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DODECANESE

INTRODUCTION 

With endless beaches and unexplored islets, castles and ancient civilizations, the Dodecanese islands – which include popular Rhodes and Kos – offer the perfect blend of cosmopolitan and unexplored.

A cluster of islands at the southeastern edge of the Aegean that includes popular Rhodes and Kos, the Dodecanese islands form a bridge between Europe and the East.

Whichever of the Dodecanese islands you go to, you’ll find traces of peoples and cultures that have made their mark over the centuries: Ionians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans and Italians. Each island has its own character and all offer opportunities for relaxation, sightseeing, adventure and great food – with a backdrop of beautiful beaches.

HISTORY

The Dodecanese islands is an island complex with a perfect geographical position that has been the key to the crossing of many civilizations and cultures. The first inhabitants in the Dodecanese history are said to be the Telchines and Iliads. Much later the Cares and Achaies arrived and according to Homer, they took part in the Trojan War. After the fall of Troy, the monarchy was no longer established and this brought many intermarriages with the Dorians.

Those Greek islands are known since the Greek antiquity and no civilization has ever questioned their Greek origin. The Greeks inhabit the Dodecanese in the 14th century and up to this day, excavations have brought to light 18 settlements of Achaia on 8 islands of Dodecanese complex and other Mycenean findings of exceptional value. In the years of Dorians, the three cities of Rhodes Island, with Kidnos and Alikarnassos formed a political-economical league with a religious character, the Dorian settlement.

The Dodecanese was the birthplace of the great philosopher Kleovoulos the Lindian, the founder of Medicine Hippocrates, Theocritus, one of the best literate figures, known for his bucolic poetry and hundreds of other chosen personalities in the arts and letters. During the Roman years, Rhodes forced the Romans to come into terms with the maritime law, the first maritime law in world history, while Kos Island initiated them to the Hippocratic medicine and the fundamental laws of nature.

During the Byzantine years, the inhabitants of the Dodecanese followed Christianity. In the centuries that followed, they suffered a lot from the Persians, Arabs, Venetians, Genouates, and Ottomans. Under these circumstances, the inhabitants were forced to abandon their houses and retreat to the mountainous regions. After the first Crusades and the indulgence of the privileges from the Pope, the order of Knights of Saint John started was developed as a strong military and political power. In 1312 AC the order of Knights occupies Rhodes and the rest of its neighboring islands. Rhodes was greatly influenced by the western culture and its port became one of the most important trading centers in the Dodecanese. During that long period, Rhodes shined in art, sculpture, architecture, and letters. The order of Knights fortified the whole town of Rhodes with strong walls to protect the Aegean from the Turkish invasion 1523, with the arrival of sultan Souleiman, Dodecanese is no longer under the rule of the Knights but under the Ottoman occupation. This is one of the darkest periods in the Dodecanese characterized by terror and destruction. The churches are turned into mosques and personal belongings are damaged. Above all, their act of participation in the Greek revolution was greatly punished with slaughters and holocausts.

 

In 1912, the Ottomans sold the Dodecanese islands to the Italians and a new period of occupation starts. Although the Italians made many public works, including ports, official buildings, and even restored the Medieval Town of Rhodes, the locals were always fighting for their independence. Finally, in 1947 with the Treaty of Paris, the Dodecanese islands became officially part of Greece.

CLIMATE

Average daytime & nighttime temperatures:

dodecanese climate

The climate in Dodecanese islands is mild and ranges from temperate to dry, with lots of sunlight and a long summer period. The best period to travel in the Dodecanese islands is from May to September when the weather is hot and perfect for beach swimming. In the summer months, you will encounter some meltemia winds (strong northern winds) that make it great for windsurfing, although these winds are more frequent in the Cyclades.

 

The winter is somehow unpredictable with rain and low temperatures. However, most days are sunny and bright. In fact, Rhodes has 300 days of sunshine per year, which makes it a great place to visit all year round.

HIGHLIGHTS

GASTRONOMY

The holy trinity of Mediterranean cooking - grapes, grains and olives -feature heavily in the cuisine of the South Aegean.

