The former capital of Kalymnos, Horio, stands atop the brow of the low ridge behind Pothia, around 4km up from the sea. A steep, stony and unshaded old stairway that’s a little hard to find climbs up from its eastern edge to the pirate-proof village of Pera Kastro, which was inhabited until the 18th century. Beyond its forbidding walls and stern gateway, it now lies almost entirely in ruins and is overgrown with wildflowers, but amid the wreckage it’s well worth seeking out nine tiny 15th-century churches that still hold stunning frescoes.
A tree-lined road drops for 2km beyond Horio to reach the pretty village of Panormos. Two neighbouring beaches are within walking distance: Linaria and the more attractive cove of Kandouni, surrounded by mountains and holding a small sandy beach where cafes, bars and hotels overlook the water.
Directly facing Telendos Islet, across 800m of generally placid sea, Myrties and Masouri have attractive beaches, with the strand at Masouri being larger and sandier. Beyond the Telendos ferry quay in Myrties, the west-coast road is a one-way loop. To continue any further north, you have to double back and follow a largely empty stretch higher up the hillside. Only if you're heading south do you see the main commercial strip that connects the two resorts in a seamless row of restaurants, rental studios, bars, souvenir shops and minimarkets, one block up from sea level.
North of Masouri, the road becomes two-way once more and swiftly leads into Armeos, perched above the coast without a beach. Smarter and newer than its neighbours, it consists almost entirely of larger hotels and apartment complexes targeted at climbers.
North of Armeos, Kalymnos’ west-coast road leaves civilisation behind. Its final stretch, skirting the deep inlet that cradles tiny Arginonda, is utterly magnificent, cut into the flanks of mighty cliffs and bordered with flowering oleander. It comes to an end 20km from Pothia at sleepy little Emborios, where sugar-white houses cluster around a long, narrow pebble beach.