The island of Patmos is located in the Aegean Sea just south of the island of Samos and north of Leros, close to the Turkish coast.
One of the most northerly of the Dodecanese islands it might almost be classed, like neighbouring Samos, as one of the Aegean group.
Patmos is small enough to allow the visitor to stand in the island's central hilltop Chora and see almost all its many indented bays.
Patmos has a history – St John was exiled here in a cave where he reputedly wrote the Book of Revelations. The cave is now a popular pilgrimage site.
Although small, the island has plenty of attractive scenery, as well as several excellent beaches, and all but a few are reached relatively easily.
The main port at Skala, with the Chora above, neatly splits the island north and south. The combination of a deepwater port at Skala and the religious attractions of the hillside Chora make Patmos a favourite stop for cruise ships that often berth at Skala's long quayside.
The main Patmos beaches are found on the eastern shore, both north and south from Skala, and most are set in deeply indented bays with islets offshore that lend them a romantic air.
At just 12 kilometres long, anywhere is just about walkable from the main port of Skala. A car will get you to most of the island beaches and the roads, although narrow, are good.
Patmos lies away from the main holiday centres, a small, beautiful island with a a good road network, a scenic port and several fine sandy beaches. Deep, sheltered coves create a jigsaw shaped island where an exiled St John wrote the Bible's Book of Revelations. Cruise ships moor in the deep harbour at Skala and visitors stream to the hilltop monastery and the cave where the saint once lived. Those who stay longer can enjoy sheltered sandy bays, fine walks and easy island hopping.
The main Patmos port at Skala has a utilitarian air that belies the rest of the island. The deep inlet accommodates the biggest cruise liners as well as catamarans, ferries and fishing boats.
Ferry arrivals are greeted with a swathe of concrete opposite the main Skala square which is laid out with cafe tables and caged birds twittering beneath large white parasols.
Beyond the square, narrow streets fan out in all directions, lined with small shops touting everything from tourist trinkets to designer goods all aimed at cruise ship passengers on their way to the Chora and the holy cave of St John.
Racks of clothes, sunglasses and craftwork join cafe chairs as if by magic whenever a cruise liner docks; the empty white alleys turn into bustling shopping arcades in moments.
A short walk inland reveals a modest maze of whitewashed houses spreading up the hill. They look pretty from afar but close too they are little more than concrete cubes.
A narrow stretch of sharp sand lines the shore to the north of the port enlivened by cafe tables set out beneath shady tamarisks but the small beach is backed by a busy and noisy main road. Far better beaches lie close by
The Chora is a maze of twisting medieval alleyways circling the imposing fortified monastery of St John which sits above Skala and dominates the whole island of Patmos.
Strangely spooky thanks to an absence of colour, everywhere is whitewashed with doors painted grey or black and few trees, flowers or natural vegetation.
The traffic-free alleys are narrow, often a little claustrophobic and wrap around the steep hill in a chaotic maze – a reminder of when they confused pirate raiders – it is easy to get hopelessly lost.
Terrific panoramas of the whole island are on offer from small cafes beneath the monastery walls while more romantic tavernas lie hidden away in tiny squares.
The small, but impressive, monastery of St John the Divine tops the Chora (see Patmos Sights) and has very fine frescoes and icons. The trick is to avoid the cruise ships crowds when the place is crawling.
Halfway up the long, steep and winding hill to the Chora is the Cave of Apocalypse (see Sights) where St John is believed to have written the Book of Revelation.
Visitors can enter the cave where he is reputed to have received his religious revelations. Taxis run from the Skala quayside and there is a daily bus service.
The narrow waist of land at Skala neatly divides the island north and south. Both have hilly interiors and a good selection of beaches. The best of the northern beaches are on the east coast, with a trio around the bay just north of Skala and some less visited, but delightful spots on the headland at Geranos. The less attractive beaches lie on the north and west coasts of Patmos.
The first good beach north out of Skala is a short walk over the headland to Meloi about 1.5km from the port. The road to Meloi is at the eastern end of the port where the main road turns inland
An attractive beach of sharp sand curves around a small bay backed by a low stone wall and a distinctive line of tamarisk trees that offer good shade in the afternoon.
The water is shallow at first but drops sharply a few metres out where stones and seaweed eventually give way to soft sand underfoot.
