I fell in love with Kalymnos, one of the Dodecanese islands in Greece! Here is my Kalymnos travel guide, including what to do in Kalymnos, tips on how to get there, how to get around and where to stay.
An introduction to Kalymnos Greece
Kalymnos is one of the Dodecanese islands in Greece. It is located in the Southeastern Aegean Sea, close to the Turkish coast. Some people visit on a day trip from the popular island of Kos.
Yet, as Kalymnos is 111 sq.km (or 43 sq.m), it deserves well more than one day. I spent over a week, and would easily have spent much longer!
The most prominent feature of Kalymnos is its wild, rocky landscape, with vertical rocks and tall cliffs. Overall it’s a mountainous island, though you will also see some olive trees and fig trees all around.
The beaches in Kalymnos vary. There are a few beaches with gray sand and small pebbles. You will also find several small, remote coves all around the island.
Towns and villages in Kalymnos
The main port and island’s capital town, Pothia, extends all the way up to a settlement called Chorio (or Chora), the island’s former capital. Together, they are home to approx. 12,000 people.
Other main coastal resorts include Panormos, Kantouni, Myrties and Massouri. We chose to stay in Massouri / Myrties, and were very happy with our choice, as there was plenty to do, but also a relaxed atmosphere.
The more remote settlements of Emporios, on the north, and Vathy on the east, are ideal if you are after quiet vacations.
What is so special about Kalymnos?
The thing that sets Kalymnos apart from most of the other Greek islands is its wild and rugged landscape. The rocky cliffs and steep hillsides makes it a top climbing destination with climbers from all around the world.
Due to the high summer temperatures, the climbing season mostly runs during April-May and September-October. Hence, Kalymnos enjoys a longer tourist season than most other islands in Greece.
Among Greeks, Kalymnos is widely known as a sponge divers island. Sponge fishing became a profitable business for the Kalymnians in the 19th century. While the industry has inevitably declined since then, you will still see many sponge sellers today.
The best things to do in Kalymnos Greece
So, is there anything to do in Kalymnos if you are not rock climbing or diving? For sure! The island has tons to offer, which is why some people visit every year.
There are nice villages to explore, and several beautiful beaches, which will appeal to you if you are after natural, wild landscapes. In addition, the island has a long and interesting history, which is showcased in the numerous museums.
Here are some of the best things to do in Kalymnos Greece.
1. Enjoy the unique Kalymnos landscapes
People who like wild, arid landscapes will love Kalymnos island. You will be amazed by the rocky cliffs, the steep hillsides, and the hundreds of goats everywhere.
Even if you are not a rock climber, it is definitely worth seeing the island’s incredible countryside. The most mountainous areas of the island are on the north side – rent a car or scooter, and explore.
2. Spend some time on the lovely beaches
Kalymnos has some of the quietest, wildest beaches in the Dodecanese. While you will find facilities such as umbrellas and sunbeds on some of them, others are wild and rugged.
Some of the most popular beaches, by Kalymnos standards, include Kantouni, Myrties and Massouri. Here, you will find plenty of facilities, and some water sports. The more remote Arginonta, with the crystal-clear waters, is also worth checking out.
Finally, Vlychadia, close to Pothia town, is another well-visited beach, which gets busier on the weekends.
Best quiet beaches in Kalymnos
My favourite beach in Kalymnos was Platys Gialos, a beautiful sandy beach with black-gray sand. You can reach it by road, and then walk a few stairs down to the beach. There’s a small snack bar, a few sunbeds, and lots of natural shade.
Another hidden gem was Paralia Akti, a small pebbly beach on the way from Pothia, the capital of the island, to Vathy. There are a few trees for shade, but you’ll need to bring everything you need with you. You can drive on the steep road all the way down to the beach.
Finally, one of the best beaches in Kalymnos to relax on is the far side of Emporios. This is a small, rather unimpressive beach with gravel, but it’s ideal if you want to be entirely on your own. You will find many tavernas and cafes in the nearby settlement of Emporios.
3. Walk around the port town, Pothia
Pothia is the first town you will see when you arrive in Kalymnos. It’s a large town extending all the way up to Chorio, on the hillside. If you’ve been to Symi island, you will probably notice some similarities between the two towns!
I really enjoyed walking around the back streets of Pothia town, and looking at the stunning local architecture. Many of the neoclassical buildings have been deserted for decades, which I find extremely picturesque.
Tip: If you have hired a car, by all means avoid driving around Pothia. Google Maps doesn’t work as well as on other Greek islands, and you might find yourselves stuck in a maze of tiny alleyways – yes, I’m talking from experience. You might just about make it on a scooter though!
4. Explore the islands’ sponge-diving history in the Maritime Museum
If you want to find out more about the sponge diving tradition in Kalymnos, there is no better place than the Maritime Museum. Located in Pothia town, right on the seafront, this is a fantastic museum in Kalymnos.
Here, you will see photos, newspaper clips and several items that are relevant to the sponge divers. You can also watch an excellent documentary with information on their life and the dangers of the diving profession.