The bright sunshine and dry climate of the Dodecanese islands concentrates the flavors of any produce grown there, so even a simple salad can be a culinary delight. Eating seasonally is a way of life in the islands and the fresh fruits and vegetables elevate every meal to the heights of gastronomy. While the following recipes are inspired by the traditional cuisine of the Dodecanese, it should be noted that food always tastes better when enjoyed with family and friends at a seaside taverna.

rhodes

RHODES

The terrain of Rhodes consists mainly of limestone rocks. Has a long and impressive history; it’s a place where the strong mediaeval aspect blends with the traditional Greek one. It is also an island with great natural beauty: the lovely beaches face the pine woods on the mountainsides; the mountain villages overlook the seaside towns; and the archaeological sites, the mediaeval monuments and the cosmopolitan resorts arranged in the traditional style all conspire to make the popularity of this destination so hard to resist, even to a demanding traveller. This Mediterranean gem of an island boasts a centuries-old history: a turbulent past full of unexpected turns and twists of fate. It flourished during the 4th c. BC; this is when the famous Colossus of Rhodes, a gigantic statue sculpted by Charis from Lindos, Rhodes, who was a student of Lysippos, a master sculptor at the time. Most of the Dodecanese islands are volcanic which lends them an incredibly rocky, dry terrain that is unable to sustain much agriculture. However, the islands glitter with rich mineral deposits such as chromite and lignite in Rhodes, copper, iron and lead in Kos and sulfur in Nisyros. • Fortified mediaeval (old) town, that has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list. • Stroll about its picturesque alleys and along the renowned Street of the Knights. • Visit Castello, the 14th c. Palace of the Grand Master • Visit Clock Tower, built by Fehti Pasha in 1857, which offers wonderful views to the old town. • Archaeological Museum • Byzantine Museum • Go for a walk in Mandraki, the small harbour graced by two statues of deer; see also the nearby marina, the Windmills, and St. Nicholas’ Lighthouse. • See the Ancient stadium, the Odeum, and the temple of Pythios Apollo, on Agios Stefanos Hill. • Take a trip to Kallithea, a beautiful area in the north and visit Koskinou, a listed traditional village with colourful houses, decorated with ceramic plates and hand-woven fabrics, after the local style. • Visit the bathhouses in Kallithea. The domed building of the local hot springs is called Rotonta, and it has been known since ancient times for the healing properties of the red water which rose out of the ground. These hot springs were exploited by the Italians in 1929. • Tour the archaeological site of the Ialysos acropolis on Filerimos Hill. • The temple of Athena Polias, the Doric Fountain, a church dating to the period of the Knights of St. John, and the chapel of Agios Georgios Chostos. • The valley of butterflies is a quiet forest where thousands of butterflies of the kind of Panaxia Quadripunctaria live. You can quietly walk around the pathways, and admire the cute insects that fly around or rest on the trees. • The Acropolis of Lindos, the ancient center of the island, still stands proudly on a rock overlooking the area. The village of Lindos, next to the archaeological site is picturesque, full of small alleys and charming houses. • Visit Ano or Nea Moni [Monastery] of Panagia Tsampika and go to the namesake beach • Head to some of best beaches in Rhodes on a boat trip: Kallithea Beach, Anthony Quinn Beach, Tsambika and Agathi.

