Greek Island of Patmos (Dodecanese)
2 Unesco World Heritage sites

greece travel map Patmos greek islandThis is the island where St. John the Divine was said to have had the Book of Revelations dictated to him by a voice in a cave.

The 11th century monastery built for him one of the island's chief attractions a millennium later. With a stunning harbor, the port of Skala has become very much of a resort, with chic tourist shops that pour off the cruise boats in droves during peak season.

Advance reservations are strongly recommended during this time, though there is a good range of prices for the many rooms available, and many good tavernas to choose from as well. Shops sell jewelry, worry beads (komboloyi), rugs, ceramics, paintings and more.

It's a half hour walk uphill along the old kalderimi (cobbled path) to the lovely Hora which sits outside of the massive monastery walls, and well worth the exertion for the full effect of this magical spot, though to be avoided when the cruise boats have just pulled in, as the buses will beat you there at those times, with their hordes. On the way up the hill is the monastery with the cave where St. John is said to have heard the voice of God.

The monastery up top, which is a maze of courtyards, stairways, arcades, chapels, and the like, is called Aghiou Ioannou Theologou (Monastery of St. John the Theologian), both monastery and village (Hora) listed as Unesco World Heritage sites.

papas greek orthodox priestIn the Chapel of the Panaghia (Virgin Mary) are the best preserved frescoes. The Treasury houses precious manuscripts, embroidery, medieval icons of the Cretan School, and satin shrouds said to be from Christ's coffin. Admission 3.50 euros.

Dress codes are strict, so don't go there in shorts and bikini tops. Outside of the monastery walls, you can wander amid the 17th and 18th century shipowners' mansions in the whitewashed village of Hora, amid narrow cobbled alleys, the interiors of the mansions quite stunning, with carved furniture, their kitchens with flagstone floors and terraces with pebble mosaics. Fine woodcarving by local craftsmen can also be seen in the local churches and monasteries, the best at the convent of Zookhokou Piyhis on the village outskirts.

If you want to stay in Hora, you must book months ahead, which can be done online. Good restaurants are easy to find in Hora, and there are also some bars and boutiques. Beaches are plentiful on Patmos, with Meloi a half hour walk from Skala, with shade, good snorkeling, an excellent taverna open all year, the island's only campground (with many facilities), and rooms and studios to rent.

patmos portThe cove of Aspri not far away has two fish taverna; Agriolivadhi (beyond Meloi) is both sand and pebble, with two tavernas and a kayak rental and beach paraphernalia. Kambos is a restor with shade, three tavernas, watersports, rooms, and a village nearby with small farms, a church, and two tavernas, this being the only village on the island besides Hora and Skala. Beyond Kambos beach are the cove beaches of Vayia and Livadhi tou Yeranou, with a taverna, and a trail between these leading to pebble coves where nude bathing is the custom. Aghios Yiorghios is a small islet with a beach, easy to swim out to; Lambi has multicolored volcanic pebbles, a taverna open from May to October; Livadhi Kaloghiron (Meadow of the Monks) is in a remote farm valley with a little monastery, though the beach has no sand, and too much wind and seaweed. Lefkes Beach is gravel with some trees and a small boat anchorage (no facilities,however).

The resort of Sapsila to the south of Skala has a mediocre beach; Grikos is a package resort with a shallow water beach and some decent tavernas; Petra is a long pebble beach but there's no shade. Diakofti and Alykes are respectively a boatyard with restaurant and a beach; from near Diakofti you can walk to Psili Ammos ( Fine Sand) beach, which has a taverna.