The name derives from the word ‘diakopi’ (διακοπή) which means ‘cut-off’ and it refers to a narrow point of land covered by sea. Today it is the official port of Kythera and a settlement has been developed. In the past fishermen used to live there seasonally. The visitor’s attractions in the area are Makrykythera, Cave Housti and the rocky islets of Dragonares.
This is a picturesque rocky islet at the entrance to the port of Diakofti. In 1952 the Association of Greek Writers applied to the Ministry of Finance and asked for the islet to be granted to them to create a settlement for the intelligentsia. Here intellectuals could reach the peace and tranquility they needed from Winter through to Summer. This settlement was expected to become the spiritual resort for Greek, as well as, European intellectuals, for whom Kythera has always had a special symbolism. The competent Council approved the concession and with a Presidential Decree, the writers became owners with the obligation to pay 60,000 drachmas in 6 installments. Furthermore, a wealthy Kytherian undertook the notary fees and the first payment installment. The plans of the settlement on the island were drowned out. Unfortunately, the nightmarish labyrinth of bureaucracy led all visionary efforts to fade
and slowly sink, and the writers’ dream never came true. This case brings us directly to the centre of utopian happiness, which has to do with Kythera’s symbolism. Life makes us trivial and little by little we realise that we can not reach the Kythera of our imagination.
Near to Diakofti are the rocky islets of Dragonares, Megali Dragonara and Antidragonara – the female dragons for travellers who have a great archaeological interest. The name comes from DRAGO NERA which means black dragon. Divers from the Marine Archaeological Research Institute lifted ancient stone anchors from a shipwreck of the 4th B.C. On Mikri Dragonara (Antidragonera) a fissure was found where water was collected at its cavernous depth. It seems that during the Greco-Roman period, this was a site of worship, where sailors that managed to bypass the stormy Cape Maleas showed their gratitude to the ancient god of the seas, Poseidon, making offers to thank him for keeping them safe in the wild seas. Thus, many coins were found originating from all parts of the Mediterranean (Egypt, Aegean islands, Athens, Illyria, Sicily, Carthage, Black Sea, and up to the Balearic Islands of Spain).
At Housti, in Diakofti, there is a cave which in ancient times was used as a place of worship. The excavation that took place in recent years, led by archaeologist Aris Tsaravopoulos, brought to light findings from the Neolithic era, i.e. 4,000-3,000 BC. The cave is very spacious with a monumental entrance carved into the rock. Inside the cave, pottery from the Neolithic, as well as the Early Helladic and the Byzantine eras was found. A settlement that dates back to 4,500 years ago seems to have existed around the cave. Water must have gushed from a large rock. Ancient sailors moored here with their primitive boats to get supplies. It’s easy to imagine ancient sailors sailing by Cape Maleas, considered to be a mythical creature that devoured the wooden hulls with the breaking waves and the whirlwinds of the wind, and spotting the tame silhouette of Kythera – how much of a blessed land it looked, offering refuge to people in need throughout history.
The Minoan Peak Sanctuary
A few kilometers distant from the archeological site of Paleopolis is the mountain of Agios Georgios (St. George). At an altitude of 350 m, a peak sanctuary of the renowned Minoan colony flourished in Kastri during the Minoan times. This site was suitable for a peak sanctuary to be established thanks to its accessibility and proximity to Kastri. The location of the sanctuary has a wonderful view to Cape Maleas and Mount Taygetos, and from the SW Aegean sea to Crete. When the atmosphere is clear, one can see the snow-capped White Mountains of Crete, up to the mountain of Psiloritis. From there they could control all passages from East to West and from North to South. This sanctuary started to be used from the first half of the second millennium BC and is the only intact peak sanctuary found so far. It reached its heyday during the Neo-Palatial period, i.e. 1700 BC-1400 BC when Crete dominated the Mediterranean and Kythera was the intermediate station between Crete and the Peloponnese.
Professor Giannis Sakellarakis carried out the first excavation in 1992, followed by another one in 1993 and 1994, which brought to light notable findings, not only of the Minoan, but also of a later period, because the mountain of St. George has been a place of worship for almost 3,500 years. The finds are stone objects of worship (one has linear A script), clay animal figurines, bronze human figurines, bronze votive offerings, jewelry and ceramics. During Christian times, a church was built in this ancient site of worship. On the floor of the temple a mosaic is preserved consisting of various decorative themes, hunting scenes, birds and Hellenistic meanders. This mosaic dates back to the 7th century AD. Over the years, although the church was renovated and the original monument was altered, the church of Agios Georgios remains, together with Agios Anargyros in Paliokastro, the oldest Christian monument of Kythera. Today the church celebrates in memory of St. George, and pilgrims set up the typical traditional feast in its courtyard, in line with the way Greeks usually celebrate on St. George name day.
The Monastery of Agia Moni
There was an ancient shrine on this site named after the Virgin Mary. In 1766 a shepherd, named Viaros, found inside a lentisk shrub a double sided icon of the Virgin Mary with the inscription THE MONASTERY OF ALL HOPE. On the other side was the icon of St. George. A thunder bolt had struck the site, which left, however, the icon intact. The then Bishop of Kythera, Nikiforos Mormoris went to the spot and found the ruins of an old temple and cells, which once functioned as a convent for monks. He immediately took the initiative to restore the old church. During 1840-1855, Bishop Prokopios Kallonas led the work of expansion and renovation of the church.
In 1854 a majestic entrance was formed by the master builder Michael Kypriotis from Kypriotianika. Houses for pilgrims and water tanks were also built. The work of Bishop Prokopios Kallonas was followed-up by Bishop Eugenios Machariotis. In 1889, famous Kytherian architects and craftsmen undertook to rebuild the majestic and artful bell tower. During the 19th century a litany of the icon of Agia Moni took place in the villages of Kythera for a long time. The custom came to an end in 1903.
The fortress of Avlemonas
It is the 3rd Venetian fortress in Kythera, much smaller than the other two, but at a crucial location because it controls the Myrtoon Sea. It was built in 1725 by the Venetians. It was equipped with cannons and inside there was a building for the guard.