Day Tripping in Greece No. 2 – Nisyros

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In 2015, Siggy and I were in Kos and we took a boat trip over to the neighbouring island of Nisyros from the harbour at Kardamena. Nisyros is a volcanic island located in the Aegean Sea and is part of the Dodecanese islands, situated between Kos and Tilos. It is approximately circular with a diameter of about 5 miles. According to Greek myth, the island was formed when the sea-god Poseidon cut off a part of Kos and threw it onto a giant called Polybotes during a fight.

We had to be up early to meet the trip bus at a nearby pick up point at a crossroads in Tigaki. Then it was off to Kardamena to catch the boat. We were lucky that the Aegean was relatively calm and the boat trip took us about half an hour.

We docked at Mandriki harbour and then hopped onto another coach to take us up to the village of Nikia and then the volcano caldera. By the way if your holiday rep tells you that it is only their guests that have access to walk on the crater floor – this is total BS. This trip at least 10 Euros cheaper with Theokritos Travel in Tigaki than with Thomson and included a trip to Nikia (on Sundays only) which I’m not sure was even included with the rep’s version of the event.

The village of Nikia is a cute little place with an award-winning square, a typical church, a monopolistic café, excellent views of the volcano caldera and some rather scabby toilets with a very low door frame near where we parked.

After a nice wander around Nikia and some refreshments we got back on the couch and were taken down into the volcano basin. The first thing that hits you when you get off the coach is the smell of sulphur. Gases around the crater are rich in such stinky things as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and ozone (if my understanding of the chemical symbols in the pamphlet is correct). There is a small charge to enter the crater area where there is a cheap café with a shaded rest area and some nice toilets.

We walked down into the largest crater – the Stefanos crater – holding our noses and feeling like we were on the surface of another planet. It really was breath-taking in more ways than one. Steaming fumeroles covered with crystals of yellow sulphur abound and you can hear the hydrothermal action bubbling away threatening beneath the spongy crust of the crater.

The last real volcanic action at Nisyros was about 20,000 years ago, but the volcano is still very much active. There is continued seismic activity (e.g. the earlier earthquake) and the amount of water and carbon dioxide coming out of the island is significant. A number of craters were formed in 1873 and 1888 and there were significant earthquakes causing much damage on the island and on neighbouring islands such as Kos. The island of Nisyros was in fact formed from volcanic activity about 60,000 years ago – in a way the island is the volcano.

Once we’d got our fill of hot gas and cheap Pringles we returned to Mandraki for lunch. We had a good amount of time to share a club sandwich and try some of the locally made beverages – one is made with almonds, sugar and water and has a name that escapes me, the other is cinnamon flavoured and is also available in Kos and is called kanelada (various spellings again exist and sometimes a ‘c’ is used). Both are excellently refreshing and a cheaper natural alternative to Fanta or Coke. There were octopus hung up along the side of the road which revolted Siggy, but I found very photogenic lol.

Mandraki is the main harbour village of Nisyros and has a mountain side monastery and also a ruined castle. We walked up the stairs to the church below the monastery to enjoy the views, but did not have time to investigate the basalt ruins of the castle. As well as basalt, pumice stone is a predominant rock on the island and in fact a small neighbouring islet has a quarry which exports the rock globally. So if you use pumice to scrub your feet it’s probably come from this quarry.

The boat trip back to Kos was even smoother than the ride out and the coach pick up and drop offs were all very efficient. Our tour guide was a well-educated woman originally from Nisyros who was full of facts and figures and was very friendly and open to questions. All in all it was a most excellent trip.

All photos (c) 2015 Matthew Haynes.

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