Twinkling turquoise seas, chalky white cubist architecture and rugged mountainsides characterise almost all of the Greek Islands, from the Ionian in the west all the way to the Dodecanese in the east. Santorini is often pegged as the most stunning, thanks to its abundance of iconic white and blue buildings speckling the hillsides, and Skiathos is world-famous for its starring role in Mamma Mia!, but sometimes it’s the smaller, unheard of places that surprise you.
Nisyros has all of the classic Greek good looks, from its coastlines to its surrounding sea. This little volcanic island is only five miles in diameter; easily walkable in a day if that’s your thing. The main draw of the island, however, is its volcano, which is why we decided to make the boat trip there from Kos. From Kardamena, Kos’ port, the ferry takes roughly an hour and offers some fabulous views across the Aegean Sea. Take in the expansive Kos coastline as you pull away, and keep an eye out for Gyali too, another volcanic island with a huge pumice quarry that makes quite the impressive sight.
Not as impressive, however, as what lies in wait on Nisyros. The main draw for all tourism on the island is the Stefanos volcanic crater. While it’s possible to make this trip on your own, it’s much easier to book through a tour guide so that all the transportation is taken care of. Once you disembark on the island you’ll be whisked off to the crater, up some pretty gnarly hills (I may or may not have had to close my eyes on a few precarious occasions), then back down into the volcanic valley.
The smell hits you as soon as you begin walking down; that classic sulphuric rotten egg scent, but it gets better…kind of. Stepping inside the crater is totally worth the smell though. The chalky yellowish-green soil is soft underfoot on the walk down, then you can cross the flat expanse of the crater itself. At times you can even feel the lava moving underneath the earth. There are collections of fumaroles in the ground, some of which have boiling hot steam drifting lazily out of them, and around these holes the soil becomes olive green, dyed from the constant spewing of sulphur and warm from the heat of the lava deep (or maybe not so deep) underground.
After you’ve enjoyed the thrill of walking on a bonafide volcanic crater (or more than one if you decide to go it alone and have more time), you’ll probably head back to Mandraki, the island’s main town. Take a wander down the cobbled streets, admiring the quaint, vine-covered houses and picturesque coastline. On top of a hill just out of the town you’ll find Panagia Spillani, a monastery half built into a cave in the rock face which has amazing views over the island and out to Gyali. When you’re done wandering, settle down by the seafront with an ice cream (the lava flavour from Piccolo’s is delicious) and toast to a day trip well done.