Pano and Kato Koufonissia, the twin islands between Naxos and Amorgos, are separated by a narrow channel. Their name is believed to be rooted in antiquity’s sheltered “Koufo” harbor between the islands and Glaronissi. Other sources cite the many caves along the shore as the source of the islands’ name (in Greek, koufo means recessed), while by a third account the name stems from Pano Koufonissi’s lentil-like shape. Small and flat, Pano Koufonissi has enchanting beaches and a youthful vibe as 110 of its 284 permanent residents are children and youths. Time does seem to have been slowed by the Aegean heat, the merciless white glare, and vertical shadows. The scene is set by small gardens shaded by sprawling bougainvillea, the cool shade of mulberry trees, aromatic rosemary and honeysuckle, white stone walls with fishing nets instead of wire fencing. Uninhabited Kato Koufonissi has a dollhouse charm. Wind-whipped crags, idyllic beaches, the shimmering white of the Church of the Panayia, a small expanse of fields, an underground reservoir, a bent palm, a tangle of footpaths, and a small taverna. Most locals are fishermen and fish brought squirming on the line straight to the grill or the pot become delicious dishes. On Keros, a neighboring abandoned isle, the proliferation of the sweet-tasting Campanula saxatilis, a type of bellflower, growing in the crags and crevices provides ample grazing for wild goats, whose tender and flavorful meat is slowly cooked in wood-burning ovens. Patatato, meat and potatoes stewed in a tomato-olive oil sauce, is a popular holiday dish on these islands. Local honey drizzled over crisp kserotigana, strips of fried dough, and mixed with sesame seeds to make delicious pastelli are the main local sweets.

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