Last updated on July 19th, 2022 at 01:12 pm
If you think that heaven on earth doesn’t exist, you’ve probably never heard of Donoussa Island before. An island of turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and almost impossibly laid-back vibes, Donoussa is the epitome of relaxation and the embodiment of the perfect Greek summer.
Donoussa is one of the lesser-known Greek Islands. In fact, most people don’t even know of its existence. Even though we’re Greek, we had never heard of Donoussa Island either. Until a little over a decade ago.
We were on the ferry, travelling to what was meant to be our all-time favourite Greek Island, Amorgos. Before reaching Amorgos, the ferry called on the port of Donoussa and we were taken aback by the beauty of this windswept rock in the heart of the Aegean Sea.
Little did we know back then that, a few years later, upon setting foot on Donoussa Island, we would find ourselves torn and unable to decide which island between the two we loved the most after all. For Donoussa, tiny and shy as it may appear at first glance, is an enchantress like no other and it has the power to rip your hearts out of your chests and keep hold of them forever.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate ones.
This means that if you click through them to make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
For more information, visit our Disclosure page.
Why Visit Donoussa Island
Donoussa is a tiny island with amazing nature and some of the most pristine beaches in Greece. Donoussa Island is ideal for those who want to experience authentic Greek hospitality in a setting that feels almost unreal.
In Donoussa, you have the opportunity to experience absolute peace and tranquillity without noise caused by traffic, cars or scooters. The main sounds that reach your ears are those of the sea, the wind and the children playing carefree on the beach or the narrow whitewashed alleys.
In Donoussa, there are no luxury hotels and fancy nightclubs – or any nightclubs for that matter. Donoussa Island is the ideal place to find yourselves, spend quality time with your loved ones or mingle with locals and fellow travellers over delicious meze dishes and copious amounts of Greek wine.
As you can see, if your idea of a Greek Island vacation involves exclusive hotels, vibrant nightlife and designer shopping, then Donoussa isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for an authentic destination that will make you feel at home and where you’ll most probably make new friends and memories to last a lifetime, then Donoussa, an island that’s unique in every way, is definitely worth a visit.
What To Do in Donoussa Greece
1. Laze in Stavros
Stavros is the largest and oldest settlement in Donoussa, founded by settlers from nearby Amorgos Island. In Stavros, you will find the vast majority of Donoussa restaurants, bars and hotels, while the island’s port is also located there.
In other words, Stavros is where the heart of Donoussa beats. Yet Stavros never feels rushed. The quaint seaside town is the ideal place to enjoy the relaxing vacation you’ve always dreamt of.
Stavros has all those characteristics that you would look for on a Greek Island. Whitewashed architecture, narrow alleys, a stunning beach, seafront restaurants and nostalgic bars. In Stavros, the pace of life inevitably feels a lot slower than anywhere else you’ve been and this is the exact reason why you can’t help but fall desperately in love with this picturesque seaside village.
When the night falls in Stavros, all roads lead to either Skantzoxoiros or Corona Borealis, the island’s two legendary bars. While they’re both all-day hang-outs that offer coffee, snacks and drinks, it’s in the evening that they become the ultimate meeting points for locals and visitors alike.
Nothing beats the feeling of sipping on a cocktail or three under a starry summer night, with the Aegean breeze gently caressing your face and the ferry putting on a special show as it approaches the tiny port that suddenly becomes alive as if waking up from the sweetest slumber. That’s one of our favourite memories of Donoussa, a memory that earned Stavros a very special place in our hearts.
2. Explore Donoussa Island on Foot
One of the main reasons we love Donoussa Island so much is because it’s one of the best places to visit in Greece if you love walking. The island’s compact size and low elevation render it ideal for people who enjoy scenic yet not very challenging strolls, like ourselves.
