Kalymnos is one of the most northerly islands of the Dodecanese group and located about 100 kilometres north-west of Rhodes.
It lies near the Turkish coast, with the islands of Leros to the north and Kos to the south. The busy port capital of Pothia is set in an amphitheatre around a large harbour, a noisy town of around 17,000 buzzing with motorbikes and mopeds.
Tourism hasn't taken off in a big way in Kalymnos. Lack of a major airport and a relatively low number of mostly indifferent beaches keep Kalymnos out of the package tour brochures.
The main tourist strip is found at Massouri on a stretch of the west coast opposite the impressive islet rock of Telendos.
Most beaches on Kalymnos are shingle and stone but there is a splendid sand shoreline at Emborio, a charming resort at Vathi and several beach coves on Telendos.
Other than that, Kalymnos consists of vast areas of barren, grey rock, a huge attraction to serious climbers who arrive in numbers to tackle some of the most spectacular climbs in Europe.
Despite its drawbacks and a lack of old Greek charm, regular visitors who take to Kalymnos are fiercely positive about its attractions.
Despite its size, good beaches are few and far between on Kalymnos. The main beach strip is in the west at Myrties and Massouri, opposite the islet of Telendos. Beaches here, however, are narrow, steep strips of stone and shingle. The remaining resorts are flung far and wide. The best is at Emborios, to the north, with other sand beaches at Vlychadia, to the west, and Akti in the east.
The island capital of Pothia squeezes between steep grey mountain slopes in the south-east of the island and the incoming ferry sails in past cement works and other industrial eyesores.
The town is colourful and lively amphitheatre built around the harbour with a complex of public buildings at the centre of the waterfront.
The posh end lies to the south, full of tourist shops, bars, hotels and yachts while the more interesting northern area has a market, traditional fish tavernas and booze shops.
Wherever you are in Pothia expect lots of noise. The capital town is a busy place, with a reputed 6,000 motorbikes and most of them whining along the seafront or growling down side streets.
Apart from a dual carriageway that skirts the shoreline, Pothia's streets are a narrow maze of bars, cafes, pool halls and bike shops. It's easy to get lost in back streets lined with crumbling neoclassical houses, many with extraordinary wrought iron balconies.
An Archaeological and Folk Museum sits on the northern hillside and the Nautical Museum at the west end of the port with details of the lives of Pothia sponge divers.
A beach just beyond the museum is little more than a strip of rubble dotted with a few tamarisk trees. About a kilometre south is the warm water springs at Therma where a spa offers modern bathing facilities. Above Pothia are the ruins of a Byzantine castle and the remains of a 4th-century church within.
West of Pothia is the village of Vothini and beyond that the inlet at Vlychadia which has two pleasant bays each side of the small harbour, one a gentle curve of shaded sand the other a little strip of clean pebbles. Both are backed by good tavernas.
The main Vlychadia beach is a pleasant crescent of coarse sand and shingle with a line of tamarisk trees providing good shade. The water is shallow, though a little stony underfoot.
Clearly marked behind the beach is the extraordinary Museum of Submarine Finds, open most days. Former diver Stavros Valsimades has collected an impressive array of underwater ephemera including sponges, amphorae and other salvage from sunken ships as well as stuffed marine animals. (See Sights)
Regular boat excursions leave here for the cave at Kefala, just along the coast to the south-west. It's a 30-minute walk from the boat, but visitors are rewarded with vividly colourful rock formations and imposing stalagmite in the largest of the six chambers.
The coast road heading east out of Pothia winds past ugly cement factories, oil terminals and gasworks before heading up into the hills where the views improve dramatically.
After four kilometres a concrete road plunges down the hillside to the small bay at Akti and a delightful shingle beach with a couple of large tamarisk trees for shade.
It's backed by a single taverna and a peaceful rest from the turmoil of Pothia, although boat trippers can fill the place quickly during the high season.
Beyond Akti, about 10 kilometres out of Pothia, the short, fertile valley of Vathi snakes down to the sea covered in groves of olive, tangerine and lemon.
On the shore lies the pretty port of Rina where a clutch of tavernas take care of the visiting tourists and boats line the long narrow inlet with hills rising sharply each side.
Boat excursions leave here for the stalagmite encrusted Dhaskilio cave, set in the cliff along the gorge and there are tiny beaches at Almyres and Dhrasonda, accessible only by boat.
The valley behind looks beautiful from a distance, but closer inspection reveals series of moribund, flyblown hamlets of old houses set behind high brick walls.
Vlychadia is pretty well the only beach resort in the south-west while the south-east has the port of Rina. The main island beach strip lies north-west of Pothia and is reached along the road that runs along the valley towards the islet of Telendos. Almost all tourist development concentrates along the coast that lies opposite the island of Telendos.
The area north of Pothia is mostly suburban sprawl, punctuated by the village of Panormos at a crossroads.
Once a drab and unattractive spot, Panormos has undergone a recent facelift with several cafes and tavernas wrapped around a busy traffic island.
The tavernas are popular with visitors and locals. Meals are cheaper here than at many beach resorts, but diners must ignore the busy main roads that converge at the spot.
The village of Panormos is also the main jumping off point for a trio of beaches at Platys Gialos, Linaria and Kantouni.
Signs from Panormos point to the beaches of Platys Gialos, Kantouni and Linaria. Kantouni is a thin stretch of coarse grey sand that shelves steeply into the sea with underwater stones.
