The Dodecanese is a complex of islands located in the southeastern Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, off the Turkish coast. It includes Astypalea, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Kastellorizo, Kos, Lipsi, Leros, Nisyros, Patmos, Rhodes, and Halki, as well as 93 islets. Their unique beauty and vast heritage make them a sought-after destination, with most of the islands keeping their long-established traditions intact.
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The beaches of the Dodecanese are considered to be among the cleanest and most beautiful in Greece, where bathers can rest under the hot sun of the Aegean and enjoy the idyllic landscape they’ve been lusting after on Instagram.
In addition to having stunning beaches, the Dodecanese complex is particularly diverse. Although it is considered an ideal destination for a cosmopolitan vacation, there are areas where you can enjoy absolute peace and quiet.
The capital of the Dodecanese islands is Rhodes which offers visitors relaxation and tranquility but at the same time an intense cosmopolitan life for those who wish to experience it.
Kos island is known not only for its fantastic sandy beaches but also for being the homeland of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Another island worth exploring is Kalymnos, rich in history and many other attractions that will blow your mind!
The Dodecanese islands are here and waiting for you. They are ready to embrace you and offer you unique opportunities for holidays and island-hopping adventures that will be truly unforgettable.
Astypalea, Dodecanese islands - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Astypalea is a beautiful small island that enchants its visitors right from the very start. Although it belongs to the Dodecanese complex, it carries the typical Cycladic aesthetic that has helped the Greek islands climb to fame worldwide.
In the olden times, Astypalea was known for its ever-developing fishing industry, as the island gathered fishermen from all over the country who arrived to try their luck in its fish-filled seas.
The capital of the island, which hosts its main port, is called Chora and dominates the hill offering a panoramic view across the Aegean. Everywhere on the island, the magical landscape with the whitewashed houses reaching the edges of the hill and the traditional windmills adding Cycladic touches to the landscape will make your heart skip a beat.
Among the most interesting sights on the island are the Venetian castle of the Guirini family, the Archaeological Museum with exhibits of the prehistoric and pre-Christian era, as well as many Byzantine monasteries where you can admire the remarkable icons and frescoes inside.
The area of Analipsi or Maltezana, as it is better known, is a very popular seaside resort located in the center of the island that is worth your visit. Other picturesque villages are Vathi, on the shores of a closed bay, and Livadi, one of the most lusciously vegetated and fertile areas of Astypalea, with a beautiful sandy beach and many fruit trees.
The beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters and the calm that prevails in the atmosphere make Astypalea an ideal destination for relaxation and rest. Some of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan beaches of the island are Livadi, Pera Gialos, Agios Konstantinos, Kaminakia, Megalo Steno, Analipsi (Maltezana), Schinontas, and Kounoupas.
If you want to further explore Astypalea, there are boats that start from the port of the island and transport visitors along the coast where they can admire the magnificent nature that commands the scenery and visit inaccessible beaches.
Leros, Dodecanese islands - credits: Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock.com
The picturesque Greek island of Leros is located between Patmos and Kalymnos. The history of Leros dates back to prehistoric times, while on the island one can find monuments of the 4th century BC and the Byzantine period.
The capital of Leros is Platanos which together with the port of Agia Marina and the picturesque fishing village of Panteli are the most significant and central spots of the island, which are connected to each other and built amphitheatrically across two hills and two bays.
In the wider area of Platanos lies also the famous Castle, which can be reached on foot from Platanos and by car from Panteli. The Castle is a Byzantine construction that was later completed by the Venetians and offers incredible panoramic views of the Aegean to its visitors while also being an amazing spot to catch the sunset on the island.
The port of Leros is Lakki, also known as Porto Lagos, an area of strategic importance for the island and for the entire Dodecanese region. It is a very picturesque village with rich vegetation and unique architecture.
Apart from the port, in Leros, there are many beautiful villages and settlements to visit such as Alinda and Partheni from where boats depart for the island of Archipelagos, opposite Leros, ideal for swimming in the summer months.
