Patmos is a small island with a big story. Greece’s Holy Island is the site where St John purportedly wrote the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelations 2000 years ago, and remains an important pilgrimage for the Catholic and Orthodox faithful to this day. But the tiny northernmost island in the Dodecanese group, which sits just off the coast of Turkey, is beginning to attract its fair share of sun-worshippers to its charming, unspoiled shores too – especially since Forbes Magazine named it ‘Europe’s most idyllic place to live’ in 2009.
According to Greek mythology, the island of Patmos was at the bottom of the sea, but Artemis and Apollo convinced Zeus to bring it to the surface to please the moon goddess, Selene.
Like a living museum, the tiny island of Patmos is crammed with historical sites, images and recollections dating back to 750 BC, which tell the tale of a tumultuous past. But the people of Patmos seem to eternally endure and thrive in the quaint, unchanging fishing villages that lie at the foot of some of history and legend’s most celebrated ground.
The most popular attraction on the island is The Cave of the Apocalypse, where the exiled Saint John is said to have heard the voice of God, prompting the writing of the Book of Revelations. Now enclosed in a sanctuary, the fascinating cave can be visited by worshippers and the curious alike. Another interesting site is the Monastery of Saint John, or the ‘Monastery of the Apocalypse’, which is perched high on the hill above the town of Chora, and visible from every location on the island. The monastery is richly decorated with frescoes and carvings dedicated to the visions of Saint John, and is definitely worth a visit.
Patmos’ museum is a candy-land for fans of ancient history, especially those who don’t like crowds. Here, you’ll find a collection of thousands of original ancient texts which have been lovingly preserved, as well as icons, relics and vestments richly decorated with gold, silver and jewels.
But outside of the monasteries and museums, life in Patmos continues in a serene style. Not much has changed on the island since the 19th century, and it remains a collection of quiet fishing villages for the most part. In between the whitewashed, flat-roofed houses of the hillside towns, you’ll find neat stone pathways, family-run restaurants in cobblestone squares and fruit trees hanging low to the ground under the weight of their sweet bounty. Here is where Patmos has something special. Immune to the changes that tourism usually brings, Patmos has a sense of timelessness that’s addictive.
Travel down from the hillside towns to the pristine, un-crowded beaches and enjoy the inviting warm water of the sparkling Aegean Sea. The island has many beaches to choose from, ranging from the more popular white sand beaches that offer the odd umbrella and beach bar, to the secluded pebble coves where you could often have the whole beach to yourself. One beach not to be missed is Lampis, with its beautiful multi-coloured pebbles in pastel hues.
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