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:

Where to Stay in the Dodecanese


Some other Dodecanese pages

  • Mermaid Singing: Kalymnos Travel Writing

    Mermaid Singing by Charmian Clift is a fine example of 1950s travel writing about the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Dodecanese.

  • Rhodes

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

  • Easter on Rhodes

    During Easter on Rhodes Greece Travel Secrets publisher Mike Gerrard travels from Lindos to Kattavia to visit a monastery and spend Easter with a Greek family.

  • A Walk in the Old Town of Rhodes

    This walk through the Old Town of Rhodes takes you through this World Heritage Site and along the main streets and past the city walls, palaces and mosques.

  • Kos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

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

  • Easter on Symi

    Easter on Symi is a wonderful Greek celebration and one of the best times to visit the little gem of an island a short ferry-ride from Rhodes in the Dodecanese.

  • A Holiday on Symi

    Mike Gerrard wasn’t sure what to expect from a holiday on Symi, in the Greek islands, but what he found was lots of local feasting, dancing, and music.

  • Kasos

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

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