Within the same building, you can also visit the small Folklore Museum, showcasing traditional costumes, household items, and interesting photos. Entrance to both museums is free.
5. See the incredible underwater findings in the Valsamidis Museum
The Sea World museum Valsamidis right by Vlychadia beach is easy to miss, but it’s absolutely worth visiting. This privately owned museum was created by the late Stavros Valsamidis, an avid diver.
The museum contains an outstanding exhibition of everything he found during his life at the bottom of the sea. It’s now run by his son Yiannis, who will give you lots of information.
You can see an incredible selection of mind-blowing items, including thousands of shells, sea urchins, coral, sponges, amphorae, coins, statues, and lots more.
There is a 5 euro entrance fee. You can also buy natural sponges or other souvenirs to take back home.
[Note: As snorkeling is one of my passions, I have to say I was a bit disturbed to see some of these creatures outside their natural environment… still, I would warmly recommend a visit].
6. Find out more about the island’s history in the Archaeological Museum
Most Greek islands have a very long history, and Kalymnos couldn’t be an exception. This compact, well-laid out Archaeological Museum will take you back in time, and give you an overview of Kalymnos’ interesting history.
One of the most impressive exhibits in the museum was the massive statue of Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing. You can read more about Asklepios in this article.
If you have hired a car, be very careful – the roads around the museum are super narrow! It’s best to leave your vehicle close to the seafront, and get to the museum on foot.
7. Visit Limanaki Rinas, in Vathy
A 20-minute drive from Pothia, you will find a natural fjord, known as Limanaki Rinas – or, as most people call it, Vathy. The impressive rock formations and safe haven make Rina a popular destination with tourists.
There’s a catch though. Vathy bay is one of the stopping points for boats coming from Kos on a day trip, and gets crowded during the morning and early afternoon.
It’s best to visit Vathy after 2-3 pm, and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. You can swim, snorkel, and go kayaking.
We had a lovely lunch here at Popy’s Taverna, which is run by a nice family. Antonis, the son, has been working as a chef in Sweden for over 20 years – so spending some time chatting was quite an experience!
8. Try snorkeling or scuba diving
As you would expect, snorkeling and diving are very popular activities on the island. It is easy to snorkel off the coast, and observe the striking beauty of the underwater world. All you need is a mask and a snorkel!
If you are looking for something a little more adventurous, you will find a few diving schools in Kalymnos. They offer plenty of different activities for beginner, intermediate and experienced divers.
Apart from lots of sponges, fish and other sealife, experienced scuba divers will have the opportunity to see shipwrecks! For more information, get in touch with Kalymnos Diving Center, in Panormos, or Kalymnos Diving Club, in Massouri.
9. Take a day trip to Telendos, one of the nearby islands
Telendos is a small island a short boat ride from Kalymnos. All you will find there are about a dozen tavernas / cafes, a handful of rooms to let, one mini market, a couple of shops, and some quiet beaches.
About 20 people live here year-round. This makes Telendos one of the inhabited Greek islands with the smallest number of people!
The island has no cars (no roads, even) and you can get everywhere on foot! This is the amazing sunset-facing beach, Hohlakas.
Apart from the main town beach, you will find a few small, pristine beaches where you can spend a few hours. It is the perfect place to relax and do nothing!
If you go, make sure you have a meal at To Kapsouli – some seriously fantastic, Real Greek food! Do not miss the divine stuffed vine leaves, which are called dolmades, or fylla!
How to get to Telendos
You can get to Telendos island on small passenger boats departing from the tiny pier in Myrties village. They run every half hour or so, from 8 am to midnight, and return tickets only cost 3 euro.
The trip is only about 10 minutes! Still, it’s probably best to avoid it if there are strong winds, and wait for a day with calmer weather.
The boat often doubles as a water taxi. Ask George, the owner, if he can give you a lift further out on Telendos.
10. Enjoy the sunset views on Kalymnos
The sunset views in Kalymnos are just amazing! Depending on where you are located on Kalymnos, the sun will either set behind Telendos, or perhaps right in the Aegean Sea.
This was the sunset view over Telendos from our balcony in Massouri! But we also had wonderful views from Myrties, Melitsachas, Panormos, and the port town.
We didn’t stay in Telendos for sunset, which I totally regret. When I return, I’ll make sure I spend at least one evening there, to see the sunset from the wild Hohlakas beach and enjoy the starry sky!
11. Go rock climbing in Kalymnos
If you are a rock climber, you definitely know more about rock climbing in Kalymnos than I do, but I couldn’t fail to mention it nevertheless!
If you are not a rock climber, you should know that the International Climbing Festival takes place in Kalymnos in October. As a result, many rooms, especially those closer to the northern side of the island, are often fully booked months ahead.
Verdict: if you are planning to visit Kalymnos in October, make sure you pre-book your accommodation, and maybe even car rental, well in advance.
12. Hike around Kalymnos
Not into rock climbing but still love the outdoors? Kalymnos is ideal for you! There are many hiking trails on the island, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes.
Some of the easiest hiking paths include the following:
- Kantouni – Agios Fotis: An easy 2.5 km path to Agios Fotis chapel, beginning at the left of Kantouni beach. This chapel is a fantastic sunset spot!
