Breakfast was included at the Haritos and was served outside on a ground floor terrace. A set breakfast was brought to our table and although basic, was good enough to set us up for the day.
Whilst we were eating breakfast we noticed a peculiar looking dog pacing up and down the street with its tongue hanging out. It looked quite deranged and I thought that it may have been one of the dogs that had been barking most of the night. It certainly looked strange and a little distressed. We didn’t have time to investigate further as we were meeting up with the rest of the family at the Romantzo where we are having a hire car being delivered.
Marilyn from Eagles Nest Car Hire was brilliant. Not only did she drop the car off at the hotel, she gave us a detailed itinerary that would enable us to cover most of the island in the one day. The service from Eagles Nest was excellent and highly recommended.
My sister had also noticed the strange looking dog that had been running up and down the street. Marilyn told us that today was the first day of the partridge hunting season on Nisyros. She said that the island attracts lots of hunters as hunting is not permitted on all islands. Apparently the barking up in Nikia had been very bad last night. The hunting dogs are not allowed inside the hotels and are usually tied up outside – hence the relentless barking throughout the night. Marilyn also told us that any dogs that don’t perform well as hunting dogs are just cut loose and the left to fend for themselves. Now things are beginning to make sense – the groups of men coming and going in the hotel, the crazy dog pacing up and down and the barking ……..
Our first visit of the day is the semi abandoned village of Emborios. One of the ‘must does’ here is to visit the geothermal sauna in a tiny cave just at the entrance to the village. The cave is tiny – and the heat inside is incredible. I couldn’t bear it in there for long but once out in the breeze you feel totally refreshed!
There are but a few inhabitants living in Emborios. Some of the houses are owned by foreigners and others by locals involved in agriculture. And we see examples of that in front of our eyes.
It is easy to walk from the sauna cave up to the village. The place feels completely deserted and lovely and peaceful. You sense that there are other people around and that they are watching us from behind closed doors!
You don’t need to ascend up into the village too far to get a view of the volcano. There are paths that will take you from Emborios down to the crater – and this magnificent crater is the next place on our itinerary.
When you think of the Nisyros volcano most will automatically think of the Stefanos crater that sits below the mountain villages of Nikia and Emborios. Stefanos is the one of the largest geothermal craters in the world and it certainly feels ‘other worldly’. Although Stefanos ceased magmatic activity thousands of years ago, it is still considered an active volcano. A sloping path takes you down to the crater floor. Parts of the crater floor are cordoned off where the ground is spongy under foot. You don’t need to look far before you see the spouts of hot steam coming from the fumeroles. The mouths of the fumeroles are covered with crystalised sulpher that makes them look like they are encrusted with jewels. A slight smell of sulpher is in the air.
Although this will be my fourth visit to the large crater of Stefanos, I have not visited the smaller craters that form part of the crater field within the caldera – in fact I didn’t know they existed until Marilyn told us about them and showed us their location on the map.
They are easy to find but are a fair hike up the mountain – or it feels like that in the midday sun! In fact it should take about 20 minutes to reach them from the visitor centre. There are no signs for the smaller craters but if you stand at the shelter of the visitor centre with your back to Nikia and the car park to your right you will see a path that leads up the side of the mountain in front of you.
After a slow amble up the mountain we arrive at the two craters (that I think are called Polyvotis and Small Polyvotis) that sit side by side. They appear quite deep and not ones that you can walk down into.
Not satisfied with the trek up to the craters my family peeps decide to continue further up, scrambling over loose volcanic rock as they went!
After returning back down to the car park we take the road up to the mountain village of Nikia perched on the edge of the caldera and which for me is always the highlight of a trip to Nisyros. From the edge of the village there are several viewing points where you get the most spectacular views over the volcano and also over to the coast. You can almost imagine that the huge lava plugs that sit like gigantic hangingrocks are in fact petrified monsters of the caldera.
The streets of Nikia are really pretty and centre around Porta, the main square in the village. The square is circular (if you know what I mean) and the hokaklia pebble mosaic flooring is an excellent example of the art. The church Eisodion tis Theotokou (Presentation of the Virgin Mary) is one of the most attractive little churches I’ve seen. Also on the square are two restaurants – Kafenion Tou Nikola and Kafenion Porta. We decide to eat at Kafenion Porta for sentimentality’s sake. The owner was always a character and I’m glad to hear that although he has retired his family continue to run the business. The menu and the presentation of the food certainly looks more modern – moving with the times I guess.
Nikia is just one of those villages that you just need to just lose yourself in – wander the streets and alleyways. Thankfully no signs of the hunters and their barking dogs at the moment!
Afternoon is upon us already and we decide to head off to the coast to the village of Pali. As we descend the mountain we stop for a photo opportunity where there is a great view over the port of Mandraki. We are not the only ones who were taken with this view. An elderly Greek man and his nephew are also admiring the view. The older man tells me he is visiting from Rhodes and insists on taking a photograph of me with my family – looking at his camera he is a keen photographer too!
We were able to park close to the harbour in Pali and we weren’t the only people to descend upon the seaside village. Several small boats were in the process of mooring to the quayside and unloading rifles and other paraphernalia – more hunters arriving on the island!
We didn’t stay in Pali very long. Just enough time to walk along the harbour to the old abandoned thermal spas. The spas here on Nisyros were said to have been endorsed by Hippocrates for their healing powers.
As the final part of our whistle stop tour we decide to visit the Panagia Kira monastery which I read offer fabulous views over from the top of the mountain. We should have actually done this on the way back down from Nikia, but Nisyros is a small island so it isn’t a problem. As we head up the mountain again the roads become more narrow and very steep with several hair pin bends. We get lost and have to turn back on ourselves several times. At one point we come to a dead end at a church where there are no signs of life except motorbikes with empty gun covers draped over them. We suspected that we may be close to one of the hunting grounds so decide to call it quits and head back to Mandraki. On the way down the mountain we catch sight of the Kastro and Monastery of Panagia Spiliani and unfortunately this is as close as we will get on this trip.
Close by to the hotel we come across a dog tied up to a refuse bin. There was a container of water but it hadn’t been left where the dog could reach it. We made sure it got some water before we left. I have no issue with hunting for partridge but I’m not very impressed with the treatment of the dogs.
It is now late afternoon and we decide to head back to the Haritos Hotel to test out the geothermal pool. The geothermal pool is open to the public – it is free for us as residents and 5 euros per person for non residents. There is nobody at the pool so we have it all to ourselves. The water is very warm but one thing I remember from last time I was here (7 years ago) is do NOT wear your best swimwear. The water from the geothermal pool will stain your clothes and towels orangey brown and the stains do not come out. Oh – and don’t wear silver jewellery either – it will turn black.
This is a lovely way to relax after what has been a hectic day.
We’ve had a lovely day in Nisyros though ideally we would have had another day here. Unfortunately the ferry schedules don’t permit. We head off into the chora for an evening meal. There has definitely been a bit of remodelling in the village with new shops including an attractive cafe and gelateria right in the middle of the main street. One of my favourite places to eat in Mandraki is Vegos Restaurant underneath the giant netted tree. The food and the hospitality here is always good.
We barely have time to look around the village which is such a shame but our ferry leaves for Tilos at 7.40am tomorrow so off to bed we go!