Greece is one of those countries where you can simply throw a dart at the map when choosing your destination, and you’re unlikely to be wrong. From ritzy Santorini, history-soaked Athens, cosmopolitan Corfu, vibrant Rhodes to the star-studded beach clubs of Mykonos - this Mediterranean country never ceases to amaze.
But one up-and-coming island in the Dodecanese that doesn’t get enough praise should definitely be part of your luxury charter cruise itinerary, and that is the turquoise Kalimnos, whose beaches are beautifully spared from mass tourism. Sprinkled with tranquil, dreamy villages and hidden jewels that remain to be discovered, Kalymnos is a popular destination year-round.
Popular among climbers who come to conquer the vertiginous cliffs and snap their next panoramic photos of the sea and mountains (one of which was used by Apple), the island stands on 760 above the sea. Because of the inaccessibility of some areas, Kalymnos maintained traditions very distinct from those found in the neighboring Leros and Kos. Full of natural gems that amaze visitors, 10,000 of whom come yearly just for the climb, and this Dodecanese island will enchant you with a mix of stunning environment, impressive architecture, and glittery seas. With two modern marinas, Kalymnos is perfect for your next Aegean escapade.
Best places to visit in Kalymnos
When arriving in Kalymnos, you’re likely to dock in the main town, which will greet you with a maze of pastel-hued houses and streets, the statue of Poseidon, and the hustle and bustle from tourist shops that sell sea sponge.
The sponge harvesting industry was the island’s main source of income through the centuries, and the tradition remains today. Built amphitheatrical around the harbor, the town has a laid-back vibe and a livable atmosphere. It won’t take you long to conclude that Pothia is one of the most charming towns in Greece where not much has changed throughout the centuries.
Enjoy a stroll through the city to discover the whitewashed facades, bright Venetian mansions with colorful shutters and doors, and several well-preserved churches. If history sparks your interest, visit the newly-built Archaeological Museum with exhibitions from the Bronze age and Byzantine era.
The Hellenistic bronze statue discovered by fishermen by chance in 1995 steals the show - Lady of Kalymnos was brought in a fishing net and is now one of the symbols of the island, along with the Castle of Chrisocheria. Built in the middle ages by Knights Hospitaller, the fortress that sits high on a natural hill, served the Kalymnians as an observing point for the towns of Pothia and Chora.
Even if you’re not that interested in religion, try to take the time to visit the St. Sava Monastery, perched high on a hill that affords the most beautiful sights of the sea.
As you luff up to explore other spots in Kalymina, you might notice that the town, when viewed from the sea, resembles Cinque Terre and will probably want to come back to explore it further.
Once the capital of the island, Chora was often attacked by pirates, which is why most of the settlements are built high above the sea, on a tall valley that overlooks the azure bay.
The lovely town is famous for the Church of Panagia Kecharitomene, with Byzantine mosaics and gold-covered icons. The church is located in The Castle of Chryssocheria, which was built by the knights, and its name translates to “our Lady with the golden hands''.
The island has a rich history, and its settlers were among the first to adopt Christianity, so you’ll find many early basilicas from the 5th century here, like the Church of Christ of Jerusalem.
Situated between two valleys on the most fertile piece of land in Kalymnos, the city of Vathy has a quiet and serene aura. The sheltered harbor is surrounded by dramatic cliffs, mirroring in the glittery bay, while the traditional houses gleam in the distance. Just at the entrance of the fishing boat studded port, you’ll spot a prehistoric cave, Daskalio, that more adventurous charterers might want to visit. Others will want to relax in one of the old-school taverns serving ouzo and strong, Greek coffee and absorb the views and capture the fragrance of oregano, thyme, and sage blending with the lingering sea salt.
Best Beaches In Kalymnos
This Dodecanese island abounds in turquoise bays where you can drop your anchor for the day and enjoy a nice swim. Some of them can easily be mistaken for Caribbean destinations, and you’ll discover lots of them during your luxury charter cruise.
