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A Guide to the Greek Dodecanese Islands

Greece, as a holiday destination, creates a secure haven and the opportunity to disconnect, refuel, and get inspired by its diversity of sparkling seas and distinctive islands. The Dodecanese Islands, located in the Aegean Sea, are a popular destination for individuals that love to try new food, are enthusiastic about art, like to hop from island to island, and those looking for an off-the-beaten-track holiday destination. Settle into the languid cadence of the Mediterranean lifestyle on any of these island gems, enjoying secret beaches and excellent cuisine in family-run eateries, or ticking off an experience on your holiday bucket list.

It is made up of the 12 largest islands: Rhodes, Kos, Karpathos, Kalymnos, Patmos, Astypalea, Symi, Leros, Nisyros, Halki, Tilos, and Lipsi. However, the Dodecanese Islands are more also include a slew of smaller, deserted islets.

Additionally, the Dodecanese islands lie in what is known as Greece's sunniest corner, only a short distance from Turkey's Turquoise Coast in the southeastern Aegean, making it a great summer and warm-weather winter destination. Therefore, you can easily travel from some of the islands, such as Kos as day trips to Turkey, giving you the chance to visit two countries in one trip.

In case you are wondering which of the dodecanese islands is right for you, each of these wonderful islands have something unique to offer. While Rhodes and Kos remain the two most popular destinations, Karpathos, Astypalea, and Symi are also becoming favorites of visitors to Greece. In addition, Kalymnos is becoming more popular for rock climbing, Leros for diving, and Patmos as a spiritual destination.

This travel guide will provide you with all the information you'll need to plan your trip to the Greek Dodecanese islands with us.

Lindos, Rhodes

The 7 Most Popular Dodecanese Islands

Rhodes

Rhodes, also known as the "Knights' Island," has a long and illustrious history, evidenced by its ancient buildings and monuments. However, Rhodes Old Town has a truly unique atmosphere! Sturdy walls, stone-paved alleys, exquisite mansions, and a medieval fortress give the impression of being transported back to medieval times.

Rhodes' beaches are well-kept, and several of them offer water sports facilities with plenty of options. Moreover, there are also a lot of secluded bays where you can swim in cool refreshing waters. Take your pick of one of the many beautiful beaches on the island.

If you're looking for an all-round island perfect for both couples and families, Rhodes is your place. It's the perfect blend of old meets modern, ideal for both beach lovers looking to relax and culture seekers interested in historic sites and day trips. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are very popular in Rhodes. Prassonissi, on the island's southern tip, is the best site for windsurfing, but Theologos, Ixia, and other beaches near Rhodes Town are just as good. 

In addition, to make the most of your trip, you could stay in two different resorts to get different experiences, combining your stay at Ixia and Lindos. Imagine experiencing the beautiful stretch of sand and a lovely sea breeze, perfect for wind surfing in Ixia, followed by the picture-perfect settings, lovely waterfront tavernas, splendid rooftop restaurants, luxurious bars, colorful shops and an enticing labyrinth of narrow little alleyways in Lindos.

In recent years, many diving centers have opened on Rhodes, providing courses and coordinating dive trips to nearby islands and old wrecks. Hiking the inland is another popular activity on Rhodes. Trails cross the island's countryside to green valleys, mountainous residences, ancient castles, and isolated beaches. 

Because Symi and Rhodes are close together, this makes them the perfect pair for an island-hopping adventure, staying a few nights on each. Alternatively, you can take a day trip from Rhodes to Symi Island. 

Some of the must-do activities on the island include Lindos and Kalithea springs, Rhodes Old Town (a world heritage site), the valley of the butterflies and Rodini Park.

Rhodes
Kos

After Rhodes, Kos is Greece's second most popular Dodecanese island. It is a well-developed tourist destination, with a wide range of resorts to stay in and things to do.

The island is known for its beautiful beaches, but also has many sites of historical importance given its rich cultural mix over the years having been controlled by multiple countries. Kos is also among the most popular and cosmopolitan islands in the Dodecanese group of Greek islands.

A medieval castle stands out at the port, and as visitors walk through the castle's walls into Kos town, you start to see many ruins from ancient Greece. There are historical sites all over the town including where Hippocrates once taught his students, the Ancient Agora, Casa Romana and the Roman Odeon. There’s also the Archaeological Museum that history enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to. If history isn’t your thing, not to worry! Kos has plenty of other attractions, restaurants and blissful beaches to keep you entertained.

It's easy to get away from the crowds and get off the beaten path in Kos. When you leave the popular towns, you'll find quiet beaches, small villages, and beautiful scenery. Kos will meet the needs of both people looking for a relaxing, comfortable holiday and those who want to get a taste of the local culture.

A trip to Rhodes and a visit to Kos would be a good match because they are close together and connected by multiple ferries. Kos has an international airport that offers flights from a few Greek cities and occasional flights from other countries during the summer. Ferries connect the island to Rhodes, Patmos, Kalymnos, and Symi.

Kos
Symi

The Island of Symi in Greece is one of the Dodecanese's most beautiful. Amazing architecture, colourful dwellings, and a laid-back culture set it apart from other Greek islands. Symi's port looks as though it's been plucked from a painting! The colourful homes around the harbour are the first feature you notice as you reach Symi by ferry. The atmosphere is brimming with charm and Symi's port is unquestionably the best place on the island for romantic strolls and sunset viewing.

