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Endless beaches and unexplored islets, castles and ancient civilisations, cosmopolitan but at the same time unspoilt, these quintessentially Greek islands are above all charming and hospitable

A cluster of twelve islands in the southeastern edge of the Aegean, jewels of all sizes decorating the big blue sea: the Dodecanese form a bridge between Europe and the East and everywhere you’ll see traces of peoples and cultures that made their mark over the centuries: Ionians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans and Italians. Each island has a character all its own and all offer a plethora of opportunities for relaxation, sightseeing, adventures and gastronomical pleasure – with a backdrop of stunningly beautiful beaches.

Whether travelling with your children, your sweetheart or a big group of 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, volcanic Nisyros, Kastelorizo, Kasos, Karpathos, Astypalea, Halki, and Lipsi. And then there’s Patmos, a sui generis destination, famous as the place St. John wrote the  Book of Revelation, the ‘Jerusalem of the Aegean’. Set sail for the Dodecanese and discover a mix of beachside magic and a colouful pot pourri of cultures. They will never cease to amaze you. Your holidays here will be a montage of beautiful imagery and exciting, unforgettable experiences.

Countless beaches of all kinds
In the Dodecanese, you’ll find it hard to choose among the seemingly infinite number of beaches. Each one is special in its own way. If you’re feeling active, there’s scuba diving, snorkelling and all sorts of water sports. If you’re looking for something more quiet and intimate, you’ll sunbathe, swim and relax at secluded coves all your own. On Rhodes, the beaches are fun for everyone;  tubing, jet skiing, windsurfing, go-carting and even bungee jumping go hand in hand with a myriad of chic beach bars, ideal for sipping cocktails while watching the waves lap against the shore. Elli, Ialyssos, Lindos, Agathi and Kiotari are the stand-outs. Karpathos’ golden coast will also impress, with the award-winning, sandy Apella and touristy Amoopi among the highlights. Kos also has glittering  beauties with all the right bells and whistles for exhilarating days in the sun. But if tranquility is more your cup of tea, then head to Kalymnos, Lipsi, Tilos and Armathia, near Kassos.

Living, breathing history
The Dodecanese has a rich history, visible everywhere you turn in the form of  ancient citadels, famous castles, renowned museums and important archaeological sites and monuments. Among them are Rhodes’ acropolis (Monte Smith) with its Doric temple, the 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 Saria islet. Make time to tour exhibits and monuments;  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 at the southeastern edge of the Aegean
The Dodecanese is a popular destination for thrill seekers and lovers of water sports. Rhodes tops the list, with the best windsurfing in the region at Prassoni. At Kos’ organised beaches, you’ll see row upon row of sails in the distance. In addition to windsurfing, Karpathos is also famous for trekking trails of exceptional beauty, alongside mountain cliffs overlooking the big blue. Kalymnos is paradise for rock climbers, as it boasts some of the best climbs in Europe. Both aspiring and advanced climbers come here from all over the world for one reason; to challenge themselves at the 60 climbing venues and along the 1,300 signposted trails. And if you prefer the depths of the sea, then take a lesson with the best in the business; Kalymnos’ famous sponge divers.

Dodecanese gastronomy: Rhodian wine, paired with authentic flavours
Rhodes, the first island in the Aegean to make wine, has dozens of vineyards and plenty of fine wine for you to enjoy. In the island’s villages, dozens of local dishes await you and the desserts are just as memorable. Particularly noteworthy is Rhodes’ melikouni (a sesame bar with honey), served at weddings and baptisms. On Kassos, 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 its fried shrimps, small, flavourful and spiked with chilli flakes. Your culinary journey at this corner of the Aegean is sure to be unforgettable!

Dodecanese: Sights and attractions crafted by nature and man

1. Rhodes: The beautifully preserved mediaeval town of Rhodes, whose world-renowned Old Town has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Rhodes has some incredible monuments such as the Street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Masters, the ancient acropolis of Lindos, as well as the grand public buildings of Mandraki and the small fort of Agios Nikolaos. Very popular is the Valley of the Butterflies, a lush green canyon that attracts millions of butterflies and hundreds of visitors  every year; reason enough to travel to this wonderful island in the Dodecanese.

2. Kos: The birthplace of Hippocrates, Kos’ must-sees include the Nerantzia Castle and the Old Town.

3. Astypalaia: The Hora with its windmills and whitewashed homes is reminiscent of a Cycladic settlement.

4. 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.

5. Karpathos: The village of Olympus, a real treat for the eyes;  a 9th century  medieval hamlet defying the march of time with its windmills, old stone ovens and picturesque chapels, making it one of the most impressive sights of the Aegean. Don’t miss out on Apella, a beach of unique beauty and nearby rocky Kasos for that special kind of getaway.

6. Kalymnos: Vathy and the Esperidon Fjord, the most beautiful fjord in the Aegean, and its underwater treasures, the world-famous sea sponges.

7. Tilos: The Harkadio cave, where fossilised bones of dwarf elephants were discovered, and the great monastery of Agios Panteleimon.

8. Symi & Kastelorizo: These neoclassical settlements are architectural masterpieces.

9. Nisyros: The three-crater volcano will make your trip here unforgettable, with its lunar landscape and picturesque port, Mandraki.

10. Halki: Very close to cosmopolitan Rhodes, but so very different!  An incredibly beautiful little island, a picturesque town with colourful houses, wonderful beaches, crystal clear waters and everything moving at a laid-back pace. Ftenagia beach with its emerald green waters is simply unique.

11. Leros:  Green and blue in perfect harmony, on this outstanding island. With excellent local cuisine and bays with water as clear as crystal. Discover its mysteries in Lakki, Agia Marina, Alida and Padeli. It makes an ideal base for exploration by boat, not to mention the numerous opportunities it affords the scuba-diving enthusiast.

12. 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.

"A visit to Olympos gives you a window on old world Greece as women in the village often choose their traditional costumes over more modern attire."

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"I remember the dawns, after hours of dancing in Kastro. Those of us who hadn’t collapsed from the all-night revelry watched the rising sun as we lay on the roof of a little chapel."

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Rock climber in Kalymnos