Kalymnos

When you catch your first glimpse of Kalymnos you’ll notice one breathtaking vista that overshadows everything else – Kalymnos’ craggy, exotic-looking sheer-faced cliffs kissed by a blue-green, crystal-clear sea. And in that instant you’ll witness a landscape that symbolizes everything this Aegean island offers visitors and everything that has shaped the locals’ lives, traditions, history – and their future.

Because despite Kalymnos’ stark rugged aridness punctuated by lone trees that almost impossibly cling to cliffs, it is within this rough wildness that you’ll find a richness and generosity of culture, eco-sports and hospitality that will astound you. And all of a sudden, Kalymnos’ rough landscape transforms itself into a soft touch that will welcome you into its fold – and into its beautiful contradictions.

Part of the Dodecanese island complex, Kalymnos is still a jealously well-hidden jewel nestled between the ever-popular holiday destinations of Rhodes and Kos. And it’s right there for you to discover – once you’re in on its secrets. If you want the best of traditional Greek hospitality combined with adrenaline-spiked sports, hikes that make you feel like you alone are exploring an untouched, sun-caressed landscape, and the possibility to discover beautiful seascapes with some of the best divers in the world, then you’ve found your own personal custom-made corner of paradise. Cliffs dripping with stalactites offer an unparalleled rock-climbing experience that has become a world-famous destination for the top names in the sport. A multitude of caves lies in wait for you to find during your hikes across the island. Pastel-colored traditional homes huddle around winding alleys that snake through the island’s towns and charming villages. And along the length of its coast Kalymnos unrolls a tapestry of sparkling white-pebble or black-sand shores caressed by azure waters that will forever tempt you off your path to take a break and run in for a dip.

Photo: gertrudis2010

And always, no matter where your adventures take you in Kalymnos, you’ll be surrounded by the island’s rugged mountains above you and serenaded by the siren-sound of Aegean waves below. Because these two forces are what created the beauty of Kalymnos and its people – a beauty that will become a part of you once you get a taste of island life in Kalymnos and the love of life shared by all its natives. This island’s rich history was forged by the mountains and the sea with nothing fertile in between. Faced by an almost hostile landscape for agriculture, the Kalymniotes turned to the sea and sea-sponge diving. And now, millennia after the time when Homer first spoke of Kalymnos and its sponge-industry, the Kalymniotes look to the mountains and rock-climbing for a future as a world-famous eco-destination.

Knights Templar, sponge-dancers, churches – stories folded within towns and villages

Are you in search of a traditional, authentic Greek island experience? One that makes you feel like a local? If that’s the case, if you’re looking for the “real thing”, then look no further than Kalymnos. This beautiful island clings to its uniqueness and stubbornly defies the latest trends. Woven through the multitude of pastel-colored two-storey homes that crawl up the mountains they’re cozily hugged between are whispers of the island’s past: glimpses of the Knights Templar in the stunning architecture, statues and traditional dances in town squares that honor the island’s famous sponge divers, neoclassical mansions belonging to shipping magnates, and churches built from shipping fortunes. Kalymnos offers it all to you along with the locals’ unlimited warmth and hospitality.

Begin by exploring the village of Vathis – because here you’ll find Kalymnos’ only lush-green oasis and Greece’s only fjord. Located 11 km from Pothia, the island’s capital, this little-known and even less-visited village lies within orange, lemon and tangerine groves that give the otherwise arid island swaths of deep-green color. If you’re a hiker, take the day to explore the groves – and pop into the multitude of churches that dot the valley. The breath-taking murals that decorate these churches will definitely reward you. Follow this beautiful valley as it gives way to a stunning sea-water canal that in turn ends in a little harbor that offers visitors the option of wrapping up their hike with a canal-side stop at a quaint taverna. If you’re in the mood to explore the village, pop into the local shipyard or in a few of the many shops.

If you’re an architecture buff, take your time and get lost in the many winding alleys of Pothia. Built between two mountains, the island’s capital is a living museum where you’ll be able to follow the  history of Kalymnos through its buildings. Here you’ll see the vestiges of the Knights Templar’s in coats-of-arms, municipal buildings built in Venetian style and finally opulent neoclassical mansions. Take a tour through the Vouvalis family mansion for a peek into the life of Kalymnos’ affluent shipping families. Then make your way to the harbor that doubles as another living museum of nautical history. You’ll be able to see fine examples of all kinds of ships and boats that are part of the largest fleet in the Aegean. If the sea fascinates you, drop by the shipyard and ask for a tour. You won’t regret it! If you’re into castles and their allure, venture outside the town and visit the island’s two castles, the Castle of 9 Churches and the Castle of Hrisoherias, along with the three gorgeous stone windmills that stand between them.

