Along the way back to Mandraki we passed a lot of small shrines, sitting on the side of the road. I have heard that they are placed at a site where a fatal traffic accident has taken place. I am aware that riding a scooter or a motorbike is an easy way to get around on the Greek islands, but the roads are so narrow and winding and often you won’t know what is around the next corner. If you go ahead anyway – do be very careful! Many young people get killed that way as many people drive way too fast for their own good.

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The shrines are all different, some quite beautiful, some not. They will e.g. contain a photo of the deceased person, his or her favourite things, etc. They really are very sad when you think about it.

Crusaders' castle at Mandraki, Nissyros

Crusaders’ castle at Mandraki, Nisyros – actually the weather  was way too hot for sightseeing, but the castle was still well worth a visit

If you are interested in proper sightseeing on Nissiros (it is spelled both ways, Nisyros and Nissiros), there is a fortress near Mandraki town, a medieval fortress built by the crusaders of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. Supposedly, it’s only a 15 minutes’ walk from Mandraki town, but as we had rented a car, it brought us there in no time. You can’t help being a little impressed by the solidity of the construction of the castle and how big everything was. However, it was hot and we were more inclined to go swimming.

Hunting for spectacular snorkelling on Nissyros we passed another one of those beautiful white and blue villages of the Greek islands - even the churches are white and blue

Hunting for spectacular snorkelling on Nissyros we passed another one of those beautiful white and blue villages of the Greek islands – even the churches are white and blue

On our way south we passed another of these pretty villages that offered a fantastic view of the Polivotis volcano. One looks a lot like the other, white houses with blue paint, but it looks fantastic. Even all the small churches are painted the same, and if it wasn’t for the bells, you may not distinguish them from other houses.

Perfect view to the Polivotis vulcano on Nissyros, Greece

Perfect view to the Polivotis vulcano on Nissiros, Greece

I have already mentioned the black sand beach Pahia Amos where we went on our first day on Nissiros, but it didn’t quite appeal to us. We took a look at the map and figured that there had to be some kind of beach at the end of the road at the south coast of Nissiros. We were right.

It was not a beach, but a small rocky harbour with a small wooden pier at what looked like the ruins of an old seaside hotel. The water was just as clear as everywhere else we had been while island hopping in Greece, and there were so many interesting kinds of fish in there. The boys went snorkelling most of the time as they saw some fish that really caught their attention. One, in particular, that looked like something in between a fish and a squid. It would be a pretty safe place to go with children, also the younger ones, as it was a very protected mini harbour with only a couple of metres to the bottom and there is so much to look at.

Some of the best snorkelling so far in the Greek islands was on Nissyros

Some of the best snorkelling so far in the Greek islands was on Nissiros on the very south coast

Back in Mandraki we enjoyed our last night on the great terrace outside our room at the hotel Romantzo. It’s the taller white building in the back with the blue shutters. If you chose to stay there, make sure to get a room at the top floor for the view. We had not expected much from our stay in Nissiros, but we were pleasantly surprised with what it had to offer. The next day we packed up and headed back to Kos.

Hotel Romantzo, Mandraki, Nissyros, with the blue shutters

Hotel Romantzo, Mandraki, Nissiros, with the blue shutters – basic comforts, but it has a fantastic terrace and it offers the best of views of the Aegaen Sea

The next day we went to try out the thermal baths in the old Italian spa hotel Therma Loutra. The first time we went there, we found out that it was only open for non-residential guests for a few hours in the afternoon. We came back when it opened, really looking forward to trying the baths which supposedly should be a great experience – only to find out that you have to be 18 years old to enter. What a disappointment! It meant that our children could not go and, of course, then we would not go. I wish we had known beforehand as we had wasted a great deal of time going there and waiting for it to open. However, if you are travelling without children it would probably be something to try. The hotel Therma Loutra looks like something from a different age – and it is. It must have been a very elegant and exclusive place when it was built.

