Kos & Nissyros, Greece

Location: Kos & Nissyros, Greece
Date: July 2014
Duration: two weeks
Viewed: 3905 times
Comments: 2
If you like stunning sceneries, clear blue skies, crystal clear intense blue sea, warm, dry and windy weather, in non-crowded areas inhabited by warmhearted and welcoming people, great food, olive trees & oil, in a landscape shaped by thousands of years of a very rich history, and fascinating myths and legends, chances are high that you will enjoy visiting the Greek islands like Kos, the island of the father of medicine Hippocrates.

Mitsis Blue Domes Hotel
Mitsis Blue Domes resort overview
Mitsis Blue Domes resort overview

Out of the many lodging options on the island, here is an interesting one, right by the sea on the south shore, a short drive from the airport. The Mitsis Blue Domes Hotel is located 4 kilometers east of Kardamena, the nearest town, where Google wrongly places the resort. It is advertized as an all-inclusive five-star plus hotel. Most families come there because of its kids club, where parents can drop off their kids from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The hotel is not just targeting families. All kinds of travelers should find their own spot and have a good time there.

For families, the kids have some much fun at the kids club, they beg the parents to come back there everyday, as soon as it opens. A perfect win-win situations for the kids and parents. There are even evening animations for the kids. A special park and castle was built for the children to play, with its own pool and slides. Inside, the rooms are just huge. The animation team takes good care of the children, always welcoming and in excellent mood, often still on location late in the evening for the kids show.

The view from room 627 
 The first few days were extremely windy
The view from room 627
The first few days were extremely windy
One of the many bridges crossing the pools
One of the many bridges crossing the pools
View from the top of the hotel onto Nissyros island
View from the top of the hotel onto Nissyros island

The whole staff in the entire hotel is outstanding, in all restaurants, at the beach, the pools, the bars, and at the gates. They are all highly motivated and all pull in the same direction to make your experience the best as possible. The staff members come from all over Europe for the season, and many are Greek from the mainland, with a few coming directly from Kos and the nearby town of Kardamena. The animation team especially, is quite astonishing. For those interested, there is always something going on in the morning and in the afternoon, stretching, yoga, zumba & fitness. In the evening that team presents a show at their main theatre next the reception, more targeted for families. For others there is the bar & lounge by the pool with musician and singer, in a more casual and quite atmosphere.

Powerful wind gusts vaporize the surface of the sea
Powerful wind gusts vaporize the surface of the sea
Main restaurant terrasse
Main restaurant terrasse
The kids club
The kids club
Kids club playground and pool
Kids club playground and pool
Huge room upstairs inside the kids club
Huge room upstairs inside the kids club
Kids club tower hosting the stairway up to the top floor
Kids club tower hosting the stairway up to the top floor

The resort is just huge. There is always enough room for everybody without ever feeling crowded. There are seawater swimming pools everywhere, a total of more than 600 meters in length. Two big pipes pump the seawater daily to regenerate the pool water. And there is obviously the beach and its endless blue sea. The nice thing about the hotel is that it is entirely car free, with no road separating the hotel from the shoreline, which is often the case in other hotels.
Night view of the Mitsis Blue Domes Hotel
Night view of the Mitsis Blue Domes Hotel
Late evening at the bar by the pool
Late evening at the bar by the pool

The design of the buildings, pools and park make it very visually pleasant to enjoy. A lot of marble was used around the pools, and inside the bedrooms and bathrooms. Interestingly, marble is often considered to be too cold by many when used inside living areas, but under this kind of 36-degree latitude, it feels just right.
Bathroom with white marble tiles
Bathroom with white marble tiles
The cleaning crew had this fun way of making the beds for the kids
The cleaning crew had this fun way of making the beds for the kids
Bedroom ceilings covered with nice pink cerused wood
Bedroom ceilings covered with nice pink cerused wood

The food is excellent. You have plenty of choices for that. There is the large buffet restaurant near the reception. From there, the overlooking view on the sea is breathtaking. Hostesses will welcome you with unbelievable smiles, and will make sure you are promptly assisted. Waiters & waitresses are always there for you to help you find the right table. The choice of food is excellent with a great variety of products from different cuisines.

