Published in Travel Guides
Most visitors to Patmos are either interested in its religious associations or are members of the Athenian and international jet-set seeking a low-profile, high-quality retreat.
Those who arrive on their own yachts are usually guests of the select few who have one of the traditional houses in the Hora and there is also a steady stream of cruise boats. Patmos beaches are few and not particularly attractive.
If beach life is important to you, then head for the other islands in the vicinity after seeing the sights of Patmos.
Why visit Patmos?
Because of Hora, the island’s capital, with its marvellous architecture; because of its treasures of the Orthodox Church and its monasteries; because of its religious tradition and history. But also because of its serene atmosphere.
Dorians and Ionians were the island’s first inhabitants and it was a place of exile during the Roman years. It acquired its first real settlement in the late 11th c. The first person to be exiled here was Orestes, pursued by the Furies after murdering his mother Clytemnestra. He built a temple to Artemis on the spot where in 1088 Christodoulos founded the famous fortress-monastery of St. John the Divine, destroying the temple in the process and using it for building material.
From 1523 to 1912, Patmos was under Ottoman rule, which meant fewer pirate raids and considerable prosperity. In 1713, the Patmian Theological School was founded by the saintly monk and scholar Makarios Kalogeras. Patmos was governed by the Italians from 1912 until 1943. The buildings in the Hora are a very rare example of Byzantine architectural tradition, with their characteristic white facades, ceramic brick floors and external exposed natural stone corners. The stone-built houses, with flat roofs for the collection of rainwater, abut each other and windows are only at a height.
Exiled by the Roman emperor Domitian, St. John the Divine came to the island in AD 95 and took refuge in the well-known cave, called the cave of the Apocalypse because this is where he dictated the prophetic text inspired by God to his disciple Prochoros.
Patmos is a narrow, irregular strip of volcanic rock only 12,5 km long and mountainous. The climate is mild and summers are cool, thanks to the winds. The locals continue to be involved in farming, fishing and icon painting, in addition to the tourist trade.
The Hora (pop. 670) grew up around the fortress-monastery of St. John in the late 16th c. It lies due south and above the port of Skala, and is connected with it by a narrow avenue of eucalyptus trees.
With its three small squares and dense construction, the village is divided into connecting quarters such as Kritika, Apithia, Allotina and Pezoula. There are many interesting churches of the 15th, 16th and 17th c. to see. The view from the Hora over the the island’s indented coastline is superb.
Tel. 0030 2247020800, 0030 2247031223
Daily 8:00-13:00 & Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 14:00-16:00
Under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, it is a medieval monastic complex surrounded by a fortified polygonal wall, studded with tall towers and crenellated battlements for protection against pirates. A wide stairway leads to the entrance of the monastery and the chapel of Agioi Apostoloi. The main entrance is guarded by two towers and the famous projecting barbette, with an opening in the floor through which boiling oil or molten lead could be poured on adversaries. Today only its outer northern wall has been preserved.
The main church or katholikon was completed later with various additions of different periods and styles. The buildings line the interior of the circuit wall, leaving open spaces or courtyards, between them which supply light and air. The cells, chapels, storerooms and the other areas are linked by a labyrinthine network of corridors, arcades and stairways.
The courtyard, of stonework with arched cloisters, lies at the heart of the monastery, where you will see a large wooden and a small iron simandro or gong (used in place of bells during Ottoman rule). The old font filled with holy water stands on the high stone circular pedestal in its centre. The katholikon is of the Greek cross-in-square type, surmounted by a dome supported on four pillars; its ornate icon screen is early 19th c.
The chapel of Ossios Christodoulos contains an older icon screen and frescoes by the Cretan Andreas Rindzos, dating back to 1500. The 12th c. chapel of the Virgin, to the right of the main church, has a marble floor with an ancient inscription, an interesting icon screen and the monastery’s oldest frescoes, which had been painted over and were not discovered until 1958. The refectory or trapeza is dominated by the marble-revetted table with spaces carved out for the monks’ tableware.
Visit the cloistered monastery library, which contains, among other things, its founder’s Gospel on the original parchments
Finally, don’t miss the Treasury cum museum with the monastery’s icons, heirlooms and relics of saints. The monastery is a major centre for research in Byzantine studies and manuscripts; it has two ultra modern studios for restoring icons and approximately 13,000 valuable documents in its archives.
A nuns’ convent with two churches in its courtyard, decorated with icons of the 16th-18th c., icon stands, carved wooden icon screens and valuable ecclesiastical vessels.
Tel. 0030 2247031360
9 am-2 pm, 5-8 pm (call to make sure)
Housed in the mansion of the gong-striker, which was built in 1625 by masons from Smyrna. Worth seeing are the old furniture, paintings, heirlooms and icons.
Tel. 0030 2247031276
Daily 8:00-13:00 & Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 14:00-16:00
On the road between Skala and Hora, surrounded by the Monydrio dedicated to the Apocalypsis. Go down the few steps to the 18th c. chapel of Agios Artemios. To the rear of it, you’ll come to the entrance to the church of Agia Anna and the holy cave where there is also a chapel dedicated to St. John. You could also visit the Patmian Theological School, today a theological college recognized by the State.
The biggest village in Patmos, Hora’s port, with modern buildings, lots of shops and the centre of nightlife. To walk up to Hora the old cobbled path is more picturesque than the main road, but be sure to have a torch at night.
A small tourist village on a beautiful bay, with an islet at its entrance. Its hotels, rooms and tavernas are all situated on the waterfront.
Drenched in greenery, with both cypresses and vegetable plots, this delightful valley with its little church, the Panagia tou Livadiou, is a wonderful place for a walk, followed by a swim at its attractive beach.
The only sandy beach on Patmos, and the best. The sea is clean, usually there are some waves. Accessible by caique or on foot via the main road.
A beach with sand and pebbles. Well organized, with facilities for both the sunbathing crowd and for the more athletic.
The most sophisticated beach on the island, which in August seems to exemplify the problem of global overpopulation. Shingle for the most part, it becomes sandy once you’re in the water. Here you’ll find reclining beach chairs for the lazy and water sports for the active.
Deserted, shaded by trees, with pebbles and deep, clear water. Ten minutes’ walk from Kambos.
If you don’t want to meet a soul, consider walking another kilometre east of Vagia. Here there are two pebbly beaches with trees that are divided by a small promontory. Leave your car by the side of the road and take the path. Bring water and food with you.
Opposite two islets, not a particularly good beach.
By air from Athens airport El. Venizelos to Samos, airport tel. 0030 2273087800 or Kos airport tel. 0030 2242051229 or Leros airport tel. 0030 2247022777 with Aegean Airlines.
By ferry from Piraeus to Patmos, Piraeus Port Authority, tel. 0030 2104226000, 14944.
By catamaran from Patmos to Leros, Lipsi, Kalymnos, Kos, Phodes, Patmos Port Authority 0030 2247034313
Patmos is a small island and you’ll have no trouble getting to the most interesting spots. There are frequent buses to Hora, Skala, Kambos and the beaches of Grikos and Kato Kambos as well as taxis if you don’t rent or don’t have your own transport.
Patmos is at its best in June and September. The island is dead in winter, but July and August are suffocatingly full of tourists. Easter celebrations are an unforgettable experience, more so at the Zoodohos Pigi monastery than at St. John’s because of the crowds. Be sure to book your room well ahead of time.
For useful safety information and licensed water sports centers please visit
Patmos Town Hall 0030 2247360300
Patmos Tourist Office 0030 2247031666
Patmos Police 0030 2247031303
Patmos Port Authority 0030 2247034313
Patmos Health center 0030 2247032669
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