With five clearly marked trails, Donoussa offers hiking enthusiasts the unique opportunity to explore the entire island on foot. Here’s a list of Donoussa’s hiking paths:
- Trail 1: Stavros – Kalotaritissa (length: 4.4 kilometres each way, elevation difference: 258 metres)
- Trail 2: Kedros – Messaria (length: 1.1 kilometres each way, elevation difference: 130 metres)
- Trail 3: Mersini – Livadi (length: 900 metres each way, elevation difference: 162 metres)
- Trail 4: Kedros – Kato Mylos (length: 1.8 kilometres each way, elevation difference: 80 metres)
- Trail 5: Stavros – Limni – Aspros Kavos (length: 2.1 kilometres each way, elevation difference: 50 metres)
During our recent trip to Donoussa, we only had time for two trails but we’re definitely going back for more.
Trail 3: Mersini – Livadi
Trail 3 is one of the shortest hiking routes in Donoussa. It starts from Mersini Village and ends in Livadi, one of the most beautiful Donoussa beaches. Although this trail is super short – only 900 metres each way – it can be quite challenging on a hot summer day as the way back up to Mersini Village from Livadi Beach is rather steep and shadeless.
However, a pleasant surprise awaits near the end of the trail. Mersini Village is home to a shaded area of invigorating water springs, a proper oasis to stop and catch your breath on a hot day.
Trail 5: Stavros – Limni – Aspros Kavos
Trail 5 turned out to be one of our all-time favourite hiking paths. This trail isn’t at all strenuous as it’s almost entirely flat. Walking along Trail 5 in Donoussa is the best way to appreciate the beauty of the island’s raw scenery. As you leave Stavros behind, you soon find yourselves surrounded by nothing but Donoussa’s gorgeous nature and the sound of the waves crashing on the limestone cliffs.
Towards the end of the trail, you reach Limni (the Greek word for Lake) but the best is yet to come. Aspros Kavos (Greek for White Cape) is a site of unfathomable beauty, a place where nothing gets between you and the grandeur of nature, as you watch in awe the crashing waves eternally sculpting the dramatic limestone rocks.
3. Swim in Crystal Clear Waters
As mentioned above, Donoussa Island is home to some of the most pristine beaches in Greece. There are no facilities on Donoussa’s beaches, which means that if you’re not there early enough to claim your spot under a tree, you might want to carry a beach tent along. Here’s a list of the best beaches in Donoussa:
1. Stavros Beach
Right in the heart of the island’s main town, Stavros is a gorgeous beach of turquoise waters and long stretches of white sand. Only steps away from the centre of the village, Stavros Beach is ideal for those who want to have the perfect swimming stop right at their doorstep.
2. Kedros Beach
The next Donoussa beach you shouldn’t miss is Kedros with its emerald waters and silver sand. Kedros is an exotic, nudist-friendly beach, home to an easy-going beach bar that serves drinks and snacks. There are three ways to get to Kedros Beach from Stavros: on foot, by bus or by boat.
3. Livadi Beach
Yet another exotic beach, Livadi is also one of the most secluded beaches in Donoussa. With emerald waters and dazzlingly white sand, Livadi Beach is one of the most photogenic beaches we’ve ever laid eyes on. This is another nudist-friendly beach in Donoussa. Unlike Kedros Beach, there’s no beach bar in Livadi, so make sure you go prepared.
To reach Livadi Beach, take the bus to Mersini Village and then walk Trail 3 to the beach. Alternatively, you can get to Livadi by boat.
4. Kalotaritissa & Tripiti Beaches
Kalotaritissa is a small village in the northern part of Donoussa Island. The village’s main beach is Kalotaritissa but if you walk a very short path that starts from the far left end of Kalotaritissa Beach, you can reach the smaller and remoter Tripiti Beach. Both beaches have insanely clear blue waters and enjoy a gorgeous surrounding landscape.
When in Kalotaritissa, don’t miss the chance to try delicious Greek food at the traditional restaurant near the beach. You can get to Kalotaritissa by either bus or boat. Alternatively, you can reach Kalotaritissa after walking Trail 5, Donoussa’s longest hiking path.
5. Fokospilia Cave
For an unforgettable experience, you can join a boat trip to Fokospilia (Greek for Seal Cave), a sea cave which is renowned for its ridiculously turquoise waters. No matter what the name Fokospilia suggests, it’s unlikely that you will see any seals while there as these lovely creatures are mostly spotted during the winter months.