Photo: Tomisti

As you meander through Pothia and other villages, talk to the locals. Let them regale you with their sea-faring stories and legends. Because if you want to understand the heart and soul of Kalymnos, you’ll have to let yourself get swept away by the Kalymniotes’ strong links to the sea and sponge-diving. Ask the Kalymniotes about the Sfougarades (the sponge divers) and you’ll see the island in an entirely different light. Sponge-diving established Kalymnos as a shipping and exporting force, and from the age of Homer the Kalymniotes retrieved and processed the best sponges in the Mediterranean. Their fame reached the shores of Russia and Western Europe. With a scarcity of fertile land for agriculture, it was this lucrative business that helped the islanders survive and built the island’s homes and churches. But it all came at a cost – the very lives of the island’s sons were often claimed by decompression sickness. Except despite the risks, these young men braved the dangers as a matter of honor. They pressed on to honor their own name, their family’s livelihood, and their island’s fame and fortune. Contests were held for the best divers. Statues throughout the towns and villages were sculpted in memory of the fallen.

And a very unique dance native to Kalymnos was choreographed to praise their courage. As you walk through the villages, wait for this stunning performance. Men in black trousers and white shirts fill the squares for the Horo ton Mihanikon (the Dance of Divers). These men represent the healthy divers who gather to dance before a crumpled, doubled-over man who sits to the side. At one point, this lone dancer stands, pushes himself up on his cane and hobbles over to join the others. Acting the part of a sponge diver struck and crippled by decompression sickness, he tries to keep up but falls. Yet he waves off help from the others and stands on his own to complete the dance as a healthy man. Because this is how the Kalymniotes continue to honor the struggles and courage of their fallen sponge divers who gave up their lives for their island.

Photo: sylogoskalymnion.blogspot.com

A world-class destination for adrenalin junkies

Rock climbers, divers, hikers and mountain bikers – you’ll come to believe the Greek gods put this island on this earth for you alone. Because your adrenalin spike will rarely let up.

If there’s one sport that’s emblematic of what Kalymnos has to offer, it’s rock-climbing. The island’s rugged terrain is made up of limestone mountains and cliffs, dotted with stalactites and caves that make the climb more than interesting. If you’re a rock-climbing aficionado and seasoned professional, you’re in good company as the top names in the sport swarm the island’s cliffs each year, looking for a real challenge. If you’re a beginner, you’re in luck as Kalymnos’ mountains offer a multitude of easier climbs that can be undertaken under the watchful eye of experienced instructors. And either way, with over 80 routes for all levels, you’ll find the perfect climb for you and be rewarded by absolutely stunning views when you reach the top.

Photo: alpguide

And with all these hills and mountains, if you’re a hiker or mountain-biker you’ll be tempted to either walk or cycle your way around the island. There are no mapped out routes, which is exactly what makes Kalymnos so special for all you adrenalin junkies. You’ll feel as if you’re the first to discover each tucked-away chapel on pebbled mountain-side paths, each hidden cove and sandy beach, each breath-taking sea vista. Take this once-in-a-lifetime chance to feel like a true adventurer and do a little bit of sight-seeing during your trek. Explore some of the island’s 50 caves. Stop by Kalymnos’ archaeological gems, including the site of Daliou Apollo and Christ of Jerusalem. Seek out the island’s two castles and admire the set of three stone windmills that will take you back to another era.

Divers will revel in Kalymnos’ clear waters and colorful marine life. This island’s illustrious diving history has yielded some of the best divers in Greece – and they’ll be more than willing to take you to some of the best diving sites around Kalymnos. Famed for its extremely clear waters, you’ll be able to explore sea-caves, shipwrecks and stunning reefs. The country’s only state-run diving school is in Kalymnos, and the island boasts a large number of diving schools that assist and train divers of all levels. So go ahead, feel like a true Kalymniote and get lost in the deep blue sea that’s become a lot like a second home to most of the locals.

Thermal springs, stunning beaches, and unique shopping

After action-packed days that will leave you breathless but happy, you’ll need some quality rest and relaxation. And what’s special about Kalymnos is that you’ll be able to do this within a peaceful setting that will make you feel like a local.