Fairly narrow, Meloi beach is still long enough to provide plenty of room, particularly at the northern end.
Visitors tend to cluster at the southern end, near a large car park, where a small jetty provides mooring for a few boats. Nestling among an attractive stand of trees is a pleasant taverna.
A camping site 100 metres behind the beach has a small mini-market and an excellent taverna that is well worth seeking out. Apartments and rooms for rent line the road to the beach.
A road branching south ends up at the small sand and pebble beach of Aspri, usually deserted, and a path over the headland passes even more solitary coves, although visitors may occasionally find themselves overlooked by giant cruise ships at anchor in the bay.
Agriolivadi is signposted right off the road north out of Skala just past the petrol station. The road twists and turns as it drops down the hill to a large flat area that serves as a car park
The beach lies just below the car park and it's one of the best on the island, with shallow water and good fine sand that sweeps right around the large open bay.
A narrow line of insubstantial tamarisks offers only a little natural shade at the eastern end, but the shallow water is sandy underfoot, making this an ideal beach for families.
The uninhabited offshore islet of Agia Thekla is planted picturesquely in the bay, and a couple of tavernas sit in trees under a cascade of vines at the back of the beach.
Not everyone will love the large and ugly white plastic sunbeds that are crammed closely together along the shore.
Kato Kampos, also called Kabos, is a large, deep beach of sharp white sand and one of the most popular on Patmos.
Set in a deep bay, as are many of the beaches on this jigsaw-shaped island, the soft sand and shallow water make it a good family beach.
The sand extends east and west of a large car park and stands of tamarisk give lots of good shade while a couple of tavernas and a beach cafe open in summer.
The more sheltered western end is where the sunbeds sit in steady ranks next to a large tent used to house surfboards and extra sunbeds. The eastern end is far quieter and has a small jetty.
The road behind leads up the hill to the village of Epano Kambos, the third largest on Patmos, with its square dominated by the church of Evangelismos and a taverna beneath a large plane tree.
There are religious festivals here in March and August with plenty of feasting, music and dancing in the streets.
Beyond Kambos beach, the road splits north and east. The east road snakes along the lace-like coast of the Yeranos peninsula where several peaceful beach coves lie tucked away.
First is Vagnis, or Vagias, a 15-minute walk from Kambos to a clean sweep of white pebble and stone backed by tamarisk trees. This idyllic spot has views across the bay to the islets of Agia Thekla and Agios Georgios. A beach cantina opens in the summer.
Next is Linginos, a flat stretch of stone, rather exposed and with no shade but superb views. Finally, at the end of the peninsula is Livadi Geranos, or Geranou, where a couple of sheltered sand and pebble beaches are backed by clumps of tamarisk.
The south-west facing beach has views across to the offshore islets of Agios Georgios and Kentronissi while the one facing southeast has the deeper shade.
Above the beaches is the dazzling white chapel of Panagia Yeranos and a small taverna on the hill opens in the summer. Caiques from Skala may pull in during the high season.
Meadows behind the beach are noted for the profusion of spring flowering orchids and a coastal walk from Kampos to Yeranos takes about 40 minutes.
Off the coastal road to Yeranos a track leads north over the hill then east to the north-facing pebble beach at Lampi, or Labi as it is sometimes called.
Lampi bay lies two kilometres north of Kampos and the long pebble beach has long been famed for its distinctive, strongly marked pebbles. They make ideal souvenirs and the biggest and best have long since been plundered to grace the homes of tourists.
The name Labi is Greek for 'shining' and that's just what these pebbles do when washed over by the sea. But, like most unpolished pebbles, the stones turn dull and pale when they dry out.
There are enough left on Lampi beach to ensure pleasurable finds for visitors ready to pick their way along the shore but they might do better to throw them back in the sea for others to enjoy rather than them away later when the novelty has worn thin.
A taverna sits in good shade beneath a clutch of tamarisks, splitting the long, narrow Lambi beach in two. The northern winds can make for choppy seas and the pebbles, though smooth, drop steeply into the water so this is not a great beach for children, but it makes for excellent snorkelling.
The area to the west of Lampi is known as Livadi Kalogiron and a dirt road snakes through the hills above a wide and fertile plain that is planted out with vegetables most of the year.
The landscape is strikingly beautiful here with cypress and pine hedging the small fields on the edge of the sea. Below the chapel at Panagia Livadiou is a small beach of sand and shingle with a cantina in the summer season.
