Isolated at the foot of the Peloponnese, the island of KÝTHIRA traditionally belongs to the Ionian islands, and shares their history of Venetian and, later, British rule; under the former it was known as Cerigo. For the most part, similarities end there. The island architecture of whitewashed houses and flat roofs looks more like that of the Cyclades. The landscape is different, too: wild scrub- and gorse-covered hills, or moorland sliced by deep valleys and ravines. Though badly affected by emigration (see Kangaroo Island) tourism has brought some prosperity but most summer visitors are Greeks. For the few foreigners who reach Kýthira, it remains something of a refuge, with its undeveloped beaches a principal attraction. Some accommodation does not open until June and closes early in September.
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Kýthira was never a rich island, but, along with Monemvasiá, it did once have a military and economic significance – which it likewise lost with Greek independence and the opening of the Corinth Canal. Since then, emigration (almost entirely to Australia, which islanders refer to as “Big Kýthira”) has reduced the permanent population significantly. In summer many Greek Australians return to here to visit family (Greeks call it “Kangaroo Island”), which is why the English spoken on the island usually has a distinct Down Under lilt.