The islands of the Dodecanese are the furthest grouping from the Greek mainland, and hug the Turkish coastline so closely that in some places one could seemingly swim between the two continents. Being in Greece’s far south-eastern corner, they not only enjoy an enviable sunshine record but a very strategic location, and it is their turbulent past which has resulted in such a distinctive history, culture and architecture.
Within the group, however, there is a great deal of variety, and each island has its own character, from Patmos in the north – which has amore Cycladic style – to tiny, remote Kastellorizo in the south. Over the millennia the Dodecanese have been under the control of outsiders for much of the time – Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Crusader knights, Ottoman Turks and, until 1943, Italians have all held sway.
In the 1st century AD St Paul and St John visited (John eventually settling on Patmos), and in the 20th century the islands saw fierce fighting between German and Allied forces during WW2. So if you like history you will not be disappointed! Evidence of most past invaders is still all around, from the Crusader castles – medieval Rhodes Town is the outstanding example – to the grandiose public buildings left by the Italians.
Add to this a decent smattering of Hellenistic ruins, a myriad of Byzantine chapels, and atmospheric harbours lined by 19th century sea captains’ mansions and you have a unique and vibrant mix.
But overlying all this is the islands’ overwhelmingly Greek character. All the elements which make Greece such a wonderfully relaxed, friendly and picturesque holiday destination are here, from the small whitewashed villages clinging to the hillside above the sea to beaches as good as you will find anywhere.
The main hubs here are popular Rhodes and Kos, which have organised tourism served by direct charter flights. But hop on a ferry for an hour or two and you are transported to an older, quieter world.
Rhodes apart, we feature most of the smaller islands either in this brochure or on our website, and have tried to choose those that we feel represent all that is best of the Dodecanese.
As with all Aegean islands, there can be strong winds - notably the Meltemi which normally blows from the north in July and August - so do be prepared for possible disruption to the boat schedules. Although rare, in this event we will make all arrangements necessary at no extra cost to you, which may include an unscheduled overnight in Rhodes or Kos.