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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.

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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!

Patmos, Psili Amos, is the closest I have been to paradise for many years. Read this piece before you go to know what to expect and what to bring.

As it is a long way to the nearest shop of any kind, make sure to include the following items in your backpack before you start your climb down to Psili Ammos beach:

  •  Cash – it is a long way to the bank from Psili Ammos
  •  Flashlight and extra batteries – it gets very very dark at night
  • Wide brimmed hat – a must in Greece
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Diving mask and snorkel
  • One or two brick novels
  • Canned food
  • Toilet paper

At the taverna you can buy bread and water, may be other things if they have something to spare, but usually that’s it. The taverna opens around 8 or 9 in the morning and you can have great breakfasts there that’ll last you till way into the afternoon. It closes again about 5 pm so make sure that you have had a solid meal there before that time. They make great zucchini balls, Greek salads, goat stews etc. at very reasonable prices. The owners are very friendly and will let you buy water and bread if they have any at the end of the day – which they fortunately always did. They only accept cash! On Psili Amos, Patmos, beautiful sunsets were followed by incredible beautiful starry nights with fine shooting stars

The major business of the tavern is when the boat from Scala comes in about 11 am which it does if the wind is not too strong. We experienced a couple of days that it didn’t arrive. They were very quiet days on Psili Amos with few people and big waves. But when the day tourists come to Psili Ammos they rarely venture more than 50 meters away from the taverna. The rest of Psili Amos beach was left to people like us who camped there and the campers also kept to themselves as at our end of the beach we would spend all day without clothes on. Only when we went to the taverna or to use the facilities did we put on a sarong in order not to offend anyone. The facilities (toilets) were fine, by the way.

Psili Ammos is a beach with wonderful fine sand and lots of fairly large pieces of rock which you can use to build small walls around your tent to protect you from the wind on days when it is windy or else to partly protect your things from the sun. There are very few trees on Psili Amos and they all have tents under them that profit from the shade they offer. We brought two small tents with us and a beach tent, one of those in bright colours that is open at the one side. That beach tent was a big success as we used it to store all our stuff. Our tents were only meant for sleeping with no room for our backpacks.

Watching the goats pass from one side to the other before the sun rises above the cliffs

As I mentioned on the ‘must bring’ list, a diving mask and snorkel are so necessary, not just on Psili Amos, but for all the places that we went. At Psili Ammos the snorkling was spectacular, not just for the fish, but in some places out there we felt as if we were swimming in a huge aquarium with the sun streaming down through the water.

There is a huge area behind the area where the tents are that leads up to the cliffs that surround Psili Amos. If you are up early in the morning, you can watch the goats cross from one side to the other. They spend all day eating the herbs such as thyme and sage that grow all over the place. You can almost imagine how great the meat from these goats tastes.Psili Amos, Patmos, is the place to go if you want to do nothing but hang out, dive and swim. Nothing much is really going on - and that is the beauty of it

Psili Amos is one of those places where you could stay on for a long time, but we had planned island hopping in Greece and that means going from island to island and not staying on Patmos all the time even though we were tempted to do so. Before leaving Scala the day that we arrived we bought our ferry tickets to our next stop, Tilos, which unfortunately made us less flexible in staying on than we could have wished for.

On the day that we had to leave the boat from Scala arrived as usual and we had hoped to be able to return to Scala that way, but the captain wouldn’t sell us tickets as he said that the boat was too crowded as it was. This was what we had feared as it meant a very long and very hot hike back to civilisation.

At midday it is hot on Patmos and a shady bench in a nice place for a napDon’t worry about not finding accommodation when you get to Patmos. When you get off the ferry at Scala, the major town on Patmos, you are met by local owners of houses or rooms to let, camp site managers etc. They will all have a very good offer for you, but they are not too persistent if you say no thank you. Actually, they are quite helpful with information, should you require that. If you are interested in e.g. renting a house for a few days, you can probably make a good deal as the price they will mention at first will be negotiable if you stay for say 3 nights or more. However, as soon as we mentioned that we were going to Psili Ammos beach, they lost interest in us. Well, as it was 2 p.m. they said that we would need accommodation for the night as the boat for Psili Ammos did not leave till the next morning. We decided to get organized, and in order to get organized we needed to get into the shade as it was rather hot in the middle of the day, a heat that sometimes could make it difficult to think of anything else than a cold drink or one of the great ice creams of Greece. Even the locals themselves are seen to enjoy a nap in the shade.

Next to the local police station we located the Patmos tourist information with a very helpful and skilled woman inside. She was equally fluent in Italian and English and I guess Greek. However, as I only know very few words in Greek, that’ll be a guess on my part. When I mentioned Psili Ammos, she said that it was a very nice beach, but if we went there, we probably would not see anything else on Patmos. Another 10-15 minutes and we had made it to our destination Psili Amos on Patmos

We found out that a bus would leave at 4 p.m. for Grikos via Hora, the white town in the middle of Patmos. The bus ride didn’t take long – may be 20 minutes. When we got off the bus, it was still very hot, but fortunately it cooled down a bit before we started on the last bit up and down the cliffs to get down to Psili Amos beach. From Grikos we walked for about 2 hours till we reached our destination which was everything that we had hoped for. But – if money is no obstacle you can hire a taxi in Scala to take you to the cliffs and you will only have to hike the last bit up and down the cliffs. If I was to go again, I might just do that, but we saw a lot of the countryside walking and that was part of the experience.

