Donousa (Δονούσα), the remote island of Southeastern Cyclades, expands to an area of 13,652 sq. km. and has roughly 150 permanent residents.
The isle belongs administratively to the Region of Small Cyclades and the Municipality of Naxos.
Apart from being the northernmost isle from the cluster of Small Cyclades (Donousa, Koufonisia, Keros, Schinousa and Iraklia), it is located east of Naxos and north of Amorgos.
Touching the sea borders of Aegean and Icarian Sea, and thus during winter strong winds are blowing there.
Donousa’s enchanting beaches are barricaded with natural coves and wild bays, which hide their powdery sand.
Outcroppings around the island that have no-one living on them (like Scylonissi, Makares and Melandioi), offer an ideal environment for underwater fishing.
The mid-hill region of Donousa has predominantly rocky ground, and therefore inhabitants have been always engaged in agriculture and livestock raising or fishing, although nowadays they also run small tourism businesses
Until the late 1940s mining operations were running on the island, mostly producing silvery, copper, zinc and glass-making materials.
The highest point of the island, the peak of Mount Papa (with an altitude of almost 400 meters), is accessible on foot. Once climbed up, you will take in a great panoramic view on the whole island of Donousa.
⚱ Because of its location, Donousa (otherwise Stenosa or Spinosa) has always been a port of call for seafarers throughout the centuries.
⚱ Archaeological discoveries of an old settlement, which was found right above the beach of Vathi Limenari, showed that Donousa was inhabited by the Geometric period. It is also believed that the island served as the second Geometric fortification of the Aegean Sea, dating back in the 9th - 8th century B.C. Furthermore, various ceramic objects, such as an amphora, had shown that Donousa played a significant commercial role linking Attica region and the Greek isle of Evia with the eastern part of the Aegean Sea. By the 1st century B.C., Donousa was granted to the Roman Marcus Antonius. Afterwards, the island became a place of exile, whereas the Medieval period used to be as a pirate-hideout. During the World War I, the island supplied with coal the German warship SMS Goeben - which was hiding from the French/British militaries right behind Cape White (Aspros Kavos).
According to Greek Mythology, Donousa was the place where the God of the grape harvest and ritual madness, Dionysus, moved Ariadne, (daughter of the king Minos of Crete), in order to hide her away from the founder-hero of the city of Athens, Theseus.
Although the dwellers of Donousa are doubled during summertime, the island is experiencing a mild tourist development that has not changed its pure lifestyle.
By mid-May and June Donousa becomes a place of intimacy and exploration and the tourist season begins with the arrival of the Germans, who own summer houses in the isle, French hikers and European yogis, who want to experience soaring temperatures, plus avoid the hordes of tourists.
Donousa is a cool spot without pretension and imbued with something of a “come on your own and leave with new friends” vibe. As a result, you can easily travel here all by yourself.
Apart from all the touristic activities, the Cultural Association of Donousa, Poseidon, organizes various sport events and other cultural festivals. From ping-pong races, dance lessons, creative writing seminars, acting performances, to open-theater screenings and special music events, locals are kept throughout the year in the loop.
For walkers or big fans of hiking, Donousa is picture-perfect Greek island. The best way to get around is on foot, especially when you consider that the entire island only takes roughly six hours to traverse. Yet, there is also a bus service (only from late June to early September) scheduled to go from and to Stavros (the main settlement of Donousa) every 2 hours.
[In Donousa there are 5 well-signposted trails of 9.200 meters length and of great cultural interest, which journey from Stavros to the hamlet Messaria and from the village of Mersini to Kalotaritissa bay around some of the island’s prominent attractions.
Throughout the alternative trail, which starts from Stavros and ends to the bay of Kalotaritissa, are encountered the ruins of abandoned old emery mines of the late 1940s and vintage wagons.]
Donousa has 10 pristine beaches with turquoise, crystal-clear waters and sugary white sand: the beach of Stavros, Kedros, Vathi Limenari, Livadi, Fikios (or Fikio), Sapounohoma, Mesa Ammos, Trypiti, Ammoudi and Limni. Being some of the last unorganised beaches in Greece, all the coastlines above remain completely unspoilt with features many crave when planning a dream holiday – lacking any infrastructure aka lounge chairs, umbrellas, and showers. Read more here.
