A cluster of twelve islands at the southeastern edge of the Aegean, the Dodecanese form a bridge between Europe and the East. Everywhere you go, you’ll see traces of peoples and cultures that have made their mark over the centuries: Ionians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans and Italians. Each island has its own character and all offer opportunities for relaxation, sightseeing, adventure and culinary delights – with a backdrop of beautiful beaches.
Whether travelling with family or friends, you’ll find the island that’s right for you. Some are extremely popular, like Rhodes and Kos, and others have a virgin charm, like Kalymnos, Symi, Kastelorizo, Kasos, Karpathos, Astypalea, Halki, Lipsi and volcanic Nisyros. And then there’s Patmos, the ‘Jerusalem of the Aegean’, famous as the place where St John wrote the Book of Revelation.
Countless beaches of all kinds
You’ll find it hard to choose among the seemingly infinite number of beaches. Each is special in its own way. If you’re feeling active, there’s scuba diving, snorkelling and all sorts of water sports. And if you’re looking for something more quiet and intimate, you’ll sunbathe, swim and relax at secluded coves.
On Rhodes, the beaches are fun for everyone: tubing, jet skiing, stand-up paddleboard and windsurfing go hand in hand with a myriad of lively beach bars. Elli, Ialyssos, Lindos, Agathi and Kiotari are the stand-outs and the best windsurfing takes place at Prassoni
Karpathos’ golden coast will also impress, with the award-winning, sandy Apella and Amoopi among the highlights. Kos also has glittering beauties with for uninterrupted beach-days in the sun. But if tranquility is more your thing, then head to Kalymnos, Lipsi, Tilos and Armathia, near Kasos.
Living, breathing history
The Dodecanese has a rich history, visible everywhere in the form of ancient citadels, castles, renowned museums and important archaeological sites and monuments.
Among them are Rhodes’ acropolis (Monte Smith) with its Doric temple, and ancient stadium, the ancient acropolis of Lindos, Ialyssos and ancient Kamiros. On Karpathos, visit ancient Vroukounda and Arkesia and the palaces of Doric Nisyros on the islet of Saria.
Make time to tour exhibits and monuments wherever you travel: on Rhodes, the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Archaeological Museum and the Aquarium; on Patmos, a stately home that has been converted into an exceptional gallery (the Nikolaidis mansion) and don’t miss out on the Volcanic Museum on Nisyros.
Windsurfing, rock climbing and scuba diving
Karpathos is famous for trekking trails of exceptional beauty, alongside mountain cliffs overlooking the big blue. Meanwhile, Kalymnos is a magnet for hikers and rock climbers from all over the world, as it boasts more signposted trails than you could possibly ever complete and 60 climbing venues of different levels of difficulty.
Rhodes, the first island in the Aegean to make wine, has dozens of vineyards and plenty of excellent wine for you to enjoy. In the island’s villages, local dishes await you and the desserts are just as memorable. Particularly noteworthy is melikouni (a sesame bar with honey), served at weddings and baptisms. On Kasos, you’ll never tire of mizithra (the traditional cheese) and on Kalymnos you’ll eat mououri (lamb stuffed with rice), like the Dorians. On Symi, don’t leave without sampling the fried shrimps (small, flavourful and spiked with chilli flakes).
Dodecanese: Sights and attractions crafted by nature and man
- Rhodes: Within the beautifully preserved medieval Old Town of Rhodes (a Unesco World Heritage Site) are some incredible monuments, such as the Street of the Knights and the Palace of the Grand Masters. Further afield is the ancient acropolis of Lindos, as well as the grand public buildings of Mandraki and the small fort of Agios Nikolaos. The Valley of the Butterflies, a lush green canyon that attracts millions of butterflies and hundreds of visitors every year, is also popular.
- Kos: Kos has numerous must-sees locations, chief among them the Asclepion, built to continue the work of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and the island’s most famous son.
- Astypalea: The Hora with its windmills and whitewashed homes is reminiscent of a Cycladic settlement.
- Patmos: The Monastery of St John the Theologian, the picture-perfect Hora with its grand, stately homes and the mystical ambience of the Cave of the Apocalypse, a significant pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians.
- Karpathos: The village of Olympus is a 9th-century medieval hamlet that continues to defy the march of time with its windmills, old stone ovens and picturesque chapels, making it one of the most impressive sights of the Aegean. And don’t miss out on Apella, a beach of unique beauty, and nearby Kasos for that special kind of getaway.
- Kalymnos: Vathy and the Esperidon, the most beautiful fjord in the Aegean, and its underwater treasures, the world-famous sea sponges.
- Tilos: The Harkadio Cave, where fossilised bones of dwarf elephants were discovered, and the great monastery of Agios Panteleimon.
- Symi & Kastelorizo: These neoclassical settlements are architectural masterpieces.
- Nisyros: The three-crater volcano, with its lunar landscape and picturesque port, Mandraki.
- Halki: Very close to cosmopolitan Rhodes, but so very different. An incredibly beautiful little island, a picturesque town with colourful houses, wonderful beaches and everything moving at a laid-back pace. Ftenagia beach with its emerald green waters is simply unique.
- Leros: Green and blue in perfect harmony. With excellent local cuisine and bays with water as clear as glass. Discover the mysteries of Leros in Lakki, Agia Marina, Alida and Padeli. It makes an ideal base for exploration by boat, not to mention the numerous opportunities for scuba-diving.
- Lipsi, Arki, Agathonisi and Marathi: The little unexplored gems of the Dodecanese. Rocky islets shaped into incredible forms by the elements, fiords that end up in white sandy beaches and turquoise coves.
Experience the best of Dodecanese
Feel the healing energy of the Asclepion of Kos
Colourful village-hopping through the mountains of Karpathos
Discovering the wonder of Lindos on Rhodes
A walking tour of Astypalea’s radiant Hora
Sun, sea and a splash of culture at Agios Stefanos beach on Kos
- Old town, Rhodes
- Lindos, Rhodes
- Hippocrates’ Asclepeion, Kos
- Cave of the Apocalypse, Patmos
- Olymbos, Karpathos
- International climbing destination, Kalymnos