The centromere-specific histone H3 variant CENH3 (also known as CENP-A) is considered to be an epigenetic mark for establishment and propagation of centromere identity. Pulse induction of CENH3 (Drosophila CID) in Schneider S2 cells leads to its incorporation into non-centromeric regions and generates CID islands that resist clearing from chromosome arms for multiple cell generations. We demonstrate that CID islands represent functional ectopic kinetochores, which are non-randomly distributed on the chromosome and show a preferential localization near telomeres and pericentric heterochromatin in transcriptionally silent, intergenic chromatin domains. Although overexpression of heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) or increasing histone acetylation interferes with CID island formation on a global scale, induction of a locally defined region of synthetic heterochromatin by targeting HP1-LacI fusions to stably integrated Lac operator arrays produces a proximal hotspot for CID deposition. These data indicate that the characteristics of regions bordering heterochromatin promote de novo kinetochore assembly and thereby contribute to centromere identity.