Nisyros – Unique Volcano, Picturesque Villages and Beautiful Beaches

Nisyros is yet another beautiful Dodecanese island located in the heart of the Aegean Sea. Nisyros is one of those peaceful and relaxed Greek islands, still untouched by mass tourism. Today it has emerged like a great alternative Greek destination.

  1. Why to visit Nisyros?
  2. When did Nisyros Volcano Last Erupt?
  3. The Villages of Nisyros
  4. Where is Nisyros Island?
  5. Map of the Dodecanese Archipelago
  6. Nisyros – How to get there?
  7. Nisyros – What to do?
  8. Nisyros – What to see?
  9. Nisyros Beach Guide
  10. History of Nisyros
  11. Weather and climate in Nisyros
Sunset above Mandraki village and the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani, Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
Sunset above Mandraki village and the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani

Nisyros is famous for its volcano, which is the youngest in Greece, and it still active! Besides its unique geology, Nisyros has great beaches – clean and peaceful, where you can enjoy relaxing days diving into the sea. It also has some quaint little villages with traditional architecture and gorgeous views, like the port town Mandraki and Nikia. If you are not the beach-type, there are other activities like island hopping to nearby Kos, hiking, and trekking in nature, maybe down into the caldera of the volcano, or strolling around Mandraki, which is the liveliest place in Nisyros.

Why to visit Nisyros?

Nisyros is becoming one of the new alternative destinations in Greece thanks to its unspoiled beauty and remote location in the Aegean Sea. Nisyros volcano, its trademark and ultimate sightseeing event, is located at the centre of this round island. Only 160,000 years old and still active, it is the youngest volcano in Greece. There are only 4 active volcanoes in Greece, in Santorini, Methana, Milos, and Nisyros, respectively. Each year, many geologists and volcanologists visit Nisyros to explore the volcano.

When did Nisyros volcano last erupt?

The big volcano crater in Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
The volcano in Nisyros

The caldera of Nisyros volcano is 3-4 km wide and was formed through the past 160,000 years with 3 separate eruptive stages. It is currently active but not erupting, and fumaroles are found at the craters. It has had 4 eruptions during history, all of which had a VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) of 2. The latest eruptive activity was a steam explosion in 1888, after small ash eruptions in 1871 and 1873. Earthquakes are not infrequent in the area. The entire volcanic complex includes the seafloor between Nisyros and Kos, as well as the island of Gyali.

The villages of Nisyros

You will find quaint little villages in Nisyros worth visiting scattered around the island. Mandraki, the main port, and Nikia in the mountains inland are the most picturesque villages of Nisyros. Both have a beautiful traditional architecture and a relaxing atmosphere. From Nikia you will have an outstanding view of the volcano, while Mandraki the biggest town on the island is the centre of most activities.

Squids drying in the sun, Nisyros island, Dodecanese, Greece
Octapus drying in the sun, Nisyros
 Satelite photo of Nisyros island, Greece
From right top counterclockwise: Stroggyli, Gyali, Pergoússa, Paheià and Nisyros.

Where is Nisyros island?

Nisyros is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It is part of the Dodecanese group of islands, situated between the islands of Kos and Tilos. Its shape is almost round, with a diameter of about 8 km, and an area of 41.6 km2. Several other islets are found in the direct vicinity of Nisyros, the largest of which is Gyali. The Municipality of Nisyros includes Gyalí as well as uninhabited Pacheiá, Pergoússa, Kandelioússa, Ágios Antónios, and Stroggýli. Nisyros has a total population of around 1,000 inhabitants.

Map of the Dodecanese archipelago

Map of Dodecanese Archipelagos
Click to enlarge the map – Nisyros island: Coordinates: 36°35′N 27°10′E

Nisyros – How to get there?

Panoramaview above Mandraki, Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
Panorama view above Mandraki

Nisyros has a ferry connection to Athens, where ferries are departing twice a week from Piraeus. The travel duration is rather long lasting approx. 17 hours. If you travel from Athens it is more convenient to fly to Rhodes or Kos and from there to embark the ferry for Nisyros. Nisyros is also connected by ferry with Tilos.

Airports near Nisyros

The nearest airport to Nisyros is Kos International Airport “Hippocrates”. It receives domestic flights from Athens all year, but also flights from Rhodes, Thessaloniki, Astypalea, and Heraklion. In high season the airport is connected with some major cities of Europe as well. The flight duration from Athens to Kos is approx. 1 hour. Kos airport is located 24 km from Kos town and port. You will find a bus stop 50 m from the airport entrance.

Nisyros – What to do?

Nisyros is a quiet island and activities are limited. Swimming and diving in the crystal-clear waters is of course always a great opportunity from one of the beautiful secluded beaches around the island. Another great activity is hiking in the volcanic landscape of Nisyros. The old footpaths in Nisyros are ideal for trekking. You will find tiny chapels, monasteries, and small settlements scattered around the island, as well as secluded beaches, hot springs, and hilltops with breathtaking views to the sea or the caldera of the volcano. In between your activities you can relax in one of the picturesque taverns in the mountains or down by the sea.

Nisyros Map, Greece

Nisyros – What to see?

