Things to do in Nisyros – Greek island travel guide

Nisyros is one of the Greek islands in the Dodecanese, and it’s famous for its fantastic volcano. But that’s not all Nisyros has to offer. Here are all the things you can do in Nisyros Greece.

Nisyros island Greece 

Nisyros is a small volcanic island in the South Aegean Sea in Greece. It belongs to the Dodecanese group of islands, along with Rhodes, Kos, Patmos, Kalymnos, and several others.

Similarly to Santorini and Milos, Nisyros island was created after a volcanic explosion, several thousands of years ago. It is a wild, under-the-radar Greek island that will appeal to visitors who like nature, wild landscapes, tranquility, and great food.

Best things to do in Nisyros Greece

The capital of Nisyros, Mandraki, is also the port town of the island. There are a couple more villages in Nisyros, and the rest of the island is uninhabited and covered in volcanic rocks. The population of Nisyros is around 1,000 people.

Best things to do in Nisyros

Even though Nisyros is a small island, there is a lot to do. Some people visit on a day trip from Kos, just to see the highlights. We spent a week there, and I’m very glad that we did, as I loved this unique, wild island!

Wild beach in Nisyros Greece

Here are some of the best things to do in Nisyros:

  • Walk on the active volcano crater
  • Stroll around Mandraki, the capital
  • Enjoy the hot volcanic springs
  • Stop by the Volcanological Museum in Nikia village
  • Visit the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani
  • Climb up to ancient Paleokastro
  • Explore the picturesque Emporios village
  • Enjoy some time on the wild beaches
  • Discover the hiking paths
  • Take an island tour to Gyali isle
  • Taste the local dishes and unique delicacies

Let’s explore each of these in detail!

1. Walk on the active volcano crater

The biggest attraction on the island, and the reason why most people visit Nisyros, is the volcano. It’s located right in the middle of the island, and it’s one of the most impressive landscapes I’ve seen in Greece, and not only!

You can reach the volcano on a scenic paved road, about a half hour’s drive from Mandraki. After you get your admission ticket, it’s an easy 5-10-minute downhill walk to the largest crater, known as Stefanos.

The caldera of the volcano in Nisyros

The path goes through a lunar landscape of rocks and ashes, before reaching the crater itself. As you walk on the hot surface, you will see the steam rising, and the smell of sulfur will fill your lungs!

Tips for visiting the Nisyros volcano

While most people only visit the main crater, I strongly suggest taking your time to explore the caldera and the whole area around the volcano. You can discover more craters full of oddly shaped rocks with wonderful colours!

Things to do in Nisyros Greece

As the temperatures inside the volcano are very high, it’s best to avoid the hottest hours of the day. We visited twice, once in the late afternoon and once just before sunset, and exploring in the evening was much more pleasant.

Going early in the morning is also a great option, as the day cruises from Kos won’t have arrived yet.

View of the Nisyros volcano

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, a hat, and good, sturdy shoes. A friend of mine went in flip-flops a few years ago, and apparently they melted!

Afterwards, you can sit at the lovely, picturesque canteen for a cold drink. And if you feel like it, you can stay after it gets dark and see millions of stars!

I was so impressed with the volcano, that I’ve included it in this list of 22 beautiful places to visit in Greece – have a look!

2. Stroll around Mandraki, the capital

Mandraki is the port town of Nisyros, and it’s also the island’s capital. It’s a small but charming town, with a few shops, traditional restaurants and cafes with a view to the sea.

Mandraki is a fantastic little town to explore on foot. Walk up and down the narrow alleys of the medieval castle, and discover the traditional architecture and pretty little details.

Mandraki port town Nisyros

When you feel you’ve walked around enough, sit at a cafe with a view to the sea, or go to Adrikos cafe on Ilikiomenis Square, the go-to place for locals. I had lots of fun talking to people and learning about everyday life on Nisyros!

Finally, make sure you walk to the iconic Chochlaki beach. While the large black pebbles would make it hard to swim here, the sunsets are truly amazing!

Sunset on Nisyros - Chochlaki beach

Mandraki also has a couple of museums. There’s an Archaeological Museum, where you can learn more about the history of the island. There’s also a small Folklore Museum, where you will see some very interesting old photos and other exhibits.

3. Enjoy the hot volcanic springs

As Nisyros is a volcanic island, visitors can enjoy the thermal springs. Known for their healing properties since the ancient times, thermal springs in Nisyros used to be one of the main attractions of the island a few decades ago.

Thermal springs - Avlaki beach Nisyros

Today, it’s surprisingly easy to miss them altogether, unless you know where to go.

Abandoned spa hotels in Nisyros

The place marked on Google Maps as Loutra, between Mandraki and Pali, was under renovation when I visited in May 2022. As it had been closed for a couple of years due to the pandemic, it was uncertain when it would open to the public again.

