In Patmos, a 13-square-mile island in Greece’s Dodecanese archipelago, visitors are greeted with the chic simplicity and spirituality of a place that’s remained unchanged for centuries. That is, the few visitors who are lucky enough to know about it—and who are willing to make the seven-hour ferry trip for a destination without the slightest trace of luxury.

Long disregarded on commercial-travel routes, the polar opposite of nearby Mykonos and Santorini, Patmos is still what it used to be: whitewashed walls that meander alongside labyrinthine streets, cobbled roads lined with violet flowers streaming around the blue doors of houses, and black-clad monks milling about St. John the Theologian’s 11th-century fortressed monastery. Silence reigns, the skies are clear—September on the island rarely brings a cloud—and the monks’ long beards recall a different era.