In the vulcano Nisyros Greece

Walking around in the vulcano on Nissiros Greece

We went to see the volcano and it is a must. Make sure you wear solid shoes when you go. The surface is quite hot in some places, and if you want to walk around in the area, wearing sandals is definitely not a good idea. When we parked our car a guy came up to us to sell tickets to enter the area. At first, we were not quite sure whether this was someone trying to make money on ignorant tourists, but as we hadn’t really run into this kind of problem here, we trusted the guy – and he turned out to be quite legitimate. He was quite helpful in telling us where to go – and where not to go. In some places the smell of sulphur was so strong that we had to hold our noses and breathe through our mouths. Down in the crater itself, there were steam holes which you don’t want to get too close to. The walls of the crater were in all kinds of beautiful colours, and it was a truly fascinating experience. We kept having the feeling that the volcano could explode anytime….

At the top of the volcano there is a small village, Nikea – beautiful architecture, with the most stunning view of the volcano and surroundings. It’s worthwhile taking a walk around the narrow alleys where you never seem to put your camera down. Again, people are extremely friendly and put up with the tourist with a smile.

 

Pretty village of Nikea sitting at the top of the vulcano on Nissiros Greece

Pretty village of Nikea sitting at the top of the vulcano on Nissiros Greece

As I have mentioned before, in spite of our island hopping the Greek islands in the midst of the peak season July August, there was plenty of room everywhere (almost everywhere!). In Mandraki town we saw many bars and restaurants with few or no guests; especially the ones along the ‘tourist’ street going from the harbour toward the centre of town. We recommend continuing further along the road, past the post office, and a bit further yet till you come to town square in the old centre of Mandraki where we didn’t see many foreigners. However, this was where all the Greeks seemed to come for dinner, drink coffee or whatever. We went to ‘Taverna Irene’ where we felt welcome, had great food and Greek coffee. The atmosphere was so different from the restaurants along the ‘tourist’ street.

The next morning we were off to hand in the car and catch the ferry or rather the catamaran. Tickets for the catamaran ferry are bought the same place where we rented the car which is very practical. And also, next to the ticket office – car rental was the grocery shop where we could stock up on supplies for the ferry ride.

However, going from Tilos to Mandraki in Nisyros was only the one stop and didn’t take that long. We had met some other Danes that had been to Nisyros and had recommended a hotel that they had found nice. When we arrived in Nisyros I left my family sitting in the shade while I figured out about where to stay. Actually, we had been considering going to a hotel with thermal baths, but later I was really happy that we didn’t. More about this later.

I didn’t particularly like the hotel in Mandraki that had been recommended to us. I don’t know – small balconies etc. Instead I continued to the street behind it and found a super place called Romantzo. For Euros 60 per day I got us a room on the second floor with four beds, a small bathroom, air-condition, a fridge and even a TV. We could have done without the TV! Best of all was the enormous communal terrace stretching the full length of the floor. From here we had the most stunning view of the Aegean Sea. I might have been able to get the room for less, but I really thought it was worth every cent. Google maps has placed it in the wrong place. Stand with your back to the ferry and take the road to the left behind the harbour front and you will find it on your right hand. It’s a five minutes’ walk.

 

Terrace outside our room at hotel Romantza in Mandraki, Nissiros /Nisyros, with a wonderful view of the Aegean Sea

Terrace outside our room at hotel Romantza in Mandraki, Nissiros / Nisyros, with a wonderful view of the Aegean Sea

 

The reason for going to Nisyros was of course, like everybody else, to go down into the volcano of the island. Also, we wanted to try the thermal baths at the old hotel which was somewhat out of reach on foot. So, we rented a car J Expensive, but again, hard to do without if you want to see more of the island than just Nisyros town.

Nisyros mainly consists of rock and can’t boast of the same beautiful beaches as we have visited on Patmos and Tilos, but there was one beach with black sand that we had heard of and wanted to go to. We drove as far as we could and left the car to continue to the black sand beach. It was still quite a hike after that, and as part of it was on narrow difficult trails I wouldn’t recommend people with bad knees etc. to go there.

