Greece is surrounded by sea from east, west, and south, and in its watery borders, it has 227 islands. All of them are of unique beauty and charm. Greece is famous worldwide as a small paradise on earth, and people travel every summer to the islands to enjoy the relaxing environment and the crystal-clear waters.
This article is all about the Dodecanese, a cluster of famous islands, such as Rhodes, Patmos, Kalymnos, and Kastellorizo.
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- A Guide to the Dodecanese Islands
- An Overview of the Dodecanese Islands
A Guide to the Dodecanese Islands
Where are the Dodecanese Islands?
The Greek islands are grouped according to their location in clusters, and each of them has its name. The Dodecanese islands are a cluster on the middle and east sides of the Aegean Sea. Some of these islands are close to the Turkish borders, like Kos, Rhodes, and Kalymnos.
How to get to the Dodecanese islands
The most common way to get to the Dodecanese islands is by Ferry, from Piraeus or other islands of the Aegean Sea. Piraeus is the biggest port in Greece and one of the busiest ones. You can easily reach it by train from the center of Athens or the airport.
However, since the islands of the Dodecanese are far from the mainland, the trip is usually more than 6 hours. For this reason, some travelers choose to fly to the islands. The bigger islands like Rhodes or Kos have airports, and during summer, many flights, both domestic and international. It is the fastest and most convenient way to arrive at this part of Greece.
You can compare flights from Athens to the Dodecanese islands on Skyscanner.
Some people choose to rent a yacht and sail to this part of Greece. This gives them the luxury of stopping on many islands along the way and choosing their tempo of traveling.
How to travel around the Dodecanese islands
You can travel between islands by ferry because the islands are perfectly interconnected. A popular expression to describe this is ‘island hopping’, which means that you take the boat from one island to the other and spend some time on each of them. It is a fun way to see more places and meet more people.
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The best way to explore the Dodecanese islands, especially the big ones like Rhodes, Kos, Karpathos, and Patmos is by car. I recommend booking a car through Discover Cars where you can compare all rental car agencies’ prices, and you can cancel or modify your booking for free. They also guarantee the best price. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
The best time to visit the Dodecanese islands
The best season to visit the Greek islands is summer. The touristic season starts around May and ends in October, but the busiest months are July and August. During this time, the islands function fully. Life on islands during winter is very calm. Most tourist shops are closed, and the same goes for hotels. However, during summer, everything is open: shops, restaurants, cafés, and hotels, and there are more people around. Moreover, there are more ferry itineraries and flights. Therefore, the best season to visit Greece is between May and October.
You might also like: When is the best time to visit Greece?
An Overview of the Dodecanese Islands
Rhodes is the biggest island of the Dodecanese, and it is also known as the island of the knights. This characterization was given to Rhodes because in the 13th and 14th centuries it was occupied by Knights. Traces of that era are visible in the old town, where the buildings on the Knights still stand. Apart from that, Rhodes has many things to discover, so make sure you have some time to explore everything.
The main attractions are:
- The old town and the port with the buildings of the Knights make you feel like you traveled back in time.
- The Acropolis of Lindos, the ancient center of the island, still stands proudly on a rock overlooking the area. The village of Lindos, next to the archaeological site is picturesque, full of small alleys and charming houses.
- The valley of butterflies is a quiet forest where thousands of butterflies of the kind of Panaxia Quadripunctaria live. You can quietly walk around the pathways, and admire the cute insects that fly around or rest on the trees.
- Relax and tan at the beautiful beaches of Rhodes like Faliraki, Tsambika, Saint Paul’s Bay, and Kallithea. There are many more! The more days you stay, the more you will discover.
Kos is the island of Asclepios, an ancient Greek considered a god and the father of medicine. Kos is known for its beautiful nature and vibrant environment. There are many things to do on this island, and you need a week or more to explore.
Some of the things you should not miss are:
- The Archaeological sites of Asklepieion and Gymnasium. Take a guided tour and learn everything about the ancient history of the island and Greece.
- Have a therapeutical swim at the thermal spring of Agios Fokas. An outstanding location to refresh your body and spirit.
- Walk around the town and see attractions such as the Ancient Agora, The Castle of Neratzia, and the Roman Odeon. Visit museums and archaeological sites.
- Swim in the clear waters of the beaches of Kos such as Agios Stefanos, Mastichari, Kefalos, and Paradise. If you have more days, try to explore smaller, less famous beaches.
Astypalaia is the butterfly of the Aegean because the shape on the island reminds us of a butterfly. Its old town with the castle and the imposing windmills are the trademarks of Astypalaia.
Once you visit this island, you should not miss:
- A stroll in the village, built around the castle. It is one of the most picturesque and charming neighborhoods in Greece
- A day trip to the small islands Koytsomitis and Kounoupa. They are close to Astypalaia, but you can only access them by boat. They have turquoise waters with Caribbean vibes. There are several boat tours every day, but you might need to book tickets in advance.
- The view from Saint John Monastery. The location is truly amazing, and it offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. You can only access it by car.
- The beaches of Astypalaia are breathtaking. Must-visit are Agios Konstantinos, Livadi, Maltezana, Kaminakia, Plakes and Vatses.
Kalymnos is famous for its long tradition of sponge fishing. It is also an island with rich history and tradition, amazing nature, and kind people.
Kalymnos is also famous for:
- The Castle of Chryssocheria, at the village of Pothia. In the same village is the Archaeological Museum of Kalymnos, and the Sponge Factory.
- The monasteries like Agioi Pantes and Agios Savvas have great panoramic view.
- The beaches with the calm warm waters like: Kantouni, Myrties, Akti, Agrinota, Vlychadia and Lagouna.
- Rock Climbing
- Sponge fishing
Karpathos is the island where traditions are still alive. In the most remote villages, women wear the traditional Karpathian outfits, and people around the island still perform ancient arts like embroideries and wood carving.