- Agia Aikaterini – Kefala: An easy 2.5 km trail, starting at the monastery of St Catherine.
- Pothia – Vathy: A relatively easy 5.5 km trail, beginning over the church of Holy Trinity in Pothia town. It is known as “the Italian trail”.
13. Explore the castles in Kalymnos
Like many Greek islands, Kalymnos has its fair share of castles. You can easily visit the one in Chora, or the Castle of Chrysoheria, which is located between Chora and Pothia.
The Castle of Chora occupies a large area up on a hill in the island’s old capital town. It was first built during the 11th century, and was later restored by the Knights of St John.
Sadly, the castle is not well kept, like many other castles in Greece. Yet, it’s a great place to explore and see the amazing views if you like walking and climbing. Apparently, the ten small churches inside the castle have some very impressive frescoes – but they are unlikely to be open.
The Chrysocheria Castle is a much smaller castle between Chora and Pothia. It was abandoned in the 15th century, as everyone moved to the Castle of Chora.
It is fairly easily accessible, as you will only have to climb a few stairs up – and the views from up the top are great.
14. Go to Scorpion bar in Massouri
Some 20 years ago, Kalymnos, and Massouri in particular, was known for its wild nightlife. Apparently, there were bars playing all types of music, and even a disco-club which could accommodate over 2,000 people!
These days, the loud party / clubbing scene is not what it used to be. Yet, there are a couple of old-school rock bars where you can have a beer (or ten), and stay until the early morning hours.
I really liked Scorpion Pub in Massouri. We enjoyed some great music, tons of complimentary popcorn, great stories from the bar owner, and even a board of Score 4 🙂
15. Talk to the people!
If you like long discussions, you will love the Kalymnians! Literally every person I met was eager to talk about everything – their beautiful island, tourism, the sponge-divers, local cuisine, how life has changed since 20 years ago, the trash collection problems.
I spent endless hours chatting to dozens of people, and getting a lot of insider knowledge about Kalymnos. I encourage you to do the same!
How to get to Kalymnos Greece – Ferry, or flight
The most popular way to get to Kalymnos is to first get a flight to Kos, and then take an onward ferry to Kalymnos. There are several daily ferries from both Kos town and Mastihari port town in Kos, and the trip lasts about 30-50 minutes max.
You can easily check all Kos – Kalymnos routes and book your ferry tickets on Ferryscanner.
Another option is to reach Kalymnos by flight. There are direct and indirect flights from the Athens, Rhodes and Kos airports. As a rule, it’s best to book your flights early, as ticket prices tend to increase. You can check flights on Skyscanner.
How to get around Kalymnos
There are bus services in Kalymnos, but they vary by season and are not too frequent overall. There are also a few taxis around the island.
However, if you want to get around the island at your own pace, you should consider renting a car, ATV or scooter. You will find several car rental places in Pothia town, and in most coastal resorts, like Massouri, Myrties and Kantouni beach.
Driving in Kalymnos
Before you decide to rent a vehicle, you should know that many of the roads in Kalymnos are narrow, steep, and in relatively bad condition. With all the rocky landscape, it’s actually a miracle that there are any roads in the first place!
There are no traffic lights anywhere on the island, and locals drive rather fast.
What we also found is that Google Maps doesn’t always work great. Having been to about 50 Greek islands now, I’d say that this is very uncommon, and not very useful at all!
You should also know that parking can be an issue in some of the most popular resorts, like Massouri. You might need to drive around the town a few times before you find a parking spot!
If you have never driven in Greece before, Kalymnos might not be the best place to start. For more information, have a look at this article on driving in Greece.
FAQ about Kalymnos Greece
Here are a few questions visitors often ask about Kalymnos:
Is Kalymnos worth visiting?
Kalymnos is totally worth visiting if you are looking for an under-the-radar Greek island, where you can enjoy a Real Greek Experience. Whether you are into rock climbing or not, you will be fascinated by the imposing rocks, the unspoiled beaches, the traditional cuisine, and the friendly Kalymnians. And do not miss a day trip to the nearby island of Telendos!
What is Kalymnos known for?
Kalymnos has long been known for its sponge diving history. In recent years, it’s become a popular climbing destination for people from all around the world.
How do you get around Kalymnos?
The best way to get around Kalymnos and explore the island’s landscape is to rent your own vehicle. As many of the roads on the island are narrow and steep, a small vehicle, ATV or scooter is best.
Does Kalymnos have nice beaches?
Kalymnos has several nice beaches that you can explore. Some of them have facilities, whereas others are totally wild and unspoiled.
How do I get from Athens to Kalymnos?
You can get from Athens to Kalymnos by ferry. In spring, summer and autumn, you can also get a direct flight from Athens to the small Kalymnos national airport.
More guides about the Greek islands
Here are a few more travel guides on the Greek islands:
- Best beaches in Rhodes
- How to get around Rhodes
- Beaches in Patmos
- How to get around Patmos
- How to get around Kos
- The amazing Nisyros
- What to pack for Greece
- Food in Greece – 50 popular dishes!