The local population live in Emborio. This handsome natural amphitheatrical harbour is lined by elegant Venetian stone mansions and boasts the tallest freestanding bell
tower in the Dodecanese. The bells are silent now, ever since it was decided that people would sleep better without its loud chiming every 15 minutes. But the fact that they had to stop the clock to achieve this sums Halki up - this is one island on which time really has stood still!
The harbour is archetypal and as pretty as a postcard. We have not seen clearer water in any harbour than you will find here. Multi-hued and almost translucent, it is certainly a joy to swim - if you don't mind the small fish having a nibble! We even saw cuttlefish, which rarely visit shallow waters.
Nightlife revolves around the fine half-dozen or so waterfront tavernas which of course specialise in fish caught that morning (and which you may well have seen coming in off the fishing boats). There is a similar number of cafes and low-key bars, and various small shops selling all you should need.
The village behind is as exactly as you would expect - whitewashed lanes lined with old houses (some crumbling), sudden splashes of colour provided by brightly painted doors and shutters, an unexpected burst of bougainvillea, or hardy geraniums thriving in an old olive oil tin.
You can swim to the side of Emborio harbour - there are jetties, steps or a ladder here and there to enable you - but should you prefer a beach the nearest is the small shingly cove of Ftenagia, a 5 minute walk behind the harbour via a rough path. The taverna here lays out its sun beds above the sea. The island's main beach is sandy Pondamos, a 10-15 minute walk and also with attendant taverna. Further coves and bays, mostly pebble, can be reached on foot; others, better but more remote, are best reached by taxi-boat from the harbour. The swimming in crystal-clear water is excellent everywhere.
There is a walking map you can buy on the island but trails are not well signed and can be difficult to find. But on an island as small as Halki you can't get lost for long! One walk most visitors make is to the old village of Chora, now deserted, 3 kms to the west and topped by a crumbling Crusader castle. Your reward for the stiff walk up is panoramic vistas over Emborio to Rhodes and towards distant Karpathos.
Alternatively take the island public minibus high up the mountain to the Monastery of St John (c €5) and walk back - it takes around 2 hours. Halki was designated 'the island of peace and friendship' by UNESCO in 1983. They got it absolutely right - Halki is certainly peaceful and you could not find a friendlier island anwhere.