7 great places to visit in Nisyros
Nisyros is, in my opinion, the most underrated of the Greek islands, a real jewel still missed by the most, with only 4,000 travellers visiting it each year on a multi-day stay, a drop in the ocean.
And that comes to a surprise, because there are many places to visit in Nisyros and things to do to, trekking being one of the top activities.
By now, you may already know that Nisyros is a volcanic island, circular in shape and with a huge caldera right in the centre.
If it is true that only a small number of travellers decide to stay more than one night, many choose to visit the island on a day-trip from Kos.
And that is a pity, because they are gonna miss on a ton of things.
But let’s start with the most iconic attraction, the tour in the caldera.
A visit to the Caldera
Almost a third of the island is occupied by the caldera, it is huge.
The Nisyros volcano is the youngest of the South Aegean Volcanic Arc, with an age of 160,000 years.
You may already know the Santorini caldera, much older and partially under water, and the Volcano in Milos, also in the same arc.
In the Nisyros Caldera you can reach 3 craters:
- Stefanos Crater
- Polyvotis Craters
- Lofos Volcanic Field
The Stefanos Crater is the largest crater in the caldera.
In fact, it is one of the best preserved hydrothermal craters in the world.
As you enter from the main gate, walk 50 metres left and you have a viewing platform right in front of you.
This is the best spot to start your walk.
From there, follow the path and go inside, where you will also experience a few gas emission spots.
The sulphur smell can be too much in a few points but well worth the little annoyance (take a mask in case).
The floor is dry and warm, and it breaks very easily in small tiny stones.
Remember that, after all, you are walking over an active volcano.
The Polyvotis Craters are a 200-300m walk from Stefanos.
The hike is a bit challenging towards the end, but otherwise very easy going.
The Megalos Polyvotis (the biggest of the two craters) is elliptic in shape and it was created during the second last hydrothermal explosive cycle in 1871.
The Mikros Polyvotis (the smallest) was instead created during the last explosion in 1887.
I was said that it’s best to visit it after a huge storm as both craters will convert in water catchments.
I was there in August, when it was super dry.
The Lofos Volcanic Fields, is on the way back to the entrance and it’s an area still alive with a few tiny movements.
Now on the practical side.
You can easily access the caldera through a sealed road.
There are different ways to plan your experience.
You can do it on your own, on a private tour or with a group (busses are organised for up to 50 people).
There are plenty of agencies in Mandraki to organise the tour or the car.
The entry ticket is a very reasonable (read cheap) 3 Euro.
Still unsure of where to stay on the island?
Check out my guide to the best area and towns of the Nisyros
The sea side is very similar to Mykonos with bars and restaurants facing the water, but it’s not crowded and they provide the service at a normal price.
The maze of tiny lanes may remind you Fira or Oia in Santorini, but you will meet mostly locals and you will feel part of the village.
Mandraki can get busy during the day, with a few day trippers in the early afternoon, but it goes back to its sleepy state from the later afternoon.
There are two beaches in town.
The Mandraki Beach is right in the centre, quite small and sandy, with a few sunbeds free to use.
It is not the best beach on the island, but very practical for a swim.
Alternatively, you can visit Chochlaki Beach, a much bigger alternative but with huge black and round lava stones that make access to the water challenging.
On windy days you can visit the beach, but I highly suggest avoiding a swim because getting out and back with the waves can be a painful exercise.
Panagia Spiliani Monastery
Established in 1600 AD, the Panagia Spiliani is one of the most impressive monasteries in Greece.
Built on top of an enormous cliff and overlooking the main town of Mandraki, Panagia Spiliani is easily reachable through a short walk from the centre.
Its history is pretty unique
Legends say that an icon of the Virgin Mary was found in this location twice, and nobody could give a pragmatic explanation of how did it happen.
Somehow it was coming back, although it was promptly moved to another location on the island.
The entrance is more similar to a castle than a monastery, with a big gate right at the end of the path.
The chapel is inside a cave that you can reach through a short walk from the gate.
There is a tiny window in the gate overlooking the promenade of Mandraki.
It is a stunning place to visit, giving its best on the 15th of August, when a huge number of people come to commemorate the death of the Virgin Mary.
