After braving the crowds on Santorini and Mykonos it was a relief to arrive at the quiet and charming Greek island of Patmos on Day 3 of our Azamara Cruise. Because the island has no airport, the ravages of mass tourism have passed it by and most visitors come in on the ferry from Athens or via the nearby islands of Kos and Samos.
On Patmos we tried one of the Insider Access tours that are offered by Azamara Club Cruises which give insights that are a bit more unusual than the typical tourist sights. With our guide Carolyn we took the coach up the hill to the village of Chora, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, perched on the hill around the St John’s Monastery. On the way we heard a bit about the history of Patmos which is a site of pilgrimage for Christians, since it was here that St John the Evangelist was exiled from Ephesus and lived for 18 months, during which he wrote the Book of Revelations. In recent years, island has become popular with wealthy Europeans and celebrities who value the quiet and seclusion of the island and have been buying up the old houses of Chora.
Visiting the convent of Evangelismos
The monastery of St John was built in the 11th century and on the hillside below there is a much visited cave which is thought to be where St John went to pray and meditate and perhaps write the Book of Revelations which he dictated to his scribe Prochorus. We visited the nearby Convent of Evangelismos or Annunciation, where the Sunday service had just finished as we arrived and the congregation were enjoying a coffee after the service.
The convent is a community of 40 Greek Orthodox nuns who offer religious retreats, grow their own food in the gardens and carry out their other duties of religious work and prayer. We took a walk around the vegetable gardens with fruit trees of pomegramates, figs, lemons and other fruits which are made into the ‘sweet spoon’ preserves that the Greeks offer to guests with coffee. In the gardens we saw the beehives for honey and wax candles and in the gift shop were examples of the ‘Spitha’ or Spark embroidery made by the nuns, with stitches so fine that they are like tiny sparks.
Although the small church looked old and was filled with beautiful icons and frescos it was actually built in the last 10 years to replace a smaller chapel built in the 1930s which in turn had been build on the site of the original monastery founded in the 1600s. We saw a few nuns, dressed in their long black robes, going about their business and chatting with the congregation. One of the sisters came with us to see the church but seemed happy to stay in the background and let our guide, Caroyn do the talking. When told that were were journalists who would write about the convent she was distinctly unimpressed. “It doesn’t matter”, she said ” we depend on God not man”. The frescos and icons inside the church had been created by one of the nuns who was a skilled painter, although unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the church.
Dressing modestly for visiting a Greek monastery or convent
If you visit a Greek orthodox monastery or convent you need to dress modestly;
- Men should wear long trousers with shirts that cover their shoulders and no hats inside the church.
- For ladies shoulders and knees should be covered. In the strictest places such as the convent skirts must be worn but in other places trousers are allowed.
- If you are not suitably dressed, usually wraps or shawls are provided outside the church to cover bare legs and shoulders.
- The nuns do not wish to be photographed and so you should not point the camera in their direction.
Visiting a traditional house on Patmos
After our visit to the convent we made made the short drive back to Chora and walked through the narrow streets to visit a local house. The village was built between 1500 and 1800 when many seafarers and merchants settled on the island from Crete and Asia Minor and built fine mansions here. These are now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site and behind the high walls and small windows are surprisingly large houses and gardens that you don’t see from the street.
The island was subject to pirate attacks in the past, so the high walls and small windows were there for protection. When a pirate ship was spotted in the bay, the house owners would cross the interconnecting flat roofs to make their way to the protection of the monastery of St John.
The house that we visited was owned by a lively lady aged 92 called Morfousa Simandiri whose family had owned the house for eight generations. There was a portrait on the wall of her ancestor, a wealthy merchant who had built the house, with many beautiful antiques, paintings and lace on display as we walked through the rooms of the house.
After our walk around the streets of Chora we returned for lunch at a nearby restaurant with a fantastic view from the terrace, overlooking the bay where we could see Azamara Journey. Here we were able to try many of the tasty Greek specialities such as small stuffed pastries, Greek salad and the local fava bean hummus.
After our tour we were dropped off in the harbour and wandered around the streets of Skala, the main harbour town of Patmos. The town had a charming, relaxed air that was a world away from the crowds and commercialism we had experienced on Santorini and Mykonos. Since there is no airport on the island, most visitors have to take a long ferry ride from Athens or a flight to one of the neighbouring islands of Kos and Samos and then a ferry from there.
It was interesting to compare the distinctive architecture of each of the Greek islands we had visited on our Azamara cruise. The houses on Patmos had patterned white plasterwork that followed the lines of the stones underneath, often with natural stone corners and window facings and paintwork of washed blue compared to the intense turquoise of Santorini. Since it was Sunday afternoon, I imagine that everyone was home having a siesta and we walked along the harbour to have a sit and a swim on the town beach.
Returning by tender on board the Azamara Journey we relaxed and changed ready for the White Night dinner which is a tradition each cruise and the closest that the relaxed Azamara Cruise gets to a formal night. The tables were set out around the pool area and guests dressed mainly in white enjoyed their dinner in the warm night air.
We were entertained by the Azamara singers and dancers as the sun set over Patmos, a lovely end to a relaxing day and the end of the Greek island portion of our cruise, as tomorrow we head to the Turkish port of Kusadasi.
About Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises is a small luxury cruise line with two ships; Azamara Journey that Heather and Guy sailed on and Azamara Quest, each with a capacity of 686 guests. The smaller ship size means you often visit destinations that larger ships can’t get into and the ships can dock in more central locations. The emphasis is on destination immersion; enjoying the destination to the full, arriving early and sailing late so that guests can enjoy nights and cool places ashore, with insider access programmes and a unique AzAmazing evening included in each cruise. No itinerary is the repeated and each year the ships visit different destinations around the world. Azamara is part of Royal Caribbean Cruise group. Visit the Azamara Club Cruises website more information about a Mediterranean luxury cruise like the one Heather and Guy enjoyed.
Joining your Azamara Club Cruise
Heather and Guy flew from London Heathrow to Athens and back from Istanbul using British Airways, although obviously each cruise is different in the best way to get there.
Heather used the Meet and Greet Parking Service booked through Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) who offer airport parking at a range of airports across the UK as well as travel extras such as airport lounge booking and airport hotel stays.
Both flights and transfers from the airport to your cruise ship can be arranged through Azamara Cruises.
Thanks to Azamara Club Cruises who hosted Heather and Guy for their 7 day Greek Island Cruise and to Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) who provided their airport parking at Heathrow.
Read More about our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Sailing into Santorini – Day 1 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Windy Mykonos – Day 2 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Visiting Kusadasi and Ephesus – Day 4 of our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise
Istanbul the golden – final stop on our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey