An Adventure Seeker's Guide To The Greek Island Of Kalymnos
It might be less famous than its neighboring islands Mykonos and Santorini, but there's a handful of reasons why you should consider Kalymnos for your next Greek holiday.
Kalymnos is part of the Dodecanese group of Greek islands off the west coast of Turkey. It's a sport climbing paradise and the perfect place to enjoy food and nature without breaking the bank. Our Kalymnos trip exceeded all our expectations that we're planning on making it a yearly affair!
If you're curious about what this off the beaten path destination has to offer, read on.
SPORT CLIMBING IN KALYMNOS
Its rocky terrain and amazing stalactite and tufa formations make Kalymnos a climber's paradise, but it only began to rise in popularity in the mid-1990's when an Italian climber saw Kalymnos's potential and initiated a massive project of grading and bolting climbing routes around the island.
In Kalymnos, you'll be pleased to experience slab, steep, overhang, and tufa climbing, as well as a wide range of grades from 2a to 9b. It has over 100 sectors and 3000 routes - a lifetime may well not be enough to exhaust its climbing possibilities.
WHERE TO CLIMB
Once you get to Kalymnos, head over to climbing shops in Masouri and Myrties (we recommend the Acropolis Studio shop in Masouri Square) where you can get the ultimate, amazeballs, super detailed, and updated Kalymnos Climbing Guidebook. They sell for 40 euros everywhere in the island, and 3 euros from each sale will go to the Kalymnos Rescue Team. Aside from making the most of your stay, you're also helping out the local community that makes sport climbing a fun and safe activity for everyone.
Kalymnos has a massive variety of grades and rock formations for your level and liking. But for beginners, I suggest heading over to Arginonta Valley and Symplegades.
Arginonta Valley's got several 5's and 6's, with a fairly easy 5-minute uphill walk to the sector. Its north orientation allows for a pleasant climb away from the harsh afternoon sun from 12:30 pm onwards.
Sympleglades is another beginner-friendly sector and is definitely one of my faves! It's a 10- to 15-minute uphill walk with moderate difficulty, but once there you'll be rewarded by amazing views and a vast area with a variety of rock formations and grades.
I love the fact that this climbing sector gets an even amount of sun and shade. It's got two limestone walls facing each other, so you really just have to move between the two if you're feeling too hot or too cold. It's also family-friendly as the little ones have lots of space to play and roam around on flat terrain.
When climbing in Kalymnos, make sure to bring along some sunscreen because of the high UV exposure. Some routes can also get as long as 30 meters, so a pair of belay glasses can help you avoid belayer's neck. You can get yours from your local sports shop, at a climber's store in Kalymnos, or online from Amazon.
We bought these Plasfun Y&Y Vertical glasses, and they came with a protective zipped bag with a carabiner, a cleaning cloth, a strap, and extra screws. They definitely changed my life! I can't imagine going climbing anymore without these.
There are climbing classes for small groups in Kalymnos, just ask! You can contact Tania Matsuka, a certified climbing instructor, by phone at +30 6987586251 or by email at email@example.com.
SLOW TRAVEL IN KALYMNOS
Kalymnos welcomes thousands of tourists a year all right, but it attracts a different kind of crowd. Instead of droves of people with flashy cameras and selfie sticks, you'll find smiling climbers with their backpacks, polite travellers on their motorcycles, and friendly locals sharing a piece of their heart and soul with you.
You can easily spend a month in this island without running out of routes to climb. But whether or not you enjoy sport climbing, Kalymnos can be a great place to relax, get immersed in the local life, and take things slow.
If you're taking a day off climbing, head over to the Argoninta or Masouri beaches and take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
It's also great to do a road trip around the island and see the contrasting features of the west and the east sides. Go through Vathy and do a quick stop at its quaint harbour, then head up all the way to Platanos and Metochi through zigzag roads to Arginonta.
I also highly recommend exploring the northern part of the island through Skalia, Palionisos, and Emporios on a car or a motorcycle. There are several places where you can stop for photos along the way as well as small bars to grab a beer or a freddo cappuccino, a strong variant of the iced coffee as we know it.
If you'd like to get deeper into the island life, take the boat from Myrties to the nearby Telendos Island (it takes about 10 minutes) where you can explore more climbing routes and laidback beaches.
Eat and drink
What I enjoyed as much as climbing is the amazingly cheap and insanely delicious food that this place has to offer! My boyfriend and I agreed that one of the best restaurants (and perhaps the best!) we've ever been to is in Kalymnos!
Aegean Tavern (Myrties)
(main course price range: 8-12 euros)
We're talking about Aegean Tavern, a modest-looking family-run restaurant that gets A+ for service, value for money, and food quality.
First things first: their homemade bread. If I should go back to Kalymnos for one and only one thing, this is it! Paired with Greek olives and olive oil, Aegean Tavern's bread trumps all the panaderías I've been in! It's that good.
Aegean Tavern's Greek salad's also a win. It goes with many of their main courses and is crunchy and refreshing with just a hint of their luscious and silky olive oil and topped with bits of Feta cheese. Heavenly.
For the main course, we tried several of the chef's specials: pork tenderloin (tender and flavorful), oven-baked lamb (melts-in-your-mouth goodness), and tuna steak with fig sauce (perfectly cooked tuna on a mildly sweet sauce). They're all a 10!!!
