Your first steps on the island of Nisyros will most likely be in the harbour of Mandraki. Following the path straight on from the harbour, you'll find seaside taverns and cafes, souvenir shops, Artin's photo gallery, a small volcanic beach, further on the Archeological museum of Nisyros, the square with Town hall, the quiet but beautiful Old people square (Platia Ilikiomeni) with two huge ficus trees and a perfect shade to relax, further on you'll discover the Panagia Potamitissa church and just below the church there's stairway to the Panagia Spilinani monastery, an important place for Greek orthodox pilgrims with perfect views of Mandraki. Just below the monastery there's a beach with lava stones called Chochlaki. On the way there you can observe the so called lava pillows with the oldest stones of the island, cca 160 000 years old - that was when Nisyros started emerging from the sea waters.
In the central part of Nisyros you can find the caldera and the major crater Stafanos. There are 20 craters on the island out of which 10 can be well seen and bear names. The Stefanos crater has a diameter of 330 m and is cca 27 m deep. It´s not difficult to get there as in the summer season as there are little buses organized by local agencies waiting for visitors in the Mandraki harbour. The bus will take you directly to the caldera ascending above the seaside used-to -be spa resort Pali and then descending to the caldera. It takes cca 20 minutes. There´s a possibility to rent a car or a motorbike in the harbour as well.
The local tax for volcano visitors is 2 EUR (already included in the ticket provided you take one of the minibuses).
At the caldera there´s a little pub if you need some refreshment like drinks, crisps and ice creams. There's a toilet as well. The standard is low, but still serves the need... And save every drop of water, the island only has thermal water springs and therefore water has to be brought here from Rhodes.
It is not recommend to asthma and cardiac patients and pregnant women to descend from the caldera to the bottom of the Stefanos crater because of the sulphur containing fumes.
As we got off the ferry we headed down the harbour road towards a bus stand to buy tickets for the bus that makes the trip up to the volcano. Be prepared for the sulphurous smells, it stinks!
The bus trip allows about 50 mins there - enough time to take a walk down into the volcano (10 mins down) a walk around to see the steam vents and feel the hot rocks and climb back up. Even time for a quick drink in the cafe there. The path down to the volcano is not difficult, a little bit rocky in places so wear shoes with a good grip.
This was the best beach on the island, about 3 miles east of Mandraki. Not quite sand, tiny white stones intermingled with fragments of black.
We manged to negotiate a ride on Panyoti's bus as far as the beach and I spent a couple of hours here while Nick left earlier. Good swimming.
On my trek back to Mandraki a cement lorry stopped and offered me a lift but was going the wrong way. Next, a green pickup full of soldiers screeched to a halt and heaved me onboard. I had to stand in the back with the soldiers, hanging on for dear life as we bumped and banged our way back to Mandraki.The soldiers were dropped off before our accommodation, then we proceeded to hurtle down the road to where we were staying, where I had to leap off the tailgate in a very unladylike manner. Not a word passed between me or any of my fellow passengers but somehow it was known where we were staying!!
Now I see there is a huge hotel behind the beach. I think this was in the early stages of being built when we were there.
On our way down from the volcano, Stavros took us for lunch at a taverna he was known in in Pali. We hopped off the bus at the turn-off (the bus had decided not to go into Pali today!!) and walked down to the village.
There really wasn't much there in those early days of tourism on the island. Just a few houses and I remember some sort of industry as there was a crane in the sea.
I don't remember the name of the establishment but I remember I didn't enjoy the food much. I was feeling decidedly ill by this time (I suspected I was pregnant and suffering morning sickness which turned out to be the case.) I managed to eat some bifteki and Nick had 2 bowls of soup. Stavros had 2 plates of meat so presumably the food was pretty ok.
After lunch, Stavros was too tired to walk more than a mile back to Mandraki so we hitched a lift with the owner of the Nisyros Taverna. We shared the car with a dog and numerous dead birds. Guess what was on the menu that night?
Mandraki, the chief place on Nissyros and the port, is a pretty place, larger than you first think. It's quite strung out and the narrow old streets wind their way unhurriedly into the centre. Along the coast road are a few eateries and drinkeries with pleasant sea views. Further into the town are a couple of squares with the odd taverna. To the back of the town is an almost seperate suburb, climbing the hill in tiers.
Many of the older houses are built from volcanic rock, many whitewashed.
Apparently on Saturdays, the islanders depart for their weekly shopping trip to Kos while Kos tourists flood into Mandraki!!!
We just loved the place and never have we been to a more friendly place.
We actually did this trip twice, once on our own and again with our new friend Stavros, who wanted to take us for a day out.
Both times we caught the local bus, an experience in itself. Panyiote the driver was certainly a character. Fuelled on alcohol, he would force the shuddering, shaking bus up to the top of the crater. There he would sit at the ramshackle bar for his mid morning tot as his passengers disembarked and headed for the crater. (Our new friend Stavros told us the driver was filled with whisky and the bus with benzina!!!)
