Kalymnos: “A Real Land of Adventures”

Locals once considered the rocky and dramatic terrain of Kalymnos to be a curse. Today, for the thousands of rock climbers who visit, it is a blessing.

From Aris Theodoropoulos*, edited by Olga Charami 

This account is part of a series of insider takes on the islands of the Dodecanese. For more on these islands, click here.

I first visited Kalymnos in the spring of 1999, when I learnt about some new rock climbing routes created by a group of Italian climbers. I was stunned when I first saw and touched the rock that was perfect for climbing, with countless possibilities, all against the backdrop of the wonderful wild landscape and the deep blue of the sea. Since then I bonded with the island, I became (almost) a Kalymnian by choice, with a vision of helping promote it as a rock climbing destination.

Kalymnos is today one of the most popular destinations for rock climbers in the world. And it is perhaps the only place in Greece where an alternative form of tourism draws people at least eight months of the year. Thanks to the presence of the rock climbers the island remains lively in the autumn and in the spring – indeed the tourism season reaches its peak in October.

The residents of the island often say that the rocky terrain that they once considered a curse – which for centuries forced them to emigrate or to dive for sponges to make a living – have been transformed into a blessing. The islanders themselves remain uncomplicated and hospitable, and their homeland seems like it belongs to an earlier era.

The most touristic part of the island – which is where the rock-climbing is – is located on its western side opposite the little island of Telendos. Healthy competition means that the tourism-related businesses, restaurants and bars are continually improving, offering exceptional services at very low prices. 

Holidays involving only a sun-bed on the beach, iced coffees and beers belong to the past. Kalymnos has much more to offer; it is the ideal place to experience real adventures.

Even if you have never scaled a rock face before, you can safely try climbing some of the easy beginner routes under the guidance of one of the highly experienced instructors who work on the island. 

If you prefer hiking, try the route known as “Aghios Fotis”. Start from the left (southern) side of the beach of Kantouni and hike along the marked trail towards the church of Aghios Fotis alongside and a little above the sea. In the morning the path is in the shade and quite cool as it also picks up the sea breeze. Have a rest at the picturesque church, where you can make a coffee with water from the well. To walk to the church and back takes about 1.5 hours in total.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to be active in the afternoons, opt for the route towards Aghios Konstantinos on Telendos, a small, charming island without noise and cars which is just a 10-minute boat ride away from Kalymnos. On disembarking at the harbor, take the road towards the right side of the island which runs by the sea and leads to the pretty church. To go and come back takes 2.5 hours. On your return, quench your thirst and sate your hunger at one of the island’s little tavernas by the sea.

Kalymnos also has a long diving tradition. Organized diving centers operate in areas that are interesting both for beginners and experts. Ask about the spots where you can dive. If you are lucky, you may even be joined by dolphins.

Do not miss visiting the “pirate beach” in Kalamies, and Palioniso, perhaps the most beautiful beach on the island in an out-of-the-way settlement opposite the islets of Imia, with clear waters and a few picturesque tavernas. In the naturally sheltered fjord-like bay of Rina in Vathy, rent a kayak or a small boat and paddle to remote and secluded beaches. Or sign up for one of the yoga sessions which are held daily in Masouri, and practice your poses in the light of a splendid sunset with a view of Telendos. 

Do not miss trying some wild goat, or the fresh fish and seafood that feature prominently in the local cuisine. If you and your group would like to share a larger fish, its best to order it the day before at your taverna of choice. 

Aris Theodoropoulos is a mountain guide, rock climbing instructor and author of rock climbing guides.

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