Half way to the beach, there are six small excellent restaurants, a Greek, a burger, a sushi, a Greek pita, another one with German style food, and a sweet corner for crepes, ice creams and other desserts. The concept is just terrific. It feels exactly like eating in a regular restaurant, for as long as you want, as little or as much as you want, with waiters and waitresses coming directly to your table, with an even better sense of service than in most restaurants. All of this, without having to wait for the check or carry around a wallet. The Greek restaurant was just unique. There was not a single dish that was average. All top notch fresh food and prepared on location.
The island bar centered between the six restaurants
The island bar centered between the six restaurants

Another option is the restaurants by the beach, which are open at lunch and dinnertime, with a choice of Greek, Italian, Asian or Mexican food. This place is yet another class on its own. First, the location, by the beach, next to a large pool, feeling calm and secluded. Its welcoming host and hostess, with an excellent professionalism and welcoming attitude will promptly accommodate you and seat you in the restaurant of your choice. In the restaurant, the waiters will do their best to assist you. If your kid wants something not from their menu, but on the one from the nearby restaurant, this won't be a problem.

Restaurants by the beach
Restaurants by the beach

Finally there is the beach snack during the day, where you can grab a sandwich, drink, fresh fruits, ice creams or drinks, a very convenient option when you want to eat something light and simple. Right next to it, two ladies cook daily a typical Greek dish, the spanakopita. It's a simple dish made of chopped spinach, ground beef, feta cheese and onions wrapped inside paper thin sheets of dough. A real delight.

Down by the beach
Down by the beach

What could be improved? Not much. I can only think of three small items.

The free wifi is in a large room by the reception, with a shared connection, which is very difficult to use during the busy lunch and dinnertime hours. In the rest of the hotel there is a paid wifi. Maybe improving the free wifi bandwidth would be nice. The sure thing is that walking unplugged for several days was definitely the best thing that could happen.

By the pools free mattresses are tough to find. Some wake up at wee hours to book them with a towel. If you are not an early bird you will never get one. Some remain booked and unused for the main part of the day. Some signs in nearby hotels say that the staff would free mattresses that remain unused for more than two hours. That might be an interesting option. Putting more mattresses would be another one, but might make the pools too crowded. At the beach though, it is fairly easy to find a free mattress. It is an island beach resort after all and the beach is a great place to hang out.

Windsurfs can be rented for free. For free if you have a license, or else you have to fork 20 Euros per hour. I yet have to understand who delivers windsurfing licenses. What country? Maybe it's a new thing. Having practiced that sport for as long as I can remember, I never heard of any such license. It would be easy to check if someone knows how to operate a windsurf. A couple of minutes would be enough to clear the way to those who know but don't have a license handy.
The same goes for the catamarans, which can be freely rented with a sailing license, or else it is 40 Euros an hour. Sailing licenses are common. Don't forget to bring yours.

Hike above the Mitsis Blue Domes Hotel 
 Kardamena in the background
Hike above the Mitsis Blue Domes Hotel
Kardamena in the background
Kos Island south shore, looking towards the East
Kos Island south shore, looking towards the East

Kos
Kos is worth visiting, at the very least for a one day trip across the island, through the mountain villages of Pyli and Zia, down to the main town of Kos, driving along the north shore and what looks like the main windsurf spot, all the way to Kefalos in the West. A car can easily be rented near the hotel reception, and picked up in front of the hotel. Any day will do, the weather is quite easy to predict. It's either going to be sunny, or insanely sunny and great. The force of the wind is the only main varying parameter. There is wind every single day in the Greek Islands, some days way more than others. Several windmills were built on top of the hills of Kos to turn that energy into electricity. Three of them happen to be visible from the Blue Domes on top of the hill above the hotel.

