Nisyros: to the top of the world and underground into the distant past

Saturday, hunters popping away from early morning, I headed for the central block of mountains to keep out of the way of stray bullets.  It worked, none came my way despite seeing men with rifles roaming the terraces nearby.

I climbed Oros Diavatis again, at just short of 700 metres the highest mountain on Nisyros.  Once again it was cloudless and, with barely any breeze, it was hot going.  The views from the top are great but on Saturday augmented by a strange weather phenomenon.  The distant sky was almost opalescent blue and there were low-level clouds on Kos to the north and Tilos to the south, and the odd wisp of cloud below Nikia on the opposite side of caldera rim.  Ethereal.

Cloud on Kos and a strange light

Looking south across Nikia to Tilos

To the east, terraced fields to the top of the adjacent mountain and the lava bubble bottom right

After enjoying being on top of the world for a while I headed back down and took a high level path which serves as the ‘back entrance’ to the Nifios caldera.  The intention on Saturday was to spend time looking at the evidence of older settlement there.

Set into the side of the caldera there is a tiny underground church built underneath an outcrop of lava with a central stone pillar.  It is thought that this predates the Christian era and was probably a pagan shrine in the distant past.  Now it has two tiny stone altars on one of which someone left a bottle of wine many years ago, still there though with the label not so intact, and more recently a bottle of olive oil.   The church is furnished with candles and matches for the faithful to light in prayer so it is obviously still visited.

Rock crag with carved holes for wooden beams: maybe Neolithic

Entrance to the underground church: the door is less than a metre high and inside steps drop steeply about 6 feet

Inside the church with its central pillar

The two alters in the church

Minoan ‘Horns of Consecration’ at the entrance to the settlement

The main settlement of Nifios set into the rocks


After mooching around Nifios for a while it was back down to Mandraki and a very welcome swim.  It seemed hotter on Saturday than for a while.  I don’t know what happened to Autumn.  Fine by me.

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