Some of the main attractions of Karpathos are:
- The Archaeological site of Ancient Potideon, the Acropolis of Arkassa, and the archaeological museum.
- The village Olympos is the nest of Karpathian traditions and one of the most beautiful Greek villages.
- The mesmerizing beaches Ammoopi, Achata, Apella, Kyra Panagia, Lefkos and Diakoftis
Kasos is a small island east of Karpathos. It is next to two uninhabited islands, Armathia and Makronisi. Kasians know how to enjoy life; they organize some of the most famous traditional feasts (panigyria) in Greece.
If you travel to Kasos, make sure you enjoy:
- The picturesque port of Bouka where small boats dance calmy on the water. Visit the imposing church of Saint Spyridon with the blue belfry, which stands at the port. This area hosts the nightlife of the island.
- The three museums on the island are the archaeological museum, the Folk art museum, and the marine museum.
- The cave Elinokamara, which you can reach from a pathway.
- The best beaches are Armathia, Chelartos, Antiperatos, Kofteri, and Amua.
One of the smaller and more secluded islands in the Aegean Sea is Lipsi. Even though it is not a very famous island, it is a small paradise on Earth. It is a place for relaxation and isolation.
If you find yourself on Lipsi you should check:
- The old chapels are everywhere on the island. Some of the most historical ones are the chapel of Theologos and the church of Panagia Harou. There is also an ecclesiastical museum on the island.
- The surrounding small islets with crystal-clear waters. Take a shuttle boat from the port and explore the beauty of the islets Tiganakia, Arkoi, Makronisi, Aspronisi, and Marathi.
- The beaches of the islands, with their virgin beauty. Around the island, there are many beaches where you can enjoy your day tanning and swimming. Katsadia, Tourkomnima, Lientou, Platis Gialos, and Kambos are some of the visitors’ favorites.
Leros is the dancing island since it is home to the famous Greek dance ballos Lerou. The island has a beauty that can take your breath away.
The main attractions of the island are:
- The Windmills! Yes, Leros is the queen of windmills, and you can see them in different parts of the island. Explore them and take pictures!
- The Byzantine Castle, which stands in Pandeli, is the trademark of Leros. Visit it and learn more about the history of Leros.
- The exotic beaches are Blefoutis, Alinda, Agia Marina Merikia, and Gourna.
Even though Nisyros is, in recent years, rediscovered and many people choose it as a travel destination, it is still one of the more secluded islands among the Dodecanese.
The best things to see on Nisyros are:
- The volcano of Nisyros attracts the attention of visitors. The lunar landscape makes you feel like to have visited another planet.
- The Venetia Castle on Mandraki. It has been standing there since the 14th century, and it has had a crucial role in the island’s history.
- Calm and Quiet, the beaches of Nisyros are the perfect scenery for absolute summer relaxation. Pali, Katsouni, Lies, and Pachia Ammos.
Symi is one of the pearls of the Aegean, which combines color and elegance. This island makes a difference with its colorful mansions that you can see as you enter the port.
People who visit Symi Island love:
- The picturesque port and the old town with the colorful houses. Just walking around makes you happy.
- The monastery of Panormitis is the historical, intellectual, and religious center of Symi, and one of the biggest attractions on the island. You can hike from Symi to the monastery.
- The beaches Nos, Nimborio, Pedi, Marathouda, and Gialos should be on top of your list.
Tilos is one of the smallest, and most secluded islands in the Dodecanese, but it is beautiful and charming.
On Tilos, you will enjoy:
- The Charkadio Cave in Megalo Chorio village. It is a cave where paleontologists discovered items from the neolithic era.
- The Byzantine Castle that is above Megalo Chorio village and has a great view
- Agios Sergios, Eristos, Kalimera, Lethra, and Livadia are some of the beaches that people love.
Kastelorizo is one of the Greek islands closest to Turkey. The main settlement of the island Megisti has beautiful architecture with strong Italian influences. Around the port of Megisti, sea turtles of the Caretta-caretta breed swim.
Some of the things you can do on Kastelorizo are:
- Discover the charming streets of Megisti Village. The alleys are picturesque and perfect for pictures.
- Sail around the island and discover caves and coves. Even though there are no beaches around the village, you can access some of the best locations for swimming with a boat. The most famous cave is the Blue Cave, and you should not miss the opportunity to visit it.
- Hiking to Paleokastro is an activity that visitors enjoy. At the end of the hike, you can enjoy the best view of Megisti and the surrounding area.
Between Rhodes and Tilos is the small island of Chalki. Like Kalymnos, Chalki used to have a long tradition of sponge fishing but nowadays, this activity is less profitable. The main village of Chalki is Emporio, a charming place that is the heart of Chalki.
Even though the island is small, there are fun things to see and do:
- Visit the abandoned village of Chorio and explore the ruins of a once lively town. On top of the settlement is a Castle with an impressive view.
- Go to the monastery of Agios Ioannis, with the Byzantine architecture, in one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
- Hire a boat to take you around the island to the best spots for swimming. Even though Chalki does not have long sandy beaches, the waters around the island are of implacable beauty.
Patmos is the island on which Saint John wrote the book Apocalypse. For this reason, the island has been a center for pilgrims for centuries. Apart from that, Patmos is a lively island with vibrant nightlife, mesmerizing beaches, and natural beauty.
There are many things to do in Patmos:
- Walk around Chora and visit the monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse. The monastery looks like an imposing castle on the top of Chora.
- Discover the windmills of the island. They are on top of a hill overlooking the port, Skala. A great place for pictures.
- Patmos has breathtaking beaches with crystal clear waters: Agriolivado, Kambos, Lambi, and Psili Ammos are some of them.