Tag Archives: Nisyros

Nisyros to Milos

We spent another 5 days in Pali waiting for a break in the wind to allow us to continue westwards and eventually we had to settle for a ‘least worst’ option.

But staying a few extra days allowed us to enjoy one of the parties associated with the festival of the Virgin Mary.    Although the main event takes place in Mandraki we were advised to head for the monastery close to Nikia for the evening.   Following the religious service there is a meal of bean soup followed by Greek dancing.   The meal was simple, but free, apparently sponsors wait years for a chance to provide the meal!   The dancing was very informal, everyone just having a good time.  What struck me was the number of youngsters taking part in these traditional dances.  And it was busy, maybe a couple of hundred people and every hire car on the island parked for a kilometre along the road leading down to the monastery.   The only transport we could get was a small quad bike.  Very under powered and not suitable for the mountain roads.  Suffice to say, never again!

Our constant examination of the forecasts gave our 24 hour window of opportunity as Friday and Saturday and we decided to make the trip to Milos, some 140 miles in one over night, 27 hour passage.  The forecast was for head winds the whole way, but less than they had been, or would be.

Sunrise over the Datcha Peninsula

So we were up early on Friday and set off  at 6 am, just after it was light enough to see the harbour entrance and its sand bank.    It was not a particularly pleasant passage.   The wind was building the sea into a short chop over an existing residual swell which resulting in a short,  confused sea.  As the day wore on the wind was gusting to 18 knots requiring both engines to stay on course and keep up any speed, 4 knots was the best we could do!

Sunset off Amorgos

We passed north of Astipalia at lunch time and at sunset we were passing the south western tip of  island of Amorgos.   As the sun went down the wind and sea dropped away a bit and our speed increased slightly.    We passed north of Ios at 2 am and as the sun rose we were approaching the island of Polyaigos , just east of Milos.

Sunrise off Milos

Despite the less than favourable weather we arrived at the port of Adamas, as planned, at 1130 and moored to the yacht pontoon.   A tiring passage and not the most comfortable but we are back on schedule with a day or so in hand, although had to skip Astipali, Santorini and Ios.

Adamas

We’ll be in Milos now until probably Monday or Tuesday before the wind dies down again a bit although this next leg should see the winds from the north as we head south of west.  That is a good point of sail for us, but we’ll see !!

Heading west

Sitting in Marathouda on Wednesday 8 August we examined the weather forecasts because we are back to dodging the Meltemi which was always going to be our biggest challenge in heading west across the Aegean.

Although not the Meltemi, currently the winds across Simi tend to be light overnight and into the morning before picking up to between 15 to 25 knots from the northwest in the afternoon and early evening but the Meltemi was due to begin blowing in earnest at the weekend and remain with us for most of next week. We needed somewhere to sit it out.

We had hoped to visit Monastery Bay on Symi’s west coast before heading off for the island of Tilos and then Astipalia planning to leave early in the mornings and arriving as the wind picked up.    The Pilot Book describes the port of Livhadia on Tilos as quite small and stated that the laid moorings off the town quay were ‘reported to be in disrepair’.     In settled weather we’d have gone and looked and if necessary anchored in the bay, but the PB further advised that the anchorage was not tenable in a strong Meltemi although did not attempt to quantify the description ‘strong’, so there was no Plan B.
However: Nysiros was only a few miles further to sail and we knew it was well sheltered.  If we couldn’t get in we could go across to Kamares on Kos and anchor there.

So we set off horribly early on Thursday morning, by which I mean 4.30 am horribly early, aiming to be in Pali by 11.30, thereby beating the afternoon blow and arriving between the rush hours.

The entrance to Ormos Marathouda

It can be quite daunting leaving a pitch black anchorage under just star light with the radar and echo sounder the only real clue as to how far away that shadow is!  That shadow being the rocky coast line or off laying island!

Sun rise over Symi

The moon rose at about 5 but was a sliver of a crescent and was of little help other than to hint at where we’d been. But by 5.30 the sky was lightening and by 6.30 the sun was rising over the island but by then we were clear of Symi and its outlaying islands and were set on our course towards Nisyros.   The passage went as planned and we arrived in Pali at 11.30 and even found ‘our’ spot on the harbour wall was vacant.

And so we settled back down to wait for a break in the Meltemi to allow us to continue our voyage west, but it isn’t looking likely that the winds will die down sufficiently for the rest of the week or much of next week either.   But we’re not alone., even those heading north or east are sitting it out too!