The crater is an impressive 300m. in diameter and 27m. deep. It's pretty warm walking on the steaming ground as gas escapes around you from fissures in the rock. Make sure you have sturdy shoes on!!
There are a couple of traditional villages perched on the rim of the crater, Nikia and Emborios, which both have excellent views of the crater.
One day we caught The Bus up to Emborios, about a half hour ride. The village sits on the north edge of the caldera, enjoying good views to the crater and isa collection of old houses, many in poor states of repair.
The village seemed to be very much in siesta mode as we wandered it's tiny streets of steps.
We actually found an old ricketty taverna open which had a suspended ceiling made from plastic tablecloths. Made us wonder how stable the building was!!!
We had a salad here, which we watched being made from about a kilo of plum tomatoes,a whole cucumber and a huge lump of feta. It was a long, slow drawn- out affair but we weren't in any hurry. Needless to say, we were the entire lunchtime clientele.
I remember there were many cats around the village.
From Emborio we attempted to find the path back down to Mandraki but we ended walking down through the terraces and got lost. At that moment a battered old green VW van pulled up and gave us a welcome lift to the Pali turn.
Mandraki is the capital of Nisyros, and more than likely the first place that you will come across.
As you have probably guessed if you have read some of my other travel pages, I am more interested in wandering around and admiring scenery than visiting museums.
Mandraki is your typical white washed buildings against the blue sea type of town, it is fabulous, lots of little trinket shops, backstreets and cafes abound this place and it is well worth a visit.
We arrived into Nisyros from Kos by boat, when we arrived we took one of many buses departing from the harbour area up to the volcano.
If you are afraid of heights like me, then take a tea towel or something to put over your head! its a long long way up there!
The roads are windy and you just go up what seems like forever, but even I had to peek out every now and then to take a look at the views - they are stunning.
Upon arrival at the volcano, there is a huge cafe, we sat and had a drink and then walked around taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Eventually, after much debate! we made our way down into the volcano, it was very steep all the way down, just like a little unmade dirt track, but when there it is truly amazing a so worth it.
The walk back up is difficult is the soaring heat but I did it!!
Built in 1600, the Monastery is perched in a prominent position on the cliffs above Mandraki.
We walked up to the Monastery, which closed about 2:45pm, but the views are worth the walk up anyway.
On the way up a lady, who spoke no English, indicated with they keys in her hand that she had locked up. There didn't seem to be any formal opening or closing times. At the entrance to the monastery as sign indicated that those dressed 'indecently' would not be admitted - what ever that may mean!
I guess this is going to be one of those love it or hate it trips. I’m not going to say that everyone will enjoy it as much as we did, but if you’re the sort of person who likes a fun-packed night out then this trip may not appeal to you.
The volcano is dormant but not extinct. Its huge crator is called Stefano and is 260 metres in diameter and 30 metres deep. The last eruption was in 1933.
The bus takes you the 17 Km up the mountain via a succession of hair-pin bends with some fantastic views. You drop down into the valley of the volcano, but are only given 35mins to explore on foot, which was a bit disappointing. This allows just enough time to walk down into the crater and back. We managed this carrying a 3 yr old on shoulders and with a 7 yr old, all wearing strong sandals (we did see some wearing flip-flops and they managed, but we also saw some ending up on their backside when the slipped! The volcanic ash and stone on the path down can be a bit slippery if you’re not firm footed). The smells from the sulphur are great, and not too overpowering. Steam and smells come out from various pot holes on the crater surface – it’s unique.
There is a large cafe at the top where you can buy drinks, ice-cream etc. We bought a piece of pumice rock and volcanic glass.
See our travelogue for more photos.
This is the Port and capital, but feels more like a village. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the narrow streets and stair ways exploring where the locals live. When you see the size of some of the streets you realise why scooters and scooter based tricycles are so popular on the Island - nothing else will fit down the narrow streets.
There are numerous interesting little shops along the main street. Some locals sell produce from a small table top to the passing tourists.
Honey, souvenirs, clothing, pumice stone, and bottles of a locally produced drink are all available.
An artist called Artin has a small shop from which he sells his photographic prints, postcards and CD's of music written to accompany his images.
You have to go almost to the middle of Nisyros to the Lakki plateau, to see the crater of the extinct volcano, Polybates. It is 260 metres in diameter and 30 metres deep with steps leading down to its centre. The reek of sulphur fills the surrounding air, while the scenery could belong to the moon. You can get into the crater but beware of the holes. The best time to get there is about 18:00.
Visiting the volcano was awesome, especially for it was the first volcano I had visited by that time. Some might consider it as a tourist trap for there are quite a lot of people actually but for me it's a must see activitiy nevertheless.