The Aegean Tavern also serves its guests with complimentary dessert... and to think I'd be more than willing to pay for these babies! They're called Loukomades/honey balls and taste something like profiteroles and fried donuts. Served with this nutty ice cream and spoonfuls of honey, it's out-of-this-world delicious.
To top it all off, The Aegean Tavern also boasts of one of the best sunset views in Kalymnos. You be the judge.
Panos Restaurant (Myrties)
(main course price range: 8-12 euros)
We also loved Panos Restaurant at Myrties, a slightly cheaper alternative to The Aegean Tavern. We especially loved the chicken souvlaki served with pita bread, tzatziki (yogurt sauce with cucumber, onions, garlic, and spices), curry rice, and a small serving of salad.
Fatolitis Bar (Masouri)
(beers price range: 2 to 3.50 euros; breakfast: 5 to 10 euros)
If you're all about big, hefty servings before a day of action and adventure, then you'll love Fatolitis Bar. I had a proper English breakfast before tackling some climbing routes and found myself well-prepared for the batalla.
Fatolitis is also a climbers' hub: it's not surprising to find big groups of people having some beers both before and after climbing. You'll surely love the ambience and how people just come together to hang out and relax.
Kamaki Café (Masouri)
(breakfast price range: 8 to 10 euros)
This café's difficult to miss with its inviting and spacious terrace. We had our breakfast here on our last day on the island and got our gourmet breakfast paired with traditional Greek coffee kaimaki poured from a traditional coffee pot called briki.
Stelios Maria Restaurant (Masouri)
(breakfast price range: 5 to 10 euros)
This restaurant offers great seaside views and a breakfast fit for champions. Our favorite was the creamy and delectable Greek yogurt topped with honey and fruit. Yum!
Ilias Tavern (Palionisos)
We went there on Easter, which happens to be one of the biggest celebrations in Kalymnos and Ilias Tavern only served light snacks. Anyway, we still enjoyed our meal with the perfect views of the sea and the mountains. It's also one of the most famous restaurants on the island and definitely worth a visit.
WHERE TO STAY
If you're looking for great value for money, Afroditi Hotel's got you covered. We stayed here for 4 days and was accommodated beyond expectations by the lovely staff! Our ferry from Athens arrived at the Pothia port at 4 AM and we found our room keys at the reception with a sweet welcome note. Although the bathroom was basic, we were happy to go back to our rooms with clean towels and freshly made beds every day.
Masouri Blu Hotel
We passed by this hotel on our way down to Masouri beach and fell in love with the whole vibe! If you're willing to spend more for stunning views and ultimate relaxation, then Masouri Blu Boutique Hotel's for you. It enjoys a premium beachfront location in Masouri and is a short walk from restaurants and stores.
WHEN TO GO
High season's July-August, so expect huge crowds. It's best to go on shoulder months like April-May and September-October to avoid queues in the climbing sectors and if you prefer a cooler temperature. Bring along a jacket as it can get cold at night and when climbing in the shade.
Anytime between June and October's best for enjoying Kalymnos's beaches. April-May's temperate overall, but the water might be too cold for swimming (though I've seen some brave souls take a dip after climbing).
You'll not run out of motorcycle rental shops in Kalymnos, as it's practically the most practical way to get around the island. If you're in Masouri, head over to Mike's Bikes and rent a motorcycle for 12 euros a day. For bigger groups or for those without a valid motorcycle license, you can rent a car for 34 euros a day. There are also taxis in the island if you're catching your plane and ferry at a very early or late hour.
HOW TO GET TO KALYMNOS
There are several ways you can reach Kalymnos. You can fly to Athens and either (1) take a local flight to Kalymnos via Aegean Airlines/Olympic Air, or (2) take a local flight to Kos via Aegean Airlines/Olympic Air then take a ferry to Kalymnos from Kos's Mastihari port. You can book your Kos-Kalymnos ferry tickets at the port on arrival.
Alternatively, you can also book a ferry from Athens to Kalymnos, which takes about half a day. This was what we did and it wasn't a bad option. You can book a room with bunk beds or airplane seats, and the ferry offers a wide range of amenities such as snack bars, restaurants, toilets, and shower rooms.
Figuring out the ferry routes and schedules to and from the Greek islands can be a chore, so I was so glad to have stumbled upon Let's Ferry. Since then, I've always booked my ferries with them, as I find their platform to be user-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Tap water in Kalymnos is not potable, but there are water refill stations labelled "Temak" where you can do refill your bottles for free. There are also plenty of small supermarkets that sell them between 50 cents to 1 euro.
- If you're doing some rock climbing, be sure to get insured. You can do so at your local mountaineering/climbing club or through an insurance company like World Nomads. It's available to people from 140 countries and is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage, and a range of adventure sports and activities. What's more, you can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Check out their travel insurance page (when you're browsing on mobile) or get a free quote here (desktop only).
- Kalymnos has a rescue team with professionally-trained volunteers (support them by donating via www.kalymnosrescueteam.org) to aid in your safe practice of the sport. It's also important to keep these emergency numbers on hand (Hospital: +30 22430 22166, 22430 23025; Police: +30 22430 22100; Universal Emergency Number: 112).
- You can't throw tissue paper on the toilet (definitely nice to know!)
The locals are genuinely friendly and they get out of their way to help you. They're also very proud of their island and won't mind sharing a story or two.
There are self-service laundry shops on the island, so you don't have to worry about packing more clothes than you can carry.
Are you ready for an adventure-packed stay in Kalymnos? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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