If you are searching for a beautiful volcanic Greek island other than Santorini, Nisyros in the Dodecanese is the perfect place to visit.
Located between Tilos and Kos, this authentic Greek island is known as one of the country’s greatest hidden treasures, as it has been untouched by mass tourism. The small, round isle has been uniquely shaped by the volcano’s explosion; and when visiting you are able to explore ancient walls of black volcanic stone, as you hike along the rim of an active volcano!
Discover the Top 12 Things to Do in Nisyros
Visit the Volcano
This is an absolute must! Featuring three main craters, which the locals have named Stephanos, Alexandros, and Polivotis; you will quickly be able to realise how the volcano forms the greater part of Nisyros. We recommend you visit in the early morning to avoid the heat and the crowds, as there are many day cruises that visit over the peak summer season. Also, make your way over to The Volcanic Museum (housed in Nikia’s old primary school) which reveals a lot about Greece’s volcanoes and their different rock formations.
Get Lost in Mandraki
Nisyros’ charming main town of Mandraki is tucked into hills on the northwest tip of the island, featuring a magical waterfront with breathtaking white-washed houses and many traditional tavernas along with the town squares. Make sure you visit one of the local cafes and mingle with the friendly locals; before exploring the lovely alleys with hidden shops and traditional white homes with blue coloured doors and windows. We suggest you come here for dinner and make sure you make it in time for sunset; then watch the whole island light up in the evening.
Make Time for Some Spiritual Healing
Historical Byzantine churches such as the Church of the Panagia Faneromeni can be found across the island and are all accessible by way-marked cycling and hiking trails. The island is ideal for anyone looking for a spiritual experience, as there are so many monasteries to visit, with Panagia Spiliani being the most popular. During Dekapendavgousto (Assumption of the Virgin Mary) celebrations take place over nine days and visitors from all the surrounding islands join the locals in wonderful traditions that date back centuries.
Dip into the Hot Springs
Thanks to all the volcanic activity, thermal springs pour out their mineral-filled waters into the sea at several points around Nisyros; many visitors come to the spa at Loutra on the north coast to take advantage of their healing properties, while other hot springs are found at Thermiani and Avlaki. In fact, there are spas with hot mineral springs all over the island so try to make the most of it. A few metres away from Mandraki, you can see an early 20th Century spa.
Explore the Palaiokastro
The most striking of the island’s cultural remains is the Palaiokastro, located high on a hilltop overlooking Mandraki. Dating from the 4th Century BC, this was once a huge acropolis and fort but now little is left except for fragments of the walls constructed out of volcanic basalt. The total length of the fort is very large. The wall and the cliff mark an area of approximately 130.000 m2, with a total perimeter of almost 2 km, while the weight of some of the stones that make up the wall reaches 3.5 tons. Recently two towers have also been restored out of rock surrounding the site.
Take a Long Swim
Nisyros may not have the glamorous beaches of other islands, however, the water is crystal clear and refreshing on a hot day. The most popular Nisyros beaches are located on the northern side of the island and a few of them are organised with sunbeds, umbrellas, and cafes. Pachia Ammos is considered the most beautiful beach on the island and should be first on the list. You can also swim at Mandraki, Xochlaki (known for its big black pebbles) or otherwise make your way over to Lefki and Gialiskari beaches. Lies, Pali and Katsouni, which are all located around Mandraki are also good.
Stroll through Porta
Porta is a wonderful town square, which is known for its unique shape and pretty pebble mosaic flooring; it is said to be the most photographed platia (square) of every Greek island. It was named “Porta” (door) because from there all the roads of the village begin and all the doors of the settlement open.
Meet Locals at Embryos and Nikia
An architectural highlight, topped by the fortress of Pantoniki- here you have a stunning view of the Aegean. Nikia is a lovely little village set on the rim of the caldera. Embryos is also an amazing place that offers great views of the volcano and the sea. While you are there don’t miss the view from the small church that can be reached by taking the road on the right, a few hundred metres before reaching the village.
Hike Around the Island
The paths of Nisyros attract hikers from all over the world, with many returning year after year. They wind along dry-stone walls and past stone farmhouses, old distilleries, and historical churches.
Taste Flavoursome Local Delicacies
In Nisyros you will find traditional recipes such as pithia (meatballs made of chickpeas), boukounies (pork dish), kapama (goat stuffed with rice) skordalia (garlic potato mash) with almonds and salads dominated by capers. The range of cheese in Nisyros is also very special, including the mizithra (ricotta), sakouliasti and trigias cheese (local cheese cooked in red wine).
For anyone looking to enjoy something sweet, there is no shortage of dessert choices. Make sure you try the psilokouloura (biscuits), diples (honey rolls), loukoumades (mini Greek donuts), foinikia (honey-dipped biscuits, halva (semolina cake), and spoon sweets (such as quince, bitter orange, cherry tomato). And definitely try the pastelaries (opened figs, with almonds and sesame). Nisyros island also has a range of traditional beverages too, with the most popular being the soumada. You can also drink koukouzina (distilled from grapes or figs and has a similar taste to the raki), and also sapsiho and rosemary.
Eat and Drink at Wonderful Taverns
There is a great option for food and the standouts for us are Aphrodite’s, a family-run tavern that serves fresh seafood dishes and are known for their homemade dolmades; Captain’s House for the tastiest grilled fish; Balkoni tou Emporiou for their traditional Nisyros’ cooking (make sure to ask for the local specialties of the day); if you are looking for some Italian cuisine make your way over to Bacareto in Buso; head to Oxos for a coffee and delicious desserts; and for after-dinner drinks check out Enalla X or Mira Mare (both offer great views of the island).
Stay at Charming Little Apartments
Don’t expect to find any fancy hotels or luxury resorts here. Nisyros accommodation is simple and focuses on hospitality and service. For a unique stay we recommend you check out Villa Calliope, 1849 built home, which has been beautifully restored; showcasing traditional architecture and interiors blended nicely with modern touches. And for the most captivating stay on the island, there is Melanopetra- an 1850’s apartment that has been magically restored into two boutique apartments.
How to Get There
Nisyros doesn’t have an airport and the closest one is in Kos. Nisyros is accessible by ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens; during peak season you can find frequent ferry routes from Piraeus to Nisyros. If you are already in the Dodecanese you can travel by ferry to Nisyros from Kos or Rhodes.