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Kalymnos: The island of sponge divers and climbers

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Kalymnos: Τhe island of sponge divers and climbers

The fourth largest island of the Dodecanese is famous for its sponges and has developed into a magnet for climbers and divers from all over the world.

With its rocky, wild landscape, special geomorphology, pristine beaches and trails, Kalymnos is alluring to nature and adventure seekers.

Indulge in its magic and discover seabeds that hide ancient shipwrecks, picturesque hamlets, stunning caves and mountaineering trails, in an unspoiled place, with splendid gastronomy, generously sharing its gifts with its visitors.

Routes & attractions

Stroll around in Pothia, the amphitheatrical capital of Kalymnos with the picturesque passageways and colorful houses that sprawl over the edge of two opposite hills, and admire the neoclassical mansions with Italian traits, the captains’ houses, but also the humble homes of sponge divers.

In Pothia there is also the New Archaeological Museum, where findings from the prehistoric to the post-Byzantine era are exhibited, of which the most important is the bronze statue of the "Lady of Kalymnos", a great example of sculpture of the Hellenistic period.

The Metropolis of the Transfiguration of the Savior (1861) dominates the waterfront of Pothia. Its marble altar was crafted by the great sculptor Giannoulis Halepas from the island of Tinos.

Kalymnos has a centuries-old tradition of sponge diving. On the waterfront of Pothia you will find natural sponge workshops where you can see the traditional processing method and buy your own natural sponge. To learn more about the history of Greek sponge fishing, visit the Maritime Museum of Kalymnos.

Between Pothia and Chora is the medieval Castle of Chrysocheria, built in the 15th century by the Knights Hospitaller. A few meters from the castle three stone windmills stand to this day.

On the eastern side of the island you’ll find Vathy, a small, evergreen settlement that resembles a fjord, as the sea enters a fertile valley with citrus fruits, forming the port of Rina.

Take a walk in Chora and stand in the church of Agios Savvas. Standing in the courtyard, marvel at view of Pothia valley.

Next to Chora, stands the most important ancient place of worship on the island, the Sanctuary of Delian Apollo, who was an Olympian god and the protector of ancient Kalymnos.

Visit the Cave of Kefalas or Cave of Zeus, with its 103-meter-long corridor and impressive stalagmites and stalactites.

Beaches & Activities

The all favourite beach of Kalymnos is Masouri, with its long sandy shore, crystal-clear waters and unobstructed views of the islet of Telendos. Its several beach bars play their music loud until dawn and make this beach popular among the young. The beach also gathers climbers from all over the world, since it is surrounded by rocky cliffs.

The sandy beach of Kantouni with its turquoise waters and the unique view of the mountain with the Monastery of the Holy Cross, offers a youthful and cosmopolitan air, with its many beachbars that never close.

If you seek tranquility and isolation, at 16.5 km from Pothia is the organized pebbled beach of Arginontas, a deep bay with turquoise waters, surrounded by trees.

For diving and relaxing with the mesmerizing sunset at the backdrop, visit Platis Gialos beach, with its black sand and blue waters.

Those who love water sports, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and water skiing, choose the fully organized, pebbled beach of Emporios, on the northwest side of Kalymnos, with large plane trees that reach the coast and gushing winds.

If you want to be initiated into diving, Kalymnos has certified diving centers that offer lessons to beginners.

Kalymnos has evolved into an international mountaineering destination and one of the top natural rock climbing slopes in Europe. Today, there are over 70 climbing fields on the island and over 1300 marked routes for all levels of athletes.

If you are a mountain bike enthusiast, follow the route from Masouri to Emporios, overlooking the islet of Telendos.

Tastes of the island

Try the local recipes such as myrmizeli (local horiatiki salad made of barley rusks, tomato and cheese), mououri (goat or lamb stuffed with rice and pluck, baked in a clay pot in wood-fired oven), dolmades or "fylla" (stuffed grape leaves rolls), chickpea balls, kapetanato (pork in casserole with potatoes).

If you like seafood, choose among octopus balls, octopus stew or octopus with macaroni, stuffed squid, sun-dried lobster tails, karkani (salad with mayonnaise and ray meat), Symi shrimps, as well as the famous salt dishes of the island.

You can also taste swordfish on the grill, fine lobster pasta, but also the famous spinialo with onion and olive oil, a special meze of the fishermen made of sea urchins, pines and rays that have been preserved in sea water.

In the tavernas and bakeries of Kalymnos you will find the so-called eftazymo bread or rusk (fermented with anise and ouzo) or barley bagels (kouloures) (with anise, mastic and black sesame).

For dessert, look for the gyristes with honey (Kalymnos version of honey donuts) and galaktoboureko (traditional custard dessert baked in filo).

The local sweet wine Anama is produced in Kalymnos.

Traditions & Events

The International Climbing Festival of Kalymnos, one of the most famous worldwide, takes place every October, with the participation of hundreds of renowned athletes from all over the world. The program also includes climbing marathons, cultural events, educational programs, photography exhibitions and parties with live music. This is also the place where the impressive deep-water soloing events are held with the Aegean sea at the backdrop.

The "International Scuba Diving Festival and Skandalopetra Freediving Games" take place every July and last about a week, with a program that ranges from free diving demonstrations to underwater photography competition and guided tours to thematic museums.

There are many festivals that take place in Kalymnos, where traditional music with tsampounes plays a leading role. The most famous ones are the festivities at Agios Panteleimon (27/7) in Panormos and the festival of August 15th in Vathy. Easter celebrations bring a special air to the island with the reverent procession of the Epitaphs on Good Friday and the impressive fireworks on the evening of the Resurrection.

Don't miss...

Explore Kalymnos through its hiking trails. Take the route that starts from Pothia and ends at Vathi, crossing an old Italian paved path that is 4.5 km long.

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