As it was late in the afternoon the sun had moved away from this side of the island and most people had already left. The sand was fine, but because it was so dark the water didn’t seem nearly as appealing as it had done everywhere else. On the way back we went to a small village with some great fish restaurants – very reasonably priced. We already felt comfortable with the island and it was still only our first day on Nisyros.

  One of the highlights of Tilos or should I say a ‘must see’ on Tilos is the monastery which is placed high on top of the island on its very north-western part. We decided to visit the monastery which should be quite easy to find as we just had to continue along the same road that had taken us to Plaka Beach. We drove for about 5 minutes uphill and the road turned a 90 degree to the left. My husband stopped the car right there. He is really afraid of heights and announced that there was no way he would drive up to the monastery.

The scenery at that spot is just spectacular. On your right you have the steep cliffs going down to the sea and you have the most stunning view of the Aegean Sea. The road runs quite near the cliffs which is why my husband refused to go any further. We could stand there and watch the road winding its way up the cliffs till it reached its destination – the monastery of St. Panteleimon. I was considering hiking up there, but the sun would be setting shortly afterwards so I gave up and just enjoyed the view.

The road to the monastery on Tilos winds its way to the top very near the cliffs to the Aegean Sea

The road to the monastery on Tilos winds its way to the top very near the cliffs to the Aegean Sea

The cliffs on this part of Tilos are supposedly the home of a long list of threatened and rare birds. We didn’t see that many rare birds, not that we knew of, at least, but we were in the company of peacocks all the time when at Plaka Beach. Precisely at the time when we were there they were losing their long tail feathers which were just lying around on the ground. Well, not just the long feathers, but also the orange ones from their bellies and tiny ones with a full ‘peacock’ pattern on them.

I carefully (remembering how we were once attacked by a capercaillie in the woods of Sweden picking mushrooms) gathered a big bunch of these beautiful peacock feathers which I wanted to take home as my Greek souvenir. I thought that the least the peacocks could do in return for trying to steal our food. Even though we would hang it up high, they would try to jump to get at it. But at least they kept at a couple of meters distance when we were near the tents.

Peacocks at Plaka Beach Tilos were not afraid of us and in their search for food sometimes looked inside our camp

Peacocks at Plaka Beach Tilos were not afraid of us and in their search for food sometimes looked inside our camp

My husband was shaking his head and asked me how I intended to bring the feathers home without ruining them. We still had a long way to go before leaving for Denmark. I needed something like those tubes you get when you buy a poster and that was not readily available on Tilos.
This is where I got creative and got a brilliant idea as how to solve this challenge:

1) Take a look around you and do not throw away all those empty water bottles
2) Take the first water bottle, cut off the top
3) Take the next water bottle, cut off the bottom
4) Take as many water bottles as the feathers are long and cut off top and bottom
5) Now you screw the bottle with its top cut off into one that is without bottom and top
6) Next screw another bottle without top and bottom into no. 5 and so on
7) Eventually your tube is as long as your feathers
8) Now carefully place your bunch of feathers into the tube so that the feathers rest on no. 2
9) Finally, screw the bottle without bottom but with it top onto the tube
10) You now have a perfect tube for peacock feathers

I had no problem travelling with my peacock feathers on ferries etc. It was easy to handle and super lightweight. I was a little worried about getting through customs with it going back to Denmark, but as the bottles were made from transparent plastic, the staff just smiled and asked about the feathers. A great way to strike up conversation, and they never bothered to check anything else in my pack.

Well, now we were ready to leave Tilos and head for Nisyros.

Equipped with a car and a detailed map of Tilos opened up for so many new possibilities. Plaka Beach itself is not ideal for snorkelling so we took a good look at our map and asked our Greek neighbours for advice.

The map that can be purchased when you rent your car is very detailed and shows the main roads around the island and also the not so accessible dirt roads that will take you to the best beaches that hopefully no one else has found. Well, of course they have found them, but just not at the same time as you.

Trail to Skaphi Beach Tilos Greece for a full day of snorkelling

Trail to Skaphi Beach Tilos Greece for a full day of snorkelling

By following a dirt road for quite a while past a big goat farm that can be smelled from far away we got as far as we could by car. The rest of the way to our pick of the day Skaphi Beach we hiked with our daypacks. To this specific beach there is a clearly marked trail, but other beaches that we went to were not equally easy to get down to. However, the Greek scouts help tourists and other hikers by building small stone cairns to help them find the best way to and from e.g. a beach.