The Rodos Cup ……

We have just discovered that each year there is an inter island race called the Rodos Cup.  It starts in Kos, goes to Kalimnos, Nisyros, Simi and then Rhodos.  I know this because on Saturday, 14th,  the Port Police turned up with a  notice saying that between 17 and 19 July the port of Pali was closed due to the Rodos Cup race!!!

Happily were planned to go on Tuesday anyway !!!!

We’ve seen a lot of the Port Police in Pali. They check the port 2 or 3 times a week and are the busiest Port Police officers we have ever come across!    And a thoroughly nice bunch of guys they are as well, polite, efficient and enforcing the rules, which is good to see, if your papers are in order.  No DEPKA, go to Kos, now, and get one,  Flitting between Turkey and Greece without bothering with immigration?  Go back to Turkey, now.     They were even checking local fishing boats for life jackets!   I thought fishing boats were exempt from absolutely all rules and regulations!

Happily on Tuesday, 17th June, the weather was forecast to be relatively clement and we would be able to go across to Kos to meet Zeynep who was due to arrive on Tuesday evening, but more on that later.

Last night in Pali

And so on Monday evening we had our last night in Pali after almost 3 weeks here.  We arrived on 26th June, looking for shelter for a few days and just stayed; well I did, Valeria went home for 5 days.   But we have had the most fantastic time.  Nisyros is a lovely place, laid back, quiet and such a friendly island.   Our chosen car hire company, Manos K, would happily lend us a scooter to go to Mandraki to get cash, there is no ATM outside Mandraki.  They even rented us a car for 3 hours for a shopping run to Mandraki; fruit and veg selection is better there.   And our local taverna, Aphrodite, where we ate on many evenings presented us with a small bottle of Metaxa!     The only thing we could NOT understand is why so many people around the island use ‘worry beads’ ……

On Tuesday morning we were up at 6 am and were away by 7 in the morning calm.   Pali really is sheltered.  As soon as we were away from the harbour the wind was up to 28 knot, aparent wind speed.  But it was on the beam and we were soon galloping along at 6 knots under one reef in the Main Sail and we sailed virtually the whole way to the eastern end of Kos, before the wind figured we’d had it too good for too long.  As we approached Kos Town the wind stubbornly blew directly out of the marina no matter what our heading and we ended up describing a nice big circle around our destination, unable to tack and never really getting much closer!

We gave up at 11.30 and motored the last half hour getting in at 1220.   After a tidy up we went into Kos to find the Port Police to check out of Greece.   But that is another saga!

Nisyros in photos

Nisyros is only a small island; it has a diameter of 7 to 8 km and is about 41 Sq km in area.  It has 4 villages, about 6 roads and you can visit everywhere there is to see by car in 2 days.  There may not be much, but what there is, is worth the visit.

As our time here comes to an end here are the highlights in photos.

Pali
Mandraki
Church on the road to Mandraki
Monastery of Panagia Spelianie
Kastro
Porta, Nikia
Emborious
Caldera from the Balcony Restaurant, Emborios
The volcano
The old, abandoned, harbour of Avlaki on the south coast
Countryside above Avlaki
Pachia Beach. Black sand beach on the east coast of the isand at the end of the Mandraki-Pali road.
The island of Yiali

Although the generally blue and white colour scheme of the village’s with their narrow streets and splashes of colourful bougainvillea are typical of many villages in the island, what is so far unique are the decorated pavements.

Square outside Mandraki Town Hall
Mandraki sea front
A square in Mandraki
Mandraki War Memorial

Steps to the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani
Porta, Nikia
Nikia, outside the museum
Emborios
Emborios

Ancient Nisyros

The island has been inhabited since about 4000 BC but the most impressive archeological remains are those of the Kastro on the hill above Mandraki, the ruins of ancient Nisyros.

Kastro

In prehistory the small island of Yiali, just north of Nisyros, was the original draw to the area.  It is one of two Agean sources of Obsidian, the other source being Milos.  Apparently Milos Obsidian is harder, while Yiali Obsidian is more brittle and of less use in making tools and weapons,  instead being used for decoration.  Despite this the little island supported Neolithic settlements aimed at extracting Obsidian.    Nisyros by comparison has few if any traces of this early occupation.

During the Trojan War, believed to have been in the 13th century BC, Homer described Poseidon (creator of Nisyros) as supporting the Greeks and so that perhaps accounts for the presence of ships from Nisyros in the Greek fleet.  This suggests that Nisyros was a thriving population centre with enough wealth to have its own ships.

Approach to the gatehouse to the Kastro.

From about the 7th century BC the original town on Nisyros began to appear on the large flat topped hill above the current village of Mandraki.

