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It is perhaps unfortunate that the capital of Nisyros, Mandraki, appears from the quayside at its eastern extremity to be rather unprepossessing; a pity because once inside the little town you soon discover it has great character and atmosphere with its mini-square virtually roofed in by huge mulberry trees. The houses are almost all old and a stroll through the narrow alleyways between them is rewarding.
All of which perhaps makes it less unfortunate that it is so easily overlooked because the boat-loads of tourists, who disembark at the jetty to be taken by bus into the island’s centre to visit the vast crater of its volcano, might otherwise make Mandraki unbearably crowded at times. A dramatic road skirts the eastern side of the crater to serve the (until recently) deserted village of Emborio and the thriving, brilliantly white village of Nikia slightly further on, which is enchanting and notable for its lovely circular town square.
One other dramatic site you should not miss is the ruined castle on a steep hill behind Mandraki, from which there is a staggering view across to Kos and the Turkish coast. Below it is the town beach, which is serviceable rather than over-tempting – Nisyros is not first choice for beach-lovers.
But it might well be for walkers: an almost circular island varying from about 5-7 km across and with a hugely mountainous interior offers excellent walking amongst often surprisingly lush scenery (the greenery presumably thriving on the volcanic soil). There has recently been a map published which labels the island paths rather charmingly as either “pavement”, “fixed” or “not fixed”.
Ferry services, other than the excursion boats to nearby Kardamena on Kos, are a bit erratic but clever scheduling can enable you to combine a stay here with Tilos, Symi or Rhodes. Kos (and sometimes Rhodes) are the two gateway airports.