The traditional villages of the island, in combination with the wonderful natural scenery, create a calm atmosphere making Leros an ideal destination for a quiet vacation.
Nimborio, Halki, Greek islands in the Dodecanese complex- credits: Lubos K/Shutterstock.com
Halki is a small but beautiful island of the Dodecanese located opposite the east coast of Rhodes. The island got its name from the Copper mines that operated there in the past as ‘Halki’ in Greek means ‘copper’. Recently, Halki was declared the center of "Peace and Friendship", mainly among young people who visit the area in the summer and organize various cultural events.
The island’s peaceful atmosphere is unmistakable withe its buildings are architecturally fascinating. The only settlement is Nimborio built amphitheatrically at the southeastern tip of the island.
As soon as the visitor arrives at the port, it's as if they have turned their eyes toward an exquisite painting. There are traditional, stone-built buildings and interesting monasteries scattered all over the island, with the monastery of Agios Ioannis standing imposingly at the top of the hill.
Other noteworthy attractions include the Fortress of the Knights of St. John, the Venetian castle, and the ruins of the ancient Acropolis; a testimony to the ancient history of the island.
The island, although small, has several beaches, both organized and not, where you can enjoy crystal clear waters and sandy shores. The beach closest to Nimborio is Pontamos, organized with umbrellas and sunbeds, while boats depart from the port that transport bathers to the various other beaches of the island such as the beaches of Areta, Agios Georgios, and Dyo Gyaloi, giving them the opportunity to further explore the area to their liking.
Due to its impressive natural landscape, Halki is an ideal destination for those who love hiking as, from one end of the island to the other, the longest distance is a maximum of 10 km!
Kalymnos, Dodecanese islands - Milan Gonda/Shuttestock.com
Kalymnos is located between Leros and Kos. Although mountainous, the small island of Kalymnos offers the visitor a magnificent setting, full of rich forests and picturesque coves embraced by the clear blue waters of the Aegean.
Much like the rest of the Dodecanese islands -and the entirety of the Greek islands to be honest-, Kalymnos is an island with a vast and significant history that begins from the Neolithic era and reaches the liberation and unification of the island with the rest of Greece, in 1948.
During the years of Ottoman rule, Kalymnos played an important role as the brave inhabitants of the island decisively helped the rest of the Greeks in the liberation struggle against the Turks in 1821.
The Greek island is most famous as ‘the island of sponges’ as its inhabitants used to dive daily into the sea to collect sponges from its bottom. The tradition continues to this day, however, much more sparsely due to the risk of the job that left a number of people paralyzed.
Kalymnos - credits: Anna_Jedynak/Shutterstock.com
Kalymnos is an ideal destination for a relaxed, calm vacation that doesn’t revolve around partying. It is surrounded by small picturesque islands such as Telendos, Pserimos, Agia Kyriaki, Imia, Kalolimnos, Plati, Nera, and Safonidi, which add to the enchanting scenery of the area.
Small boats departing from the port of Kalymnos transport many vacationers to visit these small islands and sunbathe on the secluded beaches that are scattered on their shores.
The capital and port of the island is Kalymnos or Pothia, a beautiful city with traditional architecture where the renovated neoclassical buildings coexist harmoniously with the modern houses and villas that have been built recently in the area.
One of the important attractions of Kalymnos is the Naval Museum in the city where exhibits of the work of spongers are kept and their role in the history and economic development of the island is projected. It is also worth visiting the cave of the Nymphs or 7 Virgins and many Byzantine churches and monasteries to admire the remarkable paintings and invaluable icons that exist inside.
Apart from the island's capital, in Kalymnos, there are other picturesque settlements to visit such as Emporios, Panormos, and the green village of Vathi, a real paradise in the dry and barren landscape of the area.
Nisyros, Dodecanese islands - credits: Tom_Jastram/Shutterstock.com
In the middle of the Dodecanese island group, between Tilos and Kos, is the small volcanic island of Nisyros. The whole of Nisyros is an open geological park with hot springs dominated by its volcano in the middle of the island.