By the 6th century the island was part of the Persian Empire.   Again ships from Nisyros were mentioned but this time as part of the Persian fleet which was soundly defeated by the Athenians at the Battle of Salamis in 480BC.  Salamis is one of the islands in the Saronic Gulf, South of Piraeus.

Main gate to the fortification, protected by a tower.

For about 200 years in the 3rd and 4th century BC the island was independent, even minting it’s own coins and during this period the fortifications around the ancient agora were constructed; and they were massive.

The walls were built on a volcanic cracks in the bedrock

Being built on a volcanic island in an earthquake zone it is suprising anything survived at all, but some serious restoration and underpinning work has been undertaken on parts of the wall.

Looking down towards the gate, in the shadow beyond the steps.
The walls were built with massive stone blocks and filled with rubble. Yiali in the background.

Steps up to the top of the wall.

Although each block of stone appears to have been individually cut to shape to fit it’s neighbour, making the project into a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle, the description of employing ‘extensive research’ in order to accurately make the reconstruction is probably an understatement!

Pieces of the jigsaw

The result gives some idea of the scale of the original construction.  It is impressive today, two and a half thousand years ago it would have been breathtaking and impregnable.

The wall reached 10 metres in places

The wall defended three sides of the site,  the remaining side being a precipice above the current village of Mandraki; the views are pretty stunning.

Mandraki and the Monastery of Panagia Speliani
Panorama north towards Yiali
“Windswept and interesting”

This site was amazing.  The mere fact that after 2500 years of earthquakes and warfare there was enough left to restore is a testament to the original build.

Mandraki

Mandraki is the main commercial harbour on Nisyros, the biggest village and the site of the original capital.

High above the town is the site of the ancient Agora and dominating the village, perched on a headland at its western edge is medieval castle built by the Knights of St John and the 14th century Monastery of Panagia Spiliani.     The monastery overlooks the village’s black stone beach, picturesque but not overly comfortable, probably accounting for the lack of sunbathers!

Black stone beach

As the first point tourists get to on the island it is pretty tourist orientated but in a subdued sort of way.  The day trippers don’t seem to penetrate too far into the town before they are whisked off to the volcano.   It is busy in the season,  but apparently when the tourists leave the population of the entire island drops to about 800.

It is all delightfully narrow streets and tiny ‘squares’ with mopeds and those convertible tuks-tuks whizzing about delivering goods, fresh off the ferries, to the shops and tavernas.  It also has a great archeological museum.

Although the town is similar to almost every other that we have visited in the islands, what really stands out here are the wonderful mosaic pavements made from black and white pebbles, simple but amazing intricate.   And it isn’t just pavements, almost any horizontal surface can be decorated with them.

The Town Hall

Mandraki is a confusing jumble of alleys and narrow streets but after your second visit they seem to fall into place. Following directions, such as go right at the ice cream shop then left at the baker suddenly make sense.  A lovely relaxed village which is really pleasant to just wander around.

 

Emborios and Nikia

The official Nisyros website only actually lists four villages on the island; Pali, where we are staying, Mandraki, Emborios and Nikia.  The latter are two small villages on the rim of the caldera of Nisyros, both offering fantastic views into it.

Caldera from the Balcony Restaurant, Emborios
Caldera from Nikia
Emborios

Emborios apparently used to be home to  blacksmiths, tailors and skilled stone masons although in the 1960s most of the population moved to Pali.  The current population is very small and the big draw for tourists appears to be the Balcony restaurant which offers great views over the caldera.  As might be expected with such an isolated location the village has a rather dilapidated, run down feel to it.

Run down except for the floors that is.   Every where we go on the island we find these wonderful ‘mosaic’ pavements made from black and white pebbles, and Emborios was no exception.

Nikia by comparison appears to be more cared for and appears to be more populous.  It  boasts the picturesque ‘main square’, the Porta, which fronts the Church of the Presentation of Virgin Mary.

The Porta,

All pictures you see of the village will include this one, taken with a wide angle lens as a panorama.    In reality the plaza is about 25 metres across and is taken over by sun umbrellas and tables from the taverna on the left of the picture!

The Porta in reality

Nikia has a far more ‘loved’ feel to it and boasting both the Porta and the Vulcanalogical Museum probably receives more visitors.

The Vulcanalogical Museum was, in our opinion, not really worth the entry money.  The Stefanos crater itself cost €3 each, the museum cost €4 and you could obtain the same information from the internet.  It would be far better located at the crater, but then all that European grant money wouldn’t encourage tourism to the village!!