A couple of bars sit on the cliff above and overlooking the beach, one pumping out loud pop music most of the day and night.
A small cave at the northern end offers marginal interest, and a steep concrete path climbs over the headland to the beach at Linaria.
And Linaria is only slightly better. The sand is a coarse grey gravel and grit that tends to collect rubbish; it's thin and narrow with a few overhanging trees to provide a little shade in the mornings.
A couple more cafes grace the headland, and two tavernas edge the road above Linaria with exceptional views over the bay one taverna set in the cliff that serves dishes grilled on an open charcoal fire.
The sign to Platis Gialos is the most prominent in Panormos and points to one of the best of the beaches in this area.
Access is down a steep road, or steps that lead down from a taverna whose owner is not only amiable but serves excellent food.
The long swathe of shingle is cleaner than neighbouring sands with interesting rocky coves at both ends. It gets sandier to the north, but expect only occasional patches in the shingle.
A few sunbeds are set on the beach outside a basic, but excellent, taverna that has been built into the cliff at the back of the beach to provide food, drink and toilets.
North of Panormos lies Kalymnos island's main tourist strip which starts at Myrties, although it is very much low key. The road snakes down a steep hillside to impressive views of Telendos islet offshore.
A line of tourist shops and a mini-market edge the main road through Myrties with a couple of bars near the taxi rank. This is the southern tip of the Kalymnos tourist area so it can get busy here with cars and bikes roaring through.
Side streets lead down to a ferry jetty flanked by tavernas and a narrow stone and shingle beach. Stone and shingle continue underwater so bathers will need footwear.
Sunbeds appear in the high season, and tamarisks add some natural shade. The jetty is where visitors to Telendos catch the hourly ferries, so Myrties gets plenty of through traffic.
An early afternoon ferry leaves here for Xerokambos, on the neighbouring island of Leros.
Massouri is the main tourist strip on Kalymnos and packed with hotels, souvenir shops, English breakfast bars and general neon tat, but all of it on a small scale.
The main street runs straight through the resort where a clutch of hotels hug the slope between the road and the shore.
It's a very impressive stretch of coast with steep hills behind, lush vegetation along the coastal strip and the spectacular sight of Telendos soaring out of the sea across the narrow bay.
The Massouri beaches aren't impressive, mostly narrow and composed of grubby grey sand, stone and shingle that dips quite sharply into the sea.
Shade comes from a line of tamarisk trees while sunbeds appear outside the beach bars in the high season. Ferries regularly leave for day trips to Telendos.
The best beach areas are at the southern end, notably at neighbouring Melitcahas, well signposted off the main road, with a couple of lines of sunbeds and some tavernas.
The islet of Telendos soars out of the sea opposite Myrties like a giant volcanic plug. It was formed by a massive earthquake in 500AD that split it off from the mainland, destroying the ancient capital of the island as it did so.
Today Telendos is one of the best reasons for visiting Kalymnos, with a smart new quayside packed with good tavernas and little beaches dotted about in the islet's many coves.
Every hour during the day small caiques take a dozen or so on the 10-minute journey from Myrties' jetty to Telendos.
There are no roads on Telendos and no traffic. The broad quayside is paved, and a dozen or so tavernas place tables along the shore. It's a romantic setting and a favourite of couples enjoying evening views across the water to the twinkling lights of Myrties and Massouri
The last ferry leaves around 10.30pm although they run later in the high season if the tavernas look full. A few rooms can be rented here, mostly above the tavernas. See Kalymnos Sights for more on Telendos beaches.
The road north of Massouri weaves giddily around the heavily indented Kalymnos coastline offering impressive sea views from the stark rocky hillsides.
A small promontory is home to the impressive remains of the ruined fortress of Kastelli overlooking the sea in some of the wildest parts of the island.
The Kastelli area is a massive draw for climbers eager to tackle the rugged limestone crags for which Kalymnos is renowned while the coast is laced with rocky coves.
Below the fortress ruin is a picturesque white chapel and, although steps are laid down the cliff, the climb is a difficult one and should only be attempted by those who are fit.
Around the headland and past the coastal hamlet of Karavostavi are some spectacular views over the sea, now dotted with fish farms.
The sheltered inlet of Arginondas has a small pebble beach backed by olives, pines and with a couple of tavernas. The village is also the start of a good inland walking trail between the mountains to the port of Vathi on the other side of the island.
Arginondas is also another jumping off point for many climbers tackling the many sheer cliffs and challenging rock faces found on this part of the coast.
A little further north is the village of Skalia where there is a large cave, but it is not open to the public.
The road north ends at the sheltered, peaceful and south-facing the beach of Emporios, otherwise called Emborio, and considered one of the best on the island.
A coarse sand beach is backed by tamarisk trees and a string of tavernas. It shelves steeply into a sea of large stones and banks of seaweed, so it's not particularly good for children, but the views to offshore islets are delightful.
A couple of shoreline tavernas put out sunbeds in the high season, and there is a caique Massouri that leaves in the afternoon for those who don't fancy the bus.
A steep climb at the western end of Emborios leads over a small hill to Rachi, for even more secluded sands, shaded by trees and with a summer beach cantina.
More tavernas lie inland, notably at Harry's, set back up the hill with a beautiful flower garden. Emborio is the end of the road for the daily bus, and only hardy hikers will venture into the mountains from here.