We were well rewarded for making this effort. A beautiful beach and not a soul around. We had it to ourselves all day which meant that we could skinny-dip without bothering anyone. Also it meant that all four of us could share the same snorkelling experience instead of going in twos or threes. Snorkelling at Skaphi Beach was beautiful. Fish of all colours, shapes and sizes didn’t move an inch till we could almost touch them. One big brownish striped fish didn’t move at all and if so only towards us and sort of told us to go away or it would do something nasty to us. We weren’t quite sure what kind of fish it was, but as it looked really unfriendly we decided to move.

Skaphi Beach Tilos for a full day of snorkelling and watching the goats on the steep cliffs

Skaphi Beach Tilos for a full day of snorkelling and watching the goats on the steep cliffs

On the way to Skaphi Beach we passed a goat farm. Lying in the sand we could watch the goats grazing on the steep cliffs on the right side of the beach. Incredible that the goats can find a footing, but who knows – maybe once in a while a goat drops to its death in the water and thus helps fish like the one that looked at us with such an unfriendly eye to an easy meal. We could see that there were a lot of caves into the cliffs where the goats gathered in large numbers to get out of the sun. Smart goats!

 Peacocks chattering away and cicadas making an incredible noise formed a thick wall of sound all around us. The cicadas were hard to spot, but not the peacocks. They were everywhere. The big colourful cocks, the brownish hens and their small chicks. We felt that we had a great chance to look into the lives of these beautiful birds. The noise from the cicadas was quite consistent throughout the day, almost from sunrise till sunset. Along with the eucalyptus trees that line the campground it makes Plaka Beach a very unique place.

Plaka Beach Tilos - At midday the only place to be is under the big eucalyptus trees

Plaka Beach Tilos - At midday the only place to be is under the big eucalyptus trees

It is not as if the place was crowded at all. We saw a couple of camper vans and then a small tent. We set our tents under the shady eucalyptus trees as by now we knew that shade is of paramount importance in the hot Greek summer when camping like we did. The ground was covered in leaves and bark from the eucalyptus trees which formed a nice soft bed under the tents as well as had a nice spicy smell. Really pleasant. Later I read that the smell from the eucalyptus trees keeps the mosquitoes away. And true enough, there were no mosquitoes. (Nor had we seen any in Psili Ammos, for that matter.

After a nice swim we began to have a good look around the place. And, even though we had read somewhere that there is a well with fresh drinking water, we never found it. And also, the toilet is – at least when we were there – so disgusting that there was no way that we could use it. Our neighbour D, part of the Greek couple in the tent next to ours – about 50 m away – was sure that he saw a rat there. This was one of the reasons that we made the taverna in Agios Andonios our base. It had great toilets 🙂

 We quickly realised that a car was a must if we were to go anywhere as 1½ hour hike from Plaka Beach to Agios Andonios was not an option every time we wanted to leave the peacocks and cicadas behind for a while. Our neighbours, a lovely couple from Athens, turned out to be a great help. He is an engineer and she studies statistics at the university in Athens. Bright young people and so helpful!

Great Greek neighbours at Plaka Beach, Tilos

Great Greek neighbours at Plaka Beach, Tilos

D and M had rented a car when they arrived at Tilos, and the next day they took my husband back to Livadia to the tourist information/car rental to get a car for us. We should have done that when we arrived but how were we to know that we could not do without it. D and M were also a great source of information about the Greek society and the present financial crisis in Greece. They were curious to know how we had found out about Plaka Beach as apparently guide books is not a common thing in Greece.

In Denmark we pay sky-high property taxes on our houses, but D and M told us that in Greece people avoid paying their property taxes by not finishing their houses completely. That is just one of many differences between Denmark and Greece which apparently is in no way as controlled a society as the Danish is.

Well, I got sidetracked and better get back to Plaka Beach, Tilos.