The small round island of Nisyros is one of the more active but less known volcanoes in Greece. It is located in the Aegean Sea, situated between the islands of Kos & Tilos, (part of the Dodecanese group of islands).
According to Greek mythology, the island was formed during the war between Gods and Giants. Poseidon chased the Giant Polybotes down to Kos, cut a part of it and threw it to his enemy, sinking him forever in the bottom of the Aegean Sea. The legendary rock is the modern Nisyros and it is said that the volcano’s explosions are the angry breathing of the defeated Giant.
In fact the island’s shape was formed within the past 150,000 years, with 3 separate eruptive stages, ranging from explosive & effusive eruptions to effusive and extrusive & rhyolitic activity. Its coasts are generally rocky or pebbled, but there are also a few sandy beaches (mainly in the northeastern part). The volcano is currently active (but not erupting), and fumaroles are found at the craters. It has had four historical eruptions, all of which had a “VEI” (volcanic explosivity index) of 2. Almost all of its eruptions involved phreatic activity. The latest eruptive activity was a steam explosion in 1888, after small ash eruptions in 1871 and 1873 and earthquakes are not infrequent. A period of seismic unrest in 1996–1997 led an international team of scientist to initiate monitoring of the volcanic unrest in the European Union sponsored “Geowarn” project. The entire volcanic complex includes the seafloor between Nisyros and Kos, the island of Gyali and a part of Kos Island.
The largest crater of the volcano, named Polybotes, has a diameter of 260m and a 30m depth. There are another 5 younger craters in the region, the largest of which is Stefanos with a diameter of 30m and a 30m depth. The volcano also surrounds a valley 2 400m in length and 950m wide.
Up on the edge of the volcanic rim to the south, there is Nikia. Nikia is semi-mountainous traditional village of Nisyros. The village is set on the rim of the caldera, inside the volcanic island at an altitude of 390m. Due to its location, it offers panoramic views of the crater and so it has become a tourist destination. The village is also known for its distinctive architecture with small streets. All streets leading to the central square, “Porta”. The houses are painted white and their characteristics are the single tile roofs, colorful doors and pebbled yards.
At the other side on the rim of the caldera, Emporios village is situated, at the 330m altitude. Being invisible from the sea, the settlement flourished during the period of piracy. Nowadays, Emporios has been abandoned due to the migration caused by the earthquake of 1933 and according to the census of 2011, has 27 residents, mainly farmers and breeders. The settlement was built to resemble a castle with houses close to each other, narrow streets and arches. The houses are small, smaller than those in Nikia, and have flat roofs to collect rainwater in cisterns. Because of the slope, on which the village has been built, many roads are steep, with steps (paths), while the houses are built incrementally. The courtyards of the houses are located in the center of the house, on the first floor. The square is surrounded by houses and the church. There are still houses from through the walls spouting hot smoke & the so-called "Apyries". There is even a natural sauna, a cave increases temperature due to hydrothermal activity on the island.
The truth is that the scenery of Nisyros Island is unique. The view to the volcano is breathtaking. Walking at the crater feels like almost being on another planet!
words & photos Kiki Kapasakalidou