The capital of the tiny island is Mandraki, a picturesque settlement with striking white houses that includes the island’s port and reaches the top of the hill, creating a strong contrast with the black color of the volcanic rocks, where the famous monastery of Panagia Spiliani stands tall.
There, you can the folklore museum of the island and the old castle which was built in 1314 by the Knights of Saint John.
Apart from Mandraki, a remarkable tourist resort on Nisyros is the picturesque fishing village of Paloi with a beautiful beach and an impressive cave along the coast.
From Mandraki you can charter a small boat and discover all the beaches of Nisyros. This way you have the opportunity to stop at any beach you wish, enjoying the crystal clear waters. Alternatively, you can reach the small islands of Giali and Nisides, where there are countless sandy beaches, unspoiled by mass tourism.
Those who love adventure and are eager to get to know the island should also pay a visit to the villages of Nikia and Emporio, which are located around the active volcano, or even embark on a hiking adventure across the island as the land of Nisyros seems to be made for exploring!
Karpathos, Greek islands in the Dodecanese complex -credits: Pawel Kazmierczak/Shuttestock.com
Karpathos is the second-largest island of the Dodecanese and is located between Rhodes and Crete. An island with a rich history that dates back to over 6000 years, from the Neolithic era, Karpathos has been known since the time of Homer and, according to legend, took part in the legendary Trojan War.
Homer calls Karpathos ‘Inemoessa’. which means ‘windswept’, a characterization that can be confirmed even today by both the locals of the island and by holidaymakers who visit the island that is known for its strong winds, or ‘meltemia’.
Karpathos is an island with well-preserved traditions and a striking landscape that bares strong contrasts, as the wild beauty of the mountains coexists harmoniously with the golden sands and the clear blue waters of the Aegean. In fact, the purity of the sea was a pole of attraction for the Mediterranean seal Monachus-Monachus that lives and breeds in the rock caves of the island.
The capital of Karpathos is called Pigadia and it is built in an open bay with beautiful traditional houses. There, also lie the ruins of a cyclopean wall and the beautiful church of Agia Kyriaki.
On the island, there are many seaside resorts to visit such as Ammopi, Arkasa, Lefkos, and Makris Gialos. Also, the scenic villages of Mesochori and Olympus are areas of unique beauty that attract hundreds of tourists on a yearly basis.
Karpathos is suitable for all kinds of holidays, quiet and secular. Nature lovers have the opportunity to tour the forests and paths of the island to explore the beautiful caves and secrets of the area.
What’s more, In Karpathos every year many popular events are organized that are worth attending if you are on the island at that time. During the celebration, you will enjoy music and dancing and you will have the opportunity to see the women dressed in traditional local costumes.
Skala Village, Patmos - credits: Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock.com
Patmos, or ‘the island of the Apocalypse’ as religious people like to call it, is considered a sacred island, as it is where allegedly Saint John the Evangelist lived when he got exiled by the Romans, for two years. Living there in a cave, between the monastery and the port, Saint John wrote the ‘Apocalypse’ of the New Testament.
The monastery was founded in the 11th century and was fortified as a castle to protect the inhabitants of the island from pirate raids.
The epicenter and port of Patmos is called Skala, where the ruins of the ancient Acropolis are located. The island's capital town is called -surprise, surprise- Chora, which is about 4.5 km from Skala and is built on a high hill around the old monastery. Chora is a beautiful city that offers a trip back in time due to its old-time charms and ambiance.
Being a place deeply connected with the Greek Orthodox church, apart from the famous monastery of Saint John the Theologian, there are many other remarkable churches of the Byzantine period with interesting hagiographies inside and invaluable religious relics.
After all, it is no secret that Patmos is an important cultural center of the Greek islands of Dodecanese. On the holy island, you can find the famous Patmiada School, near the area of the cave of the Apocalypse, which today operates as a Theological School.