On the road betwen Pyli and Zia
On the road betwen Pyli and Zia
View from Zia towards Pserimos island
View from Zia towards Pserimos island

Thousands of years of history have left behind lots of places to visit on the island. You will easily find some information about what floats your boat. It was interesting to see the several military bases along the island. It looks like the proximity of Turkey keeps the military active. The military service duty is by the way still active in Greece.

Kos Castle
Kos Castle
Tree of Hippocrates in Kos
Tree of Hippocrates in Kos
Church of Aghia Paraskevi in Kos 
 Paraskevi means Friday in Greek, she was born that day
Church of Aghia Paraskevi in Kos
Paraskevi means Friday in Greek, she was born that day
Taverna Ouzeri in Kos
Taverna Ouzeri in Kos
Sandy beach on the north shore 
 Surf spot near Marmari
Sandy beach on the north shore
Surf spot near Marmari
Kastri island near Kefalos
Kastri island near Kefalos
Old bell tower of the Monastery of Agios Ioannis (Saint John) near Kefalos
Old bell tower of the Monastery of Agios Ioannis (Saint John) near Kefalos
The bell of Agios Ioannis at magic hour
The bell of Agios Ioannis at magic hour
Blue chair in front of the Agios Ioannis church
Blue chair in front of the Agios Ioannis church
Around the Agios Ioannis church
Around the Agios Ioannis church

The rocks are an interesting part of Kos. The geology looks cataclysmic, with the main part of the island made of granite, which has been torn apart by the various tectonic events along the years. It is not rare to walk along large bedrock granite boulders, suddenly overlaid by debris of past volcanic eruptions from the nearby volcanoes.

Kardamena post office
Kardamena post office
Church of Aghia Varvara (Saint Barbara) on the shoreline between the hotel and Kardamena
Church of Aghia Varvara (Saint Barbara) on the shoreline between the hotel and Kardamena

Nissyros
In order to stop the giant Plybotes from escaping during the war of the giants, Poseidon tore apart a chunk of Kos island and threw it at Polybotes, forming in the process the island of Nissyros, often spelled Nisyros outside of Greece.

From Kardamena, a few travel agencies offer a day trip to Nissyros. None of the two I inquired could tell me if, once on the island, a car could be rented for the day. Instead, they were proposing a package including boat and bus ride to the village of Nikia and the volcano crater. While not being a big fan of bus tours, faced with the uncertainty of not being able to move freely on the island, the bus tour was booked.

The boat leaves daily at 9:30 a.m., arrives on location a 10:30 a.m. and leaves back for Kardamena at 3:30 p.m.
Five hours is not much time for a visit, which was a bit rushed.
Once on Nissyros, there are actually several options to rent motorbikes, cars and quads. Something to remember for a future trip.

Pumice quarry on Gyali island (also spelled Yiali or Yali)
Pumice quarry on Gyali island (also spelled Yiali or Yali)

Brief stop at the village of Nikia. Stunning village, which makes one want to stay longer, maybe for a day or too. Spectacular view down to the volcano crater, the sea and nearby islands. Not enough time to climb up the Monastery of Agios Ioanni Theologou at the top of the hill above the village. Maybe for some other time. Already time to leave for the visit of the crater.

Nikia Village on Nissyros island
Nikia Village on Nissyros island
Monastery of Agios Ioanni Theologou above Nikia
Monastery of Agios Ioanni Theologou above Nikia
 Square of Nikia
Square of Nikia
 Church on Nikia Square
Church on Nikia Square
 On Nikia Square
On Nikia Square
Peaceful house overlooking Nikia Square and the sea
Peaceful house overlooking Nikia Square and the sea
 Street in Nikia
Street in Nikia
 House in Nikia
House in Nikia
 Another Nikia street
Another Nikia street
 View from Nikia down to the volcano caldera
View from Nikia down to the volcano caldera