Shipping, winemaking, commercial sponge diving, and boat building were important parts of Symi's economy. Today, these trades are still practiced, but tourism is the most important industry on this beautiful island.

Whilst some cruise ships and day-trippers from neighboring islands visit Symi, the quiet, laid-back Greek island lifestyle can still be enjoyed. Most day-trippers will stay close to the main port, leaving many beautiful swimming beaches uncrowded.

Some Symi beaches are only accessible by taxi boat, making them less appealing to day visitors and ideal for a romantic Greek island getaway. 

The island's port is regarded as its heart. There are several small villages and beaches to explore within walking distance. If you can resist the charm of the enchanting port, the gorgeous Symi beaches are a must-see. They may be small, but they are spotless and have hypnotic crystal pure waters. Some are maintained, but the majority are undeveloped, making them great for people looking to unwind away from it all. Symi vacations are perfect for families and couples looking for a relaxing break away from the crowds.

Symi Island is more touristy than Leros, but it still has the rustic feel of a Greek island combined with the sophistication of other high-end European destinations. An island hopping holiday or day trip can be made by taking the regular Rhodes to Symi ferry.

Symi
Halki

Halki is a small island located between Rhodes and Tilos. The smallest inhabited Dodecanese Island, Halki, is home to less than 500 people.  It is also referred to as Chalki.  In the previous century, many of its citizens moved to Tarpon Springs, Florida. When they migrated, they abandoned remnants of a historic castle with original frescoes still intact. 

There is no natural water supply on the island. Thus, all water must be supplied from Rhodes or stored in reservoirs when it rains. Nimporio is the island's only settlement and primary port. The island has been governed by various peoples, including the Romans, Turks, Italians, and Greeks. Tourism is the primary source of income, with fishing coming in a close second. Because of their proximity, an island hopping holiday to Rhodes and Halki works well giving holidaymakers a chance to experience these two contrasting gems.

Despite the island's modest size, there are plenty of places to visit: Firstly, the remains of a once-thriving, now deserted town of Chorio. A Castle with magnificent views sits atop the settlement. Secondly, you can visit the Byzantine-style monastery of Agios Ioannis, which is located in one of the island's most attractive locations. You could also hire a boat to cruise around the island, stopping at the best bathing locations. Even though Halki lacks vast stretches of sandy beach, the waters surrounding the island are breathtaking.

Halki
Kalymnos

The Dodecanese island group includes Kalymnos, adjacent to the Turkish mainland. The island is recognized for its rugged natural landscape and is home to several rock climbing clubs plus a yearly climbing festival. Besides its beautiful surroundings, Kalymnos has a rich history of sponge diving.

Because Kalymnos is further from the mainland, the quickest method to get there is to fly from Athens to Kalymnos airport. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Athens' Piraeus port.

Kalymnos is also known for Chryssocheria Castle which is located in the village of Pothia, the Kalymnos Archaeological Museum and the Sponge Factory. In addition, it is known for its monasteries such as Agioi Pantes and Agios Savvas which offer spectacular views. Kantouni, Myrties, Akti, Agrinota, Vlychadia, and Lagouna are among the beaches with peaceful, mild seas that make Kalymnos popular. Lastly, sponge fishing and rock climbing are two must-do activities on the island.

Kalymnos
Leros

Leros is somewhat off the beaten path, so if you're looking for genuine Greek vacations, this very hospitable island is the one for you.

If you enjoy swimming in deep, crystal-clear waters, beautiful bays with small fishing communities, and a lovely landscape sprinkled with cute little churches, Leros is for you! Traditional tavernas throughout the island give you the chance to sample delicious Greek food.

The island offers so much to energetic explorers and history buffs who seek much more than sun-drenched days basking in the pristine Aegean waters. Leros has performed several roles throughout history, the most notable of which was with the Knights of St John during the Byzantine Era and also WWII.

Hikers will enjoy the island's superb hiking opportunities and some of the greatest wreck diving in the world. Without the crowds of tourists, Leros provides something for everyone.

Because the distances are minimal, a vacation on Leros can be coupled with a visit to Patmos Island. It is also possible to reach Patmos Island from Leros due to the regularity of the Patmos ferry service.

The Greek islands of Leros, Kos, and Rhodes all have airports. In addition, there are daily direct flights from Athens that take less than an hour and flights from Rhodes that go through Athens. Furthermore. In addition, fast inter-island ferries depart from Kos and Rhodes daily.

Leros
Tilos 

Tilos is still undisturbed by mass tourism and retains its natural beauty. It has been a popular alternative destination for tourists due to its remote position and stunning natural environment.

The island's harbor, Livadia, is Tilos' most popular attraction. Mikro Chorio, on the other hand, is the most intriguing! It is a phantom village that has been abandoned and exudes a mystical aura. Don't overlook it!

You should go to the beach after touring the towns of Tilos as they provide some of the best swimming opportunities in the world! Tilos beaches are quiet and secluded , as one would expect from an undeveloped island, making them excellent for individuals seeking solitude.

If you're looking for a calm, relaxing holiday away from the crowds, Tilos is the place to go!

Tilos

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