is of the staring white gashes of its easternmost point, Cape Aghios Giorgios, where the promontory has been reshaped by man’s relentless quarrying of the native earth so as to extract a kind of kaolin, known as ‘fuller’s earth’, which was widely exported through the centuries for use in medicine and in the finishing of cloth. Were it not for this natural re source—whose brilliant silver-gray colour led to the island being referred to later by the name of ‘Argenteria’—Kimolos, because of its lack of water and its infertility, might have remained virtually uninhabited, like the island of Polyaigos to its east. On the contrary, it had a flourishing centre in antiquity, often in conflict with its more powerful neighbour Melos. It also had an important settlement at Chorio in the Middle Ages, which is one of the few examples of mediaeval town-planning ex novo in the Cyclades.
Kimolos is a delightful island: peaceful, unpretentious and full of striking landscapes. Its pale sandy earth and low stone buildings shaded by outsized cactus plants give it an almost African feel. Its wildlife is interesting too: the waters between Kimolos and Polyaigos to the east are home to an estimated 20–30 Mediterranean monk-seals and schools of dolphin are frequently seen. The quite rare semi-collared flycatcher breeds in the west of the island; and a perhaps less-welcome native is the Ottoman viper (Vipera xanthina) which is populous and grows to a considerable size on Kimolos—well over a metre in length. Its rocks are also fascinating, and in areas achieve positively Cappadocian forms: most famous is the ‘skiadi’ or ‘sunshade rock’, not far from the impressive ruins at Palaiokastro, which is in the form of a giant fungus large enough to shade a whole group of people.
Kimolos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.