Nisyros volcano

Nisyros volcano, the trademark and ultimate sightseeing event, located at the centre of this round island. Only 150,000 years old and still active, it is the youngest volcano in Greece. Each year, many geologists and volcanologists visit Nisyros to explore the volcano. It is of exceptional interest; it has both scientific importance and a unique natural beauty. You will be able to admire the impressive craters at a close range, the largest of which has a diameter of 260 m and a depth of 30m.

Stefanos crater, panoramic view fro Prophet Elias church in Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
Stefanos crater, panoramic view fro Prophet Elias church in Nisyros

Thermal springs of Nisyros

Thermal springs are found at different points in Nisyros, the most well-known of which is located at a short distance from Mandraki at “Iamatika Loutra Nisyrou” on the western side of Pali where you can rent a room and bathe in the healing water coming straight from the heart of Nisyros volcano. The waters of the hot spring in Loutra have been exploited since 1872. The waters are legendary for their therapeutic properties in rheumatism, arthritis, skin diseases and diseases of the circulatory system. The maximum temperature of the hot spring is 46 degrees. It is possible to rent rooms at the old building which also has a restaurant and a café. It is cheap with rooms of 2, 3, and 4 beds, and the building is very old.

Mandraki, the capital of Nisyros

Panorama of Nisyros - Photo by S. Lambadaridis
Panorama of Mandraki, Nisyros – Photo by S. Lambadaridis

The capital of Nisyros, Mandraki boasts whitewashed houses, colourful narrow lanes and the beautiful piazza “Ilikiomeni” (the old woman’s piazza) shaded by large trees. The town has a small Folklore Museum with an interesting collection of traditional costumes, photographs, books, icons, and fishing tools, located in a 2-storey 18th century building in Mandraki. Paleokastro in Mandraki – the classical period acropolis of the ancient city, still in particularly good condition due to its high-quality construction and the hard rocks used. In Mandraki you will find the Archaeological Museum as well. It is in a building donated by the Giannidis brothers, containing many artifacts from excavations at various archaeological sites in and around the island of Nisyros.

Monastery of Panagia Spiliani

Monastery of Panagia Spiliani above Mandraki town, Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
Monastery of Panagia Spiliani above Mandraki town

The Monastery of Panagia Spiliani meaning” Virgin Mary of the Cave”, was built in the 15th century and is hosting many ecclesiastical relics inside. It is built on a hill 500 m above sea level offering a panoramic view above Mandraki and the sea. The Ecclesiastical Museum is housed inside the monastery with an impressive collection of old gospels, ecclesiastical utensils, crosses, and old seals. Our Lady “Spiliani” (of the Cave) is an important pilgrimage site on Nisyros perched magnificently of the top of a precipitous rock in which is the cave, that according to legend, was the keeping place of the miraculous icon of the Virgin.

The villages of Nisyros

Porta square in Nikia village in Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
Porta square in Nikia village

To the south you will find the village Nikia where the remarkable Monastery of St. John is situated. The picturesque village boasts traditional houses with colourful balconies and whitewashed yards. You will find the beautiful beach side settlement of Pali about 4 km northeast of Mandraki and the small mountainous village of Emporios 8 km south-east of Mandraki.

Nisyros Beach Guide

The beaches in Nisyros are secluded, non-organized and peaceful with crystal-clear waters and a total lack of crowds. They have a mixture of sand and pebbles.

Mandraki beach, Nisyros, Dodecanese Greece
Mandraki shore
  • Katsouni beach – Sandy, long beach with trees located 9 km east of Mandraki
  • Lies beach – Sandy beach consisting of many smaller beaches in coves, located 13 km east of Mandraki
  • Pachia Ammos beach – Sandy, secluded beach, popular among free campers, located 15 km southeast of Mandraki, the last 400 metres on foot.
  • Chochlaki beach – Beautiful black beach with pebbles, located 1 km south of Mandraki. Make sure to bring sandals or bathing shoes.
  • Pali beach – Sandy with dark pebbles, family friendly with some restaurants and room to rent. Located 4 km east of Mandraki
Iamatika Loutra Nisyrou - beach, Dodecanese Greece
Pali beach

History of Nisyros

According to Greek mythology, the island was formed when Poseidon cut off a part of Kos and threw it onto the giant Polyvotis to stop him from escaping. The ancient name of the Nisyros was Porphyris. Ancient walls, dating from the 5th century BC, part of the acropolis of the island, are found near Mandraki.

Nisyros - Photo by S. Lambadaridis
Mandraki, Nisyros – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis

The patron saint of the island is Saint Nikitas. Many Orthodox Christian churches are found on the island, as well as four monasteries which are not inhabited by monks today, although various celebrations take place in them. The largest monastery is the one of Panagia Spiliani (Blessed Virgin Mary of the cave) at Mandraki. It is built beside the medieval castle erected by the Knights Hospitaller who conquered the island in 1315.

Weather and climate in Nisyros

Like in the rest of the Dodecanese islands the weather is gorgeous, typical mild Mediterranean. Dry, sunny, and hot during summer with rare infrequent brief showers. During midsummer temperatures may rise to 40°C. Autumn weather from September to October is quite comfortable as well as in spring from April till mid-June. Winters are mildly moist and sometimes rainfalls may cause mild flooding.

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Average air and sea temperatures in Nisyros in °C