Patmos is the northernmost island of the Dodecanese complex and lies at a distance of 158 nautical miles from the port of Piraeus. The harmonious succession of its rocky hills, peaceful valleys and green meadows run down to a scene of beautiful lacy beaches, bays, natural harbors and capes. The amazing blue water surrounding it is dotted by many small isles. The most striking feature of the landscape is its tranquillity, which, combined with the remarkable historical sites, the famous Aegean sunlight and the pleasant Mediterranean climate, offers unique vacations.
Skala is the port of the island and its biggest settlement, full of life day and night. A variety of restaurants, traditional taverns, modern cafes and clubs, as well as numerous shops, is there for the visitor, as here lies the center of the action of Patmos.
An uphill road and an old picturesque steep path connect Skala, at sea level, with Chora, the island’s capital, a medieval settlement surrounding the historical Monastery of St. John at the top of a hill. No vehicles are allowed in the settlement, something that largely contributes to the tranquillity of the place.
Patmos an island with strong religious tradition dating back to Byzantine era, is considered as the “Sinai of the Aegean”, as there are four monasteries in total (in addition to St. John’s there is also the Monastery of the Revelation, the Nunnery of Annunciation or Evangelismos and the Convent of Zoodohos Pighi) all of them with great religious and historical interest, as well as the renowned Greek religious school “Patmiada Scholi”, having an excellent library with a great collection of old and rare books. Among its graduates were famous personalities of clergy and politicians. In Patmos is also the holy cave wherein St. John the Divine, in the first century BC, exiled in Patmos wrote the “Apocalypse”, dictated to him by God. The Cave is very atmospheric and a visit is suggested.
However, besides the religious interest, Patmos is a place attracting many tourists and visitors and offers a very lively nightlife. The island is also popular to many sophisticated and wealthy Greeks as well as numerous foreign persons, who have purchased and renovated traditional houses to use them for vacations. Some of these houses were featured a few times in international architectural and interior design magazines. There are good bars and night clubs in Skala, Chora, Grikos and Kambos and of-course restaurants and cafes. In Patmos, one can buy nice silver and gold jewels, local embroideries and crafts, clothes as well as souvenirs and memorabilia. The roads are fairly good.
Cave of Revelation
Patmos is one of the most important religious destinations in the world. The Greek state, in 1981, declared Patmos as a “Holy Island” by law, while in 1999 Unesco ranked Chora, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of Revelation at the World Heritage Sites. Patmos has been described as a “place of special natural beauty”.
It has won many and different awards from internationally recognized prestigious organizations. Patmos may not have the reputation of Mykonos or Santorini, but whoever comes will be back. One must once in his life see the sacred cave of the Apocalypse, where John the Evangelist wrote the book of Revelation in 95 AD.
The Monastery of St. John the Theologian, set like a crown on top of the settlement of Chora, is the island’s landmark. Its construction started in 1088, when the Byzantine emperor Alexios Comnenus the First granted the whole island to St. Christodoulos to organize a settlement for monastic purposes.
The holy monastery of St. John the Theologian has 10 chapels and 99 cells for the monks. It has a museum with rare ecclesiastical heirlooms and a library – without wondering – unique in the Balkans with 890 handwritten cards and 13,000 documents related to the history of the monastery. Patmos is a unique island that retains its traditional character.
There are many hotel units in the port (in the city of Skala) and in Grikos, Kampos and elsewhere. There are also rooms to let with high-quality service. They belong to a large extent to locals who are engaged in tourism and are trying to provide the best services. Patmos, however, has not been associated with very large hotel complexes. Indeed, the biggest ones you will find are 70 to 80 beds. There is City Planning and Archeology that control the situation, and a businessman who wants to invest in Patmos will do it under certain conditions.
History of Patmos
Patmos was at times colonized by the Dorians and thereafter followed the Ionians.
In the year 96 AD, the Evangelist Saint Jean the Theologue was banished in Patmos by the emperor Domitian for preaching the Gospel at Ephesus. In the island the Apostole Saint Jean wrote the Apokalypsis and he says in his prologue : “I dwelled in an island of which name is Patmos, as to preach the word of God and have faith in the martyrdom suffered by Jesus Christ”. The Saint applied to the Emperor of Byzantium Alexios Comninos 1st, who signed a did of gift by which he yielded to him the island of Patmos as to lead there His life of hermit.
Patmos experienced great prosperity thanks to the commercial contacts with Venetian Crete, while the first mansions around the monastery were built in the late 16th-early 17th century. In 1713 the famous Patmiad School was founded by the patriotic deacon and scholar Makarios Kalogera, who had studied in Constantinople.