Elli beach, Rhodes - credits: Aerial-motion/Shutterstock.com
It is also worth visiting the Library of the Monastery, one of the most important in the world, which hosts manuscripts, parchments of unique value, as well as rare collections of books.
Apart from Patmos’ Chora, you should not forget to plan a visit to Grikos, a small, picturesque village that has become one of the most popular tourist resorts on the island, where there are many tourist accommodations and traditional taverns that serve fresh seafood and local delicacies.
Patmos combines tradition and rich history with a calm atmosphere for unique holidays in an earthly paradise. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its striking beauty can’t help but mesmerize its visitors, whether they come from another region of Greece or another part of the world!
Kassos - credits: Antlio/Shutterstock.com
Although Kasos is a small, rocky, and mountainous island in the Dodecanese, it is full of natural beauty, with beautiful landscapes, and is an ideal destination for a quiet summer vacation.
It is located at the southernmost point of the Dodecanese between the Greek islands of Karpathos and Crete.
The history of Kassos dates back to ancient times and the various archaeological findings that have been discovered prove the significant role of the island to Greece and the world. The island experienced great naval development, offering remarkable help to the rest of the Greek nation during the revolution of 1821 like only a few other islands did.
A walk in the town of Fri with its well-preserved axons dominating the area, the old churches, and the monasteries, will convince you of the financial prosperity of Kasos. Fri is the capital of the island and was built about 150 years ago, maintaining to this day its traditional architecture.
Selai or Stilokamara cave is another interesting natural attraction to visit and admire the unique stalactites and stalagmites inside; the wonders of the island never cease to amaze its fans!
Rhodes Town -credits: Vladimir Zhoga/Shutterstock.com
Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
It is famous not only for its cosmopolitan lifestyle and entertainment but also for many important monuments and sights that are preserved by the Greek National Tourism Organisation, such as the Castle of the Knights, the Valley of the Butterflies, and of course, the famous Colossus of Rhodes, a 33-meter tall statue which stands at the entrance of the port and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The history of Rhodes dates back to prehistoric times and visitors can get to know many monuments and archeological sites dating back to the 3rd century BC and are excellently preserved to this day.
In the Old Town of Rhodes, the Castle of the Knights and the Palace of the Grand Master give the atmosphere a medieval spirit that transports the visitor to another era of time. Also, in the western part of the city, you can visit the ruins of the ancient Acropolis as well as two very interesting museums, the Archaeological and the Byzantine Museum.
Butterfly Valley, Rhodes - credits: Vladimir1984/Shutterstock.com
One of the most popular spots and most important cities of Rhodes is Ialyssos, located in the north of the island near the place where Ancient Ialyssos once stood. There is a huge beach with many hotels in the area.
Kremasti and Paradisi are also two villages that attract a large number of visitors due to the famous ‘Valley with the Butterflies’ that stretches between them.
Other busy cities and seaside towns in Rhodes are the coastal Faliraki, known for its wild nightlife, the traditional Afandou with its famous beach, the historic Lindos with the ancient Acropolis, and many other areas of unique beauty.
There are many Byzantine churches and monasteries scattered, where you can admire remarkable frescoes and invaluable icons inside. Also, do not forget to visit the famous Aquarium of Rhodes, one of the most important attractions on the island, where you will admire all kinds of marine life from around the world.
Rhodes is suitable for all kinds of holidays. It is an ideal destination for those who want to rest and relax but also for those who want to let their hair down and party hard. Everywhere in Rhodes, there are tourist accommodations for all tastes, taverns, and restaurants offering Greek and international cuisine as well as bars and nightclubs with Greek and foreign music for all ages. What more can one want?
Kastelorizo - credits: Foxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock.com
Kastelorizo is the easternmost island of the Dodecanese in the Aegean sea and is famous for its tranquil vibe.
