• Home
  • Blog
  • The Ultimate Guide to Nisyros
Guide to Nisyros: village of Nikia

The Ultimate Guide to Nisyros

Updated July 2023

One of the smallest Dodecanese Islands, Nisyros sits between Rhodes and Kos. This tranquil island is largely off the beaten track and has a quaint, retro atmosphere and a wild, natural beauty.

At the heart of Nisyros is its imposing volcano. The centre of the island is dominated by the desolate lunar-esque landscape, streaked with neon yellow and dotted with spitting fumaroles. The volcano influences every aspect of Nisyros, from the dramatic black sand beaches to thermal hot springs and the captivating volcanic energy that reverberates around the island.

While the island is popular with day-trippers enticed by the volcano, there’s more to discover by staying a little longer. To find out more about this enchanting place, here’s our ultimate guide to Nisyros.

Guide to Nisyros Mythology & History

Whether you believe mythology or science, it’s undeniable that Nisyros had a rather violent beginning! According to myth, the island was created during the war between the Olympian Gods and the Titans. Poseidon, God of the Sea, caught the Titan, Polyvotis, close to Kos. Poseidon tore off a chunk of Kos with his trident and hurled it at the giant, trapping him forever under the lump of rock. This lump of rock, according to mythology, became the island of Nisyros.

Modern science provides a different explanation. An underwater volcano started to emerge from the sea about 150,000 years ago. A series of magmatic eruptions over the next 135,000 years led to the formation of the island we see today.

Nisyros has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and was noted in Homer’s Iliad as being one of the contributing forces to the siege of Troy.

The island flourished during the 5th and 4th centuries BC under the Dorians, when it was part of the Delian League. Its turbulent history saw it conquered by the Macedonians and Roman Empire, before a series of pirate invasions led to the Knights of St John of Rhodes occupying the island and building up its fortifications.

Nisyros fell under Ottoman rule in 1522, and there it remained until the Italian Occupation in 1912. After the Second World War, it was reunited with the Greek State in 1948, along with the other Dodecanese Islands.

Things to Do in Nisyros

Walk in the Volcanic Crater

The crater of the volcano in Nisyros – Photo Credit: Helen Simonsson

The youngest active volcano in the Aegean, Nisyros may not make headlines for its pyrotechnics with no magmatic activity for thousands of years and the last hydrothermal eruption in 1888. But this potentially active volcano has an impressive three-kilometre wide caldera, dotted with yellow-streaked craters filled with bubbling mud pits, hissing fumaroles and the unmistakable rotten-egg stench of sulphur.

There are around 10 craters, each individually named. Stefanos and the aptly named Polyvotis are two of the largest and most impressive.

A geopark has been established in the southeast of the island, and a Volcanic App launched aimed at helping visitors to explore this unique landscape through digital maps, videos and high quality images. This is part of the island’s application to achieve UNESCO Geopark status for this intriguing place.

Explore the Ancient Acropolis of Paleokastro

The ancient acropolis of Nisyros, Paleokastro peers over Mandraki from its hilltop location. Dating from the Classical and Hellenistic periods, its massive black Cyclopean walls built from volcanic stone are some of the most impressive fortifications of their kind in the Aegean. There are fantastic views over Mandraki from its summit.

See the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani

The Monastery of Panagia Spiliani is the religious centre of the island. Located above the wild black beach at Mandraki, the largest part of the monastery is set within a cave. The main church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, while the adjacent chapel celebrates Agios Charalambos.

The main festival takes places in August, with nine days of celebrations between 6th and 15th.

Bathe in Hot Mineral Springs at Loutra

Thanks to the volcano, Nisyros has hot mineral springs bubbling in several locations. Perhaps the most famous are the thermal spas at Loutra, just outside Mandraki. Founded during the 19th century, only one of the original three baths remains in use, but its waters are said to have therapeutic properties for sufferers of arthritis, rheumatism and various skin diseases.

Go Hiking

Nisyros is a hiker’s dream with over 40 paths straddling the island, ranging from pleasant strolls to more challenging day walks. One of the most beautiful walks starts from the Monastery of Evangelistria and winds upwards to Nifios, the highest point on the island and home to the Monastery of Prophet Elias.

The Nisyros Geopark app details 10 hiking routes of varying lengths and difficulties, which pass through zones of geological interest in the southeast of the island.

Visit the Island’s Museums

There are four museums on Nisyros, each detailing a different aspect of the island. The Volcanological Museum of Nisyros is located in a former school in the village of Nikia, detailing everything you want to know about the island’s volcanic past.

The rest are in Mandraki: an archaeological museum with exhibits from pre-historic to post-Byzantine periods; a Folklore Museum that shows traditional life on the island over the years; and an Ecclesiastical Museum in the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani.

Excursion to the Island of Gyali

Located partway between Nisyros and Kos, Gyali is a small, thin islet formed over time by volcanic eruptions from Nisyros. Composed almost entirely from pumice, it’s an important source for this material and also shelters obsidian deposits, its name coming from the Greek for glass.

With a mere handful of inhabitants, it’s a quiet place with a wild, desolate beauty and a rich archaeological past dating back to Neolithic times. Take a day trip from Nisyros to explore the island and enjoy some downtime on its wonderful beaches.