Begin to unwind by taking a leisurely swim in the waters that flow into the sea from a natural thermal spring at Therma. Famed for its therapeutic qualities, the sea at Therma beach is perfect for a quiet family outing or a laid-back swim. Trees offer much-needed shade, while those who can’t tear themselves away from more athletic activities will find Therma’s little jetty perfect for refreshing dives into blue-green waters.

But this isn’t the only beach that will entice you in Kalymnos – in fact, you’ll be tempted to tour the island just to take a dip in as many of these stunning beaches as possible. And you shouldn’t expect anything less from an island whose name in Ancient Greek meant “beauty of the sea”. If you can’t imagine anything more thrilling than swimming right under Kalymnos’ dramatic cliffs, then make sure you explore the hidden coves near Therma. If you’d love a more exotic feel to the beach, then take a swim at Platis Ialos where blue-green waves lap up against a shore of thick black volcanic sand. And this isn’t the only thing that will astound you here – big volcanic boulders dot the water and double as perfect springboards for diving enthusiasts. And all you water sports fans will surely become regulars at Kalymnos’ most popular beaches, Masouri and Melitsahas. Masouri beach also offers swimmers a unique view as they enjoy their refreshing dip in its crystal-clear waters – Kalymnos’ tallest rocks.

Photo: mawieser

And before you head to one of the island’s many quaint tavernas for dinner, take a stroll through the streets and select some local products to take back with you. Sea-sponges, honey, and sesame-sprinkled rusks are all highly-prized. If you’re fascinated by Kalymnos’ sponge-diving history, you can take a tour of one of the family-owned sponge-processing workshops. And of course let the men sweep you away with their tales of the sea.

The cliffs and the sea – this is what Kalymnos is all about. Fall into the arms of these two extremes and let them embrace you. Climb the mountains of Kalymnos and touch the bright-blue Greek sky above. Then take in the view and look to the sea below. Dive into the Aegean’s blue-green depths and explore this underwater heaven. And when you’ve experienced both, you’ll carry a little bit of what being a true native of Kalymnos is all about.

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Location - Kalymnos

Kefalas Cave (Northwest Kalymnos, in Pothia)

After a short hike to the cave’s location after a boat ride, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to admire one of the most beautiful caves in Kalymnos, dripping with stalactites. Legend has it that the nuns of Saint Catherine Monastery discovered it but kept it a secret because of a rumored treasure stored there by pirates. Archaeological evidence found here suggests it was a site of worship for Olympiou Dios.

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Palionisos beach (near Palionisos)

Very quiet and secluded, it’s perfect for some solitary swimming. It’s a favorite of the locals and once you dive into its blue-green waters it will no doubt become your favorite as well.

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Platis Gialos beach (near Panormo)

This gorgeous black-sand beach leads to blue-green waters and will make you feel like you’ve gone to an exotic island. The volcanic rocks and boulders dotting the sea will give you some exploring to do.

Find Out More

Kefalas Cave (Northwest Kalymnos, in Pothia)

After a short hike to the cave’s location after a boat ride, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to admire one of the most beautiful caves in Kalymnos, dripping with stalactites. Legend has it that the nuns of Saint Catherine Monastery discovered it but kept it a secret because of a rumored treasure stored there by pirates. Archaeological evidence found here suggests it was a site of worship for Olympiou Dios.

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If you’re a diving fanatic, or if learning how to dive and exploring the intoxicating seascape has been a life-long dream, Kalymnos is the ideal vacation spot for you.

Renowned in the diving community for its extremely clear and current-free waters, Kalymnos offers a number of diving spots that include reefs, seacaves and shipwrecks while the extremely high visibility of the sea will make the beauty of the marine ecosystem even more stunning.

Popular diving spots include Vathis, Agios Andreas and Kalavros reefs, the Thor Star shipwreck off nearby Pserimos island, and Vlichadia Cove seacave. Once you’re down there, Kalymnos’ marine life will make you feel like you’re exploring a tropical island, as the sheer number of colorful corals, sponges and fish in truly amazing.

Photo: Visit Greece

There is no better way to end a busy and exciting day of hiking, swimming and rock-climbing than by finding a quaint little taverna by the sea to enjoy a traditional Kalymniot dinner. Family-run establishments will wow you with the sheer number of dishes that promise to satisfy everyone’s preferences.

