As long as it takes to eat a Greek salad

Some hidden gems are concealed in plain sight. The Dodecanese (one of the South Aegean’s two island chains) literally translates as ‘Twelve Islands’ and yet the glow of Rhodes, Kos and Karpathos is so strong, you’d be forgiven for not knowing the rest. Halki, Symi, Kastelorizo, Lipsi, Tilos, Nisyros, Kasos and Agathonisi… Well, even if you hadn’t heard of them before, you know what’s coming next…


Timeless and aristocratic Halki

Hopping over from nearby Rhodes to tiny Halki is like stepping into another age. Aristocratic mansion houses, flower-filled alleyways and virtually no cars await on the smallest inhabited Dodecanese island. Halki manages to mix nobility with pure simplicity, drawing on the glow of its 18th and 19th century glory days. Whether you’re at a taverna in Nimporio (the only settlement) enjoying fresh seafood and the local pasta (makarounia), visiting the medieval castle (built by the Knights of St John) or lounging on one of the peaceful beaches, prepare for lots of the quiet life. 

Discover Halki now

Serene and welcoming Symi

Another day-trip from Rhodes or a destination in its own right, Symi has colourful mansion houses and simple living of its own. Entering the port, Gialos, is like becoming part of an ageless photograph, but Symi has also retained all its vibrancy and love of life. 

Discover Symi now

Take a look around you… at the generously-laid out tavernas and those houses rising theatrically up the hillside towards the Upper town

Fishing boats bob in the harbour and tavernas lure you in. And be sure to walk the 500 steps of Kali Strata from the harbour to Ano Symi (Upper Town). The view from the Byzantine Castle at the top is wonderful. And take a boat-trip to St George’s beach and its impressive 300m rock-face. 

Colourful isolation in Kastelorizo

Greece’s most remote island is just 800m from the Turkish coast but Kastelorizo (also known as Megisti) brims with Greek history and tradition. Its little harbour is lit up by the vivid colours of two-storeyed houses (yet another small island with a big history) and the nearby Kastello Rosso,the russet-coloured castle built by the Knights of St John, after which the island was named.

The Archaeological Museum of Kastelorizo makes a fascinating history lesson

The meaning of tranquility in Lipsi

Heading north of Kos, past Kalymnos and Leros, you reach Lipsi, a tiny island surrounded by 24 even tinier islets. Lipsi is about swimming in wonderfully clear water and life’s simple pleasures. The beaches are secluded and there’s excellent hiking (including a route to the remnants of an acropolis). A must is a boat trip to the surrounding islets (Makronisi, Aspronisi, Tiganakia, Marathi…) and their fantastic swimming spots. And if you visit during a festival, you’ll love the experience (and the local sweet wine).

Discover Lipsi now

Untouched and unexpected Tilos

Sandwiched between Kos and Rhodes, this little island boasts hiking paths and untouched beaches. It was also the last bastion of elephants in Europe. The discovery of 4,000-year-old bones in a cave (and those displayed in the town hall) tell us as much. You’ll find classic Aegean architecture (whitewashed houses and narrow alleyways) and the view from the Castle of the Knights is (even by the standards of Greek hill-top castles) wonderful. At the Monastery of St Penteleimon, admire the pebble mosaics but leave plenty of time for swimming and great food. 

Discover Tilos now 

Volcanic beauty on Nisyros

Think of an Aegean island blessed with volcanic beauty and a Caldera view that isn’t Santorini. The answer is Nisyros (just south of Kos), where you can soak in a hot spring and cool in the Aegean Sea on the same day and visit not one but three volcanic craters (the locals have named them). Hiking here isn’t to be missed and nor are the mountain villages – Nikia (with its Volcanic Museum) and Emporios (topped by the Pantoniki fortress). Or just sip a cocktail in a chilled nightspots in the main town, Mandraki.

Discover Nisyros now

Photogenic and friendly Kasos

Located between Rhodes and Crete, Kasos is the southernmost Dodecanese island. From the little old harbour, Bouka, to the atmospheric alleyways of Agia Marina (the main town), it pulls on your heartstrings just as the locals tease tunes out of their lyres. You can hike between monasteries (such as the Byzantine Agios Mammas) and caves (there are two to visit) and laze on peaceful beaches. And there are boat trips to the golden beaches of the islet of Armathia. If you visit on a feast day, the lyres and lutes come to life. 

Discover Kasos now

Tiny, charming Agathonisi

Finally, to teeny Agathonisi, an island in the northeastern Dodecanese, near Patmos, with just a handful of tavernas, bars and chapels and a singular charm. It’s the kind of place you can arrange with a fisherman to visit a secluded beach (there are more accessible options too). Despite the barren landscape, the industrious locals grow most of what they need. (Try the goat potatado – slow-cooked with potatoes). The main town, Megalo Horio is virtually invisible from the sea. What better hideaway could you ask for?

8 hidden gems in the Dodecanese islands

Whether as day trips or an island-hopping itinerary from Rhodes or Kos, the Dodecanese islands offer themselves with simple yet beguiling authenticity. And it doesn’t end there, the chain has other fascinating islands to discover.

Explore the Aegean islands

Book your trip

All your holiday planning needs in one place, letting you book direct and benefit from official online rates


Read Also

Here is a selection of stories you may also like
Oia in Santorini

Getting around Greece by ferry in the Covid-19 era

Hiking Balos trail

The 8 most popular outdoor adventures in Greece

The most famous village in Karpathos island, with panoramic views

8 reasons to make you want to explore Karpathos

The charm of rock climbing in Kalymnos is that it is a completely unspoilt environment

8 unforgettable highs and hidden depths in Kalymnos

Hora's famous castle, majestic views of the Aegean, windmills and whitewashed homes make up a remarkable traditional settlement

5 reasons why Astypalea will be your favourite summer hangout

Profitis Ilias

9 ways to feel the spirituality of Patmos

Museum of Greek Culture Shop

17 Greek designers for the most chic shopping in Athens

The Changing of the Presidential Guard by the Evzones (special guards) protecting the Tomb on the Unknown Solider

12 historical buildings in Athens for architecture lovers

Discover 12 of the coolest ice cream spots in Athens

11 of the coolest ice cream spots in Athens

Night view of Metsovo

Discover the 11 best things to do in Metsovo