Today I'll introduce you a cultural monument of our island: the lighthouse of Kavo Papas in Karkinagri.
Kavo Papas is the oldest lighthouse in the Balkans and the largest one in Greece. Built between 1886 and 1890 by the French Company of Lighthouses during the Ottoman Empire, it lights one of the most difficult passages in the central Aegean, between Mykonos and Ikaria. Kavo Papas is located in the rugged southwestern tip of Ikaria. Nowadays it is officially registered as a monument of the Greek cultural heritage, because the original mechanism of the lighthouse is an important technical and scientific evidence for the lightning systems in the late 19th century.
Kavo Papas became operational for the first time on 20 May 1890 and joined the Greek lighthouses network on April 9, 1915 shortly after the Balkan wars.
During the Second World War, the lighthouse was converted into a guardhouse by the Italian Army. It suffered serious damage during battles and only reopened in 1945.
For many years, the lighthouse beam was generated using an oil burning system. In 1933, it begun to operate with bulbs filled with petroleum vapor. Today it has a fully automatic system. The lighthouse beam height is 75 meters and is visible from 25 nautical miles. The beam interval is a single sweeping white flash every 20 seconds. The height of the cylindrical tower is 11 meters.
At first the area was called the Black Cape. But locals say that it changed its name to Papas Cape when a Pope got shipwrecked in the region. This pope was sailing from Rome to Constantinople and almost drowned in the untamed Icarian Sea.
The shipwreck happened during Easter period and in memory of his rescue the Pope built a little church, naming it Saint George. You can still find the church below the lighthouse and right above the beach. The lighthouse has been filmed for scenes in the Greek movie "The Fading Light", starring Alekos Alexandrakis.
It’s a reference point for both the locals and for sea travelers and is closely linked to our naval tradition, maintaining safety of navigation in the central - eastern Aegean.
Access to the lighthouse is only possible on foot or by boat. The path that leads to the lighthouse is a little rough but surely worth the trouble! Good to know: in the area, while hiking, you can collect and a very special variety of wild greens, named “Stamnagkathia or Tsikouridia”.