Movie Tourism – The Greek Isle of Patmos

Released in 2009, the movie Opa was filmed in various locations on the beautiful, scenic island of Patmos, often called “The Jerusalem of the Aegean.” Starring Matthew Modine as Eric the archaeologist and Agni Scott as Katerina the taverna owner, this entertaining comedy promises romance and fun in Eric’s quest and unexpected discovery of life’s real treasures.

Located at the northern end of the Dodecanese chain, Patmos is praised by Forbes magazine and the NY Times as an idyllic place to visit with fewer tourists and a smaller local population than many other Greek isles. Known as a Christian pilgrimage destination for centuries, many leisure travelers will find Patmos an ideal vacation spot to experience a rejuvenation of mind and spirit.

Patmos attractions:

The spiritual and historical significance of Patmos dates back to the exile of St John in 95 AD, where he experienced visions from Christ as written in the Book of Revelations. Buses run regularly from Chora or you can take the cobblestone path up the hill to the Monastery of St John, which was built by Khristodhoulous in the 11th century and fortified against invading Turks and pirates. Inside the Monastery, you’ll find numerous courtyards, ten small chapels, terraces, and stairways, as well as what remains of the ancient temple of Artemis, a legend from Greek mythology. Visit the Chapel of Theotokos for its 12th century frescoes, and view the exhibits, utensils, clerical vestments, and religious icons within the Treasury and Museum. The library houses over 13,000 historic documents and manuscripts, as well as biographies of saints and Aristotle’s Accusations.

On the hill just below the Monastery, you can enter the biblical site of the Cave of the Apocalypse, the revered sanctuary where St John lived and slept. Within this quiet refuge, visitors will find icons and mosaics that depict the Apostle’s visions. A religious music festival is held outdoors each year in September at the Cave, with the Feast of John the Theologian celebrated 25-26 Sep. Many other processions and celebrations take place throughout the year.

Hours for these World Heritage attractions: Open May to Aug. Sun, 8am-1pm, Mon, 8am-1:30pm, Tues & Wed, 8am-1:30pm & 2-6pm, Thu-Sat, 8am-1:30pm.

Admission: Free to monastery, $8 to the Treasury.

Things to Do:

Tourists will find over 20 beaches and small bays on Patmos and nearby islets including Diakofti, Kampos, Aspri, Lefkon, and Merikas to enjoy swimming, windsurfing, beach volleyball, a picnic, or simply relaxing. Take a walk on the beach at sunset, arrange a daytrip to a neighboring island, or rent a sailboat at Grikos for your own adventure. (Note: You can see a lot just by walking around, but perhaps the best way to explore more of the island beyond the villages is by renting a car or moped.)

No vacation is complete without doing some shopping while wandering through the narrow alleyways past courtyards of flowers and medieval buildings in Chora, or taking a 20-minute walk or taxi ride to the main port of Skala. You’ll discover many small shops in both towns that sell everything from Greek art and textiles to religious items, ceramics, and souvenirs. Some of the shops receiving good reviews include Midas, Iphgenia, and Filoxenia for jewelry, and Art Spot for small figurines. Stop in and visit with Mr Alafakis at Parousia to learn something about icon painting. Selene’s, next to the port authority office, is an interesting old store featuring arts and crafts made in Greece.

Dining & Entertainment:

The Greek people love to eat, and dinner is always a leisurely event. Excellent Mediterranean cuisine and seafood can be found at Vegghera overlooking the harbor in Skala. Dine on specialties such as salmon with rose sticks, octopus, squid, rabbit, or pork. You may or may not like the local beverage, ouzo, but it’s worth a try, especially with an appetizer of saganaki (fried cheese).

Hours: Easter to Oct – 7:30pm to 1am. Prices: $12 – $45.

The friendly atmosphere of Pantellis restaurant, also in Skala, is very popular with the locals, serving delicious wine, moussaka, pastitsio, and other entrees. Have breakfast or lunch at the Aigaio Cafè in Skala or Oassis Taverna in Grikos. Lunch often consists of mezedes or appetizers including stuffed grape leaves, squash balls, and eggplant dip. Prices at tavernas and cafes average $10 – $40. Visit the small village of Kambos and have an informal lunch or dinner at Taverna Panagos – open noon to midnight, or Taverna Leonida for a romantic setting on Lambi Bay – open noon to 11pm, Easter – Oct.

Nightlife is simple for the most part, but the tavernas do come alive with the jubilant cries of “Opa,” a traditional Greek expression of joy at being here, a welcome to the laughter and party sounds of bouzouki music, reminiscent of Zorba the Greek. Don’t be surprised to hear a glass breaking, thrown on the floor at the end of a Greek dance to show appreciation – this too is a tradition! (While living in Greece, I joined in the fun by breaking a glass fruit bowl, probably not a tradition, but one that did amuse the crowd.) Enjoy Greek music and dances on summer evenings at the Aloni, or get together with friends at Isalos, Astivi, or Celine.

Accommodations:

A member of the Luxury Hotels of the World, the Petra Hotel is highly recommended by Conde Nast as a boutique hotel with outstanding personalized service and hospitality. Located about 200 feet from the beach in the fishing village of Grikos about 3 miles from Skala, each of the 12 rooms or suites is tastefully decorated and equipped with all the modern amenities. Enjoy the excellent Greek food, the artistic décor within, the outdoor cafè, and swimming pool, while you experience the incredible views of the Aegean and the bay from your balcony or terrace. Consider the Petra Hotel for a honeymoon or any other special occasion.

Prices: $265/double room, $430 and up for suites (breakfast included).

Near the harbor town of Skala, tourists may choose the old world charm and ambiance of the Porto Scoutari hotel, surrounded by landscaped gardens and offering spacious guestrooms. Whether lounging beside the pool, going to the beach, or enjoying the spa and view, the hotel provides the intimacy and seclusion of a personal villa. Rooms and suites with private terrace, up-to-date amenities, and a choice of sea, garden, or pool view. Rates: From $150 to $300.

Another option is the Doriza Bay hotel and apartments, the newest on the island. Located not far from the Cave of the Apocalyse, guestrooms and suites have a private balcony, refrigerator, satellite TV, and other conveniences. The 1 and 2-bedroom two-story apartments offer a private entrance, kitchenette, and internal stairs. (Ideal for families or two couples.) Rates: $109 to $218.

(Note: 7 and 4-night packages with discounted rates at both hotels are also available.)

Other accommodations to fit any budget can be found at self-catering apartments and villas.

Getting to Patmos: Fly to Athens, take a 7-8 hour ferry ride from Piraeus. Ferries run several times a week – $45 economy seating, $51 lounge chair, $115 cabin. Patmos is also on many cruise ship itineraries.

If you can visualize the beauty and tranquility of Patmos, you may want to experience this bit of paradise on your next vacation to the Greek isles.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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