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Nisyros rises from the sea with the low, broken, conical profile of a classic volcano. The island’s circular perimeter, deep central crater, rich dark earth, and several hot springs leave no doubt as to its recent geological origins. After Santorini, Nisyros is the most significant volcano in the Aegean. Relatively stable, yet by no means extinct, it lies at the eastern extremity of the Aegean Volcanic Arc which sweeps in a broad crescent through Astypalaia, Santorini, Milos and the islands of the Saronic Gulf, and whose periodic activity is the result of pressure caused by the slow collision of the African and Eurasian tec tonic plates. The bubbling fumaroles, vapour seams, and sulphurous efflorescences of the different craters in the island’s vast central depression are fascinating to expert and amateur visitor alike, and they provide more visible activity than the volcanic islets in the middle of the caldera of Santorini. At any time of year this fantastic land scape is colourful, foreboding and unforgettable.
From hewn blocks of a dense basaltic rock created by this volcano, the ancient inhabitants of Nisyros constructed daunting walls to protect the acropolis of their city. They are extensive and very well preserved, and they constitute one of the most impressive (and least known) ancient remains in Greece. It is a surprise to find Nisyros so full of interest in proportion to its tiny size. Both its vernacular domestic architecture and its churches of all periods are of considerable variety and beauty. Many of the churches are painted inside: the 14th century wall paintings in the chapel of Aghia Triada below Nikia, and the meticulous 18th century cycle in the remote church at Siones stand out from among many.
Nisyros is an idiosyncratic island: Mandraki, the is land’s capital, has a character quite different from any where else in the Dodecanese; and the other two villages—the once abandoned settlement of Emboreios and the evocative village of Nikia, both clinging to the rim of the volcano—are quite different again from Mandraki and from one another. The decaying buildings of large 19th century spa hotels along the shore give the island’s north coast a slightly valetudinarian air; but they are evocative memories of a period when visitors to the curative, geothermic springs once came to this obscure island by steamer from all over the eastern Mediterranean.
Nisyros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.