Nisyros and the islet of Gyali
Coordinates: 36°35′N 27°10′E
Nisyros is a volcanic 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. It has a total population of 948 inhabitants.
The volcano of Nisyros
The island has a 3 – 4 km wide caldera, and was constructed within the past 150,000 years, with 3 separate eruptive stages, ranging from explosive and effusive andesitic eruptions to effusive and extrusive dacitic and rhyolitic activity. Its coasts are generally rocky or pebbled, but there are also a few sandy beaches (mainly in the northeastern part). The volcano is currently active (but not erupting), and fumaroles (openings emitting steam and gases) are found at the craters. It has had four historical eruptions, all of which had a VEI of 2. Almost all of its eruptions involved phreatic activity. The latest eruptive activity was a steam explosion in 1888, after small ash eruptions in 1871 and 1873 and earthquakes are not infrequent. A period of seismic unrest in 1996-1997 led an international team of scientist to initiate monitoring of the volcanic unrest in the European Union sponsored Geowarn project. The entire volcanic complex includes the seafloor between Nisyros and Kos, the island of Gyali, and a part of Kos island.
The villages of Nisyros
The island is reachable by ship from Pireaus and Kos, and in summer, there are many daily trips from the village of Kardamena on Kos. There is also a heliport. The main town and port of the island is Mandraki with a population of nearly 700. Other villages are Paloi, Nikeia, and Emporios. According to a 2001 census, the municipality’s resident population is 948 (including 10 on Gyali), although in summer it is augmented by many tourists as well as expatriate Nisyrians who visit the island for their vacations. Tourism is not so heavily developed as on other Greek islands. Deposits of perlite and pumice on Gyali provide much of the wealth of the island. The island used to be self-sufficient, and many crops were grown on its terraced slopes. Today, though, they are cultivated on a smaller scale.
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.
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.
At the beach Cochlaki (with rounded, black pebbles), at Pali, at Pahia Ammos (a little difficult to access but definitely worth it), at White Beach. Anywhere you go the waters are guaranteed to be crystal clear on the island of Nisyros.
Things to see in Nisyros
Of exceptional interest is the island’s volcano which has both scientific importance and a unique natural beauty. The visitor will admire from close the impressive craters the largest of which has a diameter of 260 m and a depth of 30m. Thermal springs are found at many points on Nisyros, the most well known of which are located a short distance from Mandraki. 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 interesting exhibitions. The small mountainous village of Emporios is to be found 8 km south-east of Mandraki and just a short distance from there is the monastery of Our Virgin Lady which is built on a hill 500m above sea level offering a panoramic view. To the south you’ll find Nikia where the remarkable monastery of St. John is situated. You’ll find the beautiful beach side settlement of Pali about 4 km north-east of Mandraki. An important pilgrimage site on the island is Our Lady “Spiliani” (of the Cave). It is perched magnificently of the top of a precepitous rock in which is the cave, that according to legend, was the keeping place of the miraculous icon of the Virgin. The paths of Nisyros are ideal for trekking. Also, do not miss the following:
- Monastery of Our Lady Spiliani
- Historical & Folklore Museum
- Chapels of Announciation, the Holy Cross, Virgin Lady and St. John the Theologician
- “Palaiokastro” – the acropolis of the ancient city
- The ancient ruins of Argos
- Ruins of early Christian basilicas scattered all over the island
- The traditional settlements of Nikia, Pali and Emborios with their traditional houses, colourful balconies and whitewashed yards.