The main crater is active. A strong sulfur smell emanates from the holes in the ground. It is actually made of eight smaller craters within this massive caldera. The most active one of them does not seem to be the biggest one where everybody stops, but instead, the one hidden behind a hill, a short hike away from the busses and the crowd. Once there, we can actually discover several sensors and some wiring used to monitor the health of the volcano and maybe help predict its future eruption.
 The main crater where most people hike down to
The main crater where most people hike down to
 Path leading to the crater that looks the most active
Path leading to the crater that looks the most active
 One of the eight craters
One of the eight craters
 The activity of this crater is monitored by the material, sensors and wires we can see on the ground
The activity of this crater is monitored by the material, sensors and wires we can see on the ground
 Lots of active yellow sulfur
emitting holes in the ground
Lots of active yellow sulfur-emitting holes in the ground
 Fumaroles constantly hissing 
 Sulfur crystal holes pouring out steam and sulfur gas
Fumaroles constantly hissing
Sulfur crystal holes pouring out steam and sulfur gas
 Holes bordered by fragile sulfur crystals
Holes bordered by fragile sulfur crystals
 Stunning colors all around and stinky sulfur smell too
Stunning colors all around and stinky sulfur smell too
 Sulfur crystal and hole, this time from the main crater
Sulfur crystal and hole, this time from the main crater

Then back to the town of Mandraki for lunch, with some comfortable time left for a visit until the boat leaves for Kardamena.

 The monastery of Panagia Spiliani in Mandraki on Nissyros
The monastery of Panagia Spiliani in Mandraki on Nissyros
 A house in Mandraki
A house in Mandraki
 Rooftop terrasse below the monastery of Panagia Spiliani
Rooftop terrasse below the monastery of Panagia Spiliani
 Church in Mandraki on Nissyros
Church in Mandraki on Nissyros
 Waterfront restaurant in Mandraki 
 The gyros looks inviting
Waterfront restaurant in Mandraki
The gyros looks inviting

Outdoor activities on Kos
Bikes are a widespread mean of transportation in Kos. Some can be rented at the hotel, at a counter right next to where cars can be booked. I would recommend not rent a bike from there. First, the guy who worked there at the time had a too unpredictable schedule, not very dynamic, and was there only if he wanted to. Second, the bikes are old and heavy. A short 10-minute walk along the shoreline to the nearest bike shop will provide you with a better choice of more recent and up-to-date city bikes, mountain bikes and quads. The guys working there are also very professional.

Chapel near the Lakitira resort
Chapel near the Lakitira resort

There are tons of dirt roads on the island, and even without a map it is easy to find your way. I would typically head for some visual waypoint, a remote small blue and white Greek church or chapel, and look for a dirt road that leads there. A good option is to first bike up to the top of the nearest hill, visually identify the route, memorize it and go enjoy the thrilling experience of the dry wilderness of these deserted trails on the way down.
Chapel off the road 
 on the way up to the top of the mountain above the hotel
Chapel off the road
on the way up to the top of the mountain above the hotel

The windmills above the hotel are an excellent vantage point for this. On an extremely windy day, the experience was surreal. A warm, dry and tremendously powerful and steady wind, delivering a laminar airflow coming from the North, was feeding the windmill rotors, executing a rotation in roughly 2 seconds. It did not seem like that was fast viewed from the shoreline, but once on top of the hill, that felt tremendously powerful. In comparison, on a calm day, where the wind seems inexistent down at the hotel, they'd still execute a complete spin in 4 to 5 seconds. That turned out to be an excellent indicator of the wind intensity and direction when it was time to decide on the kind of outdoor adventure for the day.

View from the dirt road leading to the windmills 
 Turkey in the far right, Pserimos island in the middle, Kalimnos island on the left
View from the dirt road leading to the windmills
Turkey in the far right, Pserimos island in the middle, Kalimnos island on the left
This lone olive tree creates a real sense of soothing tranquility
This lone olive tree creates a real sense of soothing tranquility

It is not rare to spot beehives in the wilderness. The local Greek thyme honey is excellent. Goats are also the occasional form of pseudo-wild life you will encounter on those trails. They are obviously not wild but it feels like it.