Just 15km from the capital, Argononta Beach is surrounded by thick verdant forests and is adored for its bright aquamarine sea. It has a mix of fine sand and small pebbles and is perfect for your next day of lazy relaxation.
One of the prettiest beaches of the region, Myrties owes its charms to crystal clear sparkly waters and abundant shade that makes it ideal for those who like to avoid the heat. There are a few lovely tavernas here serving refreshments and offering complimentary parasols.
If you’re an experienced climber, consider paying a visit to the Grande Grotta nearby to enjoy spectacular vistas of the region.
If pebbles aren’t your thing, skip the two beaches mentioned above and come to this sandy oasis, just 5km from the main town. Adored among the locals, the beach has views of the medieval Holy Cross Monastery, truly a sight to be seen while swimming in the translucent bay. Many cafes offer cocktails and tasty bites, and you’ll find that the beach is very family-friendly.
Platis Gialos Beach
Not far from the main town either, Platis Yialos is surely one of the most spectacular beaches on the island. Owing to its allure to fine black volcanic sand and impressive rocks, this beach is a popular spot for both families and young singles who come to enjoy the sunset over this dreamy bay.
When you’re yearning for some privacy and want to have the beach all to yourself, moor in Akti - an unspoiled oasis with limpid waters perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
A crescent-shaped beach with dramatic rocks and fine-grained sand, Avlakia is backdropped by a pretty village and tall hills. After some swimming, you can relax in one of the traditional tavernas or shop for souvenirs at colorful shops and galleries nearby.
Climbing in Kalymnos
The only reason the beaches sometimes don’t get the recognition they deserve is that the mountains and peaks are even more impressive. Considered by many to be the number one climbing destination in the world, Kalymnos has some of the finest limestone crags to explore and soak in the turquoise visas from. Even if you’re not an experienced climber, you can learn new skills on one of 3400 routes on the island with experienced instructors offering lessons in every corner.
Restaurants in Kalymnos
Wherever you go, you’re likely to stumble across numerous family-owned tavernas offering delicious meals that feel home-cooked. Mouthwatering seafood and tasty greek dishes like kleftiko lamb, stuffed tomatoes, and baklava are easy to come across - it seems as though there are no bad restaurants on the island. Yet, some are simply unforgettable.
Located on Emporios beach, this restaurant offers a wide selection of dishes cooked to perfection served on a chic terrace that overlooks the sea. It offers buoys, so it’s a favorite among the yachting community who come to enjoy the environment. Since the taverna is owned by a fisherman, you can rest assured that your seabass is freshly caught, but the greek dishes won’t disappoint either. The zucchini balls are a guest favorite, and the restaurant has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu as well.
Appropriately named, Paradisio is a gorgeous restaurant where you can indulge in stellar cuisine while relaxing in a stylish garden under baldachins and lush trees. Overlooking the Vlychadia beach, the restaurant is a popular choice for a romantic dinner by the sea, as well as family-friendly lunch and swimming base. The dishes are as beautifully presented as they are tasty - Greek cuisine with a twist that never fails.
There’s nothing fancy about the place, but people travel miles to savor authentic Greek meals here, especially the eggplant moussaka served in a lovely local garden on the beaten track in Pothia.
A charming tavern overlooking the turquoise bay of Vathi, Aigaio Pelagos is famous across Kalymnos for the flavourful dishes and stunning location. The saganaki mussels deserve a Michelin star on their own! The restaurant is owned by a charming couple who will go out of their way to let you experience the best of Greek hospitality, but they don’t advertise the taverna, instead rely on the word to mouth method to attract customers - a technique that has so much worked well for them.
Shopping in Kalymnos
If you decide to bring some gifts for friends and family back home, make sure to buy some local sea sponges frequently used by big brands. You can buy them anywhere on the street, or visit the Factory of Sea Sponges for the best variety and an insight into the history of the industry. Other goodies to look out for include olive oil, natural cosmetics, and jewelry made by using a Byzantine technique forgotten of the world.