Greek Island Peak Bagging, Part VI: Prodigious Prophet Ilias


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October 6th 2019
Published: November 23rd 2019
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Across the South Aegean

Fly from Thessaloniki to Samos, ferries to Patmos then Rhodes before the long trip home.

Profit Ilias 269m ASLProfit Ilias 269m ASLProfit Ilias 269m ASL

High point of Patmos, crazy windy.
Been back from Europe for about a month now. It's taken me this long to sort through all the pictures and process what was a whirlwind 10 day flash through 3 Greek islands which followed an equally whirlwind 3 week tour through Czech Republic, Ukraine, Moldova, Bucharest, Bulgaria, and Thessaloniki. Still have that portion of the trip to post...

I've really gotten used to traveling around the Greek islands in early autumn - the weather is still warm but not super hot like summer, the crowds are much smaller, deals abound, and it's just the perfect time of the year for hiking.

Greek Island Peak Bagging: Parts I & II

Greek Island Peak Bagging: Parts III & IV

Greek Island Peak Bagging: Parts V & VII below

Patmos

Patmos is beautiful and one of the easiest ways to bridge distant Samos and Rhodes. There are also a few historical sites including the Cave of the Apocalypse which was actually underwhelming and not very apocalyptic. Nice views from the church, however. My first full day I walked north to Kampos with a side trip to deserted and serene Lefkes Bay. Second day was a 15 km hike along the main roads to, in order, the aforementioned cave, the Monastery of Saint John
Port of Skala, PatmosPort of Skala, PatmosPort of Skala, Patmos

As seen from Cave of the Apocalypse Church
(wasn’t keen on paying the €4 entry and heard later it wasn’t worth it), the windmills (limited operational hours), Patmos’ breezy high point at Profitis Ilias (a mere 269 m ASL), Diakoftis (gorgeous beach), and finally Grikos after about 4 hours of walking. Cadged a lift back to Skala after lunch there.

Accommodation and food Scored a deal on booking.com for Armyra Hotel located on the far side of Skala away from the noisy port area (~10 min walk). Room was €22.50/night, AC, WiFi, good buffet breakfast with filter coffee included. The owner, Isidoros, is super helpful and knows all there is to know about the island. Upon arrival from Samos I hit the first place I saw that was open for dinner (many places close after lunch until 17:00), Alas close to Skala’s main square, where a gyros plate with half liter of house wine ran €14. Try-Gyro down a narrow side street off the square served pitas for €2.50. Trexantiri seems to be famous for octopus and was recommended by Isidoros, €10 for a plate of grilled octopus. I think this place must be featured in guidebooks as it was packed with foreign tourists and was only
Monastery of St. JohnMonastery of St. JohnMonastery of St. John

On the way to Profit Ilias, Patmos.
so-so. Christodoulos bakery near the dock serves huge cones of gelato for ~€4 along with typical Greek pastries. In Grikos I had lunch at Stamatis, €10 for lamb chops with fries. Got addicted to cappuccino fredo, ~€3 at Sagittarius in Skala and Aroma Cafe in Kampos but there are so many cafes around the island.

Transport For Rhodes, I took the fast Dodekanisos Seaways ferry departing 13:25 (daily departures even in October), arriving Rhodes 18:00 very close to the Old Town (not the distant commercial port) for €49. I had wanted to take the slower, yet cheaper, Blue Star night ferry but it did not go every day and I had been delayed by bad weather on Samos. For travel around the island, there are buses based out of Skala to outlying villages but Patmos is small and walkable/bikeable/hitchable. Having said that, there aren’t many sidewalks outside of Skala and it seems that everyone either owns or rents scooters.

Samos

Perfect island to start the peak bagging trifecta. Mt. Kerkis is one of the highest on all of the islands at 1445 meters (~4740’) and the hike is stout – almost 7 hours round trip and blazing hot once
Diakoftis Beach, PatmosDiakoftis Beach, PatmosDiakoftis Beach, Patmos

View from Profit Ilias
the trail breaks out above the tree line. Since I flew from Thessaloniki to Samos on a Sunday there was no airport bus. Rather than shell out for a taxi, I walked the ~3 kms to Pythagorio town as it wasn’t that hot and my backpack was totally manageable. I had reserved a car for 48 hours (~$42 inclusive) to be picked up just after arrival at SMI but, with the forecast looking marginal, I cancelled it on the spot for free. The plan had been to drive straight from the airport due west to Kampos close to Mt. Kerkis, spend the night, tag the peak next day, then use the car for the last day to explore places on the island less accessible by bus. Cancelling turned out to be a wise decision as the weather was cloudy and rainy for the next 2 days so having the car would have been a waste.

