Merichas to Vryokastro

The small port of Merichas, where all ferries arrive, has an attractive setting which encircles a sheltered cove in the middle of the island’s west coast. The harbour area has grown up in the last 30 years. The road north from the port follows the indented coast and rises to a ridge above Episkopi Bay before turning inland. To the northwest stretches the hilly promontory of Merichas to Vryokastro(sometimes called ‘Rigokastro’), the site of Ancient Kythnos and the island’s principal point of archaeological interest. From the sharp turn eastwards in the road (3.75km), a pathway with walls to either side, leads up to the hilly plateau above. There are three successive summits; the ancient city stretched between and below the two furthest (northernmost) of these summits. A stepped path connected it to the harbour below which was delimited by the spit of land which then joined the now detached islet which lies off-shore to the southwest. The strategic site of the city dominated a complex of inlets and bays to either side, and was supplied by the fertile ring of valleys to the south and northeast. The archaeological remains uncovered here in the 1990s are of considerable interest.
The southern limit of the city was latterly marked by a Hellenistic fort which topped the second and highest summit. It is thought that this is probably the fort built in 201 bc and mentioned by Livy (XXI. 15) in which the garrison of Philip V of Macedon held out against a Roman siege in 199 bc. On the north side of the summit the entrance threshold and supports of the door-jambs are visible, but little else re mains. From here a curtain of fortification walls ran along the ridge, best seen at a point 50m to the north, where the method of construction with large polygonal blocks in two parallel curtains with rubble in-filling dates them to the Late Archaic period. In the immediate vicinity are examples of substantial terracing and construction in similar polygonal style, above a level and open area over whose surface lie the foundation remains—perfectly rectilinear by contrast—of buildings of the Hellenistic period. This whole area is underpinned to the west by two massive protrusions of terracing in Hellenistic isodomic masonry on which may have stood two temples. The area rises to the third peak at the northern end where the remains of a sanctuary have been uncovered by the archaeologists. Inside the corner of an impressively constructed retaining wall which functions as the sanctuary’s peribolos, can be clearly seen a rectangular altar which faces east, and, further to the north, the podium of a temple of the 7th century bc dedicated to a female divinity. The building has a socle of conspicuously protruding drafted blocks and is built out over substantial terracing to the north to compensate for the drop in level of the land. The plan of the temple has been revealed by the excavations, and a small rectangular adyton is visible running transversely across its east end: it is here that a quantity of precious votive objects were found undisturbed. (These are now stored in the archaeological collection in Chora.) Amongst them were rich votive offerings in gold and bronze—including a finely wrought lotus flower in bronze. Remains of the cisterns and aqueduct of the city are visible lower down the hill as you descend southwest towards the ancient harbour. It appears that the site continued to be inhabited into Early Christian times before it was abandoned some time in the 7th century.

From the Vryokastro turning, the main road heads inland: at 6km is a branch left (west) to Apokrisi Bay (Apokrou si). The road has wide and beautiful views, before de scending steeply to the bay and continuing thereafter a further 2.2km to the long sandy beach of Kolona. At this point the islet of Aghios Loukas is joined to the coast by an isthmus of sand. The setting is sheltered and ideal for bathing. From the isthmus a further 30-minute walk further west along the coast brings you to the last bay before the point of the promontory of Kolones. Here, behind the shore, are some warm springs which fill an improvised, dug-out bathing pool: the waters rise at a temperature of about 38Β°C. On the hillside behind have been located sites of Early Cycladic settlement.

Kythnos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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