A dinner on the 14th and lunch on the 15th are offered to everyone in the small square up in the village.
The Panagia Spiliani Monastery is probably the second most popular attraction in Nisyros after the volcano
Paleokastro is the old castle of the island built by the Knights of St. John around 450 years ago.
What sets apart this castle is the size of the walls, massive, over 5 metres wide.
It was constructed with lava stones and each “brick” is around 1 metre long and half a metre wide.
It reminded me more of the Angkor Wat (Cambodia) temples than the typical castles from the Dodecanese.
It is only 1.5-3km from the centre of Mandraki.
You can reach it either with a car (3km) or with a lovely walk (1.5km) which becomes magic at sunset time.
The entrance of the castle is so hidden that you really need to follow the signs.
You can walk on part of the wall and the view from the top towards Mandraki, the monastery and Gialo Island on the horizon is stunning.
There are two sets of stairs, the first one right next to the gate and the other one on the left side.
I personally do not suggest walking in the far end of the wall, clearly unstable.
The volcano is still active, and with that, you can find a few spots with spas.
The most famous one is in Loutra, only 2-3km from Mandraki.
It is not an impressive one though, in fact you may well avoid it all together.
Yes, it is not expensive, but you get what you pay for.
Basically, access to a hot tub in a very old infrastructure.
It is a place I would recommend visiting only on a cold day, to warm up the body, otherwise there are more things to do and places to visit in Nisyros.
There is a new infrastructure in Pali, that honestly looks very impressive too from outside, but it seems that the construction has been paused.
I will let you know on my next visit how things are progressing there.
Check out the 35 best photos of Nisyros Island
This is the best sandy beach on the north coast, easily reachable from Mandraki (10-15 minutes’ bus ride).
It is a small one, around 200-250 metres long, with beautiful clean water, very shallow and dark brown sand.
It is not as busy. I was there in peak season (first week of August) and it was not even a third full, mostly with locals.
The village of Pali has a nice and popular marina, with a few yummy restaurants, too.
It is a cool place to have an afternoon at the beach, followed with dinner by the water.
The most popular of the two mountain villages and for a few good reasons.
The view to the caldera is majestic, especially if you make the effort to walk up to the Moni Ag. Ioanni Theologou church, on top of the hill.
Then there is the unique of its kind Volcanological Museum, the first in the country.
Organised in two rooms, it aims to introduce the visitors to the geology side of the volcanoes.
In the first room there is a 10 minutes video describing the birth of Nisyros and its volcano, with its origin in Kos island.
In the second room, there is an extensive exhibition describing the types of volcanoes, the different materials and rocks that you can find in a volcano and a map of the world representing the still active volcanoes.
The admission is 4euro for adults (children free)
This is the second mountain village, closer to Mandraki, around 25-30 minutes from it.
Emporeios is more rural than Nikia, much less popular, with only one taverna/bar overlooking the caldera.
It must be said that it becomes magical at night with all the restaurant tables in the little square and the romantic village lights.
The view of the caldera is from the northern side where you will hardly see the Stefanos crater.
Indeed, it is not as impressive as the Nikia view, but the walk through the village is as beautiful, possibly even more genuine.
Avlaki harbour for swimming
This is such a lovely small harbour that reminded me a lot of the Como Lake 60s ads.
There is not much going on, not even a small bar or cafe, so bring your own water and food if you think to have lunch there.
The road to the Avlaki Harbour is spectacular by itself, with the view to the south coast and Tilos Island.
Once there, you can visit a small chapel and then take the short walk to the little harbour.
You could be almost on your own if visiting is low season.
There is a tiny bay well repaired by the wind and the current where you can have a dive and a swim.
There is a ladder to get out of the water.
There is no beach, only the concrete harbour, a real gem.
You can also have a short walk through the battered buildings processing the sponges almost 100 years ago.
Lies Beach & Pachia Ammos Beach
The two biggest beaches on the east coast.
Lies Beach is easily reachable with a car
For Pachia Ammos Beach, park the car in the southern end part of Lies Beach and take the 30-45 minutes walk through a well-signed path along the coast.
Pachia Ammos Beach is also a popular place for free camping (no facilities provided) and nudism.