Photo: livetotravelandtaste.com

Vegetarians will relish chick-pea based dishes along with the salad that’s famous on the island. Kalymnos’ iconic salad is a twist on the traditional Greek salad as locals top the usual salad fare with very crisp bread that’s been dipped in extra-virgin olive oil. Another version of the Kalymniot salad is Myrmitzeli, which is a salad made with grilled eggplant, cucumber, tomatoes and anchovies topped with whole-wheat rusks.

Photo: www.funkycook.gr

Hikers, you have found your heaven on earth. Kalymnos’ wild, rugged landscape combined with its pristine isolation and serenity will offer you days full of exploration.

Although there aren’t any organized routes – which means you should always hike with an experienced companion and always be prepared – the sheer number of mountains, hills and valleys will give you countless routes that you yourself will map out. And you’ll feel like you’re on your own, forging ahead in places and paths no one else has ever explored.

If you like to combine hiking with sight-seeing or swimming, you’re in luck! Take in some of Kalymnos’ archaeological sites, including the Castle of Chrysoheria, the site of Ancient Damos or the Sanctuary of Dalios Apollo. Then, when you’re ready for a refreshing swim, take a dip in one of the island’s isolated but absolutely stunning coves. Afterwards, keep on hiking to explore a number of tiny chapels that border fields or farms. You’ll be amazed at the beauty inside despite their tiny size.

Photo: visit-kalymnos.gr

If there’s one thing about this island that you’ll understand as soon as you see it, is that Kalymnos might as well be synonymous with rock climbing.

Showcasing countless routes for all levels, Kalymnos has become a top destination for rock-climbers all over the world, attracting over 2000 athletes each year. The island’s mild climate and ideal limestone mountains and crags make this the perfect holiday spot for adrenalin junkies and you’ll often find the top names in rock-climbing gearing up right beside you.

Photo: Alpguide

If you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to train in the top rock-climbing spot in Europe under the supervision of qualified, certified teachers while if you’re an experienced climber you’ll relish the challenges the island’s ranges offer. In fact, rock-climbing is quickly becoming the island’s future – despite the fact that for centuries the mountains made life for the locals very difficult. It all began in 1997 when a group of Italian rock-climbers first came to Kalymnos and mapped out over 40 routes. The local municipality took over from there and, along with Greek climbers, mapped out over 1400 routes, most bolted with fixed anchors.

There are a number of very popular routes and ranges, including Grande Grotta, Arhi Palati, Spartacus and Odyssia. Climb the crags of Kalymnos and you’ll be rewarded with stalactite-framed views of a stunningly beautiful Aegean sea. Keep in mind that it does get very hot in Kalymnos in the summer.

Photo: Alpguide

Melitsahas, Myrties, and Masouri villages are the rock-climbers’ favorite hangouts, so head that way to find fellow adrenalin junkies and to sample the famous hospitality of Kalymnos. The locals always give rock-climbers the warmest of welcomes.

If you’re looking to be reinvigorated between your adrenalin-spiked adventures climbing the island’s mountains or exploring Kalymnos’ underwater heaven, then head to Therma’s natural thermal springs close to the harbor in Pothia.

This natural thermal spa is a favorite among those who also visit it for medical purposes, as its waters reportedly ease the pain associated with arthritis.

For more information, please contact the Municipality of Kalymnos tel. +30 22430 59141

Photo: kalymnosweb.gr

Kalymnos is the island of divers, swimmers and sailors – and they have some of the most beautiful beaches you can imagine to nurture their love of the sea. In fact, the island’s name in Ancient Greek meant “beauty of the sea.” You’ll find out why very soon, and swimming and exploring Kalymnos’ gorgeous beaches will quickly become two of your favorite activities.

Photo: Gertrudis2010

Apitikou beach (near Emborio)

This secluded, almost tucked-away beach is perfect if you like to feel like you’re the only person in the world. Its pebbly shore and clear blue waters will reward you for your half-hour hike there.

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Cassonia beach (near Pothia)

This beautiful, family-friendly beach is the closest to the island’s biggest town. Have fun and dive from the jetty!

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Gefira beach (near Pothia)

If you’ve always dreamt of swimming in the shadows of the cliffs, then this is the beach for you. The aquamarine water is stunning and the dramatic rock formations and boulders that you can swim around will impress you.

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Kandouni and Linaria beaches (near Panormo)

These twin beaches offer the best of both worlds – an active crowd and a quieter family atmosphere. One is pebbly and the other sandy but the water in both is so inviting you won’t want to get out.

