Dodecanese

The word Dodecanese, or Dodekanissa in Greek, means literally 'twelve islands' (dodeka = twelve and nissi = island). However, this being Greece there are in fact fourteen large islands, three smaller, and a few dozen more that are uninhabited but which can be called islands rather than rocks.

Symi

They are the most southerly group of islands and very popular with visitors due to the hot summer climate. This can lead to water shortages on some of the smaller islands towards the end of the summer, so visitors at all times should use water sparingly and drink bottled water if possible. By the autumn the islands can be quite barren, in complete contrast to the greenness of spring which is when those who like to see wild flowers should try to visit.

For the most part the islands hug the Turkish coastline, and one of them, Kastellorizo, is less than 3km (1.9 miles) from Turkey with a population of fewer than 300 people. By contrast, the biggest island, Rhodes, is home to 100,000 people, and many more in summer as it is also the most developed for tourism, with the island of Kos being not far behind, but much smaller.

The Acropolis at Lindos on Rhodes

Rhodes is also the capital of the Dodecanese and is popular with package holiday visitors and with cruise ships alike. It's also a good hub for getting around some of the other islands in the group. Kos is another very popular holiday destination, with good beaches and nightlife.

Kos

In-between there are islands such as Tilos and Chalki, where tourism has arrived but on a modest and more manageable level, and where visitors will still be treated with friendliness rather than avarice. The group also includes the island of Patmos, where St John is said to have had the vision described in The Book of Revelations, and little Nisyros, a volcanic island whose sulphurous crater still bubbles quietly.

The Volcanic Crater on Nisyros

Two hours by ferry from Rhodes is the island of Symi, one of the gems in the Aegean which has a harbour that is almost too perfect to be true, as anyone who has ever sailed into it at dusk with the harbour lights twinkling will know.

The Village of Olympos on Karpathos

Despite the fact that the islands are so close to Turkey they show no more Turkish influence than any of the other island groups, and if anything have something of an Italian feel to them, having been occupied by the Italians during World War II and only returned to Greece in a treaty signed in 1948. Since then, the Dodecanese have certainly welcomed tourists, needing the boost to their economies which was once provided by shipbuilding, fishing and sponge-fishing. 

If you want to escape the crowds and find yourself a bit of the 'real' Greece, try the lesser-known islands like Karpathos or Kastellorizo. Inbetween are islands where there's some tourism, good hotels and restaurants, but they're not yet over-run by visitors. These include Tilos, Leros, Nisyros, Halki, and Astypalaia

The Dodecanese group includes:

You might like these

  • Wild Abandon

    Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay and published by Bradt Guides is A Journey to Deserted Places of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, including Rhodes and Kos.

  • Tilos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Tilos is a small island in the Dodecanese between Rhodes and Kos with regular ferry connections, hotels, rooms to rent, beaches, tavernas and ancient remains.

  • Symi in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Symi (or Simi) is a small island in the Dodecanese near Rhodes with regular ferry connections, hotels, rooms to rent, beaches, tavernas.

  • Rhodes

    Travel advice, information on Rhodes in the Dodecanese, with ferries from Piraeus for Athens, Symi, Crete, Kos, Patmos, Santorini, and flights from Europe

  • Patmos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Patmos in the Dodecanese islands is famous for the monasteries of St John and the Apocalypse and on this page you can also read about flights and ferries

  • Nisyros

    Nisyros is a unique volcanic island in the Dodecanese and easily reached on day trips from Kos Town and Kardamena.

  • Lipsi

    Travel information on Lipsi in the Dodecanese group of Greek islands, including flight and ferry information from Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Leros in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Leros is a sizeable island in the Dodecanese with flights from Athens, ferries from Rhodes and Piraeus, good beaches, restaurants and hotels.

  • Kos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Kos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece has good beaches and night-life, and archaeological remains.

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