Known throughout Greece as the island of the sponge-fishers – although Symi also built up a good reputation for this – Kalymnos has had to diversify in order to survive. Many of the best sponge fields were wiped out by blight, others were simply overfished, some such as Libya’s went off-limits for political reasons, and then there was also the introduction of synthetic sponges. These aren't as good as the real thing but are much cheaper. Kalymnos did diversify, into shipping and also a modest amount of tourism, but there are still a few of the old sponge-fishing fleets around, which set sail for a few months in the late spring and early summer.
There is no doubt when you are in Pothia, the main town and also known simply as Kalymnos Town, that you are in a sponge-fishing centre. Souvenir shops have sponges by the hundred, and many shopkeepers will offer to show you how to tell the best sponges… which of course they naturally all sell. Others go a little further and will demonstrate the entire process, showing how sponges are turned from black, odorous objects to clean and pleasant ones that you are happy to share your bathtub with.
Away from the very busy harbour, the back streets of Pothia remain truly Greek, and life goes on pretty much as it has for centuries. The main sights in town are the 19th-century cathedral of Agios Christos, with its distinctive silver dome, the Archaeological Museum and the Nautical and Folklore Museum, which you'll find on the waterfront.
The main holiday spots are on the west coast, at Myrties and Masouri, which have good beaches and where you can also catch boats across to the offshore island of Telendos, where there are quieter beaches and a few places to eat and to stay. East of Pothia is Vathi, often called the Fjord of Kalymnos, a deep inlet of the Aegean that leads into a lush valley with several beautiful old-fashioned villages. It is one of the loveliest places on the island.
GETTING TO KALYMNOS
Flights to Kalymnos
Kalymnos has its own small airport, which connects it to other parts of Greece although there are no international flights. Olympic Air flights link Kalymnos with Athens, Astypalaia, Kos, Leros and Rhodes. To get to Kalymnos by air from overseas, you need to fly to the neighbouring island of Kos and take a ferry from there.
Greece Travel Secrets is a website of travel tips and vacation information for Greece and the Greek islands, written by travel experts and guidebook authors Donna Dailey and Mike Gerrard.
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