First a disclaimer… you will need more than three days on this stunning island so 72 “perfect hours” could very easily turn into “a perfect week” in Patmos– or even more..
Patmos can be described as the “anti-Mykonos.”
Not that we have anything against Mykonos. It’s just different on Patmos. It’s a high quality, low profile destination that has more introversion and reflection and less selfie-stick and glam.
Forbes magazine, in 2009, named Patmos “Europe’s most idyllic place to live”, writing that “Patmos has evolved over the centuries but has not lost its air of quiet tranquility, which is one reason why people that know it return again and again”.
People come here to relax and not be seen. They come here to experience one of the most sacred spots on earth— no matter their religious affiliation. They come here to experience architecture unique to the island and live in stunning mansions with character and history— more so than infinity pools and swanky bar scenes.
Patmos has no airport— the closest being on nearby islands like Leros and Samos.
Patmos Official Video:
Many people arrive on their chartered sailboats and yachts— or opt for the 8+ hour ferry ride from Piraeus. (If you opt for the slow ferryboat, book a cabin in advance)
While rich in history dating to antiquity, Patmos is most well-known for a certain exile known to Christians throughout the world as St. John who arrived on the island in 95 AD and took refuge in a cave.
St. John got divine intervention and was said to have heard the voice of God through a crevice in the rock and began reciting the text that would become the Book of the Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse— a book in the New Testament that occupies a central place in Christian theology.
The entire town of Chora was built around the historic cave, which is the island’s main tourist site today. In 1999, the entire town of Chora along with the Monastery of St. John the Theologian were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
When declaring the monastery and town a protected site, UNSECO said: “There are few other places in the world where religious ceremonies that date back to the early Christian times are still being practiced unchanged.”
The mansions that surround the main monastery were actually built as a sort of fortification to protect the monastery from pirate attacks. Known less for their ornate external decor and more for their historic interiors, many of the historic houses today serve as rental properties for tourists.
Many well-heeled Athenians actually rent homes for the entire season, while several are available for short term rental, as well.
If sandy beaches are your thing, visit Psili Ammos. The beach isn’t accessible by car. You can get a boat from Skala or you can drive and park near the area of Diakopti along the side of the road and hike to the beach (20-30 minutes). Psili Ammos has a great taverna with no electricity which means everything you’re eating is freshly made.
Petra is another great place to swim— named after a single rock in the middle of the sea just off the beach. There’s a tiny island that you can swim to or take a canoe. Get here early because sun beds go pretty quickly here.
Another great beach is Didimes (or Twins) which is two pebble beaches side by side. Be sure to check out the cantina at the top of the hill along the main road with freshly grilled fish, home cooked stuffed vegetables and other authentic meals made daily by the proprietor’s wife.
Get fresh fish grilled to perfection at Lampi Beach (Taverna Lampi) and great appetizers (and Tsipouro) at To Tsipouradiko Mas in Skala (the port town of Patmos) with tables so close to the sea you might get wet.
Also in Skala is Trehantiri with traditional Greek food and local specialties and don’t miss Kyma near Aspri Beach.
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A photo posted by Kyma ?Patmos island (@kyma_patmos) on
For upscale seafood, try Benetos and for home-cooked traditional meals eat at Ktima Petra near Petra Beach.
Make sure you have breakfast at Vagia Cafe on Vagia Beach— their breakfast is memorable.
Take a day trip from Patmos to the tiny islands of Marathi, Arki, Macronissi, Aspronissi and Tiganakia. There are organized excursions available from the port of Skala or you can charter your own speedboat for the day.
Tripas Restaurant (on Arki island) is— by far— one of the best tavernas in Greece. The fish is caught fresh, daily and the meals are cooked with the freshest of ingredients grown in the restaurant’s garden.
The Tiganakia islands are known for the stunning blue waters where you can swim and Macronissi for its emerald waters.
Aspronissi island is named for its stark white pebbled beach with natural sources of white clay used to treat various skin ailments.
A visit to the Monastery of St John is a must on Patmos but be sure to check the schedule as it functions as a monastery with services and isn’t always opened for tourists.
Although numerous small hotels and “rooms for rent” dot the island’s main town and villages, we recommend living like the locals and booking a private residence.
The island has some of the most historic mansions in all of Greece that have been preserved and renovated, allowing guests to take a step back in time, but with all of the modern amenities for your holiday.
Serendipity Greek Villas is our company of choice not only for their selection of historic homes on Patmos but for the service they provide. Our three favorite homes from their collection:
Villa Annabelle was restored 7 years ago by a London-based interior designer with roots in Patmos. This villa redefines luxury. Forget swimming pools and private beaches – here, it’s all about the chic and stylish attention to detail.
Located in the very heart of Chora, this residence is a fabulous rebirth of Patmian architecture with all the original features being retained, including high ceilings, stone built walls, wooden details, colorful ornate rugs and a magnificent internal courtyard.
A simply astonishing property in the very heart of Chora, this exceptional home is the essence of the Patmian way of living.
This 3-bedroom property can accommodate 6 people.
Villa Anema was restored 5 years ago by the new owners who run a famous art gallery on Dover Street in London. It was in ruins for many years.
This exceptionally spacious, bright, and private house is an outstanding example of traditional Patmian architecture. Original wooden ceilings, flagstone floors, and hand-carved furniture are complemented with elegant antiques and colorful textiles. Effortlessly chic, this historic house has been sensitively updated for contemporary living.
The secluded courtyard and spectacular sea-view terrace make the perfect backdrop for unforgettable gatherings and celebrations.
This 3-bedroom property can accommodate 6 people.
Entering this splendid home is like stepping back in time. From the plant-filled atrium to the richly patterned living room, every detail evokes the island’s history. High ceilings and pastel shades infuse the house with space and light.
Breezy bedrooms come with canopy beds and gorgeous en-suite bathrooms.
This very special house can accommodate up to 5 guests in its 2 1/2 bedrooms.
Grab a copy of Tom Stone’s: The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir, published by Simon & Schuster in 2003 which takes place on the island. It’s the perfect companion.
A great time to visit the island is the end of July when the Patmos International Film festival is taking place. The festival, one of the best in Greece, attracts an international cast of filmmakers and cinephiles alike. A few years ago, Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne was here. *This year, the festival takes place July 21-27. See details here.
Don’t miss sampling Patmos’ famous, traditional pies called Pougia. They’re fried dough filled with crushed nuts and spices, drizzled with powdered sugar.