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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 25 December, 2022
Expert travel writer: Rachel Howard

Orthodox pilgrims, fashion designers and their muses, and a colourful cast of Greek island cognoscenti flock to Patmos.

Crowned by the magnificent 11th-century Monastery of St John, the island’s capital, Chora, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but its maze of whitewashed alleyways still feels utterly serene.

In fact, the whole of this small, hard-to-reach Dodecanese island is miraculously unscathed by mass tourism. Follow dirt tracks over thyme-scented hills to deserted chapels, take water taxis to remote pebble coves, or while away afternoons playing backgammon in the port of Skala.

Considered a sacred island, the nightlife is limited compared to other Greek islands. But on Patmos, traditions run deep and the pace of life is refreshingly slow.

Orientation

Boats arrive at Skala, a lively port where fishing vessels, ferries, and cruise ships drift past the waterfront cafes.

High overhead is the majestic capital of Chora, one of the most breathtaking and well-preserved villages in Greece.

The Greek Orthodox church, which owns swathes of the island, has saved it from overdevelopment. Apart from the sleepy hamlets of Kambos to the north and Grikos to the south, it’s mostly rocky hills and pebble coves.

Food & Drink

The fine dining scene caters to the many affluent, cosmopolitan homeowners of Chora. But there are plenty of simple Greek tavernas and kafenia (coffee shops) scattered around the island.

Another unique attraction on Patmos is the kantina,  glorified shacks on far-flung beaches that serve simple seaside snacks. There is even an atmospheric restaurant in the old (working) boatyard, or tarsanas.

What to try

Pop into any bakery (the best is Koumanis in Skala) for a traditional Patmian cheese pie dusted with cinnamon or poungi – pastry parcels filled with almonds and honey.

Also see our round-up of traditional Greek foods to try in Greece for some other foodie delights you’ll no doubt come across while you’re there.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Greek Orthodox Easter

Patmos, Greek Islands, Greece

Greece’s biggest religious festival offers a wonderful insight into the country’s culture and traditions. Celebrated on Patmos with great pomp.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 1 week

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Cave of the Apocalypse
Experience

Cave of the Apocalypse

Patmos, Greek Islands, Greece

This creepy cavern is where St. John the Evangelist had his apocalyptic revelations (which became the last book of the New Testament). Adorned with 12th-century wall paintings and shimmering icons, the sacred grotto is often packed with Greek pilgrims, as well as day trippers from the many cruise ships that service Patmos.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Lambi Beach
Experience

Lambi Beach

Patmos, Greek Islands, Greece

A tranquil beach in the north of the island, famous for its beautiful, multicoloured pebbles. But beware: you can be fined if you remove any pebbles from the beach.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Psili Ammos beach
Experience

Psili Ammos beach

Patmos, Greek Islands, Greece

Patmos is short on sandy beaches, but Psili Ammos (meaning ‘fine sand’) is a gem. It’s only accessible by water taxi from Skala or a one-hour hike over the hills from Grikos, rewarded by ice-cold beer and stewed goat at the shady taverna on arrival.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Porto Scoutari

Patmos, Greek Islands, Greece

A smart and exceptionally well-run hotel geared towards couples, with a large pool, spa, and lush grounds overlooking the sea, which is a 10-minute walk away.

Official star rating:

The Petra Hotel

Patmos, Greek Islands, Greece

Serene seaside hotel that effortlessly combines five-star service, low-key luxury and fabulous sea views.

Official star rating:

When to go

Greek Orthodox Easter (April/May) is the best time to visit, with the chance to experience Greece’s most important religious festival.

July and August are the busiest (and hottest) months, and can be jumping with glamorous Italians and Greeks, and day-trippers descending from cruise ships.

Otherwise, the island tends to be blissfully crowd-free. However, most hotels, restaurants and bars are closed between 1 November and 1 April.

Getting there and away

There’s no airport on Patmos. Ferries from Piraeus (9hrs), Rhodes (5hrs), Samos (3hrs) and Kos (2hrs) dock at Skala, the bustling port and transport hub. Ferry routes and times vary seasonally.

Rhodes, Samos and Kos are all accessible by domestic flights from Athens and international charter flights during the summer.

Getting around

The main taxi rank is in Skala, but prices are steep and it’s always best to negotiate the fare in advance.

Public transport around the island is rudimentary. There’s a fairly frequent bus service between Skala and Chora, along with less regular buses to Grikos and Kambos.

To explore the far-flung beaches, hire a moped or car, or hop on one of the water taxi boats that service most beaches from Skala. You can also rent your own boat, or take a round-the-island cruise with a local outfit such as Patmos Boats and Patmos Marine.

Where to stay

The most covetable properties – both for their mind-blowing views and stunning interiors – are the clutch of exclusive villas in Chora.

Cheaper hotels and guesthouses are concentrated in Skala, handy if you want to be in the heart of the action and for quick getaways to the beach.

Most of the larger resort hotels are in the seaside hamlets of Grikos and Kambos.

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