The Greek Islands Koufonissi HOME Crete

The island of Koufonissi or Koufonision in Greece

The 5,25 km2 large Koufonissi or Koufonision is a small low lying, flat island off the coast of Crete (in the southeast). The island is situated opposite the village of Goudouras and there are organized boat trips to this island from Makrigialos. People can enjoy the pretty sandy beaches (no facilities), the sea caves, the excavations of antique buildings and a walk around the island. These excursions only take place during the high season. You leave Makrigialos in the morning and return late afternoon. Around Koufonissi there are still four smaller islands such Strogylli and Trachilos. Koufonissi is an island which is covered in a thick layer of sand, just like any Chrissi island a bit further away. The vegetation consists of low shrubs and there are almost no trees. The island is uninhabited and dry and there are no springs.

Previously the island was called Lefki, meaning "white", due to the white sand and the predominantly white cliffs of sandstone that dominate te landscape of Koufonissi. It was an important port and a place where people dived fore sponges and shells. From these shells a valuable purple dye was extracted. It is likely that the island also played an important role in the Minoan economy. The City states of Itanos and Ierapytna (the old ierapetra) continually fought for the ownership of the island. This can be seen on plaques that have been excavated in Minoan Kato Zakros and in Asia Minor. One of these plaques is immured in the wall of the monastery church of Toplou. In 132 BC the island came into the hands of Itanos.

Excavations on the island have exposed buildings dating from the Minoan, Hellenistic and Roman times, but there are also caves that were used as a church during the Byzantine times and later during the Turkish dominationn by Christians. Because so many buildings have been uncovered from ancient times the island is also called "small Delos" (after the island of Delos near Mykonos in the Cyclades). The main building that has been found is a theater that could house up to 1000 people. Also a temple, pieces of marble from a colossal statue, a villa with eight rooms and several cottages, probably where the fishermen lived, have been found. Pottery, coins, needles and fishing equipment have been dug up. There are also the remains of a lighthouse that was bombed by the Germans in the Second World War.

Hans Huisman, 2014
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