Come for the most accessible volcano in the Mediterranean, stay for the great swimming, stunning views and artistic flair of this island.
Nisyros is not your typical Greek island. This small land mass in the Aegean is also an active volcano. It is the youngest along a rift in the Southern Aegean and has experienced at least three major eruptions in the past 45,000 years. One of these, around 16,000 years ago, was particularly destructive, blanketing a wide area with volcanic ash.
Over the past 130 years the volcano has been ‘dozing’, although researchers monitor its daily coughs and grumbles closely. Nisyros’s volcano is one of the few anywhere in the world that can be easily visited. Anyone can make the short drive to the site and then spend hours wandering around the 10 hydrothermal craters with their wonderful names: Stefanos, Polyvotis, Alexandros.
This other-worldly landscape has the potential to make Nisyros a world-famous destination – (provided, of course, the volcano remains relatively quiet). Where else can one so easily get such an intimate sense of the geological forces that shape the planet? And then combine that experience with an afternoon swim?
1. The Pristine Coasts
Lovers of thumping beach bars and cocktails delivered right to their sun-loungers are probably best off opting for another island, as you won’t find any of these on Nisyros. But if you like your beaches just as nature sculpted them, then this is the island for you. Just make sure to take your own umbrella and water to avoid being caught out.
Pachia Ammos is a favorite among nudists and free-campers and therefore the beach of choice for the more ‘free spirited’. There is however plenty of space for all, as the beach is enormous and the 15 minute walk from the nearest parking spot means that only the more dedicated make it here.
As for ourselves you will find us a little further away at Liès, away from the crowds. Or at Hohlakoi with its large, round stones only a short walk from the port of Mandraki. If you make it earlier enough you can even find a spot of shade under the tamarisk trees to avoid roasting in the sun.
2. The settlements of Emporio, Nikia and Avlaki
The mountain village of Emporio was abandoned following the earthquake of 1933 but has gradually returned to life as many of the traditional homes have been renovated by new owners or converted into guest-houses. Many visit the village for its two exceptional tavernas and for the ‘natural sauna’ that exists in a small cave at the village’s entrance.
Invisible from the sea and located atop the natural walls of the caldera, the village thrived during the age of pirates. On the opposing cliffs, Nikia welcomes you with is picturesque and oft-photographed square (known as Porta), incredible view over the craters and well-put-together Volcanology Museum. Our excursion ends at Avlaki, the onetime pirate anchorage which is no longer inhabited. In the little bay we enjoy the best swim of the summer.
3. The thermal springs
Sea and rainwater mix in upper levels of Nisyro’s groundwater and are heated by geothermal activity meaning that the island offers respite to those suffering from musculoskeletal and other afflictions. Hot water springs are found at many places on the island – as well as in the sea – where the water can reach a scalding 60 degrees Celsius. But at the Municipal Baths which were founded in the early 19th century and are constantly being upgraded, one is probably more likely to see young hipsters as infirm pensioners.
The cafe located on the ground floor serves good food and fiery tsipouro, and the rooms at the municipal guesthouse are cheap and clean. Once upon a time a casino used to operate here as well as a theater and a library. Recently plans were announced for a major redevelopment of the baths and the creation of a 5-star hotel via a private-public partnership.
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