Nisyros, with an area of 41.6 square kms and a coastline of 28 kms, is situated at the centre of the Dodecanese island complex. It lies between the islands of Kos and Tilos and the promontory of Knidou of Asia Minor.
Nisyros has an almost circular shape and therefore its coastline is not rich in geophysical formations. It is comprised of mountains which have originated from volcanic activity while the huge volcanic caldera, of length 2400m and width 950m, situated at the centre of the island attests to its volcanic past. The visitor to the area may marvel from up close at the impressive craters the largest of which has a diameter of 260m and a depth of 30m. Thermal springs are found in many points on the island, the most well known of which are located a short distance from Mandraki. A few idyllic beaches contrasting their red and yellow colouring with the green of the rich vegetation interrupt the usually precipitous coastline.
The idyllic look of the island is the result of Nisyros famous volcano and the gifts bestowed by it. Some of these 'gifts' are: the old mines which produced the milling stone, the pumice stone, the sulphur rock layers, the iamatic waters and plants and the exceptional fertility of its soil. It is also from the volcano that the great catastrophes have come which history refers to, each time that the gods of the underworld unleashed their rage, resulting in devastating earthquakes accounting for many human lives.
The name of the island is possibly derived from pre-Hellenic Aegean place names. Homer refers to the cooperation of the Nysirian islanders in the Trojan expedition. The historical fortunes of Nisyros are common with the fortunes of the other islands of the southeastern Aegean. The 4th and 5th centuries BC. are the golden period of the island. Nisyros was conquered by the Persians, freed by the Athenians became a part of the Athenian alliance, then came under Macedonian dominance and finally becomes a part of the vast Roman Empire. The peace ensured both by Roman and Byzantine rule in the area allowed the islands to prosper, since they were 'bridges' between Europe and Asia, The following Arabic invasions heralded centuries of devastation, fear and insecurity. The Knights of Rhodes overtake the island in 1312. The Knights built five forts in strategically important positions on the island and thus left their earmark. In 1522 Turks conquer Rhodes and Nisyros along with the other islands it is placed under the singular privileged jurisdiction of the "maktou". In 1912 the Italians take over from the Turks and with the end of the Second World War Nisyros is incorporated with Greece, together with the other Dodecanese islands.
The capital and port of the island is Mandraki which boasts, white-washed houses, colourful narrow lanes and the beautiful square "Hlikiomeni"-Aged, which is shaded by large trees. The town has a small folkloric museum with interesting exhibitions. The small mountainous town of Emporios is found 8 kms south east from the capital and just a short distance from it is the monastery of Our Virgin Lady which is built on a hill of 500m elevation and offers a panoramic view. To the south is Nikia in which is found the remarkable monastery of St. John. The beautiful beach side settlement of Pali is situated some 4 kms north east of the capital.
An important pilgrimage site on the island is Our Lady "Spiliani" -of the Cave.
This old monastery possibly dates from the 17th century and has an exquisite 18th century iconostasis. It is perched magnificently on the top of a precipitous rock in which is the cave which legend has it was the keeping place of the miraculous. Until recently under law.2539/98 (I. Kapodistrias), the island of Nisyros had three separate local governing bodies: the Municipality of Mandraki, the Community of Emporios and the Community of Nikia. Today they have been joined into one administrative body, the Municipality of Nisyros.
Of exceptional interest and a site worth seeing is the island's volcano which has both scientific importance and a unique natural beauty. The paths criss-crossing the landscape of the island lead the hiker to idyllic places and are suitable for peripatetic tourism. Other sites include: The Historical and Folkloric Museum at Mandraki, the monastery of Our Lady Spilianis, the chapels Annunciation, the Holy Cross, the Virgin Lady and St. John the Theologian, and finally the traditional settlements of the island (Mandraki, Pali, Emporios, Nikia) with their traditional houses, white-washed court yards, colourful balconies with their pots and the picturesque arched lanes. Of archaeological interest is Palaiokastro (the acropolis of the ancient city), the ancient ruins at Argos, the many important archaeological findings, 'Drakospilia'-the Cave of Dragons and the ruins of early-Christian basilicas which are scattered all over the island.The visitor can discover the island by embarking upon a daily cruise which visits beautiful beaches suitable for swimming and for lunch as well as visit the islet of Giali with its sandy beach and fresh seafood. At night the visitor may enjoy the traditional taverns that serve ouzo and retsina accompanied by the traditional foods of Nisyros. Finally, visitors may observe the traditional festivals such as at baptisms, weddings and feasts.
Traditional foods, sweets and beverages
Foods: kapamas (stuffed goat), chick pea keftedes or pithakia, mezithra cheese, adramithozoumo, capers, trigias cheese, boukounies (pork cooked with fat) giambrakia, marinated fish, beef in tomato sauce and pilaf etc.
various pastries such as xerotigana, diples and loukoumades, biscuits: finikia and kourambiedes, moustalevria (made from grape syrup), syruped fruits (bitter orange, quince, tomato), pastelaries (stuffed figs with almonds and sesame),honey.Beverages-decoctions: soumada, redwine, sapsiho, rosemary.