General Information on Patmos
Patmos is the northernmost island of the Dodecanese cluster. It has a population of about 3,000 people and an area of 34.05km. The island is charming, picturesque and tranquil. It has a very salubrious climate and a clear atmposphere. Patmos is a mountainous island, with limited vegetation, lacy coastline, charming small bays and interesting surrounding islets.
The island is famous for its religious past, since Saint John the Divine wrote the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) here. Earlier Christian tradition identifies this writer as John the Apostle. For many years, Patmos was a destination for pilgrimage for Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Today, what remains of the island’s prior isolated and pious atmosphere, is the imposing Monastery of Saint John and signs forbidding nude and topless bathing. However, the island remains far from the flow of mass tourism, and it is an ideal destination for those looking alternative holidays. Spirituality, wild untouched nature and 20th century tourism make it a unique place.
History of Patmos
According to ancient mythology, the island of Patmos was first named Litois, in honour of goddess Artemis, who was also called Litoida after her mother, Lito. Legend says that the island sunk into the sea and that Artemis, with the help of Apollo, persuaded Zeus to resurface it. As a proof of devotion, the inhabitants of the island named it Litois. Moreover, the island is also linked to the legend of Orestes. It is said that he fled to the island after murdering his mother Clytemnestra, and was hunted by the Erynies.
Patmos is rich in both history and natural beauty. The island has been inhabited since 3000 BC, but the identity of its first inhabitants is still unknown. Up to today, there is a conflict between those who believe that the Kares, the Leleges and the Pelasgoi were the first settlers, and those who believe that the Dorians were first, followed by the Ionians. During the Peloponnesian Wars, the Lakedemonians came to the island to escape from Athenians. Ruins testify the prosperity of the island during this period.
During the period of Roman rule, however, the island fell into decline; the population decreased, and Patmos was used as a place of exile for convicts. This is how Apostle John came to the island. In 95 AD, Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus exiled Apostle John to Patmos. He remained here for 18 months during which time he lived in a cave below the hilltop temple of Artemis, converted inhabitants to Christianity and wrote the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse.
The eastern Christian empire of Byzantium had control over the island of Patmos and in the 4th century the ancient temple of Artemis was torn down. The island suffered from Arab raids from the 6th to the 9th century AC. During this period, the Grand Basilica of Saint John, which was built above the ancient temple of Artemis, was destroyed.
Deserted after these raids, Patmos next reentered history in 1088 when Byzantine emperor Alexios Komninos granted the island to monk Christodoulos whose intention was to establish a monastery. Built upon the remains of the old church and the older shrine of Artemis, the monastery of St. John has been in continuous operation for over 900 years. The fame of the monastery grew and a settlement stared to expand around it. During the end of the 12th century, the island of Patmos was transformed into a large commercial centre. The monastery acquired a second commercial vessel. In 1207, the Venetians conquered Patmos and the reign was given to the Duke of Naxos. The island became a semi-autonomous monastic state and gained great wealth and influence. In 1340, the Knights of St. John, who had already seized Rhodes, conquered Patmos too. In 1522, the Turks came to the island and appointed a representative on the island.
During the 18th century, the island’s wealth was separated into secular and monastic entities. In 1770, the Russians conquered the island, after the Turkish – Venetian war. Later, after the start of the Greek Revolution, Patmos gained its independence in 1832. However, the treaty signed in London did not include the Dodecanese as part of the new Greek State, and therefore the island fell again under Turkish control. The Italians took Dodecanese group in 1912 and stayed there until 1943, when the Germans took over the islands. In 1945, the Germans left and the island of Patmos remained autonomous until 1948 when, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, joined the rest of independent Greece.
Towns & Villages in Patmos
Hora: The island capital Patmos, or Hora, lies 3km southwest of the harbour. The settlement is built around the imposing fortified Byzantine Monastery of Saint John, during the 12th century AD. The town flourished during the 16th and 17th centuries, a period during which beautiful mansions and captain residences were built, showing the wealth of the inhabitants. Lovely whitewashed houses, built according to the typical Aegean style, mingle with the superb mansions. The beautiful scenery created by traditional architecture gets even more attractive with narrow alleys, small white chapels and flowered courtyards. This unique village is the heart of the island and attracts visitors from all over the world. Hora is a small community in itself, with lots of tasteful little restaurants, bars and shops.
