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Halki at a glance

A quest for the holy grail of Greece is a constant challenge for some holidaymakers. They seek a place where time really has stood still, where what is often described as “authentic Greece” still thrives and where friendly locals welcome visitors like long lost friends.

Maybe the tiny Dodecanese island of Halki is that place.

Arriving at the blissful little port of Emborios sets the scene.  Pastel-coloured houses with red-tiled roofs cluster around the horseshoe-shaped bay.  Taverna tables are sprinkled along the quayside where colourful boats bob.

The smart captains’ houses clamber up an amphitheatre of rocky hills that are topped with three derelict windmills.  A medieval castle built by the Crusaders peers down from a summit.

It’s so laid-back you can almost hear the silence.

For this is not only the smallest inhabited island in the Dodecanese, it is possibly the quietest. There are very few vehicles, only one real road and about 300 permanent residents. Everyone lives in Emborios, capital of an island where tranquillity reigns.

It’s been like that for years. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation told the world in 1983 that Halki was an island of peace and friendship. The locals have been proving Unesco right ever since by giving tourists the warmest of welcomes.

So what’s there?

Several beaches.  Three have tavernas, sunshades and sunbeds. Two of those are only a short walk from town. There are other more remote beaches.  A mini-bus and boats go to the beaches. 

A deserted town. About 3,000 people lived in Horio on the castle hill when Halki was a rich centre of sponge fishing. That bubble burst in the 19th century and people gradually left until Horio became a ghost town of ruined houses, a school and church.

And more. Monasteries, churches and chapels, some in ruins. A warm aquamarine sea. A spine of hills and mountains. A church with a huge bell tower.  Stone walls, goat pens, fig trees, wild herbs and prickly pear trees. A clock tower with four clock faces, none working.

So yes, Halki is the place where time stands still. It could be the relaxing getaway you’ve been dreaming about.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the main road in Halki have an English name?

After the Halki sponge fishing business went into decline a large group of residents emigrated to America and started a successful sponge business in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It still has a sponge dock and Greek quarter. The ex-patriots made a large donation towards the cost of getting the Halki road paved - and they named it Tarpon Springs Boulevard.

Does Halki have a bank?

No, but it does have an ATM. Some of the businesses take cards, but cash is still king on Halki.

Where does the name Halki come from?

Ancient history. It’s believed there were once copper mines on the island and the Greek word Halkos means copper.

Best Time to Visit Halki

Rain is a rarity in Halki during the holiday season, but there is always plenty of sunshine. Records show little or no rain between May and August. The average temperature will be in the mid or high 20s from mid-May to September and from June until October the Aegean Sea will be pleasantly warm.

August is likely to be the hottest and sunniest month and it is also the month when this quiet little island celebrates two major feast days which involve the islanders, relatives, friends - and visitors.

The first is on August 15 which begins at the church of St Mary in the deserted old town of Hora for the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin.  Then at the end of the month a tree-fringed monastery at the western end of the island celebrates the feast day of its patron saint St John. Both events involve religious services followed by traditional singing, dancing, eating and drinking - and the parties inevitably end up in the main town of Emborio.

Every September a festival is held to mark the “Island of Peace and Friendship” title bestowed on Halki by Unesco in 1983.

Halki Travel Advice

Ferries run regularly between Kamiros Skala, a port on the north-western coast of Rhodes, and Halki. Once there it quickly becomes apparent that Halki is a special place.

Just one paved road runs, more or less, the whole six-mile length of the island.  There are a few unmade roads and tracks. There is one taxi and one small van for hire and no car or bike rental.

So how do visitors cope?

There’s a mini-bus that runs regular excursions to three beaches and the three main sights, they are the old town of Chora, a castle and a monastery.  Boats provide a water taxi service to beaches and an excursion to the nearby deserted islet of Alimia, where there is a beach and salt lake. That’s it.

So most people walk. All the shops, cafes, facilities (including the only ATM cash machine) and accommodation are in the small and only town of Emborios. It’s a lovely, peaceful place to walk around.

Chora and a couple of beaches -  white sand Potamos and rocky cove Ftenagia  -  are a few minutes’ walk away.  More energetic walkers can climb the hill to explore the castle and marvel at the views.