To start the hike, I set out from the bakery in Votsolakia ~8:00 after grabbing Greece’s staple pastry, mpougatsa crema for €2, and walked along the road to the turnoff for the Moni Evangelistria, the convent high on the slopes of Kerkis and the start of the trail. Took just over 1½ hours to reach the convent and after a 10 minute pit stop I continued upward on the shade covered trail. I had read that there was a spring just after Profit Ilias Church (there he is again!) so I only brought 1½ liters of water. Expecting to be able to top off just before the summit, imagine my shock and chagrin when I arrived at the church and the pipe that I had passed on the trail was not connected to any flowing water whatsoever.

The potential for dehydration was not nearly enough to keep me from the objective. Got to the waterless church at 10:50 and soon reached the summit at 11:33. The weather and views over the sea were amazing so I hung out on the top for a little more than a half hour. The hike down was much faster, passing the convent at 13:25 and a short, merciful while later a free flowing, spring fed spigot on the road at someone's vineyard. Famished and still dehydrated at 14:40 back on the main road, I stopped at the first open restaurant by the beach, Finikas, where I inhaled 2 gyros, €2.70 each, washed down with more cold water.

Accommodation and food With the weather induced delay, I needed to find a place in Pythagorio and reassess how I was going to get out to Kampos. I didn’t look at too many places, just walked up a random side street off the main drag and stumbled across Diamonds Studios but it appeared to be closed for the season like many places. As I walked away, a woman called for me, introduced herself as Helena, the owner, and said she was, in fact, closed but let me stay anyway for 2 nights for €40 in a small efficiency. There is no shortage of places to eat: huge €2.80 gyros at Ellinikon, good variety of lunch specials at next door Dionisis, huge €12 Greek breakfast at Summertime but be sure to ask for filter coffee or run the risk of getting a pot of horrid Nescafe.

In Votsalakia I stayed 2 nights in Katerina Apartments for €45 in a large apartment, the hosts are great and there’s lots of flowing coffee, beers, bottled water, and ouzo. Both nights, before and after the long hike, I ate an entire Greek
WindmillsWindmillsWindmills

Patmos
pizza at nearby Ionna, €15 with a half liter of house wine and a complimentary shot of raki.

Transport Without the car, local KTEL buses were a viable option to get from Pythagorio to Kampos. First bus was from Pythagorio to Samos town (a.k.a., Vathy) for €1.70, takes about 20 minutes. After close to a 2 hour wait (grabbed a €3.50 salad at Kouzina), the next bus left Vathy at 12:20 for Karlovasi via Kokkari, €4 and 50 minutes. There was a 20 minute layover in Karlovasi at the university as the KTEL buses serve as student transportation. From Karlovasi the bus continued to Kampos and Votsalakia, my ultimate destination finally reached at 14:10 for another €2.70. Returning to Pythagorio for the Patmos boat, the bus departed Votsalakia at 7:05 for Vathy then 9:30 from there for the short ride to Pythagorio. I found a local agency to rent a car one way from Votsalakia back to Pythagorio, much faster than the buses but also much more expensive, €35. I briefly entertained the idea of trying to hitch but since I desperately wanted to catch the boat later that morning I went with the sure thing by taking the bus.

Good links to Patmos and the other Dodecanese Islands but not every day in October. I took Leros Express (fast boat but occasionally cancelled as it is small) for €18 but it took a long time as it went first to Agothonisi then south to Leros making a few stops along the way then backtracked north to Arki and finally Patmos before going back to Leros. Half the price would have been Anek Kalymnou’s slow boat straight to Patmos but it only goes 3-4 days/week and I missed it after having to delay the hike of Mt Kerkis due to the rain. Mariana at By Ship Travel in Pythagorio is the place to buy just about any ferry ticket, no commission.

Rhodes

Third visit to Rhodes, haven't gotten tired of it yet. Rented a car for a couple of days so I could tag the highest peak on the island, Mt. Attavyros, and explore more of the island aside from what it easily reached by public bus or a tour.

