My journey to Kalymnos started in Rhodes, in a traditional kafenio called O Griniaris. This kafenio is a very special place among the other taverns of Rhodes.
The owner, Giannis is from Kalymnos and also the trademark and the essence of the place. He is a very proud Greek man with a powerful heart, fantastic sense of humor, he is a real spice of this world. His passion for music, food and his island – Kalymnos is exceptional. His great character inspired me to visit his mother-island and discover its beauty and features.
Giannis and his wife Litsa cook with their heart and soul. They create the most exciting Kalymnian plates – mezedes and seafood with lots of ingredients straight from Kalymnos. Always fresh, full of flavours, unique tastes. So of course the unforgettable food experience in O Griniaris also made me interested in the tastes of Kalymnos.
In September 2015 it was time for me to sail to the famous island of the spongedivers. I spent 6 days there which is not a long time, but enough to fall in love with the island.
I prepared this little memoir full of my pictures from Kalymnos to Gianni and everybody who wants to be enchanted by the beauty of a small treasure of the Dodecanese.
Impressions about Kalymnos
When you arrive to Kalymnos by boat, you probably arrive to the large and busy harbour of the capital, called Pothia. The visitor can see the great monastery of Agios Savvas with its red roof from a far distance located very high on top of a hill above Pothia Town. It is so majestic and stands there as a symbol of protection of the island dedicated to the patron saint of Kalymnos: Agios Savvas – a monk, a great scetic and a miracle worker.
When you get closer to the port you can see lots of colorful, tall houses built very close to each other on the hillside. Pothia is busy and has a very impulsive athmosphere. The traffic is very heavy, you can listen the horns of the cars and motorcycles all the time and you have to watch your step and be open-eyed, especially if you are a driver too. The roads are narrow and it is hard to find any traffic signs or marks on the road. And it is not rare to see one family sitting on one motorcycle. The Kalymnian people don’t like too much regulations, they prefer being wild and free – just like the elements of nature.
But if you wish for a quiet stay do not worry about the fizzy-crazy athmosphere of Pothia. Once you have passed the town, the island changes completely. It gives you the unique tranquility of the various beaches, the rocky mountains and the wonderful Greek countryside.
The habitants of Kalymnos are special people. They have a very great heart, they are very honest and open. They are very proud and strong people. The Kalymnian people have a really powerful laugh coming from the heart. Most of them has a unique character. You can experience a very strong filoxenia in Kalymnos. People give you their smile for nothing, give you a cup of water for nothing, they open the door for you and give you fresh fruit for nothing. Everywhere on the island the locals were so helpful and affectionate. And everywhere we had incredible high quality service – either with car renting or either with food. These people who we met would never cheat on you.
Food is another topic: the quality is impressive. Even in the smallest, most hidden family tavern the meals were fresh, home-made, tasty, beautiful. Fresh, home-prepared potatoes everywhere, they don’t use any frozen stuff. The mermizeli is the local speciality. A salad prepared by Kalymnian custom recipe with the krithini kouloura (which is the local barley bread). Most of the times they put some thrimbi (a spice that grows all around the island) on the top, but every tavern has its own way of making mermizeli. Local goat-cheese are also heavenly.
Beaches: forget luxury! There are wild coasts where you can’t find the sterilized touristic pebble beaches. But you can find something more exciting: lonely, hidden places, rocky bays with the touch of wild nature, height and depth by the beautiful and sometimes fearful rocky mountains. Tranquility, and the silence of a small, but mysterious island. You can listen only the song of the sea or the wind, or the bells of some lonely goats in the mountains. Only Pothia pulsates like the heart, or engine of the island.
Watching the wild coasts reminds you that Nature is so great and humans are so small. Recognizing this big power the locals are deeply religious since the ancient times. You can find many churches (small, or big, ancient, or new) everywhere on the island, sometimes on incredible high mountain rocks – being a little bit closer to God, or the Sun.
Your senses will love:
– the wonderful typical smell of thrimbi and thyme around the island wherever you go
– the warm, sometimes orange-colored sea, that reflects the colors of the high rocks by the coasts
– the lovely pink oleander bushes along the coastal roads
– the unique view of Telendos islet from the western coast, which was separated from Kalymnos by an earthquake in the 6th century
– and the most beautiful sunsets ever…
Pothia – the capital town of Kalymnos
Pothia was founded in the 1850s when the pirates’ raids decreased allowing the inhabitants to move near the sea. It has been the capital since the 1890s.
The south facing harbour is one of the most important in the Aegean and offers well organized marine services and good ferry and hydrofoil connections. It is the second most populated place in the Dodecanese after Rhodes town with around 16,000 inhabitants.
