Nisyros is a unique island in Greece with a rich history and mythology. It has one of the most beautiful stories in Greek mythology. According to the myth, the island was created during the Gigantomachy, the war between Gods and Giants. Poseidon pursued the Giant Polyvotis to Kos and cut off a section of the island. He then threw it over his enemy, plunging him forever into the Aegean Sea. The legendary rock that broke away from Kos is today’s Nisyros. The eruptions of its once-active volcano are said to be the angry breath of the defeated giant. Nisyros Island is the youngest of the volcanic centers of Greece and is still active - along with those of Milos, Santorini, and Methana. In ancient times, the island flourished from the trade of obsidian (black volcanic glass), which was mined by the Nisyrians from the nearby opposite islet of Yali.
Nisyros is a unique island in the Dodecanese, where the houses face the rising sun. It has a wild and stunning beauty, with diverse and fascinating geological features that make it a natural museum of rocks.
The main attraction of Nisyros is its magnificent volcano, the best-preserved one in Greece. It attracts thousands of visitors every season who come to marvel at its three craters. The most famous one is Stefanos, which measures 300 meters across.
As he approaches the crater, he feels the heat and the sulfur in the air. It is a one-of-a-kind and intense experience to walk inside the volcano. The caldera offers a breathtaking view of the moon-like landscape.
Mandraki is the port and capital of Nisyros, nestled on a hill with a Venetian Castle and the Panagia Spiliani monastery on top. You will enjoy exploring its winding alleys that lead to charming and flowery squares and courtyards. The village has a lively square called “Iliomeni”, where you can relax under the shade of big trees. You can also have a coffee at the round pebbled square of Delfinies or the Town Hall square, which is also decorated with pebbles.
Emporios is a must-see village in Nisyros, a traditional mountainous settlement with narrow streets and arches. It is located on the edge of the caldera, at 330 meters above sea level. You can see the castle on the hill, with the Byzantine church of Taxiarchis inside it. At the entrance of the village, you can also experience the famous “Natural Sauna of Emporios”. It is a small cave, where warm air with healing properties flows.
Nisyros Island: The beaches
Nisyros Island has rugged and steep shores, with small beaches that vary from rocky to pebbly to sandy. One of the most beautiful ones on the island is Lyons (a series of bays with dark sand) which you can access from Paloi. Another amazing beach, which requires a challenging hike, is Pachia Ammos, outside Mandraki.
Pachia Ammos is a hidden gem behind tall hills, but its spacious shore with dark thick sand offers one of the most stunning views in Nisyros.
Behind the beach, there is a forest that is several meters away from the sea. It is a refuge for many free campers who love nature. You should note that an umbrella or an awning are essential items to bring with you before you go to any of the island’s beaches.
Close to Mandraki, you can find the beach of Chohlaki, which is named after the large, smooth pebbles of volcanic lava that cover the shore and the sea. You can also enjoy swimming in Gialiskari, which has dark sand.
How to get to Nisyros Island?
The ferry trip from Piraeus to Nisyros lasts for about 13.5 hours or you can go by plane with a first stop at the airport of Kos and from there by ferry to Nisyros.
Nisyros Island: Activities and Attractions
One of the best things to do in Nisyros is to stroll in the scenic alleys of the island’s villages. You will feel the peace and the beauty that will calm your mind and eyes.
Nisyros is also famous for its abundant hot springs. In many spots along the island’s coast, hot water flows, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 60 degrees. The best way to enjoy their benefits is at the Municipal Thermal Baths of Nisyros, which are 1500 meters north of Mandraki.
They were established at the end of the 19th century, and the water temperature can reach up to 46 degrees Celsius. The building and its bathtubs are so vintage and atmospheric that you will think you are in a scene of an Angelopoulos (Greek famous awarded director) movie.
Another well-known hot spring is in the bay of Avlaki. Its waters were used for balneotherapy before the settlement was deserted. Today, warm water pours into the sea and its maximum temperature is 59 degrees.
Note these sights as well:
The Monastery of Panagia Spiliani
The Volcanological Museum of Nisyros
The Folklore Museum of Nisyros
The Holy Monastery of Panagia Kyra
Nisyros Island: Food and Special Cousin
At the port of Pallis, you will enjoy fresh seafood delicacies. You should note that Nisyrian cuisine loves capers, which you will find in many dishes and especially in the salads of Nisyros.
Nisyros Island has some local specialties that you should try. One of them is chickpea balls, which are delicious. “Boukounia” is a traditional dish of the island made with pork cooked in its own fat. Kapamas (stuffed goat) is a festive dish that is prepared for every celebration on the island. The cheeses of the island are also special (Mizithra, Kopanisti, Sakouliasti). Of course, you will also savor the seafood delicacies, wherever you find them. Wherever you choose to eat, remember the advice of a famous chef.
Nisyros people also love "spoon" sweets (quince, bitter orange, cherry tomato), as well as other sweets such as Kourabiedes, Xerotigana, Diples, Loukoumades, and Pastellaries (figs stuffed with almonds and sesame).
Before you leave Nisyros, make sure you:
Visit the islet of Gyali.
Nisyros Island has a volcanic “neighbor” with an unusual shape. It is where pumice and perlite are extracted from the quarries. Its landscape is divided between a pine-covered north side that overlooks a bay with turquoise waters, and a steep and white south-east side that faces Nisyros – due to the mining. You will have an unforgettable experience swimming here.
Get around the island with a boat
Explore the island by boat and discover the unique geological formations created by lava. You will be amazed by the shapes, colors, and textures of the volcanic rocks that surround the island.
Taste local wine, raki, and delicious appetizers (recommended)
Enjoy wine, draft beer, raki, and delicious food at Andrikos, the cozy and picturesque café in the plane-covered Elderly Square in Mandraki, the island’s capital. Treat yourself to galaktoboureko or appetizer at the cafés in the beautiful pebbled square in Nikia (the image of Nisyros that we saved for the end).
Have fun at one of the island's summer festivals.
If you happen to see any of these events, don’t miss the most popular one on August 15, when the island has a two-day festivity at the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani.
Nisyros Island is a hidden gem in the Aegean Sea, with a rich history and culture, and a unique volcanic landscape. You can enjoy a variety of activities, from hiking to the impressive craters to exploring the charming villages with their traditional architecture and customs, to sampling the delicious local cuisine with its fresh ingredients and distinctive flavors. Nisyros Island will captivate you with its beauty and diversity, and make you feel part of its magic.