The capital of the island, Patmos, is a traditional settlement, built by experienced craftsmen, with a technique that passed from father to son to give a set of elegance and nobility. The picture of the settlement consists of flat roofs, narrowly paved streets, with three small squares for breathing, staircases and dozens of churches.
The port and the largest settlement of the island, Skala, built in the homonymous bay, are the center of the economic and social activities of Patmos. At the beginning of the 17th century, only warehouses existed in the place of the modern settlement to serve the needs of commerce. The fear of the pirates kept the inhabitants away from the sea. Since the 19th century, when many families have settled here, Skala has begun to grow into a commercial and shipping center.
Monastery of St. John the Theologian
The Monastery of St. John the Theologian, set like a crown on top of the settlement of Chora, is the island’s landmark. Its construction started in 1088, when the Byzantine emperor Alexios Comnenus the First granted the whole island to St. Christodoulos to organize a settlement for monastic purposes. It was erected over the ruins of the ancient Temple of goddess Diane (Artemis). It is a building in the form of a medieval citadel with walls and battlements. It is decorated with fresco paints of an exceptional art belonging to various periods. It has also a wood curved temple of marvelous carpentry art. Inside the Monastery there are also eight small chapels with icons of Byzantine art of a high value.
He named the monastery and its fortress after the Evangelist John, who had written the book of Revelation on Patmos almost a thousand years before. By the 13th century the villagers, many of whom were descendants of the original builders and craftsmen of the complex and who were initially ordered to live far away from the monastery, were allowed to settle around it, not only to seek refuge from the pirates inside but also to defend it.
The monastery is constructed on five levels, is surrounded by impressive 15-meter walls and overlooks the whole island. The whole complex has, besides the monks’ cells around the main church called catholicon, ten more chapels and an exquisite museum with century-old religious objects, paintings, and manuscripts.
Halfway on the hill between Skala and Chora lies the Apocalypse Cave, where St. John the Evangelist wrote, according to tradition, the book of Revelation when in exile by emperor Domitianus. It was in this sacred cave where on one Sunday in his very old age John heard the voice of God and received the command to write about everything that was to be revealed to him.
During his initial vision, where the Lord appeared to him in all His Glory amidst seven golden lanterns, the enormous solid rock that formed the roof of the cage was divided in three parts, and this huge crack symbolizing the Holy Trinity can be seen today in the grotto, along with the spot where the evangelist used to rest his head while sleeping or taking a break from dictating the revelations to his student Prochorus.
The visitor enters after going down forty-three steps, and the atmosphere is awe-inspiring and filled with mysticism.
The School of Patmos (Patmiada Scholi)
This educative Institution was founded by deacon Makarios Kalogeras in the year 1733. During Turk’s domination, the School of Patmos developed a preponderant activity about the revival of the Greek Nation.
The Sacred Grott “Apocalypses”
It is a sacred place, the most important of the island. Into this grotto lodged for 16 months long the Evangelist St. Jean the Theologue. Into this grotto he heard the God’s voice and was inspired to write his Divine Apocalypses. Aside the grotto is laying the church of St. Anne. It is said that this church was built by Hosios Christodoulos himself, in the memory of his mother Anne, or may be in the memory of the Emperor’s Alexios 1st daughter whose name was also Anne.
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Patmos (Chora) the capital
The main center of tourist interest on the island is the quiet little town of Chora, with its whitewashed houses, its monasteries, churches and chapels and above all the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, a house directly subordinate to the Oecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which looms over the town with its massive 15th century walls and 17th century battlements.
After seeing all the treasures of the monastery visitors should not miss going up on the roof terraces of the monastery to enjoy the superb views of Patmos and the surrounding islands. The white houses form a sparkling necklace around the dark fortress. The houses are of different sizes with the oldest probably dating back a to the16th century, like a maze of steps and lanes interspersed with few squares. In times of danger, storeys were built on top of the covered passageways so as to enjoy the protection of the fortified town; traces of the walls are visible in the town center. The corbelled houses built by the refugees from Constantinople stand in the Alotina district west of the monastery. In the 17th century, Cretans settled in Kritika to the east while in the 17th and the 18th century the prosperous families built their mansions on the hillside to the north. High walls screen the courtyards and facades but the neo-classical doorways decorated with carvings and moldings, pedimented windows and (more rarely) balconies can be viewed from the street. The Simandris House (formerly Mousoudakis House), near the Convent of Zoodochos Pigi, presents an interesting combination of the oriental tradition and the western fashion favored in the 19th century. Other mansions may sometimes be visited on the application of the householders. The Town-hall, a fine neo-classical building, stands in Lozia Square; from the square -the bust of Emmanuel Xanthos- there is a beautiful view of the Convent of the Apocalypse on the north side of the hill and of Skala harbor.
