Kos is a gorgeous island, with renowned beaches and vibrant nightlife. Having a vacation at Kos means you’re in for a treat no matter what: famous historical landmarks and sights, beautiful sandy beaches, and gorgeous villages await for you to discover. But that is not all you can discover while being at Kos!
You can discover more islands, and one of them is the less famous sister of Santorini: the stunning Nisyros, the island of the Dodecanese with the youngest active volcano in Greece. You don’t need to book a new round of vacations there. All you need to do is take a day trip from Kos to Nisyros. Experience wild beauty, gorgeous villages, and the awe-inspiring sense of lava under your feet just on a single, adventurous day away from Kos.
Here is what to expect and what to do if you choose to take this unique day trip from Kos to Nisyros:
What to Expect on a Day Trip From Kos to Nisyros
Getting to Kardamena port
No matter where you’re staying in Kos, the tour bus will come to pick you up for a picturesque drive to Kos’ port Kardamena. Kardamena is a beautiful resort about 30 km from Kos’ Chora. The bus trip time varies depending on where your hotel is located on the island.
Kardamena has a small port with a scenic promenade and offers excellent views of Kos’ development combined with the island tradition for you to take in while you wait for the ferry. When the ferry arrives, you will get to enjoy coffee over the waves for about an hour until you arrive at Nisyros.
Arrival at Nisyros
Once you arrive at Nisyros, another bus will be waiting for you to begin your tour of this gorgeous island. When the bus ride starts, so does your tour of Nisyros thanks to the licensed guide that will be accompanying you on your day trip and explain all about the island’s unique profile, from its geological aspects to its history and culture.
Stop 1: Nisyros’ Volcano
The first stop you make will be at the breathtaking complex caldera of Nisyros’ volcano. The entire island is made of volcanic rock and is said to be resting on lava. Ancient Greek mythology explains the existence of the volcano and all of Nisyros as the result of a fierce battle between the sea god Poseidon and a titan named Polyvotes.
When Polyvotes tried to get away from Poseidon, he broke off a piece from Kos and threw it at the titan, slamming him into the earth. That piece of land was Nisyros. The volcano and its eruptions were said to be the wrath of Polyvotes who remains trapped under Nisyros for all eternity.
The volcano has had relatively recent eruptions, including three in the 1800s which covered up the caldera in hot salty water and created a new aqueduct of volcanic elements. It’s at this terrain that the bus will first take you. You will visit the crater called Stefanos. The complex formations are not seen anywhere else in Greece and are considered an extremely important geological site.
It not only looks like part of the moon’s aloof, alien terrain, but it also has formations you’re unlikely to experience anywhere else: bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers, and a sensation of lava rumbling underneath you will all make you feel like the story of the titan Polyvotes could be real.
Your guide will give you a lot more detail on what you are seeing as you descend into the big crater.
Stop 2: Get to know Emporio
Emporio is a gorgeous little mountain village, built in the perfect spot for stunning views of the volcano, the Aegean, and Asia Minor’s coasts. As you drive away from the volcano, you will see its characteristic stone, two-story houses peek from the craggy, soaring slopes of the rim of the volcano’s caldera and the surrounding mountains.
Originally, Emporio was a settlement that was abandoned in 1933 during a devastating earthquake. But currently, it is being reinhabited. Many of the houses are built on the ruins of a castle built by the Knights Hospitaller to protect the island from pirates.
The castle is called “Pantoniki castle” and at its very top, you can still visit the beautiful 13th-century chapel of Taxiarchis Michail (Archangel Michael). It has been recently renovated, so wander inside and treat yourself to some beautiful frescoes and an ornate iconostasis.
The entire settlement has been officially declared an important architectural monument, so make sure you explore the stone paths with the characteristic steps and the ambiance it has to offer. Don’t forget to visit the cave at the entrance of the village!
Stop 3: Explore Mandraki
Once you leave Emporio village, the bus will take you to Mandraki, Nisyros’ main town (Chora). This is where you will have the free time allotted, to better explore and enjoy this remarkable island town.
Mandraki is picturesque with beautiful, clustered, white-washed houses in the typical architectural style of the Aegean and Dodecanese. They are amphitheatrically arranged around the coast, which offers endless winding paths and gorgeous vistas as you explore. In Mandraki there are plenty of things to see and do. Some will be listed in the program of your guided tour, others you should consider opting for during your free time in the town.
Castle of Spiliani: This imposing castle was built by the knights and is in a tight embrace with the famous Monastery of Spiliani and its unique arrangement. Make sure you climb to the castle for gorgeous views of the Aegean and Nisyros.
Monastery of Spiliani: “Spiliani” means “of the cave” in Greek. The monastery took its name after the little chapel built in an actual cave deep in the cliff face. The chapel itself is remarkable, built in 1400 AD. It is accompanied by a compelling legend about the thaumaturgical icon it houses. Visit the monastery’s church for its exquisite iconostasis and its library for ancient and medieval manuscripts.
Archaeological Museum of Nisyros: Visit this small but robust museum for exhibits from the island of Nisyros from as early as prehistoric times and as recently as modern times, with an interesting display of a shipwreck.
The town square of Ilikiomeni (Old Woman): This gorgeous square is the ideal place for having lunch when you are on break from the tour! It’s astonishingly beautiful, shaded by two elderly ficus trees, and has a lot of options for eating and refreshments.
Return to Kos
At around 4 pm, you will be called back to the ferry. Enjoy a last stroll of Mandraki as you walk to the port and rest in the hour it takes to return to Kos.
Upon arrival at Kardamena port in Kos, the bus will wait to return you to your hotel for a well-earned rest. Enjoy the trip in the afternoon light and recharge for a perfect night in Kos, after having seen some of the best of Nisyros.
Things to keep in mind before you book this day trip
There are certain aspects to consider before booking this day trip. Specifically, if you or someone in your group is pregnant, this tour is not recommended as it can be physically strenuous. That also holds for wheelchair users and people with mobility challenges, as a lot of the sites are not very accessible.
Once you have booked the day tour, prepare accordingly! Remember that even on the islands the Greek sun is relentlessly scorching, so make sure you bring a good sun hat and sunscreen. Sunglasses are also highly recommended. Consider you will be walking a lot, so make sure you are dressed in airy, light clothing and have reliable, comfortable shoes suited for exploring various different terrains.
Food or drinks are not offered on the tour, so make sure you bring your own water bottle for when you wander around the various areas. You get to choose where you eat yourself, so be prepared for that too!
The licensed guide accompanying you will be offering the tour in English.