In the past Kalymnos was famed for the bravery of its sponge-divers. However recent years have seen this trade in decline, as has package tourism, and the island has reinvented itself as an activity holiday centre. The island is now a mecca for rock climbers and attracts off-season walkers. Scuba diving and sea-kayaking are also available.
Pothia, the capital, is a large thriving town with a very Greek atmosphere, its harbour lined with cafes and tavernas. Narrow backstreets wind up the hill and hide neoclassical mansions. Pothia has an open-air cinema, and in season excursion boats leave from here for Pserimos, Kos and Leros.
Most visitors stay in the narrow coastal area halfway up the western side. This was a popular tourist destination in the 90s but much quieter now. Fringed by a string of sand/pebble beaches, accommodation is centred in Myrties and Massouri, which are so close together it is difficult to say where one stops and the other begins! A reasonable choice of restaurants and beach tavernas offer good value in traditional relaxed surroundings. Views from just about everywhere are spectacular to rocky Telendos opposite.
In the far northwest of the island, where the road ends 20 kms from Pothia, is tiny Emborios. This is the real Greece, comprising simply a tamarisk-fringed sand-shingle beach (you can walk to others nearby), five good taverna restaurants, a church and a small shop. Not much more to do here, then, other than swim, walk, read, eat and sleep in very peaceful surroundings, interrupted only by the occasional goat and church bells. We love Emborios!
Wherever you stay it is possible to explore the island quite nicely by the local bus which has a reasonable service. Elsewhere there are numerous Byzantine chapels, ruined Knights' castles, the abandoned citadel-town of Pera Kastro and the impressive Kefala cave to discover.
The distinctive island of Telendos, lying just a kilometre off the mid- western shore, is a step back in time. Easily reached from Myrties in just ten minutes by water-taxi, there is one tiny fishing hamlet and a number of sand-shingle beaches, one of which is naturist - the closest is just a five minute walk over the headland from the harbour.
Blissfully tranquil (no cars), the pretty waterfront has half-a-dozen tavernas, a couple of cafes and a small shop or two. But for brighter lights, the ferry to Kalymnos is €3 euros each way and runs every 30 minutes. The advantage here is that you can, ineffect, have a two-centre holiday without bothering to move! (The same applies, of course, in reverse - anyone staying in Massouri can easily pop over for dinner on Telendos).
A very sweet little island with a delightful ‘away from it all’ atmosphere, Telendos was once joined to Kalymnos but separated by an earthquake in AD 554. They say that, if you look hard, you can see the remains of a submerged village on the way across.