Panorama of the island
Leave Chora going eastwards to the three windmills overlooking the Grikos road. The area around the windmills provides admirable views of the island and the archipelago: west, Chora and the monastery walls; on the hillside, the white cuboid buildings of the Schools of Patmos rising above the Convent of the Apocalypse; below, Skala harbor and Merika Bay beyond the isthmus; on the horizon (left to right from Chora), the elongated shape of Ikaria and the islands of Fourni; north, behind the hills of Patmos, Kerketeas (alt 1229m / 4040ft), the tallest peak on Samos; between the mainland and the northern tip of Patmos, the islands of Agathonissi and Arki; and to the south Lipsi and Leros islands.
Getting to Patmos
From Piraeus, there are 5 to 9 ferries a week depending on the season (distance:163 nautical miles, duration:10h). Patmos is also connected, by ferry, with the islands Leros, Kalymnos, Kos and Rodos, Lipsous, Nisiros, Tilos, Simi, Kastelorizo, Siros, Ikaria, Fournous, Lesvos, Limnos, Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, and Tinos. For more information contact the Coast guard of Piraeus tel. (01) 4226000-4.
The closest Airports to Patmos are in Samos Island, Kos Island and Leros Island.
From these islands, the fastest way to come to PATMOS is the Hydrofoils
By Ferry-boats from Piraeus, other islands of Dodecanese, and Eastern Aegean islands.
PIRAEUS – PATMOS: 9 – 10 hours with the Ferryboats.
Daily bus service:
Skala – Apokalipsi – Hora
Skala – Grikos – Hora
Skala – Kambos
Petrol station hours:
Rent a car
Two convenient car-rental offices, both in Skala, are Patmos Rent-a-Car, just behind the police station and Avis, on the new port. The island has only two gas stations, the Argo station at the east side of the harbor in Skala, and the Elin station just out of Scala on the road to Kambos.
The island’s main taxi stand is on the pier in Skala Harbor, right before your eyes as you get off the boat. From anywhere on the island, you can request a taxi by calling tel. 22470 31225.
BUS TIMETABLE FROM 1ST OF JULY TO 31ST OF AUGUST
Things To Do And See In Patmos
West of Skala (20min. on foot) is Kastelli Hill. There are traces of a Hellenistic wall and a small chapel on the hilltop which offers a magnificent view of Skala harbor, Chora, St. John’s monastery and the neighboring islands to the north and east.
Grigos is a pleasant resort 4km from Skala with a curving sandy beach (canoe & wind-surf rental). Traonissi islet rises at the far end of the curving bay. Halfway along Kalikastrou rock is honeycombed with caves which were probably occupied by hermits before the monastery was founded. You can find hotels, cafes, and tavernas at Grikos. From here you have boat trips to the fine sandy beach of Psili Ammos (tavernas).
Kambos and Lambi
Kambos is a large village overlooking a fertile valley with Lefkes Valley to the west. The vast and sandy Kambos beach (sand and pebbles) is very popular in summer. Around 2km to the north is the windswept Lambi Bay which is famous for its colored pebbles. At Lambi, you can find very nice traditional tavernas with delicious food.
For swimming, we recommend beaches such as Grikos, Diakofti, Psili Ammos, Kampos, Lefkes, Lambi, Mericha, Chochlaka, Meloi, and Agriolivados. East of Patmos is Arki (Arki), a cluster of islands with bushy vegetation and few trees.
In the northern part of Patmos lies Pano Kambos, a Mediterranean village with houses built on a small hill, and others lower. Jewel of the village, the great church of the Annunciation, located on the street, in a small square. The coastal settlement is Kato Kambos with plenty of greenery, orchards, fruit trees, olive trees, pine trees, eucalyptus trees and trees on the beach. Near Kambos is Baia and Livadi, coastal settlements.
Special events such as the Festival of Religious Music, the Festival of Traditional Countries, the Festival of Taste and Tradition of the Aegean, etc., are taking place in Patmos each year. Among the hundreds of paschal destinations in our country, Patmos is a special place. The Island of Revelation offers even the most discerning visitor all that it would like to combine Easter days, but also any other season.
Patmos combines tradition and history with a tranquil atmosphere for a unique holiday, bringing the visitor to a real earthly paradise.
Eat & Enjoy
Skala is the island’s meeting and departing point, busy with activity from early morning to late night. Along the harbour, there are several places to grab a snack, a drink or coffee with a view to the boats. Arion offers breakfast in the mornings, goes on as a café through the day and continues serving drinks with the music loud till the late at night. Other bars with good music are Consolato and Café Aman. Restaurants and tavernas by the harbor have a variety of plates, so much from the local as from the international cuisine, as well as fresh fish. Chiliomodi is an ‘ouzo-house’ near the lighthouse, serving ouzo, the Greek local alcohol drink, accompanied by traditional appetizers like grilled octopus, fried cheese and tzatziki.