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Palionisos beach (near Palionisos)

Very quiet and secluded, it’s perfect for some solitary swimming. It’s a favorite of the locals and once you dive into its blue-green waters it will no doubt become your favorite as well.

Find Out More

Platis Gialos beach (near Panormo)

This gorgeous black-sand beach leads to blue-green waters and will make you feel like you’ve gone to an exotic island. The volcanic rocks and boulders dotting the sea will give you some exploring to do.

Find Out More

Therma beach (near Therma)

The water from the thermal spring that runs into the sea makes a swim here not only fun but also therapeutic. Sparkling pebbles, blue-green waves and a dock for diving make this a favorite.

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Kefalas Cave (Northwest Kalymnos, in Pothia)

After a short hike to the cave’s location after a boat ride, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to admire one of the most beautiful caves in Kalymnos, dripping with stalactites. Legend has it that the nuns of Saint Catherine Monastery discovered it but kept it a secret because of a rumored treasure stored there by pirates. Archaeological evidence found here suggests it was a site of worship for Olympiou Dios.

Find Out More

Palionisos beach (near Palionisos)

Very quiet and secluded, it’s perfect for some solitary swimming. It’s a favorite of the locals and once you dive into its blue-green waters it will no doubt become your favorite as well.

Find Out More

Platis Gialos beach (near Panormo)

This gorgeous black-sand beach leads to blue-green waters and will make you feel like you’ve gone to an exotic island. The volcanic rocks and boulders dotting the sea will give you some exploring to do.

Find Out More

Kalymnos boasts a rich and varied archaeological history, with evidence that suggests settlement began in the Neolithic Era and Early Bronze Age. After joining the Athenian League and then falling to the Persians, Kalymnos was liberated by Alexander the Great.

The island flourished during the Hellenistic age and then went on to embrace early Christianity, with a number of early churches being built in Kalymnos. Part of the Byzantine Empire, it was fortified with the castle in Chora while another castle was built under the Knights of the Order of Saint John.

Photo: www.golden-greece.gr

This beautiful island boasts two castles that played an integral part in its history. If you’re an avid archaeology fan, exploring these two sites will also offer you a glimpse into Kalymnos’ Ancient and Medieval past.

If you want to experience these castles chronologically, begin at the Great Castle of the Nine Chapels, also called Megalo Kastro or Paleochora, near Chora. Built in the Middle Byzantium and rebuilt by the Knights Templar, the ruins of this archaeological site offer you a glimpse all the way back to the 4thC BC through to the 15thC AD. The Great Castle played an important role in offering the Kalymniotes refuge and shelter during pirate raids, while the nine chapels gave the terrified locals the religious sanctuary to pray until the pirates retreated. Take the time to admire the wood-carved altar in the Church of Panagia Keharitomeni within the castle grounds and then climb the 200 steps to admire the stunning view of Pothia from here.

Photo: Κλαίρη Μουσταφέλλου

The Castle of Chrysoheria, also called Pera Kastro near Chora, was built by the Knights Templar in the 15thC. This not-to-be-missed site features the remains of Kalymnos’ medieval past. Seek out the coats-of-arms belonging to the Knights Templar, then explore the Church of Panagia Chrysoheria and try to guess where a rumored hoard of gold coins was found under its floors. In fact, this entire castle and the church itself were both named after this unearthed gold treasure – Panagia Chrysoheria means “Virgin of the Golden Hands.” If you enjoy religious architecture, explore the other chapels embraced by the castle walls.

All you spelunkers out there will be thrilled to know that Kalymnos is one of the most cave-rich islands in the Dodecanese. The limestone mountains throughout the island provided the perfect backdrop for the formation of caves – most of which you’ll have to explore on your own, so always be prepared and always ask the locals for tips and directions. And always visit caves with an experienced spelunker.

Photo: Alpguide

Take some time out from sports and sun-filled days to step into one of the many stunning churches and monasteries in Kalymnos. Admire the works of art you’ll find inside, from beautiful hand-crafted wood altars to masterfully painted icons and murals. Spirituality is a large part of everyday life in Kalymnos, and the locals celebrate by organizing religious festivals on the days of their patron saints.

Photo: Georgia Tsirigoti

Kalymnos’ landmarks all reflect the island’s seafaring history along with the men that died or were injured while sponge-diving.

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