Abandoned hotel in Nisyros

Another place with thermal waters in Nisyros is the abandoned Spa Hotel just outside Pali. Several decades ago, this used to be a luxurious spa hotel, but it’s unlikely it will operate again in the future. If, like me, you like abandoned buildings, by all means go and have a look!

Finally, if you’ve got your own transportation, you can drive to Avlaki, a pebbly beach just south of Nikia. You will see the crumbling infrastructure of what once was a small spa hotel. On a calm, non-windy day, you could try and swim in the sea.

Abandoned spa hotel in Nisyros

Thermal pool in Mandraki Nisyros

I spent a few hours by the thermal pool at the family-run Haritos hotel, a few minutes’ walk from Mandraki. The warm water left my skin soft, and it was super relaxing due to the mineral content!

There’s a 5-euro entrance fee, and you can stay as long as you want, either enjoying the pool or sitting in the loungers. It’s also a fun place to strike a chat with the locals.

4. Stop by the Volcanological Museum in Nikia village

If you’re interested in learning more about volcanoes, then make sure to visit the Volcanological Museum in Nikia village. It features exhibits and information about many volcanoes in Greece and abroad.

There are also interactive displays that allow you to learn more about them. At the end, you get to watch a video of how Nisyros was created. 

Church in Nikia Nisyros

After your visit to the volcanic museum, go for a stroll around the picturesque village. Try to avoid the hottest time of the day, as there are many stairs and uphill paths!

5. Visit the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani

The Monastery of the Virgin Panagia Spiliani is located on top of the hill in Mandraki. It’s one of the most important monasteries in the Dodecanese, accessible through a staircase of about 130 stairs.

The Monastery in Nisyros

According to legend, in the late 14th century, a farmer found an icon of the Virgin. He took it to the nearest church dedicated to the Virgin, but the next day the icon had disappeared. Eventually, the people of Nisyros found it inside a cave.

The same thing happened again, and again. The villagers decided to build a new church inside the cave, which they called Panagia Spiliani (= the Virgin of the Cave).

Celebrations on the 15th August

The church celebrates on the 15th of August, and hundreds of people come from far and wide to pay their respects and enjoy the traditional Greek celebrations.

The monastery in Nisyros island

Did this story sound familiar? Perhaps it reminds you of this other church, in Tinos island: Our Lady of Tinos – Church of Miracles.

Other churches in Nisyros

Like all Greek islands, Nisyros has hundreds of churches everywhere. The more you explore the island, the more of them you will discover!

Church in Nisyros Greece

6. Climb up to ancient Paleokastro

Paleokastro, or Palaiokastro, is a little visited but incredibly impressive ancient acropolis, dating from the 4th century BC. The tall, thick walls are constructed out of volcanic stone. The size of the fort is unbelievable!

Ancient Paleokastro Nisyros

Although the site has been partially restored, we were surprised to find that there is no entrance fee, and it looks semi-deserted. We were so impressed, that we went back to see the wonderful views during sunset 🙂

You can walk all the way up to Paleokastro from Mandraki on an easy hiking path. Again, bring some water and avoid the hottest time of the day – in our case, we climbed up just after midday, which wasn’t very clever!

There’s also an asphalt road, so you can also reach it by car, ATV or scooter.

7. Explore the picturesque Emporios village

Emporios is another village in Nisyros that is worth visiting. It’s a small settlement with several abandoned houses up on the mountain, offering wonderful views of the volcano.

There are a couple of tavernas / cafes in Emporios where you can spend some time. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Balkoni tou Emporeiou, and the view was just out of this world!

The sauna in Emporios, Nisyros island

Tip: Just before you enter the village, on your right hand side, you will see a small cave. This is a natural sauna – not sure what the temperature was, but it was HOT! 

8. Enjoy some time on the wild Nisyros beaches

Beaches are not the first thing you’d think when you hear about Nisyros. Still, the little island has a couple of amazing beaches that you will love if you like tranquility.

Sandy beach Nisyros

My favourite beach in Nisyros was Pachia Ammos, which literally means “Fat Sand”. It’s a long, wide beach with dark volcanic sand, clear, warm waters, and zero shade. In the summer, you might see some free campers here.

I swam there from Lyes Beach, which is another lovely stretch of gray sand. There’s a path connecting the two beaches, but it wasn’t in good condition at the time I was there so I gave it a miss.

Black beach in Nisyros

Whichever of these two beaches you end up visiting, make sure you bring an umbrella and some snorkeling equipment, as the water is fantastic! Also, note that naturism is popular here, so bring plenty of sunblock 🙂

More beaches in Nisyros

Other beaches in Nisyros include:

Beach in Nisyros island

Bonus: Due to the volcanic activity and thermal springs, the water temperature in Nisyros is much higher than on the nearby islands! Hence, we could comfortably swim when we visited in late spring, unlike on some of the other Dodecanese.