The ones at the foot of the castle are more of the cheap touristy type, but if you wander through the picturesque labyrinth of the narrow streets, you’ll discover the best ones. In the heart of the settlement, there is a little romantic ‘square’ full of colored bougainvillea, where you can dine at Vangelis, a traditional local taverna, or you can choose Balcony on the cliff, which, besides the variety of its plates, offers a spectacular view to the harbor of Skala below. On the whole, there are many spots where you can pause while walking on Chora’s ‘peripheral’ roads to enjoy breathtaking views to Skala and the sea.
Windsurfing. If you don’t have a surfboard you can rent one on the island.
There are many restaurants on the island. Taverns with music (using native instruments) can be found at Griko, Lampi, and Kambo. Bars and clubs you can find in Chora, Skala, Meloi, and Kambo.
The main beaches of the island are Hohlakas, Merikas, Aspri, Meloi (tree-shaded), Agriolivado (sandy & quiet), Sapsila, Psili Ammos (one of the best), Vagia (quiet), Kampou (shingles), Kathisma tou Apollou, Lambi (colored stones) and Diakofti. The two small islands Agios Georgios and Kentronisi also have beautiful beaches.
The most ‘cosmopolitan’ beach of Patmos, 5.5 km from Skala, it is fully organized and the best meeting point for both locals and foreigners. At one end of the beach, you can enjoy various watersports and activities, and there is also the spot where you can enjoy a light salad, a homemade pie, a delicious pastry, coffee or a drink, at George’s Place. But there is also a variety of beach bars, restaurants and cafes by the sea, while on the upper part of Campos village, on top of the hill at the backside of the beach, where the ‘heart’ of the rural settlement is, around its small square, there are small tavernas serving traditional Greek food.
A former picturesque fishermen’s settlement, it is another of the island’s ‘busy’ places, with a fully organized beach, which is lined with a plethora of places to eat or relax. The settlement, at one end of a large beautiful bay, boasting a few other more quiet beaches, overlooks the huge rock of Kalikatsou at its other end, else known as Petra (in Greek: stone). Petra has an imposing shape, looking as though it’s emerging from the sea, and there is a mystical aura linked with it, since it has been the refuge for many hermits through the centuries, which left their marks on it forever, having carved steps, candle burning cavities, and even a cistern.
A beach with fine pebble, it is one of the closest to Skala, which is also the reason why it’s mainly preferred by locals. It is fully organized and offers a variety of water sports. It’s lined with large shady trees and there are a few restaurants serving fish and traditional Greek cuisine, along with a couple of beach bars and cafes.
One of the most beautiful beaches and the only with real fine sand, it is accessible only by small boat departing once a day from Skala, or after a -rather exhausting for most people- 25-minute climb of a series of steep and craggy rocky hills. The beach is not organized, but there are huge shady trees, under which you can seek refuge from the sun. At its far end, it is offered for nudism, while at the other one there is a small taverna offering a few local plates. Before departing you might want to check out the local ‘wind report’, since Psili Ammos is often exposed to very strong winds that cause high waves and literal ‘sandblasts’ while you’re lying on the beach, making it sometimes impossible for the boat to depart for it.
It is an amazing sandy beach, with clear blue water and a lot of shady trees. During spring, the meadows at the backside of the beach are blooming with orchids. The beach is also well protected from the strong Aegean summer winds called ‘meltemia’. There is a small restaurant on the road uphill, offering fish and local cuisine, as well as a spectacular view on the beach.
The beach is pebbled, with clear, cold water and is surrounded by tranquil meadows. There is a cafeteria a few minutes away that offers wonderful views. You can also reach the beach by a small boat departing from Skala.
It is famous for its wonderful pebbles. Although tourists have plundered it through the years, it still features beautiful pebbles, both in terms of shape and color. The single taverna on the beach serves fresh fish and a variety of other plates, while the vegetable comes from their backside garden and tastes delicious.
Another beach close to Skala, with many trees offering their comforting shade. There is an organized public camping area on the beach and a small restaurant as well.
Shopping in Patmos island
In Skala shops are abundant, selling anything from jewelry to local produce (the island’s thyme-honey is excellent). If you take a walk along the harbor in the evening, the view is just wonderful, with Skala’s lights reflected on the dark water among the fishing boats, while up on the mountain behind, the lightened castle sits like a crown on the clustered lights of Chora.
Chora, as mentioned, is much quieter and atmospheric than Skala, its shops are fewer and definitely eclectic, selling sophisticated clothing and jewelry, fine ceramics, icons, and various antiques.