The ferry calls into port and the whole island is wide awake for a little whileHaving bought our tickets for the ferry to Patmos we got in line for the catamaran which arrived soon after. When you get on board, the staff asks you which island you are going to. The catamaran stops at several islands and therefore it is practical to divide the luggage into piles for each island to avoid chaos when getting off the ferry.

As coffee is sort of what you can buy on the ferry, it is a good idea to bring your own food for the ride. Make sure to buy it in Kos Town before you head out towards the catamaran as there is only a small coffee place where the catamaran leaves.

It is such a blast to sit on deck and watch when the ferry enters a port. There are people everywhere saying hello or good-bye to friends and family and there are hotel or house owners looking for potential guests to occupy a house or a room for a few days. The islands are dependent on the ferry to bring them supplies; some of the islands do not have their own water and need to have it brought from e.g. Kos.  Leaving Port - Dodecanes Islands

It is obvious that the arrival of the catamaran or ferry is the main event of the day. When it has left again the place quietens down and settles into its usual slow rhythm.

The ferry ride is a great way to see the Dodecanese islands from the outside. You really get an idea of how sparsely populated they are. In some instances there is only the one town where the ferry calls into.

On the ferry itself you can sit on deck and work on your tan – remember a good sunscreen – or sit in the shade indoor. In the case of the catamaran it was fun to stand or sit up front on the deck and almost get blown away by the wind.

We had planned to go straight to a place where they would sell us a ticket to go to Tilos as we wanted to be part of the festival taking place just then. However, it turned out to be a No Go as we couldn’t find a ferry for Tilos till the next day. We thought that ferries would sail every day in peak season, but no. We could get as far as to Nisyros, but no further than that.

So, why go south when we could catch a ferry north? We had no intention of staying on Kos which was by far the most touristy of all the islands that we went to. Also, we had booked a really nice hotel at the end of our trip in Kos Town before leaving Greece (even though we didn’t get the apartment that we had paid for, but that’s another story that hasn’t seen an ending yet, which is why I’ll wait a while before I write about that).

In fact, there was a ferry leaving for Kalymnos, Leros and Patmos a couple of hours after we arrived in Kos Town. Perfect. A really friendly woman at one of the travel agencies gave me all the information that I needed including prices of the tickets. Well, I thought, it’s probably more expensive to buy them from her, so instead I’ll buy our tickets down at the ticket place next to where the catamaran would leave. Bad idea!

Not only was the price of the tickets exactly the same as at the travel agency; the man who soldA list of beautiful Greek islands to hop if you can find out when and where the ferry leaves them let us stand outside the ticket place to fry in the hot hot sun. He left us there for more than an hour and only began selling our tickets a short while before the catamaran actually left. I can only recommend that you buy from a travel agency inside Kos Town and to do it before you go to towards the catamaran as it is quite a long walk away from the other ferries and boats.

There are two types of ferries; the one from Blue Star Ferries is a really big one coming from Piraeus and the catamarans leaving from Kos to do a sort of round trip. The price of tickets for the big Blue Star Ferry is only about half the price of that for the catamaran, and the ferry is far more comfortable. However, it doesn’t leave as often as the catamarans, and also the time of arrival at our destination was very inconvenient in comparison with that of the catamaran.

Nowhere is the sky as when you are among the white houses of the Dodecanese islandsArriving in Kos Airport what struck me first was the heat (compared to Denmark). When we left Denmark, we were in the midst of the wettest summer ever recorded, and we went from that to above 35 degrees Celsius and bright sunshine. Wonderful!

We arrived in the middle of the night, but still we were met by a very friendly and helpful staff at the airport where we spent the night till the first bus for Kos town left at 8 am.

The friendliness of the Greeks was everywhere we went. You may think that they would be fed up with all the tourists crowding their beautiful country, but that was certainly not the impression that we got. If we asked for information, we got it right away. If we asked for assistance, we got it, even if it meant giving us a lift somewhere to get us what we wanted.

Unfortunately we had no choice in when we were going – it had to be in thGreek economy may constitute a bomb under the Euroe middle of the high season – even for the Greeks. So we expected crowds everywhere and that it would be difficult to find a place to stay – when we wouldn’t be camping at the beaches, but no. So many places were quite empty, even restaurants and bars etc. A young Greek couple from Athens told us that due to the financial crisis 8 out of 10 Greeks stayed at home this summer. They could not afford to go anywhere.

The financial crisis wasn’t generally something that we felt, but – as Danes we are not surprised that they have a crisis. Compared to Denmark there is little control with regard to tax-paying in Greece.

Last time I was in Greece – many years ago – they had their own currency, the Drachmas, it was not such a costly experience to travel in the country. Now the prices are almost like prices in Denmark, which was a chock, although not quite unexpected.