The dirt track leads inland then back to the sea again to the small beach at Avdelas below the chapel to Agios Nikolaos. Caiques often pull in here on their round island trips. Very peaceful it may be but there are no facilities or shade on the exposed beach.
On the promontory is an 11th century chapel to Agios Avdelas, thought to be one of the oldest churches on Patmos. This area was once home to the many craftsmen that were shipped in from other islands to help build the monastery of St John.
South of Avdelas, on the west coast of Patmos, is a small bay at Lefkes, most easily reached down a narrow paved track off the main Skala to Kambos road.
The track narrows sharply after a kilometre and it is best to leave the car and walk. Few may think the walk worthwhile as the beach, although in an attractive setting, is mostly composed of great banks of unattractive fly-blown seaweed.
There are some ramshackle wooden quays at the southern end, full of old boats and rotting hulls. The beach, such as it is, is also very exposed with no shade or facilities.
The south of the island below the main port of Skala is dominated by the Chora and the Monastery of Agios Ioannis (St. John) that sits above it. Slightly smaller than the north it has fewer beaches although they are just a good as the rest of the island.
The road south out of Skala follows the coast for two kilometres or so, passing the small and attractive bay at Saspilon before passing over the headland for another three kilometres to the picturesque fishing port at Grikos, or Groikos.
This hugely attractive village has a harbour at the eastern end, with tavernas and rooms lining the pleasant quayside, A long, sandy beach reaches out to the east, backed by a thick line of shady tamarisk trees. Offshore, almost blocking the approach to Grikos Bay, is the large uninhabited islet of Tragonissi.
The harbour area has several small hotels and rooms to rent as well as a number of tavernas. The recent improvement to the quay include attractive paving and lighting and the sheltered bay is usually crammed with yachts and fishing boats.
Grikos beach is also one of the longest on Patmos and very sandy near the harbour, changing to sharp sand and pebble as it heads east. At the far end of the bay is the huge rock of Kalikatsou, also known as Petra (Greek for 'stone').
Unfortunately, a huge five-star hotel has mushroomed behind the beach offering lavish suites, prohibitively expensive white plastic sunbeds and spoiling a once delightful view.
A massive 10-metre high rock sits at the head of a barren stretch of mud flats at the southern end of Grikos bay. Petra is also known by locals as Kallikatsou – Greek for the jackdaws that apparently used to nest there.
Petra is a huge rock with an interesting shape and with many local myths linked to it, partly because it has been a refuge for many hermits down the centuries.
Hermits have left their marks too with a set of carved steps, holes for burning candles and even a rock carved cistern for holding water. Petra rock can be climbed quite easily but there are no safety features and visitors regularly slip and fall.
Below the rock, Petra beach stretches out the south with sunbeds and a small beach cantina opening in the summer. The beach of sharp sand and stone dips steeply into the sea.
The southern end of the beach is called Plaki and it's popular with nudists although there is only a single tree for shade.
South of Plaki is a clutch of small coves and beaches that are worth exploring although they are all rock and pebble and several require a steep scramble to reach them.
Just south of Petra is the narrowest point of the island where beaches on both the east and west coast are only 200 metres apart.
To the west is a pleasant sand and stone beach called Stavros while the twin beaches of Diakoftu and Alykes are found to the east. Both of the eastern beaches are a little more difficult to reach as there is no road but there are walking paths through the fields.
Stavros has a small line of trees for shade but the other beaches are very exposed, with little in the way of shelter. Alykes is Greek for salt and there are a couple of small salt pans here. A beach taverna opens in the summer season.
Considered by some to be one of the best beaches on Patmos, Psili Ammos is also one of the most difficult to reach overland, having no road access.
Most arrive by boat from Skala while walkers have a difficult 30-minute scramble over a series of steep crags and deep gullies along the coast from the end of Stavros beach.
Psili Ammos beach has a deep swathe of golden sand and many large trees that grow almost down to the water's edge, offering plenty of good natural shade.
The western end is popular with naturists and at the other, a small beach taverna opens in the summer.
North-west facing, it is exposed to winds and heavy swells can develop so it's worth checking local weather reports before setting out, especially out of season.
High winds and heavy seas can even prevent a boat pick-up and visitors are forced to walk back along the long coastal path.