However, keep in mind that your trip to Fokospilia isn’t guaranteed as the boat ride only happens when the weather allows it. We haven’t been lucky enough to visit Fokospilia yet but it’s on our list for next time.
4. Make New Furry Friends
Spending quality time with the cutest, friendliest and fluffiest cats isn’t uncommon while vacationing on the Greek Islands. However, nowhere else will you see as many healthy and happy cats as in Donoussa, thanks to one of the most amazing initiatives we know of, the famed Donoussa Cats Project.
Run by a team of passionate volunteers, Donoussa Cats Project makes sure that all of the island’s cats are well-fed and taken care of. In Donoussa, there are no stray cats. In fact, it feels as though the entire island is the cats’ home and people are their mere guests. A dream world if you ask us.
Therefore, while in Donoussa, it’s inevitable that you will become friends with one or more of the island’s furry residents. You can even help them continue living a happy life by supporting the efforts of the team behind the Donoussa Cats Project. Every year, they design cat-themed tote bags and all proceeds go to the well-being of the island’s cats.
These tote bags are sold in a handful of spots around the island. We bought ours at the supermarket, so that’s a very good place to go looking for them.
We don’t think that anyone has ever managed to visit Donoussa Island just once. Therefore, one of the best things to do in Donoussa is to start planning your next trip to this almighty enchantress while still there.
Donoussa Travel Guide
Where Is Donoussa Island
Donoussa (also spelt Donousa) is situated between the islands of Naxos and Amorgos in the Aegean Sea. Alongside Amorgos, it’s the easternmost of all the Cyclades Islands. It forms part of the Lesser or Small Cyclades sub-group, alongside Koufonisia, Iraklia and Schinousa.
Best Time To Visit Donoussa Island
The best time to visit Donoussa is the summer. With less than 200 inhabitants, Donoussa feels quite out-of-the-weather outside the summer months. Not to mention that most of its restaurants and hotels are closed during the low season. Last but not least, only during the summer can you find frequent-ish ferries to Donoussa Island.
How To Get To Donoussa Greece
The only way to get to Donoussa Island is by ferry. You can catch a ferry from Piraeus Port near Athens and eight hours later you will be in Donoussa. Alternatively, you can reach Donoussa Island from a handful of nearby Greek Islands, such as Naxos Island, Amorgos, Astypalaia, Koufonisia, Iraklia, Schinousa and Paros.
Book your ferry tickets to Donoussa!
How To Get Around Donoussa Island
Donoussa Island is very compact. Therefore, it’s not worth renting a car or scooter to get around. You can get everywhere you want either on foot or by bus on this small island.
When the weather allows it, you can reach Donoussa’s beaches by the island’s water bus, the emblematic Donoussa Magissa (Greek for Donoussa The Enchantress). By the way, a ride on Donoussa Magissa is one of the top things to do in Donoussa in its own right. Check timetables and other useful information here.
Where To Stay in Donoussa Greece
Donoussa Island has a fair number of holiday apartments and studios. There are no luxury hotels or resorts on the island. Except for a couple of accommodation options that are set in remote areas of the island, the vast majority of Donoussa studios and apartments are located in Stavros.
What surprised us pleasantly in Donoussa is that the island doesn’t claim to be able to sleep more people than it can handle, as is the case in many other Greek Islands where huge hotel units are being built without taking into account if those destinations have enough dining options or parking spaces for all those people that flock there in the summer.
In other words, there are limited Donoussa accommodation options and if you’re serious about spending your next summer vacation in Donoussa, you must book your rooms way in advance otherwise there’ll be no availability.
Have a look at the best Donoussa hotels on Booking.com.
Travel Resources For Donoussa Island
Download here our Summer Packing List for FREE!
Rest assured that you won’t leave anything behind for your summer holidays!
If there’s heaven on earth, we’re sure we found it in Donoussa. No matter how hard we try, we can’t even begin to describe the feeling we get when we set foot on Donoussa Island.
When in Donoussa, everything feels right, easy and smooth. Donoussa Island has a magic effect on us. It makes us leave all our worries behind and live for the moment, with the blue of the sky and the sea serving as the perfect backdrop to the most memorable summer holidays and the happiest moments of our lives.