Grikos: This small fishing village is situated in the southeast part of the island, about 5km from the port of Skala. The main attraction of the village is its long sandy and organized beach. Grikos is a popular settlement during summer, because it is quieter than most towns around the island, especially during high season. The old square offers a romantic view of colourful fishing boats and small taverns offering traditional food at all times of the day. Secluded beaches with lots of shade-offering trees are available a short distance from the settlement. Grikos is connected to all parts of the island through regular bus transport and taxis.
Skala: This is the port and most populated settlement of the island. It is situated in the central part of the island, 3km northeast of Hora. Around the 16th century AD, Skala was one of the most important commercial ports in the Mediterranean Sea. It originally had warehouses and maintenance facilities for local and incoming ships. The first homes were built in the beginning of the 19th century when European ships chased off the pirates. Today, Skala is a charming settlement that gathers all public services of the island. New houses, hotels and enterprises have been constructed, following tourism growth. Picturesque taverns, restaurants, shops of all kinds, Greek cafes and bars can be found here.
Kambos: This beautiful village is situated about 11km from Hora and consists of two settlements: Kato Kambos (Lower Kambos) and Pano Kambos (Upper Kambos). The village lies in a beautiful sandy bay and it is home to the impressive church of the Annunciation. Kato Kambos is the quietest part of the settlement, with just 400 inhabitants. It is a lovely place full of greenery and an amazing beach. Various taverns, cafes and shops are available as well as many accommodations.
Beaches in Patmos
Agriolivadi: This long organized beach is situated approximately 2km from Skala, in the bay of Agriolivadi. It is a sandy and pebble beach, surrounded by lush vegetation. Its mainly shallow waters make it ideal for toddlers and the water is warmer than in most other beaches around the island.
Lefkes: This beach is situated on the western side of Patmos, 12km northwest of Hora, on the edge of the small bay of Lefkos. The beach has sand and pebbles and it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of the island.
Meloi: This beach is one of the closest to the port of Patmos Skala. Being only a 15-minute walk from Skala this beach is very popular. It is sandy and has tamarisk trees. Moreover, the camping site is very close to the beach offering a popular restaurant and a mini market.
Grikos: The beach of Grikos is located in front of the settlement with the same name, in the bay of Grikos. The beach is the longest of the island and has sand and tamarisk trees for shade.
Tragonissi (=ram island), whose only inhabitants are goats, has a statue of a goat herder facing the bay, thus protecting it from bad weather and making it perfect for yachts and boats. The beach is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas for rent, and the possibility to enjoy some water sports.
Petra: This beach is also known as Kallikatsou, after a species of small crow that used to nest here. The famous rock has been home to more than crows though. Hand made stairs, a water cistern and a drainage system are all visible and functional till today. The beach here is organized with sunbeds, umbrellas and a small food truck. It is a natural beach of chunky rocks that runs off Petra towards the south side of the island. There begins a popular nudist beach called Plaki.
Kambos: The long beach of Kambos is the busiest resort of Patmos. It is situated 11km north of Hora, 600m downhill from the village of the same name. it is a shingle beach, extending over kilometres, with clean, shallow waters and plenty of tree shade. Kambos is the best equipped beach of Patmos, offering equipment for windsurfing, sailing, paragliding, and canoeing. Plenty of hotels and taverns line the beach.
Psili Amos: This is the most beautiful beach of the island. The atmosphere here is exotic, and the sandy beach is surrounded by wild beauty. The beach is divided in half; further from the tavern is the nudist half. Although nudism is prohibited on this island, on some beaches it is tolerated. One of the elements of this beach is that it is not organised –except for a small tavern–, something that contributes to its wild beauty. However, it is not easy to reach Psili Amos as it is one of the most remote beaches of Patmos. The regular street reaches Diakofti, and you then take the little footpath over the mountain. It is about 20-30 minutes walk. Another way to reach the beach is by boat. The boats depart from Skala and the trip takes about one hour.