For the hike I left the hotel in Theologos ~08:00, stopped at a bakery for the ubiquitous mpougatsa crema, and continued on to the upland wine country
Fast Boat to RhodesFast Boat to RhodesFast Boat to Rhodes

Departs from Skala, Patmos just about every day even in October
village of Embonas and the start of the trail to the summit. The trailhead is not marked so just after 10:00 I parked on the side of the road where I thought the hike started. The trail actually starts as a road winding through olive groves and eventually turns to a proper trail after 30 minutes or so. There is a fence (presumably to keep the wild goats out of the groves) surmounted with a rickety ladder then the trail starts in earnest, basically straight up a scree field to the summit plateau where there is a weather station, service road, and ruins of a Temple of Zeus. There was also another fence but we (German couple I met parking their car also looking for the trailhead) weren’t sure if it were to keep people out of the weather station or the temple on the summit.

It didn’t matter as we found a section of the fence’s barbed wire that had been cut so we passed right through to the temple reaching the 1215 meter summit at 12:04. Serious clouds were quickly moving in (intense thunderstorms that night and next day) so we soon bolted from the top and
KalymnosKalymnosKalymnos

Seen from ferry from Patmos to Rhodes
I reached the car at 13:24. There were a lot of tour buses back in the village so I found a fairly empty place, Embonas Savvas Tavern, for a €6.50 chicken filet plate. After lunch, I headed south to Monolithos to explore the incredible castle ruins (free entry and amazing views). Anticipating the tourist hordes from Embonas, I did not dawdle as I still had a bit of a drive to get over to Rhodes’ east coast where I would spend the very last night of the 5 week trip.

Accommodation and food I stayed in 3 different towns the 3 nights I was on Rhodes. First night after the 18:00 arrival from Patmos was right in the center of old town at Stathis Hotel for €17 in a single with share bathroom which was a steal for the location presuming you can find it in the byzantine maze of narrow streets and alleys. The place is extremely basic but clean and quiet. Hit the usual places to eat, the €7 breakfast buffet at the Best Western and the iconic Danish Corner €10 dinner buffet, as well as a great cafeteria on a side street up from the bus
Short Time After SunriseShort Time After SunriseShort Time After Sunrise

Mt. Kerkis, Samos
station whose name I could not discern. Second night I stayed in Theologos, a short drive south from the airport on the way to Mt. Attavyros, at Ivory Hotel in a modern efficiency with surprisingly necessary A/C for €23. Up the hill from the hotel is the village center and local tavern where dinner consisted of just a €5 half liter of wine after the massive, late lunch in Rhodes. The last night was in Pefkos at Eagles Nest Apartments, close to beautiful, sandy Kavos beach, for ~€16 with buffet breakfast and a pool where there was free flowing coffee all day. Lorencos had a fantastic swordfish dinner for €11. Plenty of places to grab gyros, ~€7 a plate. On the way back to the airport from Pefkos there was a major power outage all over the island so many places were not serving food. Near the rental agency was the village of Pastida where I grabbed a gyro and a Napoleon pastry, ~€2 each, and dropped off the car before the interminable trip home.

Transport Car for 48 hours (picked up near the airport) was only $23 including taxes thru Kayak but to get that price I had
Moni EvangelstriaMoni EvangelstriaMoni Evangelstria

Convent on Mt. Kerkis, Samos
to book it months in advance. Only other transport was the airport bus for €2.50, frequent departures from Rhodes center.


Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 30


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Summit Finally in SightSummit Finally in Sight
Summit Finally in Sight

Mt. Kerkis, Samos
Route to the Summit of Mt. Kerkis, SamosRoute to the Summit of Mt. Kerkis, Samos
Route to the Summit of Mt. Kerkis, Samos

Follows shallow gully on right to the saddle then left up the ridge, right skyline to the summit, upper left.
On the DescentOn the Descent
On the Descent

Looking down towards Votsalakia and Kampos, Mt. Kerkis, Samos.
Feasting on 2 Gyros, Votsalakia, SamosFeasting on 2 Gyros, Votsalakia, Samos
Feasting on 2 Gyros, Votsalakia, Samos

Long hike, only ate pastry and coffee for breakfast, maybe a Clif Bar somewhere on the ascent.
Sunrise on Mt. Kerkis, SamosSunrise on Mt. Kerkis, Samos
Sunrise on Mt. Kerkis, Samos

On the bus to Karlovasi morning after the hike.
Samos and Prominent Mt. KerkisSamos and Prominent Mt. Kerkis
Samos and Prominent Mt. Kerkis

On the flight from Thessaloniki just before landing.
Home of Mathematician Pythagoros Home of Mathematician Pythagoros
Home of Mathematician Pythagoros

Pythagorio named after him, Samos.
Leros ExpressLeros Express
Leros Express

Small, fast boat to Patmos departs from Pythagorio.


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