I was about to tell the island of Patmos that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, because when we sailed into Skala on the east side of this historic island we were altogether unimpressed.
After slowly spending some time looking for the place where charter sail boats like ours were intended to dock and discovering that it was just steps away from a loud, busy road, we were disheartened. We’d spent the prior two nights in charming Vathis and inviting Pandeli, and here we were at Patmos, possibly the most storied of all the islands in the Dodecanese, and we were docked next to traffic.
Our high expectations of Patmos were instantly at risk.
Once docked, our view for the night was the tiny Municipal Port Fund of Patmos building to our left and large, unsightly concrete obstructions between the dock and the road. A huge construction project with cranes and other large machinery carried on in the harbor about 20 yards away, and a quick 365-degree assessment yielded nothing of particularly scenic value aside from the Monastery of St. John near the village of Chora, rising high on the hill above Skala as Patmos’ understated yet still very cool version of Mont St. Michel.
But 20 hours later when we left Skala on Patmos and headed to Lipsi we had fallen in love with the island and deemed our comparatively unpicturesque mooring location insignificant.
Thank goodness we didn’t judge this island on its first foot forward. Here’s what we found.
When the municipal office opened at 4 pm, Charles took the 10 or so steps from our boat to the door with our dock papers and about 70 Euro. We had no idea how much we would owe and assumed our free night in Vathis was a fluke.
“Guess how much?” he said when he returned. I could tell it must have been low, so I guessed 20 Euro.
In our other trips sailing in the Mediterranean, docking fees were typically at least 40 Euro for the night, often much more. We felt like we’d won the Med Mooring lottery.
After that, things just got better and better. We walked across the street to a scooter rental company thinking we would explore the island and wind our way to the monastery and town at the top.
Ten Euro. That was the cost of our scooter. That’s it. And when we went back the next day, he didn’t charge us because we had already paid.
By the time we got to dinner in the market that evening for the best pastitsio I’ve had and sharing a 4.5 Euro liter of delicious Greek wine, we were solidly convinced that if you failed to save even a few dollars for retirement, you would do just fine in Patmos.
Why wouldn’t you want to be an expat in the Dodecanese?
We found the people on this island to be incredibly friendly, welcoming, and helpful to tourists. Each encounter was warm and sincere. Each person we met was eager to help and point us in the right direction.
Pro tip: Practically every male in the Dodecanese Islands is named Manolis.
The historical importance of Patmos is why many journey to this place. Most notably, it is where St. John the Theologian was exiled and where he wrote the Biblical book of Revelation. You can visit the Cave of the Apocalypse where the historic effort went down. The cave is just down the hill from the monastery and town.
When we first arrived and climbed our way to top of the hill on our rented scooter, enjoying a lovely drive with views of the sea and the harbor of Skala, we found the monastery was closed for the night. After wandering around the white-washed, winding labyrinth of the town of Chora surrounding the monastery, we stopped for calamari and beer at a restaurant with spectacular views and planned our return for the morning.
The next day we headed back up the hill at 10 am for a self-guided tour of the monastery and the museum and then a quick trip to the Cave of the Apocalypse. I could go on and on about how incredible these places are, but ultimately, you’ll have to see for yourself.
If history and particularly Christian history is of interest to you, plan to stay longer. There are many locations of historical significance on the island and several mapped hikes and walks that we’ll plan for next time we visit Patmos.
The ride up to the monastery of St. John is worth the trip for the views alone.
We stopped several times for photos, including some incredible old windmills close to the road. Once at the town of Chora and within the walls of the monastery itself you’ll encounter spectacular views of the island and the water below.
Charming Shops and Cafes
About a mile, maybe two, from where we were docked along the harborside and before you would head up the hill to the monastery is a lovely market area with outdoor cafes, shops, and boutique hotels where locals and tourists gather in the afternoons.
Make time to stop here, soak in the culture, and enjoy dinner at one of the traditional Greek restaurants. We chose Pantelis Restaurant and we chose well. I mentioned before that they had the best pastitsio I will likely ever encounter. It is worth a second mention.
After our morning drive to the Cave and to the Monastery, we returned our scooter and departed as planned at 11 am for a short sail to Lipsi where we hoped to be secure no later than 1:00 pm knowing the meltemi winds would be showing up later that day.
As we motored out and looked back, it wasn’t hard to be struck by how much we’d seen in less than 24 hours. Some day when we are retired without corporate vacation scheduling dictating our timing, we’ll be back. And next time, we won’t mind our location on the dock near the road because we know that with a ten euro scooter rental you’re only about 15 minutes from some of the most beautiful views and vistas you’ll ever see.