Monastery of Agios Savvas
Castle of Chora
The majestic Castle Chora was built in the 11th century AD and in the late 15th century the Knights of St. John repared it. Till the beginning of the 18th century the castle was the residential centre of Kalymnos.
Paleochora (another name of the castle) is considered as the medieval capital of Kalymnos. Situated at a strategic point, on the top of a natural hill, this castle helped Kalymnians to easily monitor the harbour in order to protect themselves from the increasing pirate raids. Today, the Byzantine castle retains its charm, although deserted.
There are 10 churches still preserved, and in their interiors you can find wall paintings from the end of 15th – early 16th century.
Sunset in Kantouni Beach. In the background there is the deserted island of Aghia Kyriaki.
Moments from Ta Linaria Psarotaverna (fish tavern) in Linaria Bay:
The Beach of Platys Gialos
The beach of Plays Gialos is one of the most tranquil places on the island (and maybe on Earth). Only a few people visit this hidden paradise, where the sea has thousands of shades and the gentle sand on the beach has black color. The view from here is unforgettable. The nights are amazing. There is silence, there is peace. You can see the clearest starry sky ever. You can hear only two things: the wind and the sea. This silent music of the Nature rocks your soul. You can sleap with open-windows and open-doors inviting the wind inside to smooth you gently while you are sleaping…
Rocks of Masouri
The imposing rocks that surround Masouri are considered a “climbing paradise”. The majority of rock climbers who visit Kalymnos choose to stay in this area.
The Italian climber Andrea di Bari visited Kalymnos for his summer holidays in 1996. Immediately he realized the excellent quality of the rock and the huge potential of the area. Since his discovery Kalymnos became a real paradise of climbers with organized routes and a yearly festival.
This amazing bay of Arginonta is located 15 km north of Pothia. It has turqoise water and a quiet pebble beach to rest. You can enjoy the fresh local food in one of the small family taverns. The place has a powerful energy with the steep mountains around. The bay enclasp you from almost every direction.
Kastelli Fortress and the church of Virgin Mary – Panagia tou Kastelliou
In the middle of this picture above you can see the island of Telendos. On the right there is a natural hill rising from the sea. On the top of this hill there are the ruins of Kastelli, a fortress built in the 7th century. This allowed the control of the sea area between Telendos and Kalymnos. It provided the Kalymnians the ability to react directly in potential threats and defend themselves against attack that came from land of sea.
There is a tiny church – Panaghia tou Kastelliou – on the side of the hill below Kastri. You can reach the church from the sea by white colored steps. Deep blue and crystal clear sea everywhere you look. It is like a mysterious place.
Landscapes between Arginonta and Emporios
On the way to Palionissos
To reach Palionissos you have to go till the village of Skalia and there head to North. The way to the bay is really tortuous and leads you through a deserted area. There are no humans, but plenty of herbs and plants growing between rocks. The smell is amazing…
Palionissos is a small hamlet with just a few small farmhouses on the northeast coast of Kalymnos. A paved road goes all the way to Palionisos and a dirt road continues down to the quaint beach. The seawater here is fantastic: emerald green and usually very calm, even on a windy day. At this quiet, silent beach there are three tavernas which offer fresh, nice food for the hungry traveller.
Rina Bay and Vathi
Vathi is a village built in the middle of a green fertile valley. It has a picturesque harbour, Rina. It is famous of its unique beauty and lies in a narrow bay with high cliffs to the left and right. The port of Rina is a beautiful protected bay which actually reminds us of a small Norwegian fjord. From the bay at night you are able to see the lights of the neighbour island, Kos.
Another quiet sandy beach here. In Paradisio beach tavern we experienced one of the most memorable filoxenia…
Crystal clear turquise water through this rocky coast. There is a tavern in this bay where you can jump into the water from the terrace. Priceless.
Quiet deserted beach – at least at the beginning of October there were nobody there, and the tavern was closed too. The dirtroad that leads you dow there is a little bit scary, but finally we managed to survive… 🙂
The beautiful mosaics of early Christian churches around the island
The Castle of Chrysocheria (the Golden Hand)
The second Byzantine medeival fortification of the island is located on the top of a hill above Pothia. With the ruins of some windmills it offers you an incredible view…
Let me finish my guide in Pothia town and with some shoots of sunrise there. One of the most amazing moments in my life with incredible colors and energy… busy, but traditional, crazy, but in a nice way. It has a pulsation, a rhythm with many different noises and colors. Oh, how much I miss this island…
photographs and written content copyright © Ilios art by Mariann Lipcsei