Both villages have loads of character and are worth the visit.   But, they are very isolated  and would appear to be entirely reliant on tourism for support, so we are glad we went.    There are tourist buses which run to them but a hire car is better, giving more flexibility.   We visited the villages on separate days and added the crater and Mandraki as well, a steal at €25!

Polvitos is steamin’

Nisyros island is the cone of a dormant, but still ‘active’, volcano laying just south of Kos. Mythology has it that during the war between the Gods and the Giants, Poseidon picked up a large chunk of rock on the island of Kos and threw it at the giant Polivotis as he tried to escape, trapping him beneath it. That rock is the island of Nisyros. Apparently Polivotis is still rather miffed at being trapped beneath Nisyros and all the earthquakes in the area are the result of him struggling to get free.

From the Volcanological Museum in Nikia

A more scientific version is that Nisyros lays on the join between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, as do Stromboli, Etna, Milos and Santorini and is a part of something called the Agean Arch which includes Kos and neignbouring islands. Although the area is still subject to earthquakes the last volcanic activity on Nisyros was a steam eruption in 1888. Today the main crater of St Stefanos just steams quietly to itself.

The island took its present form maybe 150,000 years ago. It is about 8km in diameter and it’s almost 700 metres high and apparently the magma chamber beneath Nisyros is ‘only’ 3 to 4 km deep and is rising!

The caldra from the village of Emborious

We visited the caldera on Saturday 30th and had a walk down into the St Stefanos crater. It is perhaps 30 or 40 metres deep and a couple of hundred meters across and appears to be mostly volcanic ash, which sounds hollow when you walk on it. The crater floor is littered with old fumaroles and sulphur deposits and on the eastern side are a line of them still steaming.  The smell of sulphur is all pervading and everywhere is streaked with yellow. It is really impressive.

Crater of St Stephanie from Nikia

St Stefanos crater from the west

Moving to Nisyros

With Lu returned home we sat down to plan our next steps. We have 9 days before Valeria catches her flight home from Kos, and want to find a place for me to wait for her return.

Kefalos sea front

First thing Tuesday morning we checked the weather and found the previously forecast light variable winds had set in from the south west and were now predicted to remain thus for the rest of the week at 10 to 15 knots, which general means 20 knots.   Although well sheltered from the northerly winds Kamares Bay is completely open to the south and the wind would soon started sending a swell into the bay which would have made it rather uncomfortable.  Then, of course, there was no guarantee the forecast wouldn’t change for the worst.

Nisyros
Mandraki

So we decided to head to the island of Nisyros, 12 or so miles south of Kefalos in the hope of finding a space in the small harbour of Palon, or Palos, Paloi or Pali, on the north coast of the island.   We would then aim to return to Kardemena during the weekend calm and I would spend the week on the town quay there while Valeria was in the UK. We even enlisted the help of Alexandra from Malu Kai to spot for us and let us know if a place for us became available!

Pali harbour from the west

We set off from Kefalos at 9.30 hoping to beat the afternoon rush, arriving off the harbour at 1230.   Pali is a small harbour apparently with space for perhaps 45 yachts and although pretty full there were spaces, but ….

Pali village and harbour from the east

The pilotage info we had said to keep close to the harbour wall and they weren’t kidding.   The harbour entrance is about 30 metres wide and is half obstructed by a shoal patch marked out with a host of small orange buoys.  Quite daunting when you are first faced with it!     The ‘but’ became apparent as we got into the harbour.   A yacht had anchored and started to manoeuvre onto the quay and promptly got a line wrapped around its propeller and so was swinging around in the middle obstructing our approach to the spaces we had been aiming for. Then we spotted a ‘cat’ sized gap on the other side of the harbour and went for that.    We almost made it first time but as we were going in the rudder kicked over and sent us the wrong way. All this in a stiff cross wind! But we got in, tied up and connected up to electricity and water and sat to await the Harbour Master.  But there isn’t one! Free to park, free power and water.

Pali Town quay

Pali is a really pretty little village, quiet, with plenty of tavernas, some food shops, car hire and a bakery. If there was a handy ferry from the island to Kos, we wouldn’t need to move until Valeria returned. Enquiries at a helpful car hire firm revealed a ferry from the main village of Mandraki which would get Valeria to Kos in plenty of time to get the bus to the airport. They would even drive her to Mandraki to catch it!

So it looks like we will be staying here until Valeria returns. It will mean I am here for 2 weeks, on an island you can visit in a day, but there are far worse places to be, and did I mention there is a bakery?

Pali harbour from outside the bakery ….