kos

KOS

The terrain of Kos is known for its black schist limestone and shale and sandstone fossils. On the edge of the Dodecanese, Kos is a feast of emotion. With endlessly long beaches, fantastic food, bicycle lanes and an ancient healing center, it is like no other island in the Aegean. To borrow from the famous American motivators, Canfield and Hansen, Kos truly is ‘chicken soup for the soul’, as well as the body and the eye. Tall palm trees, endless sandy beaches, alternating landscapes and numerous archaeological sites and attractions left by ancient Greeks, Romans, medieval knights, Venetians and Ottomans make Kos more than just a pretty face in the Dodecanese Island chain. It isn’t coincidental that Hippocrates, antiquity’s most noted physician (he of the oath), was born on Kos. Whichever you choose of the aliases Kos has gone by – Meropi, Nymphaia or Karys – this fascinating island in the Aegean will be a prominent entry in your holiday diary from now on. • Visit the castle of knights – Neratzia Castle: In 1945 this piece of construction was damaged by an earthquake. However, not everything was damaged. • A visit to Asklepeion: A holistic healing centre, the Asclepeion contained infirmaries, temples, hot springs, hostels, a school for physicians and much more. • Archaeological Museum (it houses a mighty collection of sculptures dating from the Hellenistic to late Roman and Venetian periods) • Roman Odeon: The once grandiose theatre served as a venue for concerts, music competitions, and theatre performances and could seat up to 750 people. • Ancient Agora: The Ancient Agora was once the main marketplace of Kos. Exposed by an earthquake in 1933, today the area is filled with archaeological findings including remnants of mosaics, columns, temples, houses, and baths. • Castle of Antimachia: In June 1457, this castle was besieged by 16,000 Ottomans. Just 15 knights and 200 locals were left to defend it, but they held out for 23 days and the Ottomans eventually withdrew. • View the Sunset at Zia village • Beaches in Kos: Mastichari, Lambi, Tigaki, Psalidi, Thermes, Agios Stefanos, Mastichari, Kefalos, and Paradise. • Have a therapeutical swim at the thermal spring of Agios Fokas.

kalymnos

KALYMNOS

Home of the famous sponge divers, this island in the Dodecanese is ideal for modern-day adventurers and aspiring rock climbers. Kalymnos charms visitors with its amazing rock formations, dreamy beaches and ancient monuments. • The island of Kalymnos is home to a fascinating cave complex while other northern Dodecanese islands show evidence of their volcanic formation. Kalymnos has surfaced as a major rock-climbing destination in recent years with more than 80 designated climbing sites. • The Castle of Chryssocheria, at the village of Pothia. In the same village is the Archaeological Museum of Kalymnos, and the Sponge Factory. • Sanctuary of Delian Apollo: The sanctuary constituted the most important place of worship of the patron saint of the island, but it also functioned as a political and religious centre for ancient Kalymnos. • The castle remnants at Kastri • The Nautical - Folklore Museum of Kalymnos • The Valsamidis Sew World Museum • The Folk Museum “Kalymnian house” • The castle fortifications of Chora • Beautiful beaches: Linaria, Therma, Vlychadia, Platis Yialos, Mirties – Melitsachas, Masouri, Arginonta. • Climbing Festival around September or October every year.

karpathos

KARPATHOS

The island of wild, untouched beauty in the Dodecanese, sculpted by winds, customs and centuries-old traditions The second-largest of the Dodecanese islands has no equal. Karpathos holds on dearly to its past in its ancient acropolis, caves, churches and even its traditional dress. The setting is dramatic in all the best senses of the word: striking vistas from untouched, clifftop and mountainside villages that defy gravity and a fearful hammering from the wind to keep a vigilant watch over the Aegean. The mesmerizing beaches Ammoopi, Achata, Apella, Kyra Panagia, Lefkos and Diakoftis of Karpathos. The Archaeological site of Ancient Potideon, the Acropolis of Arkassa, and the archaeological museum. • Visit Menetes and the Folklore Museum • Spend a day in the village of Olympus: it has traditional architecture and white washed buildings with colorful doors, windows and decorated balconies. • Visit Diafani – the main port to the north • Visit Agia Sofia Basilica • St. Luke’s Cave Church: next to Apella Beach • Climb Kali Limni • Lefkos Beach (Paralia Lefkou) • Agios Theodoros Beach • Visit the deserted island of Saria • Explore the far north (Avona, Vrykountas and Tristomo) Avona is a small village, nestled in a fertile hollow and surrounded by barren hills and mountains; Tristomo lies on the shore of a deep and narrow bay. This is a nice eco-tourism destination; Vrykountas is the ruins of an ancient settlement, which lies on a rocky peninsula. Except the ruins, here is a small church, called St. John Vrykountas. • Swimming and snorkeling in Diakoftis • Apella Beach is the most beautiful in the north of the island.