9. Discover the hiking paths on Nisyros

The wild island is full of hiking paths. Apart from the paths inside the volcano’s crater, there are numerous paths connecting several parts of the island.

Nisyros is a lovely place to go hiking

If you are planning to explore Nisyros on foot, remember that, due to the volcanic materials, the soil is warmer than on other islands. Take plenty of water with you, and make sure you have appropriate shoes.

10. Take an island tour to Gyali islet

A short distance from Nisyros, you will find a small volcanic island named Gyali (or Yiali). Due to the pumice stone and other minerals found on the islet, the landscapes are very unique and dramatic.

Even though there is significant mining activity on Gyali, it’s possible to go there on a boat trip and enjoy the crystal clear waters. These boat tours run between June and early September, and you can find information at the local travel agencies in Mandraki.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any boat trips when we were there in May. I had an offer to join the miners who go to work on a small boat at 6-6.30 am, but, well, I’m not a morning person! Still, Gyali looks amazing in the photos, and I’ll make sure to go next time I’m in Nisyros.

Bonus: Taste the local dishes and unique delicacies

We loved most of the little tavernas where we ate in Nisyros! Our favourite was Issikas, where we had two of our best meals in the Dodecanese. We also enjoyed our drinks and snacks at Oxos.

Greek food in Nisyros Greece

If you are staying in Nisyros for a few days, you will probably want to visit a supermarket or two. There are more than meets the eye in Mandraki, including a few places selling fresh fruit and veg.

Don’t miss a trip to the small bakery, where you can get some great bread and traditional cookies.

What to eat in Nisyros

Apart from the best known and popular Greek dishes, look out for local delicacies and products, such as these ones:

  • boukounies – pork bites
  • pitia – fried chickpea balls, similar to falafel
  • various amazing cheeses, such as sakouliasti and mizithra
  • tomato spoon sweet – goes incredibly well with cheese
  • pastelaries – figs filled up with sesame seeds and almonds
  • soumada, a drink made out of almonds and sugar
  • kanellada, a sweet cinammon-flavoured drink
  • koukouzina, the local name for raki, a popular Greek drink.

For more info on Greek food, check out this article: Food of Greece.

How to get to Nisyros

You can only get to Nisyros by ferry. The closest island with an international airport is Kos. So you can fly into Kos, and then take a ferry to Nisyros, either from Kardamena port or from the main Kos town port.

Ferry from Kos to Nisyros Greece

Alternatively, you can catch a ferry from Piraeus, the main port in Athens, or even Rhodes, which is another of the Dodecanese islands.

You can check out ferry routes and book ferry tickets right here: Ferryscanner.

You can also visit Nisyros on a day trip from Kos… but I hope that I’ve convinced you that it’s worth extending your Nisyros trip to more than a day cruise!

How to get around Nisyros

While you can explore Mandraki of the island on foot, you’ll need some form of transport to go to the volcano and the quaint villages.

The travel agencies around the port town can help you with bus timetables and organized tours, as well as boat trips to Gyali. The people at both Enetikon and Diakomihalis agencies were super friendly. 

Half day tour Nisyros

Yet, if you want to have more freedom, I’d suggest a Nisyros rent-a-car, quad or scooter. That’s the best way to get around Nisyros and explore at your own pace.

Nisyros rent a car

Make sure you have a good Nisyros map with you, as there are a couple of places on the island where there is no mobile phone signal. Also, have a look at this article about driving in Greece.

FAQ about Nisyros island Greece

Visitors to Nisyros often ask questions like these:

Is Nisyros worth visiting?

Nisyros is absolutely worth visiting, especially if you like quiet islands! You will definitely be impressed by the amazing volcano, the wild landscapes, the tranquil beaches and the picturesque port town, Mandraki.

What is Nisyros known for?

Nisyros is best known for its impressive volcano. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can walk right inside an active volcano crater!

Is Nisyros safe?

Even though the volcano in Nisyros is still active, the island is totally safe to visit. Just make sure you stay away from the cordoned-off areas inside the crater! You should also know that there is a monitoring station on the island, and vulcanologists constantly monitor volcanic activity on Nisyros.

How do you get to Nisyros volcano?

To get to the Nisyros volcano, you will first need to catch a ferry to Nisyros island. Then you will need to drive (or take a bus) to the volcano itself.

When did the volcano on Nisyros last erupt?

The last volcanic eruption on Nisyros was in 1887.

A Greek cat in Emporios Nisyros

More travel guides about the Greek islands

If you are thinking to go to Nisyros, take a look at these other guides for the Dodecanese islands:

Vanessa from Real Greek ExperiencesHi! I’m Vanessa from Athens and I’ve been fortunate to have visited around 60 of the Greek islands. So far, Nisyros is one of my top favourites! Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more inspiration about Greece!

 

 

 

 

What to do in Nisyros Greece

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