The Weekly Getaway: humbly aristocratic summer hideout in Patmos
Looking back to most of your trips, time makes every single one of them considerably better. But with Patmos, it's amazing how much it can grow on you.
My first visit a few years back didn't leave me excited, but as time went by I somehow developed a very strong appetite. And luckily, it did live up to the expectations. And much more.
Patmos, unique with its religious heritage and its rich history, occupied by the Ottomans, the Italians and the Greeks throughout time, was also named as "Europe's most idyllic place to live" in 2008 by Forbes magazine. And what's true is that Patmos has evolved over the centuries but has not lost its air of quiet tranquility.
And this is one reason why people that know it return here... again and again.
Chora is truly beautiful, built up in the mountain and with a vast array of high-ceiling houses along the small alleys of what used to be a fortified castle area. Business is very little up there as most of the land belongs to the church (yes, that's also true for most of the island) but the few commercial establishments - a couple of restaurants, a few bars and a bunch of art/design shops - make for a great ambience.
The main square gets busy after sunset with travellers and locals alike, while Astivi sets the tone of each night with its music, its food but mostly its people. In recent years, the place got renovated but curfew still holds. At 3am the music stops by law and only then the somewhat alcohol-infused crowds start going downhill to Skala looking for the after-hours bars.
By next morning, travellers are looking for the beach choices at hand. If you're one of the sober ones you can venture for a 20min walk up the mountain to reach Psili Ammos, which is arguably one of the most unique and remote beaches in Greece.
The small cute taverna has been there since the 70s, transporting its produce with donkeys early in the morning, day in day out from early May to late September. Once you have a quick bite opt for a relaxing hangout under the cedar trees before you take the way back.
In the south too, Petra beach is also a good choice if you're looking for an organised beach that never gets much windy.
Rich in churches and monasteries, Patmos has also been known as the Jerusalem of the Aegean. If you have time, have a tour around the island stopping by on some of them. Panagia Geranou in the northeast part of the island has great views and also hosts a traditional Greek festival around mid-August.
The island boasts 20 beaches (best are noted below) with Kambos being definitely one of them. Although it's usually full of families - and can indeed get noisy - there is quite a lot of space for everyone and the waters are crystal clear and chilly. George's place, a retro-like café is situated right on the beach with bathers coming and going all day long.
Also in the north, Didymes (that also goes by the name Ligginou) is a complex of two similar bays that are a must for the more alternative and young crowd. Vagia is also a cute unorganised beach albeit having very little shade, and Vagia café atop the hill serves a delicious cold chocolate cake!
- Patmos Aktis Suites & Spa - luxury hotel complex with very high prices though that probably don't live up to the expectations; located next to the sea in the small settlement of Grikos, Patmos Aktis is a good option if you're looking for a 5-star experience
- Petra Hotel & Suites - nice luxury boutique hotel (also part of the Small Luxury Hotels association), Petra Hotel & Suites offers an elegant stay and great view to the Petra bay
- Airbnb - if you can rent a proper traditional house in Chora then this may be a great option. Although these don't come plenty, you may be lucky if you search enough
- Cave of Apocalypse - built inside the core of a cave, this is where John of Patmos is believed to have received his visions recorded in the Book of Revelation. Definitely worth a visit around noon time when it's not busy with the morning tours
- Monastery of St John the Theologian - together with the cave of Apocalypse, the Monastery is a joint World Heritage Site and makes for a very moving and serene tour to the past. 40 monks still reside here but are a rare spectacle. Budget a good hour to complete an inspiring tour around the 1088 site
- Chora - albeit its strictly residential nature, the town of Patmos up the mountain is an interesting place to walk around. Beautiful high-ceiling houses of the old captains and the old rich make with great views all around amke for perfect spot during sunset
- Boat tours - a bunch of small islands and islets are closeby, with boats touring to most every day. Lipsoi, Arkioi and Marathi are the most famous one but best to avoid the all-day tour as it can get very long and touristy
- Psili Ammos - long, sandy and full of cedar trees this is probably the most popular beach of the island. Located in the northwest part of the island, the beach is a 20min walk up the mountain from where you'll park. You can always take the boat from Skala (1hr ride) albeit its sparse timetable. Make sure you don't miss the opportunity for a small lunch at the magical taverna
- Petra - organised rocky beach with great views to Tragonisi, Petra beach is ideal for windy days. Most of the times it's also quiet
- Didymes / Ligginou - sandy or pebbly beaches but with very few shaded spots. Also feature a nice but basic canteen. Try to combine with a small lunch at the makeshift food truck of Nikos and Theologia, located up the hill. Best mousaka in Greece!
- Kambos - organised, sandy and popular with the fashionable crowd; great waters and a unique all-day/all-night beach bar, George's place, that is definitely worth a few visits (also great breakfast!)
- Livadi tou Geranou - your average sandy beach with a great view to Saint George, a small island with a nice church you could easily swim to
- Astivi - people-watching at its best, this is the place where all different travelers tribes meet. Reserve a table for a tasty dinner and stay till late until the music gets buzzing. Then enter inside for a loud night... until 3am
- Vaggelis - great Greek traditional taverna which has recently been taken over by an Athenian restauranteur. Delicious beef patties, as well as beef shank slowly cooked in the clay pot
- Pantheon - very small joint in Chora serving the best octopus around. Don't get thrown away by the very few tables; people usually eat fast
- To Kyma - the owner of Astivi, and famous Athenian nightlife entrepreneur has revamped this beautiful hideaway restaurant. Great ambience at sunset and very tasty entrees. The seafood is also good (most of the times)
- To tsipouradiko mas - perfect choice for an afternoon seafood treat. Overlooking the inside bay of Skala, this small joint features tables on the sand and a nice menu to go with your tsipouro/raki
- Lambi- the best fish taverna of the island, overlooking the pebbly beach of Lambi. What's not to like?
- George's place - plenty of breakfast choices (they also go off menu if you kindly ask), although the all-day menu is not as good
- Loza - nice place for breakfast, with a unique view to almost the whole island. Make sure you arrive before noon to get a table in the shade
- Vagia cafe - breakfast is ok but you must visit for their signature cold chocolate cake! Could combine this after a divine lunch at Nikos and Theologia canteen above Didymes beach