The name Kastelorizo’, which translates to ‘Red Fortress’, was given by the Knights of Saint Ioannis due to the characteristic red rocks on which the Castle of the island was built, inside of which you can admire the old churches of Agios Dimitrios and Agios Nikolaos.
In Kastelorizo, there are various interesting sights to visit such as the medieval Castle and the Archaeological and Folklore Museum with rich exhibits of all time periods, from antiquity to modern times, but also from the tradition of the island.
There is not much tourist traffic on the island and for that reason, there is limited accommodation. Due to the slow development of tourism, it still remains unchanged from modern trends, strongly maintaining its traditional style and offering the visitor an unforgettable vacation.
On Kastelorizo, you can swim in the crystal clear beaches of Faro, Mandraki, Plakes but also in the clear blue waters of the Ble Spilia (Blue Cave), which you can reach by boat from the port and admire the wonderful stalactites and stalagmites inside. From Kastelorizo, it is also worth taking a day trip to the nearby islands of Ro and Stroggili and getting to know their history.
Kastelorizo is a true jewel of the Dodecanese, and it is waiting for you to enchant you!
Symi island - credits: Lubos K/Shutterstock.com
Gorgeous, calm, and authentic in every way, Symi is one of the most gorgeous Greek islands which also happens to be in the Dodecanese.
Its history dates back to antiquity when it was known as the Kingdom of Nereus, one of the bravest Greek warriors who participated in the Trojan War. In modern times, Symi became known for the sponge trade and the art of shipbuilding. Today, the island is considered a protected settlement where one can admire traditional houses and neoclassical buildings of unique beauty.
At the southern end of the island lies the picturesque bay of Panormitis where the Monastery of the Archangel Michael with its impressive bell tower houses the Ecclesiastical and Folklore Museum. There, you can marvel at the view of the waves crashing at the bay pier and let the locals narrate hundreds of myths and traditions and the history of the monastery.
The capital of the island is called Symi and consists of Gialos and Ano Symi or Village. It is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of the hill, and is a magnificent traditional settlement of simple architecture, with two-story houses with gables and decorated roofs; one of the most beautiful preserved settlements in the Aegean.
Those who arrive in Symi can visit the Castle of the Knights with panoramic views across the island, the Archaeological and Naval Museum, and many Byzantine churches and monasteries scattered throughout the area.
Those who wish to visit the small islands of Sekli and Nimo can take part in the day trips by boats that start respectively from the bay of Panormitis and the port of Gialos. On the island of Sekli you will see ancient ruins and you will enjoy swimming on its secluded beaches.
Kos with its sandy beaches
Kos - credits: Mindaugas A./Shutterstock.com
Cosmopolitan Kos, the third-largest island of the Dodecanese, after Rhodes and Karpathos, is located between Kalymnos and Nisyros and very close to the coasts of Asia Minor.
Every corner of Kos reminds its visitors of the important role of the island in antiquity as it was the homeland of Hippocrates, known worldwide as the ‘Father of Medicine’, who taught in the ancient temple of Asclepius.
Despite its old, ripe age, the city of Kos has a modern look as it was rebuilt by the Italians after the earthquake that took place in 1933.
On the island, there are important sights to visit, the most important of which is the majestic building of the Asclepieion. It is also worth seeing the Archaeological Museum of the island, the medieval castle of the Knights, the ruins of the ancient city near the port, and many remarkable churches from the Byzantine era with admirable hagiographies inside.
Of course, do not forget to visit the famous ‘Plane tree of Hippocrates’, a huge tree over 2,500 years old, planted by Hippocrates himself, in the shade of which he welcomed and treated his patients.
About 11 km from the city of Kos, visitors can find the settlement Tigaki which is particularly popular amongst the tourists and has large hotel units that offer comfortable accommodation.
Near the airport, is the traditional rural village of Antimacheia from where you can reach Mastichari and Kardamena which are two of the most popular tourist resorts in Kos.
Another well-known tourist destination in Kos is Kefalos which was the old capital of the island, with traditional houses and monasteries. Today, ruins of the ancient city and parts of a temple and theater from ancient Greece are preserved there.
