Amazing Places: Nisyros, Greece

Discovering the Dodecanese with Arkadaslik Yachting

Updated: January 14, 2020

Nisyros is a 41 KM2 volcanic island in the Dodecanese region of Greece. It has 28 KM of coastline, very few beaches (none of them sandy), and smells like rotten eggs. I had a not-very-pleasant picture in my mind before we visited Nisyros for the first time, and let me tell you, I was completely wrong!

drawing of dinosaurs and an erupting volcano - how I imagined Nisyros would look

True, the volcano is dormant (i.e. not currently erupting), but still active, spewing steam, sulphurous gases, and about 68 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each day. That's what gives the island its distinctive odour. But it's also what heats the island's many thermal baths. And created its fertile soil and lush vegetation. And formed the unique black pebbles used for creating mosaic patterns everywhere in the region.

Once upon a time, the island was a major agricultural centre in the region. Terraces were built into the slopes everywhere on the island, including inside the caldera, to maximize space for crops. The terraces remain, but agriculture has waned over time. Nowadays, the majority of the island's income comes from quarrying pumice at the nearby island of Yiali.

Tourism also contributes to the economy, but mostly in the form of day-trippers who arrive on the daily ferry enmasse, do a quick bus tour of the volcano and surrounding villages, then hop back on the ferry to return to whence they came.

Like all Greek islands, Nisyros has a long and bloodied history. It was mentioned by Homer in the Illyad, and conquered by the Knights of Rhodes in 1315. During World War I, it was overtaken by soldiers who killed most of the livestock for food. Like every Greek island, it has churches, and ruins, and monasteries. So what makes it special?

Nisyros is untouched by mass tourism. It is peaceful, and the residents are relaxed and friendly. Locals and visitors mingle together in the small cafes, bars, and restaurants. You won't find big hotels on the island, but there are a few small boutique hotels and B+Bs that cater to visitors looking for a peaceful getaway. Hikers, in particular, love the island's extensive network of walking paths.

And the volcano is pretty impressive, especially if – like me – you've never seen one before. In geologic terms, it's a relatively young volcano, so hasn't eroded away to an unrecognizable shape. You can recognize the cone shape of the island as you approach by sea. You can see where lava once spewed out – as recently as 1888. You can actually walk into the crater and see vents where steam and gases escape. Plus, there's an impressive museum to learn about all things volcanic in the village of Nikia on the upper edge of the caldera.

Although I initially had misgivings, I wouldn't hesitate to return to Nisyros, and would definitely like to stay more than just a few hours this time. Who's onboard for a visit?

Additional Information About Nisyros

Have you had the chance to visit the volcanic Greek island of Nisyros? We'd love to hear about your experience and see your photos.