As I’ve shared in other posts recently, my family and I explored a lot of Greece’s mainland during our trip to that fascinating country. Our jam-packed itinerary included stops in the Macedonia, Peloponnese and Thessaly regions. And, much to our delight, we were also able to sail to the island of Patmos, one of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, during our trip.
It was dark when we arrived, so we couldn’t tell until the following morning just how charming the area that we were staying in was. But, over the next couple of days, we began to understand why Forbes magazine in 2009 named Patmos as the most idyllic place to live in Europe. Just take a look at the photo I took one day as I stood at the front door of our hotel! Keep reading to find out some of the highlights of our little jaunt to Patmos. Perhaps our experience will inspire you and your family to someday visit the island, which was designated as a Holy Island by the Greek Parliament in 1981.
We traveled to Patmos via a Blue Star ferry that we boarded at the port in Pireaus, a town about seven miles from Athens, on Greece’s mainland. I had never been on a ferry and must admit I wasn’t excited about the idea of traveling on one for eight hours through the Aegean Sea. Although I went on a wonderful Caribbean cruise for my honeymoon, most of what I knew about water travel was based upon images of people in my hometown of Chicago riding in water taxis in the Chicago River or enjoying meals on dinner boats in Lake Michigan. And, neither of those types of vessels should be used for long distance sailing!
So, I was relieved to discover while perusing the Blue Star website how big their ferries are and thrilled upon boarding to see how beautiful ours was inside. It looked like a mini cruise ship and had enough space for dozens of cabins, indoor and outdoor seating areas, places to order food and beverages (including one that served delicious cold chocolate beverages!), and a boutique-style gift shop that sold jewelry, clothing, purses and other items. It also contained a garage for cars that were being transported, as well as an area that allowed for trucks (carrying groceries and other supplies) and coach buses to be taken to Patmos.
Ferry passengers could purchase a ticket to sit in an aircraft-style seat in the main seating areas, pay more money and book a cabin, or do both. We had tickets for the comfy seats, as well as a cozy little cabin outfitted with two bunk beds and a bathroom during both legs of our trip. If you decide to travel like this with your family from the mainland to Patmos, consider doing the same thing. This will be very helpful if you end up having an early morning boarding time, as we did when returning to the mainland. My sleep-deprived hubby headed to the cabin soon after we boarded. And, after he got up, our girls went to the cabin for a quick nap. Being able to go to our cabin was also nice whenever we didn’t want to use a public bathroom.
Now, on to sharing some details about the island itself. Patmos is home to the famous Cave of the Apocalypse (that visitors enter through the white building in the below photo) and the nearby Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Found on a hill between Skala, the island’s port city, and Chora, the capital city, both places are registered together as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
According to Christian tradition, it was in the Cave of the Apocalypse that John, author of the book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, heard God’s voice and was inspired to write the book. Because of this, the cave is seen as a sacred, must-visit destination for Christians around the world. Since we were able to take photos without restrictions inside the places we visited on the mainland, I was surprised and disappointed that we weren’t allowed to do that in the innermost part of the cave. I would’ve enjoyed having a photograph of the space, which was illuminated by lit candles and is so serene that tourists sometimes like to linger in there to pray or meditate before leaving.
We also visited the nearby Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Inside, tourists will find artifacts, rare documents, and other items of religious and historical and significance. So, whether you’re fascinated by the historical relevance of the monastery to the island’s residents or the global Orthodox Church; a church history scholar who would enjoy perusing the different items on display in the museum; or simply an adult or young person who enjoys learning about people from different cultures or other faiths, this place is worth adding to your trip itinerary. By the way, we were told we weren’t allowed to take photos inside of this place either, so the images that I have from that visit are of the exterior and of one area of a courtyard that was challenging to capture since so many other people were trying to do the same thing. However, if you happen to be on the island during Passion Week (also known as Holy Week or the week leading up to Easter Sunday) and attend the special services that take place, you might be able to take photos during a large outdoor ceremony.
If you’re not ready to head back to your hotel after touring both of the above-mentioned cultural sites, you could spend some time at one of the beaches on the island. There are several to pick from, but we only visited one, Kampos Beach. Covered by what felt like a mixture of sand and small pebbles, Kampos Beach is reportedly the most popular one on the island and I think I know why. For a small fee, you can arrange to use a sunbed and umbrella, or even rent water skis, pedal boats and other equipment. The beach also has a snack bar and is walking distance from at least one restaurant. The view from our sunbeds wasn’t bad either.
Thanks to all of the above reasons, we really enjoyed our time on Patmos and would probably go back again if we had the chance to do so. And, one of the things we’d probably do first is get more of the yummy Greek food I mentioned in my previous article about Greek foods that should be tried. (FYI, the zucchini fritters, eggplant dip, and Greek salad were all enjoyed while we were on Patmos.)
Have you ever been to Patmos? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. So, free to share a few details about your time there in the comment section below! And, if you haven’t been to the island, but want to explore it someday, I want to hear from you, as well! Just take a moment to tell me below what you’re most looking forward to seeing or doing during your trip.