Profitis Ilias 676 m is the highest mountain on the island of Kalymnos, a Greek island located in the South - Eastern Aegean Sea and belonging to the Dodecanese, which literal meaning is "twelve islands". This archipelago is situated amongst Turkey, the island of Crete to the South, the Cyclades to the West and the island of Samos to the North and includes more than 163 islands and islets, of which only 26 are inhabited. Kalymnos is strongly characterized because of its mountainous features which form a unique landscape and a fascinating view of the sea. The mountains of Kalymnos are desertic and the highest peak is Profitis Ilias which rises in the middle of the island. The coasts of Kalymnos are quite steep and secluded forming many capes, coves and ports.
Since 1997-1998 Kalymnos started to become known to the rock climbing community because of its excellent rock and mediterranean ambience. Kalymnos is now considered as one of the planet’s most spectacular sport climbing destination. Nowadays the island counts several climbing sectors developed over the years, with sports itineraries from the less difficult and popular to the hard routes on big overhangs, which are only possible because of the incredible tufa structures and stalactites.
The island of Kalymnos has many paths, anyhow the trail to its highest point is absolutely a must! The itinerary is one of the finest of the island to enjoy an exceptional landscape, where rugged limestone mountains rise abruptly and dramatically nearby the Aegean island coastline. The summit view is breathtaking.
The island was formerly ruled by the Knights of St. John, who surrendered it in 1523 to the Turks of Suleman. From 1912 to 1943 it was occupied by the Italians and in 1945 by the Germans. After the WW2 the island was formally included as part of the Greek state. Many years ago the island was an important sponge producing center, famous for its sponge divers, who could hold their breath underwater for nearly 5 minutes.
Kalymnos as a climbers island was kissed to life when the Italian Andrea di Bari arrived in 1996 for a holiday period and he saw the excellent quality of the rock, guessing the enormous potential from the point of view of climbing. He returned next year in May with some climbing friends to put up some routes and in October of the same year with Andrea Gallo, who took some fotos for the climbing magazines. After publication in the spring of 1999 more climbers arrived and rules for the protection of new routes were set up. After 2000 many well known climbers of several countries appeared to set up new routes, or just came to climb some of the meanwhile famous difficult cave routes.
Getting to Kalymnos
In the year 2006 it was built a small airport on Kalymnos, but the flight is expensive and sometimes may be cancelled when the weather is bad, so the approach by sea from the nearby and larger island of Kos remains the favourable solution. In fact the Kalymnos harbour of Pothia is reached quickly from Kos via ferry or hydrofoil starting from the Mastichari harbour. The crossing Kos - Kalymnos is active throughout the year, because many people of Kalymnos take the ferry every day to go to work in Kos.
In summer and mid seasons there are different charter flights connecting Kos and the main European airports, including low coast airlines, while from November to April, which is also an ideal time to climb, the island of Kos is only reached by daily flights departing from Athens Eleftherios Venizelos airport.
Getting to the start of the trail
The town of Chora with its crusader castle is the starting point to climb Profitis Ilias. From Pothia, the main town of Kalymnos, drive along the main road that crosses the whole island in the direction of Myrthies and Masouri. As you reach Chora you must leave the main road and turn right in the direction of the castle. If you are starting from Masouri or Myrthies, you must instead drive towards Pothia and turn left once you arrive in Chora. Following the signs to the castle, cross the narrow streets of Chora to reach a large dirt square where it starts the route to Profitis Ilias. At the beginning to find the start is not a very simple affair, but once identified the path is well traced without any orientation problem.
A nice walk across the narrow streets of Chora leads to a large dirt square located beneath the crag topped by the Chora crusader castle. At the beginning from the square it starts a wide mule track which enters the valley passing through two opposing rocky walls. A little further up the valley widens, always bounded by rocky walls. After some small houses the wide mule track becomes a narrow but easy path that enters a rocky valley with some caves. Further on, there is a fence and a long wall built with dry-stones on the right, at the end of which you reach a large pass where the view extends on the opposite side. Just before reaching the pass along the stone wall on the right of the path, a gate with the signpost "Profitis Ilias" in Greek allows you to cross the stone-all and continue along the path.
Along the way we will be accompanied by splendid views of Kos, Leros, the coasts of Turkey and the villages of Kalymnos. At this point the path, which until now had been heading north, changes direction and begins to rise to the right (East). The path always continues climbing obliquely to the right, then gains the steep final stretch now in sight of the monastery that rises above on the top of the mountain. You reach the magnificent peak with the Aghios monastery and a simple summit signal.
After the usual photos we reverse the same itinerary to gain the pass near the gate and from here there are two possibilities:
- return to Chora along the ascent route
- alternatively descend to the Vathy Valley to make a longer loop that at its end will lead us to Pothia, the main town of the island
If we choose the second option a long trip is waiting for us: a long drop down to the Vathy Valley on the other side along the flank of the mountain, then a trek along the valley floor and lastly a veritable pearl, the paved trail known nowadays as The Italian Path which leads over the lower hills between the Vathy Valley and Pothia, the main town.
From the pass the path starts to wind down, clear at first but later not everywhere. Reached the bottom of the valley the path heads to the right skirting dry-stone walls and reaching the small monastery of Aghios Nikolaos, where the path joins a wide dirt track, continuing in the same direction for a long time, skirting sheepfolds and animal pens. Shortly before the dirt road makes a sharp left-hand bend, start paying attention to a signpost on the right that marks the point where to leave the road and take a path on the right that begins to climb at first narrow and steep, then turns into a magnificent tone-paved path, known as the Italian Path, that goes up to reach a hill that allows you to cross the mountain range between Vathy Valley and Pothia in its lowest point. Reached the hill the path continues in a fantastic environment with wonderful views up to the top overlooking the city of Pothia. With some last downhill hairpin bends the path reaches the last houses of the town. From here a brief walk across the town will lead you near the port, where with a bit of luck you will be able to enjoy a drink near the harbour, before the arrive of the bus that will bring you back to Chora.
No fees no permits required
All year round excluding the su mer months, really too hot.
Various possibility to stay in the numerous studios and rooms for rent, in addition to hotels. On Kalymnos there is no organized campsite and free camping is strictly forbidden on the island.