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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.

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  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.

 

The catamaran from Kos arrives at the town of Livadia in Tilos early afternoon. It is hot and there is practically no one around. Siesta time. All you can do is to get into the shade and take it easy.

And then we began to look around. When you are facing the town, you will see a couple of shops on your left, one grocery and one combined tourist information/car rental. They were closed, of course, but important. Next to them you will find a pathway leading up to the town square where the bus would be leaving from a couple of hours later.

The bus to Plaka Beach leaves from the center of Livadia where the locals meet under the shady trees of the kafenion

The bus to Plaka Beach leaves from the center of Livadia where the locals meet under the shady trees of the kafenion

Here we also found another little grocery shop and under the shady trees an outdoor Kafenion with mostly male guests. We were not in the mood for Greek coffee just then. By the way, if you are used to drinking cappuccinos and lattes, you may not be able to digest a Greek coffee which is so thick that you almost have to eat it. It is, however, great after an evening meal.

Instead we bought quite a few bottles of water, water melon, yogurt, honey and bread. This seemed to be the staple diet of our non-restaurant meals.

We had heard that there was a well at Plaka Beach where we could get fresh water, but maybe it was a false rumour and better be safe than sorry. We had not forgotten that we ran out of water on our hike from Psili Amos to Hora when we were on Patmos. That experience had taught us a lesson.

 We hadn’t quite decided whether to camp at Eristo Beach or Plaka Beach. It was really like choosing between apples and pears, two very different places. Eristo Beach was more conveniently located, near shops and bus stop. However, when the bus stopped at Eristo Beach we just took one look at the crowds and decided to stay on the bus. We were definitely spoiled from time spent on Psili Ammos and the tranquillity that we had experienced there at our dream beach. Eristo Beach was crowded night and day, and there were three tents to a tree. No thank you. Maybe if we had been 18 years old and interested in partying all night, but we were not.

So we made our destination Plaka Beach, and Agios Andonios was the place to get off the bus. Right next to the bus stop was a small taverna with very friendly owners. Also, they spoke quite good English. I believe that three generations lived there, grandparents, son with Russian wife and their lovely children. We sort of ended up making this taverna our base.

But, we still had to make our way to Plaka Beach, and the only way to get there was to walk. So, once again it was a hike with our backpacks that seemed to get heavier with every step we took. But the boys never complained and made me proud.

Travelling on a budget sometimes means long exhausting hikes like this one to Plaka Beach

Travelling on a budget sometimes means long exhausting hikes like this one to Plaka Beach

The hike out to Plaka Beach was supposed to take some 20 minutes. Instead it took us about 1½ hour. There is no doubt about which road to choose as there is only the one road at this end of the island. So we kept walking and walking and walking. When eventually we reached our destination we were a little confused about the setup of the place.

The first thing we noticed was a fence with a big gate leading into what looks like a park of some sort. Outside the fence the local authorities have placed some garbage containers – a positive element as there is a bigger chance of people leaving their garbage there instead of leaving it in places where you don’t want to find it. In our view the beach was rather disappointing – all stones and no sand. Rather narrow and not very friendly at all. The water is clean enough, of course, but there seems to be a kind of sediment on the stony bottom which makes it seem a little dirty – even if it isn’t.

However, when we entered a small gate from the beach into the park, we began to think that maybe we hadn’t come all this way in vain. It looked like an interesting place to spend a few days. It wasn’t at all like Psili Amos on Patmos, instead it was the very different Plaka Beach on Tilos.

Leaving Patmos made us quite sad as it had been our little paradise island, especially our days on the wonderful sandy beach Psili Amos. We had only seen little of the white town Hora as we had been too exhausted to explore it properly, but next time we shall give Hora a closer look. We were sure that we would come back to Patmos the coming years.

Scala, Patmos - Greek church early morning - the colours of Greece

Scala, Patmos - Greek church early morning - the colours of Greece

 

There is no direct connection from Patmos to Tilos so we had bought tickets from Patmos to Kos and from Kos to Tilos. The first part of the trip we had been fortunate to get tickets for the big ferry. Tickets for the ‘Blue Star’ ferry are about half price of tickets for the catamaran. Unfortunately, the ‘Blue Star’ ferry usually leaves or arrives at the most inconvenient hours of the day and only runs a couple of times a day. It doesn’t take much longer to go with the ‘Blue Star’ ferry than with the catamaran and it is a more comfortable journey. So, if you have a choice, choose the ‘Blue Star’ ferry over the catamaran.

Scala, Patmos, waiting for the Blue Star ferry early morning

Scala, Patmos, waiting for the Blue Star ferry early morning

Our ferry was supposed to leave at about 8 o’clock in the morning, but as we were sitting waiting at port for the ferry and still no sight of it at 8 o’clock, we realised that there was nothing to do but relax and wait and not get upset about the delay. It would just mean less time to wait at the catamaran departure place on Kos.

Scala, Patmos - the Blue Star ferry has arrived and it's a busy time for all

Scala, Patmos - the Blue Star ferry has arrived and it's a busy time for all

Eventually, the ferry arrived and it seemed that everyone in Scala was there for a little while, getting off the ferry, welcoming tourists, friends and family. And unloading all kinds of supplies for the island as the ferry came from the mainland of Greece. No sooner had the last car left the ferry than the new passengers and cars started crowding onto the ferry to find a nice spot to settle down for the next few hours.

The journey was very pleasant and civilised compared to going by catamaran and we enjoyed it so much more as it was the only time that we would travel in such a relaxing way. We passed most of the island and could see the monastery in Hora for a long time. We even imagined that we saw Psili Ammos beach, but I am sure that we didn’t as we never saw the ferry when we were on Psili Amos.

Patmos seen from the ferry - to the right Hora, to the left hidden somewhere in behind is Psili Amos

Patmos seen from the ferry - to the right Hora, to the left hidden somewhere in behind is Psili Amos

After a few hours we arrived in Kos and could walk to the departure area for the catamaran. The ‘Blue Star’ ferry docks near the centre of Kos town, whereas you have to walk to the furthest part of the port past the crusader castle to get to the catamaran. After an ice cream – they have great ice creams in Greece J – we were ready to embark on the last part of the journey – to Tilos. This time by catamaran.

Blue Star ferry arrives at Kos, Greece - just outside the crusader castle

Blue Star ferry arrives at Kos, Greece - just outside the crusader castle

By mid afternoon we reached the little town of Lavidia, Tilos. Nothing much was going on there which looked promising to us. Everything was closed down for the ‘siesta’, but we found ourselves a spot in the shade and stayed there till it opened up again and we could restock our water supply, food etc. About 100 m behind the seafront we found what could be called the town centre. There were some nice big shady trees which are highly valued in the hot Greek sun under which the male inhabitants of Tilos seemed to gather for Greek coffee. This was where we caught a bus towards our destination, Plaka Beach, Tilos.