RODHES

• "Koulouria”: the traditional wedding dish in many villages. Is also served in the traditional festivals of the island. It is a type of pasta made from "fyllo" (pie) dough which is then cut into strips. It is cooked in goat meat broth or water with a large quantity of tomato. • "Milla" and "Tsirigia": a wintertime dish, usually eaten during the Christmas period. It is made from the fat of pork meat and therefore has high cholesterol indicators. It is fried over low fire until a sufficient amount of fat melts. Both can be stored in jars for a long time after being prepared. • "Kapamas" (or "Lapas Labriotis"): A traditional local dish made from goat, rice, raisins, onions, liver tomatoes and pine cones. • "Giaprakia": (Rolls made of fresh grape leaves with or without mince). These are the well-known grape leaf rolls ("dolma") which might be stuffed with mince or not, but they always contain onion, grated tomato, rice, parsley, dill (the so-called "pseftika"-fake), or even more traditionally, finely chopped meat instead of mince. • "Pitaroudia": With zucchini, cauliflower, flour and cheese. They are made from flour, onions, tomatoes and finely chopped peppermint, fried in hot oil. In some cases, mince is also added.

KOS

• Lambropites: Little pies made with myzithra cheese • Posa cheese: That takes its colour and flavour from the red wine in which it is matured • Marmarites : pancakes cooked on marble, served with sugar or honey • Kanelada: a liquor made with cinnamon and Alefaskia, a herb that grows on the island.

KALYMNOS

• Mououri: slow-cooked lamb stuffed with rice • Spinialo: sea squirt preserved in olive oil and seawater • Mirmizeli: salad with barley rusks, aubergines, tomatoes and cheese • Chtapodokeftedes: fried octopus balls • Eptazimo: bread flavored with ouzo and anise • Anama: local wine • Cheeses such as kalathaki, troulli and kopanisti • Honey and citrus fruit • Fresh fish and seafood

KARPATHOS

• Byzanti: lamb or goat filled with rice, entrails, raisins, pine nuts, aromatic herbs and spices which is then cooked in a wood-burning oven. • The dish traditionally served at weddings is hondros, or coarse wheat with meat. Hondros can be boiled in milk, for a creamy texture, or in water and then covered with browned onion and cheese just before serving. • Alevria : dough rings with honey and butter. • Psilokoulouro: a type of bread ring, is more of a work of art than food. It is a large, round ring of bread in whose center twelve strips of dough are placed in a thatched design and the whole thing is dusted with sugared sesame seeds before baking. • Zebilia, small crescent-shaped pies with a raisin and nutmeg filling that are dusted with white and black sesame seeds before baking.

WHY?

  • Greece’s most iconic tourist destination, with white-washed island villages and blue skies.

  • For the beautiful beaches.

  • For the rich history.

  • Rock Climbing: Kalymnos has become one of the most popular rock-climbing destinations in the world, with more than 3,800 climbing routes. We recommend booking a climb with a school.

  • Diving: The first word that comes to mind when someone says ‘Kalymnos’ is diving, thanks to its long sponge diving tradition. During your time on the island, explore underneath the water. There is plenty of marine life, underwater caves, chasms and shipwrecks to see.

  • Kalymnian thyme honey is a must!

  • Sponges – You can’t miss the quintessential Kalymnian man, Andonis, selling sponges off his own fishing boat at the port.

  • To learn about the origins of medicine at Asklepion.

  • To wander through ancient Roman ruins.

  • To discover a castle built by the Knights Templar.

  • To swim in natural hot springs.

  • Hidden swimming coves.

  • To discover the enchanting Olimpos, a jewel of a village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval settlement, which dates from the 7th to the 9th century, perches on the steep slopes of the Hill of the Prophet Elijah, untouched by time. In this living folk museum, the women still wear brightly-coloured traditional costumes, speak an ancient Doric dialect, and bake their bread in outdoor wood-fired ovens.     

  • Rhodes, a medieval masterpiece.

  • Kos, the birthplace of the father of medicine

  • Kalymnos, home of sponge divers and rock climbers

  • Karpathos, wild, untouched and deeply traditional

  • Rhodes, the first island in the Aegean to make wine, has dozens of vineyards and plenty of excellent wine to enjoy.

MAP OF DODECANESE

map of dodecanese
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