The volcanic island of Níssyros is unlike its neighbours in almost every respect. It’s much lusher and greener than dry Tílos and Hálki to the south, blessed with rich soil that nurtures a distinctive flora, and it supported a large agricultural population in ancient times. In contrast to long flat Kos to the north, Níssyros is round and tall, with the high walls of its central caldera rising abruptly from the shoreline around its entire perimeter. And Níssyros conceals a startling secret; behind those encircling hills, the interior of the island is hollow, centring on a huge crater floor that’s dotted with still-steaming vents and cones.
For most visitors, the volcano is Níssyros’ main attraction. It’s easy enough to see it on a day-trip from Kos, so few bother to spend the night. That’s a shame, because it’s a genuinely lovely island, very short on beaches but abounding in spectacular scenery. The port and sole large town, Mandhráki on the northwest coast, is an appealing tight-knit community with some fine ancient ruins, while two delightful villages, Emboriós and Nikiá, straddle the crater ridge.
These days, much of the island’s income is derived from the offshore islet of Yialí, a vast lump of pumice, all too clearly visible just north of Mandhráki, that’s slowly being quarried away. Substantial concession fees have given the islanders economic security.
Níssyros also offers good walking, on trails that lead through a countryside studded with oak and terebinth (pigs gorge themselves on the abundant acorns, and pork figures prominently on menus).Read More
If you’ve come to Níssyros to see the volcano, you’re already there – the whole island is the volcano. Beyond and behind the steep slopes that climb from the shoreline, the entire centre of the island consists of a vast bowl-shaped depression. The hills end in a slender ridge that’s the rim of the caldera, meaning that the two hilltop villages that survive, Emboriós and Nikía, are long thin strips that enjoy stupendous views both out to sea and down into the maw. The interior is etched almost in its entirety with ancient agricultural terraces, mostly long abandoned but giving a very real sense of the much greater population in antiquity. A side road just beyond Emboriós offers the only road access, and continues south to the craters at the far end.
Hiking on Níssyros island
Hiking on Níssyros island
Níssyros is a fabulous destination for hikers, with enticing trails to suit all abilities. The one drawback is that hiking to and from the volcano from Mandhráki is for most walkers too much to attempt in a single day. It’s not so much the distance that’s the problem as the fact that you have to climb back out of the island interior on your way home. SKAI publish a good topographical map (shop.skai.gr).