September and perfect weather for trekking in the mountains on Nisyros. Cloudless sky. Refreshing breezes. Hunters with their dogs and guns not yet descended on the island. Nisyros has some of the most dramatic landscapes and treks in Greece – if you like walking around the inside of a volcano.
Circumstances meant that I was only back on the island for a week but in that time I covered a lot of ground. The intention is to post a blog on a number of the treks over the next few weeks. I tracked the routes using ‘Endomondo’ and a link to the videos created using ‘Relive’ will be given at the end. This isn’t a description of how to find the routes but a sample of interesting things to see on the way. Description of the routes is on the ‘Greek Island Walks’ page of this blog which is now a little old but the routes have changed very little: https://barrysramblings.com/greek-island-walks/
The first is a walk from Nikia, one of the two spectacular caldera-rim villages, now once more accessible thanks to the re-instatement of the island local bus, not operating when I was here in May. Description of how to find this route is at:
The short walk uphill from the square where the bus terminates to the main square of the village is as much as most on the trip-buses do. Enclosed by picturesque blue and white buildings, paved with black-and-white pebble mosaic ‘hochlakos’ patterning, enjoying a cold drink in the shade at one of the two kafenions looking up at the church tower is a great beginning to this route. Though the square is small with the church rising high above, it is somehow very pleasingly proportioned. I love the place and have to remind myself that it’s an 8-mile walk back to Mandraki or I would just sit there rotting.
Around the corner from the square is one of the viewpoints down to the Stephanos, Polyvotis and Alexandros craters over a thousand feet below, backed by Oros Diavatis, the highest mountain on the island. It’s a reminder that Nikia is perched on the rim of the caldera.
Drop down from the viewpoint to the edge of the village, turn right onto an old paved kalderimi and a number of deserted dwellngs are soon in evidence, some on their own, some clustered together, probably an extended family grouping. One of the larger groupings has a threshing circle on the roof of a house, a couple of sternas (traditional underground water storage tanks) and stone-walled enclosures with basins carved out of volcanic rock.
The path from here, foot-width narrow at first, is on the inside of the caldera looking straight down to the craters.
Having contoured around the caldera rim the narrow path suddenly becomes a well-paved kalderimi, dropping steeply down to a low col. Though well-paved, in places it is made rough-going by fallen stones from the hillside above.
At the low point in the caldera rim a steel pipe crosses from the crater to Agia Irini, a tiny harbour dating back to the early years of the 20th Century. Built by an Italian entrepreneur, for a few years the pipe was used to pump sulphur for export to the vineyards of the Mediterranean to combat disease afflicting crops, an industrial enterprise which failed. From the col, a bulldozed track offers another perspective on the craters along the 3-kilometre length of the caldera.
From the col the track, partly just bulldozed, partly concreted over, climbs steadily up to the monastery of Stavros, at one time a Crusader stronghold though now showing little evidence of that. One of the buildings, only open at festival time as far as I know, has portraits of the heroes of the Greek War of Independence, including the Maniot Mavro Mihalis (Black Michael) around its walls. This is the last point on the trek that looks down into the caldera.
The next mile is an uphill slog along a bulldozed track. It irritates me every time I walk it, knowing that it destroyed much of an old well-paved kalderimi in order to provide access for an abortive geothermal energy project. In places, winter rains wash away the superficial gravel to reveal the old paved surface beneath, nurturing a hope that more rains will clear it completely in subsequent years. A forlorn hope. In the weeks coming up to 14 September, the name day of Stavros, the main celebration on the island, a small bulldozer digs out more rubble to spread over the track.
The views from the track are not without interest, passing small churches, one built into the rock alongside a recently collapsed cave-dwelling, then looking across the broad expanse leading down the long, very tiring trek to what I dubbed ‘Dragon Coast’:
The track reaches a high point in the col from were a path leads to the ancient monastery of Siones: (https://barryh2.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/nisyros-walk-option-3.pdf )
From the col the relatively boring track drops another mile or so, though there are diversions to add some interest.
Thankfully, after a just over a mile, at the first hairpin on the track, a remnant of the kalderimi cuts off the bend and then, crossing the track, a longer section meanders down to rejoin the track near the Paleocastro. This section of the route is not as spectacular as that around the caldera rim but is very pleasant, much to be preferred to the bulldozed track.
Sadly, this year bulldozing of ‘repairs’ to the track before the Stavros festival meant that access to the main part of the old route has been badly damaged by rubble pushed over the edge. Just grit your teeth, pick a stable line and slither down the loose bank for a few yards onto the stone-paved kalderimi.
Apart from the paved kalderimi there are other reminders that this is an ancient landscape, not only long abandoned barrel-arch houses but also the occasional ‘erratic’, large stones re-used.
Fly over the route: