Patmos, my Greek island
Like Onassis had Skorpios. I would have Patmos. In a dream life… And what a dream island it is. Last summer we got to spend 4 nights there with the children, and we promised to be back every year. In a dream life.
It’s a bit ironic. Just as the crisis gets deeper and the country is about to default, artsy circles call Athens the new Berlin. And French Vogue has an All About Greece issue this month. It was about time I share the wonderful places we discovered en famille last summer.
ARRIVE in PATMOS
Patmos is a small island (36km2), and a rather tricky one to reach so you should plan at least one week there. It’s located in the Western part of the Greek archipel, part of the Dodecanese islands, not so far from the Turkish coast. There is no airport in Patmos, and there will never be one due to the landscape. Which means it’s not for those who like to fly and lie down.
The wonderful Petra Hotel tells you all about how to get there. If you and the children don’t mind the (often bumpy) boat ride (1.5 to 3 hours from the nearby islands with airports, or 7 hours from Athens harbor), then you might even be able to take a nap during the boat ride…
PLAY in PATMOS
The day is lazily and happily spent at one of the many beaches. Kampos and Agriolivado are sandy beaches that also provide sun loungers and umbrellas at a small fee. George’s Place on Kampos has yummy salads, traditional pies and delicious smoothies, so prefer Kampos with the children.
One of the island’s quaintest beach, with thin pebble, is called Vagia, but beware that there is only little shade from trees; you’d have to bring your umbrella or time it early or late in the day. There is also a very small place called Eutuchia with Greek food specialties on top of Vagia beach.
Psili Ammos is the nicest sandy beach of the island, but accessible only by boat, or on foot. With young children, you’ll have to hire a boat at the harbor. They depart daily from Skala at around 10 am, returning around 4-5pm.
You might also want to spend a day hiring a private boat or simply get on one of the chartered boats in the harbor, to visit the neighboring tiny islands.
We did some snorkeling in the pure deep blue waters, and we sighted a family of dolphins as we were cruising around, a magic moment for the children. We loved stopping for a long lunch at Pantelis Marathi, a delicious family-owned restaurant on a very very small island called Marathi.
VISIT in PATMOS
There is a mystical atmosphere on the island when you see the monks and priests passing by in their long black robes and beards in the heat of the summer. It’s because Patmos has one of the most important orthodox monasteries in the world, the Monastery of St John the Divine. It’s stunning, and so peaceful, perched atop the island, in the Chora ie. the old town, a Unesco World Heritage site.
The other cultural / religious highlight is the Cave of Apocalypse where St John wrote his book of Revelation in the Bible. And the famous three old windmills…
And then, the entire Chora (the old town around the monastery) is stunning. A labyrinth of small cobbled stone streets, with a (very) few tavernas for a cheap and delicious dinner of grilled fish and salads.
SLEEP in PATMOS
Patmos is a discreet island, far from the hype of famous Mykonos. It’s a mix of well-heeled Greeks and international travellers in the know. There are many families too. The French, Italian and Belgium seem to be the majority of the international clientele, but Julia Roberts was rumoured to be scouting for a house in the Chora last summer. All this to say that there are no large scale resorts, only small hotels and apartment or houses to rent.
We loved the Petra Hotel (photos above), located in a quieter bay a short drive from Skala and Chora (the main towns). It’s overlooking the calm sea, and it’s a short walk from a picturesque fisherman’s beach. The hotel is not particularly child-friendly in that there were no child-seats or children menu at the restaurant (a pitty), there are many stairs to go up to the room. But the long-time owners will do everything to put you at ease and accommodate your special family needs. When we were there, there were at least 4 other families and they all seemed regulars.
If I was to rent a house, I would choose to stay in the Chora, high up on the island, for the magnificent views at sunset. It’s no more than a 20minute scenic drive to the beaches. Try the tourism office or this site for ideas.
EAT in PATMOS
There are a few delicious choices, and most people eat outside at night. The restaurants are casual, with that laid back Mediteranean feel, very family-friendly. Our favourite taverna was Leonidas near Lampi Bay in the northern part of Patmos. Reserve a table on the terrace, get there at sunset and enjoy grilled fish and raki while the children play in the garden. It’s magic, and what a summer vacation should be.
Another favourite was the taverna of Vagelis on the main square of the old Chora (better to ask for a table on the square and soak in the atmosphere). their specialties are the local meat dishes. Everyone raves about fancy Benetos and its home-grown fruits and vegetables, but we were more impressed with the meals we had in the old-school tavernas. Here are some friends’ recommendations if you need more choices: Kyma for fish. Hiliomodi (in Skala) for their specialty dessert tomatini. Lambi for fish and the specialty fried cheese. And Vegera if you crave good italian food.
You could go around all day long by scooter. But with a family, you’ll definitely need a car and you’re best booking it in advance in the height of the summer. Arrange it with your place of stay. There’s Avis and a bunch of local car rentals. they usually bring you the car wherever you’d like, even at the arrival of the boat. If you need a taxi, keep this number: 22470 31225.
…the music blew and pushed me
pieces of sea here – pieces of sea farther one.
Odysseu Elytis, in the poetry book Maria Nefele, Patmos.