All in all, Kos has an excellent tourist infrastructure and offers high-quality facilities to its visitors, providing them with a comfortable and pleasant stay. If you want to spend your Greek holidays either relaxing or indulging in water sports, Kos combines both perfectly.
Additionally, those who love hiking can walk among the rich vegetation of the island discovering wonderful areas and unique secrets of nature. In Kos, you will discover a tourist destination that you’ve never even dreamed of with stunning landscapes, picturesque towns, archaeological sites, and colorful houses!
Lipsi; the secret of the Greek islands
Lipsi - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Lipsi is another hidden gem of the Dodecanese which is located in their northern part and is surrounded by small islands and islets offering a quiet vacation to those seeking peace and relaxation.
The island is ideal for hiking and exploring due to its small size, and is also ideal for those traveling privately or by chartered boat.
Lipsi is a picturesque city, the only settlement, and port on the island. In the main square, there are several taverns that offer fresh fish and delicious traditional dishes of local cuisine. If you find yourself in Lipsi don’t forget to try one of the local wines as the island is famous for the excellent quality of its wines.
From the main port of Lipsi, small boats depart that transport visitors to the surrounding islands such as Marathos and Agathonisi, where they can discover many secluded beaches to enjoy the crystal clear seas.
Alas, there are many beautiful, golden beaches on the island such as the beaches of Lientou, Katsadia, Hochlakoura, Platis Gialos, Monodendri, and Kampos, which are so unique they’re a good enough reason to return to the island year after year.
Along with wonderful beaches out to the Aegean sea, the island has an impressively rich culture one can experience through several important sights such as the ancient Acropolis and the ruins of the ancient castle but also many Byzantine churches with interesting icons and religious relics.
One of them is the monastery of St John the Theologian which was founded in the 16th century. It is also worth visiting the Ecclesiastical and Folk Art Museum housed in the City Hall of the island.
Tilos; the unknown Greek island
Livadi Village, Tilos - credits: DbDoShutterstock.com
Tilos is located between Halki and Nisyros and is another small picturesque island of the Dodecanese with a history that dates back to ancient times. According to the findings of the ‘Harkadio’ cave, the island seems to have been inhabited for 6000 years, with the first inhabitants being the Pelasgians and then the Dorians.
It is a beautiful island, ideal for relaxation and hiking. In Tilos, there are many interesting places to visit, all at relatively close distances from each other. The main settlement of Tilos is Livadia which is the port of the island. If you continue along the coast, you reach Agios Stefanos where the impressive medieval lighthouse is located.
The capital of Tilos is Megalo Chorio which is about 7 km from Livadia and is built on the site of ancient Tilos. There, lies the ancient citadel and the ruins of the medieval Castle which was built to protect the inhabitants from pirate raids.
There are many Byzantine monasteries to visit on the island, such as that of Agios Panteleimon, the patron saint of the island, where you will admire remarkable icons and hagiographies.
What’s more, there are many picturesque beaches that are both drop-dead gorgeous and easily accessible, such as Plaka and Livadia but also some more secluded, such as Theologos, Lethra, Agios Sergios where you can only go by boat and stand out from the ones found on other islands.
Holidays in Tilos are a real pleasure! The unique setting combines the color green from its rich vegetation and the color blue of the endless sea with the stony white of the old building in perfect harmony.
Anthony Quinn bay - credits: Philippos_Philippou/Shutterstock.com
With so many incredible Greek islands belonging to the Dodecanese complex, it is impossible for someone to not find the destination of their dreams.
While keeping the option of Greek island-hopping always open, it is worth thoroughly exploring the staggering beauty of at least one of the Dodecanese islands as they are the ultimate example of authentic Greek island life.
Mountain villages, stunning sea views, and an ambiance of pure bliss are hard to turn down. Cherish those precious days of leave on one of the islands mentioned above and you’ll soon be booking your tickets back to Greece for a second round!