Top Things to Do in Patmos
1. The Monastery of St. John the Divine: The first thing you notice on Patmos is the monastery of St. John the Divine or the Evangelist. It was founded by Father Christodoulos around 1088 and has since been the most significant religious centre on the island. The monastery walls are over 15m high, their length is 53 meters and their width is 70 meters. Above the entrance, several meters high, there is a small opening from which burning oil, water, even lead was poured to attacking pirates and other invaders, trying to break the gate. The monks used to sound the bells to warn the inhabitants to take refuge behind the fortified walls of the monastery, keeping Christianity safe as was intended by its founder, Christodoulos. Inside the monastery, a four-curved archway and various frescoes depicting miracles of Saint John, dominate the eastern side. Chapels in the monastery are also interesting, among them the 17th century chapel of Agioi Apostoloi, where the relics of Father Christodoulos are kept. The main church houses a superb wood-carved icon and a marble floor, while fine frescoes decorate its walls. A rich library and a treasury Museum can also be visited in the monastery.
2. The Cave of Apocalypse & the Monastery of Revelation: The cave of the Apocalypse was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2006. it is located halfway between Skala and Hora. The place is also known as the Holy Grotto and is an extraordinary example of a traditional pilgrimage centre of outstanding architectural interest. The Cave today is surrounded by the large monastic block of the Monastery of Revelation which stands out due to its whiteness. The spot around the cavern was initially chosen for the monastery of St. John. Upon his arrival, Christodoulos decided to build it on a higher point (current position), making it less vulnerable to raids. He built a hermitage, covering the cave at its core. Entering the cavern, you realise the uniqueness of this place. The rock formation is volcanic and rare, and took hundreds of years to cool off; at some points, it shines because of the trapped water inside it. To the right, is the sacred cave and church of Saint John the Divine. Seven silver lamps have been hung in the cave, the largest being where St. John slept using a rock as a pillow. Presently, a monk and spiritual leaders sit on the rock and tell the story of the Apocalypse and how the book was written, to visitors. In the monastery complex, there are also two more churches, St. Artemios (18th century) and St. Nikolaos, along with monk cells, and other facilities as would be expected in a monastery, most of which were built by Christodoulos.
3. The islets around Patmos: Plenty of islets surround the island of Patmos. Small boats leave from the main port, Skala, for daily excursions to some of those islets, giving the possibility to swim in the crystal clear waters, rest on the golden sandy beaches and walk among pine-trees.
4. Nunnery of the Annuciation: This monastery is situated on the southwest side of Hora overlooking the Bay of Kypos and is about a 15 minute walk from the bus station. The convent started off as a small chapel until 1613, when Nikiphoros, an abbot from the monastery of St. John the Divine, renovated the buildings and dedicated it to Luke the Evangelist. The sisterhood is home to over 40 nuns who occupy themselves with social welfare, gardening, beekeeping and Byzantine embroidery called the “spitha”. The monastery consists of the church Evangelistra (our Lady of the Annunciation) connected to the side chapel of Agios Loukas and the chapel of Agios Antonios situated in the tower of the convent.
How to Reach Patmos
Sea: Patmos is on the main north-south route for ferries to/from Rhodes and Piraeus and is reasonably well served during summer. There are also regular connections to the other islands of the Dodecanese.
Air: You may fly to Samos, Leros or Kos, and then take the local ferry to Patmos.
Getting Around in Patmos
Bus: From Skala there are about 11 buses daily, during summer months, to Hora, about eight to Grikos and four to Kambos.
Taxi: Taxis congregate at Skala taxi rank.
Excursion Boat: From Skala, there are daily departures to all surrounding islets.
Weather in Patmos
Patmos has, like all islands of the Dodecanese, a mild Mediterranean climate and a lot of sunny days throughout the year. The temperature of the water remains quite high for many months and permits swimming even off season.
Top 10 Destinations in Patmos
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Map of Patmos