Guide to Nisyros Villages

There are no large towns on Nisyros, only a handful of tiny villages spread around the coast and strung along the rim of the volcanic crater. Here’s our guide to the villages of Nisyros.


The island’s capital, Mandraki is a sleepy port town and authentic Greek village. Pretty, whitewashed houses with wooden balconies and colourful doors and window frames rub shoulders with small grocery stores along atmospheric cobblestone alleys. Ilikiomeni (Old Women’s) Square is the heart of the village and a great spot to sip ouzo and munch mezedes.

There’s a folklore museum in Mandraki, while the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani and Paleokastro watch over it. Sunset is a special time when the entire village turns golden as the sun dips below the horizon.


Picturesque Nikia clings to the rim of the caldera, and is said to be the island’s most beautiful village.

With its elegant elliptical shape and cobblestone mosaic floor, Porta Square is the heart of Nikia and home to the stunning church, Agios Ioannis Theologos, which has panoramic views into the volcanic craters from its bell tower.

Nikia is also home to the only volcanology museum in Greece, with fascinating displays about Nisyros and other Greek volcanoes.


A mountainous village on the northeast of Nisyros, Emborios was destroyed in the 1933 earthquake, but is today regarded as the heart of the island. Built on layers of lava, ash and pumice, this traditional village is home to the medieval castle of Pantoniki and the Taxiarhis Church with its rich frescoes.

The inspiring volcanic energy and incredible volcano views make this a popular spot with artists. The Sterna Art Project is based here, while volcanic activity has created a natural sauna in the cave of Panagia Listiriotissa at the village entrance.


A picturesque fishing village on the north of the island, Pali hugs the curve of the natural bay. A favourite spot for yachts with a sandy beach backed by tamarisk trees, it’s home to Hippocratic baths and the church of Panagia Thermiani.

Guide to the Best Beaches in Nisyros

While Nisyros isn’t known for its beaches, its coastline has a wild, untamed quality fringed by some beautiful, unique beaches with black and red sand and pebbles. In general, the beaches of Nisyros aren’t organised, so ensure you take your own sun umbrella and water. Here’s our guide to Nisyros beaches.


The closest beach to Mandraki, Hohlaki sits below the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani. It has a dramatic beauty with large black pebbles and crystal-clear waters. You’ll probably want to take some shade – and don’t forget your camera!


The island’s only white-sand beach, Pali is on the north coast of Nisyros. Stretching around four kilometres, there a row of tamarisk trees for shade and a handful of tavernas.


Also spelt as Lyes, Lies is around a kilometre of inlets, coves and caves on the east coast, with a single taverna. Perfect for a spot of escapism.

Pachia Ammos

Often called the best beach on the island, Pachia Ammos is a black-sand beach on the east coast that’s completely unspoilt. It’s also one of the more difficult to get to, requiring a downhill scramble – but it’s well worth the effort!


Head to the southern tip of the island for an unusual swimming spot at the deserted harbour town of Avlaki. Here lava sculptures from ancient volcanic eruptions meet the sea, resulting in natural hot springs.

Getting to Nisyros

As a small island, Nisyros doesn’t have its own airport, so you’ll need to travel to the island by ferry. If you’re up for an adventure, you can fly into Athens and hop on a ferry from Piraeus, though this will take around 14 hours so it’s best to book a cabin.

Alternatively you can fly to Rhodes or Kos and catch a ferry from there. Both are busy international airports handling domestic flights from Athens as well as direct flights from a number of European countries.

Daily ferries run between Kos and Nisyros, and there are several ferries a week between Rhodes and Nisyros. If you book your holiday to Nisyros with Nissia Holidays, our local representatives can arrange for onwards travel to Nisyros from Rhodes or Kos.

Perhaps you’re one of our regular visitors to Halki or Tilos and want to explore Nisyros too? If so, we can arrange for a multi-centre holiday with Nisyros and one of our other unspoilt and authentic Dodecanese islands, taking care of all transport between the islands.


Nisyros has a typical southern Mediterranean climate. The shoulder months – April, May, September and October – are ideal for walking and exploring with lovely warm days and little rain.

In June, temperatures start to heat up, with August the hottest month.  Nisyros is perfect for long, lazy summer days, though make sure you have plenty of water and sun protection.

Where to Stay in Nisyros

Many visitors just come to Nisyros for the day to see the volcanic crater. But, as we’ve shown in our guide to Nisyros, this tiny island has so much more to offer. We believe it’s worth staying for longer to soak up the ambiance of this magical place and get to know the island once the day-trippers have departed.

Here at Nissia Holidays, we offer accommodation in the three main villages on the island: Mandraki, Emborios and Nikia. To find out more about staying on Nisyros, see our Nisyros accommodation page or get in touch.

For more information or to book your holiday to Nisyros, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: info@nissiaholidays.com.


Jo worked on Tilos in 2006, as the last Island Manager for Laskarina. She now runs a travel writing business and travel blog, The Wandering Wordsmith, and spends much of her year travelling. But Greece, especially Tilos, will always hold a special place in her heart.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *