A small, quiet Dodecanese island in the south Aegean Sea between Kos, Tilos and Astypalea, Nisyros is most well-known for its active volcano that has one of the world’s largest hydrothermal craters, as well as its hot springs including Loutra and Pali.
Its diversity of volcanic rocks of various composition and size makes Nisyros fertile and rich in vegetation as well as extremely interesting as an island in general since it is in essence like a large open-air geological museum. In addition to its fascinating geological features, Nisyros also distinguishes itself for its history, with its famed 13th-century frescoes and the other reminders of the Byzantine presence on the island, including paleo-Christian basilicas and chapels.
The capital, port and largest town on the island is Mandraki. One of the most interesting sites that the town has to offer is the Paleokastro, one of the Aegean’s best-preserved fortification projects dating from antiquity. The wall was built with large blocks of volcanic black rock, and contained the ancient city of Nisyros within it, while within the walls themselves one can still see the ruins of a paleo-Christian basilica. Tourists can also visit the city’s Folklore Museum, the Venetian fortress containing the monastery of Panayia Spiliani, the Municipal Hot Springs, the neighborhoods (including the Town Hall, Potamos and Ilikiomeni) whose central squares have designs laid out using small pebbles, an architectural style particular to the Dodecanese Islands, as well as the monastery of Arma with its famed frescoes.
During your stay on Nisyros, a visit to the small mountain village of Emporios is well worth your while: at 500 meters above sea level, it offers sweeping views across the Caldera (the crater of the volcano) as well as of Profitis Ilias. As Emporios was a medieval settlement as well, it has Venetian fortresses including the Fortress of Pantoniki. One of the settlement’s tourist attractions is a cave at the entrance to the village which has such high temperatures within that it has been referred to as a “natural sauna”. The harbor of Emporios is called Pali, with its “Hippocratic” hot springs and the stunning sandy beaches of Pachia Ammos and Liehs, as well as its private pleasure craft marina. Another great spot from which to view the Caldera is Nikia, a picturesque village situated 400 meters above sea level, with carefully-tended mansion houses, pebble-decorated squares and its three churches: the holy church of Isodion tis Theotokou, the monastery of St. John the Theologian and the monastery of Panayia Kyra.