Read more here.
ℹ Donousa is connected on a daily basis with the island of Naxos via the legendary ferry boat, Skopelitis, as well as the isle of Amorgos. However, the ferry from Athens operates directly from port of Piraeus. Finally, the island community has a heliport.
ℹ The journey from port of Piraeus lasts for about 7 hours and as the ship disembarks at around 12.30 in the night, travelers head directly to one of the island’s bars.
In Donousa there is no gas station, nor a taxi service. Actually, the paved road on the island is roughly 12 km long.
Tap water in Donousa is not potable.
Before you go
❗ Addressed basically to a nude-friendly crowd and all the camping-fanatics, this island is a perfect destination for those who seek an authentic lifestyle and simplicity. Once you are here, days (and nights) last longer and the time is passing slowly.
❗ Bear in mind that this is a place where people come regularly to be replenished, so their beat is also pretty relaxed. Especially the month of August, tourists come in large numbers and thus, you will have to sit tight with any waiting lines.
😄 Beside the stunning archipelago, Donousa is arguably a promising spot for a fish feast. Nowadays, there are only a handful of fishermen, and thus it is rather difficult for them to satisfy the increasing number of summer vacationers.
😄 The island has a population of 250 cats, opposed to the buzzing small community of 150 permanent residents.
😄 The sole natural spring in Cyclades is located in the hamlet of Mersini and placed under a legendary platanus (plane tree), from which flows fresh cold water non-stop.
😄 The familiar shrill sound of cicadas is synonymous with Greek summers, yet none of these species can be echoed in Donousa. Hence, back in 2015, locals unsuccessfully invited fellow-islanders to send them some cicadas. Instead, they just hit the titles of various regional newspapers.
All in all, Donousa has 4 villages. Stavros – the island's only settlement, Messaria, which is almost abandoned, Mersini and the hamlet Kalotaritissa.
Broadly speaking, the dwellings in Donousa are quite old, however there are few cottages renovated into cozy and rustic family homes. Also, the painted with chalk alleys of the settlements are attuned to the natural element, breathing new life to the isle.
Situated on the Southwestern part of the island, Stavros (otherwise Kambos) is Donousa’s only town. Sheltered from the wind, the island’s port is also located here. True to its Cycladic character, with immaculate whitewashed houses baring blue doors and windows and lots of narrow cobbled streets with bougainvillea flowers, the village of Stavros is built amphitheatrically. The village is also home to a plethora of services like mini markets, a bakery, hotels and B&Bs, the sole ATM machine in the whole isle, a travel agency, a handful of traditional taverns and restaurants as well as 2 of Donousa’s bars. The town hall, a temporary medical center and the one and only school in Donousa, which serves as a school for both primary and secondary education, are also situated at Stavros. Finally, Stavros took its name after the homonymous church of Timios Stavros, which is also to be found here.
Messaria (also known as Haravgi) is situated about 5 kilometers away from Stavros (Donousa’s main settlement). At Messaria there are just a handful of quaint houses.
Mersini is located roughly 7 km away from the island’s port (Stavros). With just a few of permanent residents, here one can find 2 traditional taverns, and the charming small church of St. Sofia (Agia Sofia) overlooking the Aegean Sea and sometimes with a panoramic view as far as the island of Amorgos. In addition to the above, Mersini has the sole natural spring in Donousa, from which flows fresh cold water non-stop. Likewise, it is perhaps the only green spot in the isle, where the locals enjoying the plane trees shadow, as well as harvesting fruits and growing vegetables. Finally, from Mersini the traveler can hop on a traditional boat (otherwise ladza) to visit the most isolated beaches of Donousa.
Kalotaritissa is a tiny settlement at the northeastern end of Donousa, to the point where the island’s road ends. There, one can visit the chapel of St. George or take a break at the village’s lone tavern. The beaches of Sapounohoma, Mesa Ammos as well as the secluded shoreline of Trypiti are regarded top tourist attractions in the area, yet one can also try to the unusual hiking trail that leads on a the island’s forsaken lighthouse.