Million dollar view for the greek bees
Million dollar view for the greek bees
Arriving at the top 
 Lots of goats hanging out, almost as shy as California mule deer
Arriving at the top
Lots of goats hanging out, almost as shy as California mule deer
Looking South towards Gyali & Nissyros
Looking South towards Gyali & Nissyros
Looking towards Gyali & Nissyros 
 Kardamena in the far right 
 Mitsis Blue Domes below on the left and Turkey in the far left background
Looking towards Gyali & Nissyros
Kardamena in the far right
Mitsis Blue Domes below on the left and Turkey in the far left background
Another similar shot with the tireless windmills aligned on the ridge
Another similar shot with the tireless windmills aligned on the ridge

There are so many of these remote and secluded churches and chapels, always perfectly maintained. It opens up this waypoint approach to an endless list of options. In Greece each chapel is dedicated to a specific saint. One per each day of the year, and a special celebration occurs in a given church on that particular day. For instance on August 29 Saint John is celebrated at the Agios Ioannis Monastery near Kefalos.

After spotting a chapel and the trail leading to it from the windmill vantage point 
 fun ride downhill towards it in the far distance
After spotting a chapel and the trail leading to it from the windmill vantage point
fun ride downhill towards it in the far distance
Arriving at the remote chapel somewhere above Kardamena
Arriving at the remote chapel somewhere above Kardamena
As it is the case with most churches and chapels, it is in pristine condition
As it is the case with most churches and chapels, it is in pristine condition
Ride down from the chapel accross an olive grove
Ride down from the chapel accross an olive grove
Overlooking the Kefalos Bay
Overlooking the Kefalos Bay
Trail leading to the castle of Antimachia (also spelled Antimahia)
Trail leading to the castle of Antimachia (also spelled Antimahia)
Inside the ramparts of the castle of Antimachia
Inside the ramparts of the castle of Antimachia
Semi circular fortified entrance of the castle
Semi circular fortified entrance of the castle
Not much remains inside the fortress, except for a few trails and wild flowers
Not much remains inside the fortress, except for a few trails and wild flowers
Leaving the fortress of Antimachia down to Kardamena 
 an improbable superb narrow paved road offers a fun ride down the hill
Leaving the fortress of Antimachia down to Kardamena
an improbable superb narrow paved road offers a fun ride down the hill
Chapel of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (also known as the Holy Forty) while approaching Kardamena
Surrounded by an olive grove
Surrounded by an olive grove
Further away, a chapel inside a cemetery
Further away, a chapel inside a cemetery
Cemetery near Kardamena
Cemetery near Kardamena

Swimming is another obvious great choice to alternate between physical activities. Starting from the beach of the hotel, an interesting 4.5-kilometer roundtrip option is to use the church of Aghia Varvara as a turning point. It is located roughly halfway between the hotel and Kardamena and can easily be identified from the water thanks to a tiny chapel positioned on the shoreline, an easy waypoint to spot and aim at while swimming. Kardamena being 4.5 Km away from the Blue Domes, I imagine you could also swim straight to the port of Kardamena and run or take the bus back to the hotel.

Tiny chapel on the shoreline, half way between the Mitsis Blue Domes and Kardamena 
 near the church of Aghia Varvara
Tiny chapel on the shoreline, half way between the Mitsis Blue Domes and Kardamena
near the church of Aghia Varvara

There is so much to discover and visit on these two small islands. There are hundreds of these in Greece, making it tempting to come back for another trip. Maybe in a slightly different way, sailing, hopping from island to island. The wind looks stable, steady, and predictable enough to enjoy such journey.

(2) COMMENTS
On August 19, 2014 - 20:45 (GMT) from Medusadip:

Thks for this Voila Report / wonderful pictures !

On July 25, 2014 - 21:18 (GMT) from Bob:

Lovely photos we go to the hotel at the end of August I love your review well done

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