Dodecanese Islands


Rhodes Island became the place of our next Greek aspirations, it attracts with its long beaches, forests, monasteries, laced bell towers, and of course, with the knight's town. And next to Rhodes is Kos, one more unusual island. And an inquisitive tourist has to combine these two islands in one trip. And close to Kos there is Patmos, the place where the Revelation was written.

These and other islands, which are worthy to be visited, form a row with a distance of 1-2 hours of ferry transfer one from another. An adventurous plan arose to go the whole row, using the developed ferry service between the islands, stopping on the large islands (Rhodes and Kos) about for a week, on small - for 2 days. The beginning and the end of the travel is Athens.

Naturally, there are no travel agencies that will undertake for the organization of this tour (not demanding too much pay for it), so everything had to be done on my own (eventually, it's time to start): book tickets, search, and correspond with owners of apartments, transfer money, obtain a visa. But this is a separate issue, one that transcends my story.

The cars were rented in advance only on Rhodes and Kos. On the small islands, I was going to do it on the spot. Therefore, accommodation in these places was selected close to the port. Certain limitation in the choice of apartments added by a non-standard number of members of our company - 3 person (I, my wife and my mother), and the need, therefore, the presence of two separated areas in the room.

Thus, the final plan is as follows: September 14, 2009 the flight from Moscow to Athens with a change in Kiev with the Ukrainian airline Aerosvit. Transfer by bus from the airport to the port of Piraeus to the ferry that in one night forwards us to Rhodes. There, in the port the rented and paid car should wait for us, and then we get to the apartments. In Rhodes we spend 8 nights, one day will be devoted to a trip to the neighboring small island of Halki. On the day of departure, we leave the car at the port, get on the ferry and sail to the island of Symi. There we spend 2 nights. Similarly visit Tilos - 2 nights, Kos - 7 nights, Leros and Patmos - for 2 nights. We are planning to visit from Kos the neighboring island of Nisyros and Kalymnos. We are completing the journey by night transfer from Patmos to Piraeus, and then according to the familiar route in reverse order: bus, plane with a change in Kiev and return to Moscow on 9 October.

Total - 9 islands, we are planned to stay in 6 of which. I must say that not all accomplished that we planned (for example, instead of nine islands turned out eight, we can't visit Halki), but something of an unplanned added, but more about that will be later.

All photographs of our journey are here.



Our sea route

Flight to Kiev took place without delay. In the Borispol airport transit passengers, without going through passport control and not getting luggage, go immediately to the first floor in the zone of departure. On the first floor, however, they must pass through the personal examination. A long queue formed at the time of our arrival here, starting at the stairs. Since we had the interval about one and a half hours between the arrival and departure, to stand there until the end means to be late for a flight, therefore, we stood a little, and then we have to queue-jump to the indignant comments of other passengers.

The flight Kiev - Athens, however, was delayed for an hour. It made us worried. Three and a half hours between arrival in Athens and ferry departure seems an enough interval, but now, in consideration of the possibility of delays and my own experience, I would call it very risky.

There are two ways to get from the airport of Athens to the port of Piraeus on public transport. The first one is by bus X96 (3.20 euro for a full ticket). This way is the simplest and cheapest: the bus stop is right at the entrance to the airport, a bus takes with direct connections to the piers with scheduled ferries, the interval is 15 minutes in the daytime, 30 minutes by night. However, in consideration of the traffic congestion of big city Athens, I don't think that is a faster way (though I do not compare). The second way is the metro (6 euros for a single, 5 euro - if you go double or triple). There is a change in the center, and you still have to reach the metro station from the airport, although this path are mechanized, the escalators are everywhere, even in horizontal sections of the path, the interval of trains - 30 minutes. In addition, if your ferry docks far from the metro station, you will have to take a free bus of the port.

We chose the first way. On reaching the final stop of the bus and after crossing the square, we were faced with a large ship that received passengers and vehicles via ramps lowered from the back side. However, to our arrival all who need have already entered. The ferry "Blue Star 2" (together with "Blue Star 1", they are identical and interchangeable), takes daily trips to Rhodes and back, making stops in Kos, and some other islands. The parking lot in a few levels takes the first 6 floors (or decks) of the ferry. Also, the passengers who have not take a cabin leave here their luggage in special racks that labeled with the names of the islands.

It should be noted that two long night ferry trips from Piraeus and back we spent in a cabin to have a good sleep, the remaining short ferry trips between islands we spent in economy class.

The seventh and the eighth deck of the ferry are for passengers. On the seventh deck are cafes, a shop, halls with the passenger seats of aircraft type, other passenger seats. If the ferry is not too filled up of people, any passenger may take any place. On the eighth floor there are cabin.

The cabin reminds a compartment in train, only slightly larger in width and much larger in depth. There are two rows of double-level beds at the both sides from the window-porthole, upper beds folded up against the wall. Between the bed and the door there is a small vestibule with wardrobe and door to the bathroom unit. And then there are sink, toilet and place for the shower with a folding screen. Everything is clean and looks new. In the cabin there are electrical outlets, stairs to rise to the upper bed, life jackets.

After passing on the ship and settling in the cabin, we went to the open deck. The ferry had set sail from the coast, out of the harbour at the expanse of the Aegean Sea. At first we were accompanied by a flock of seagulls. All this once already happened. I must say that the choice of ferry as the vehicle was made intentionally, because it was possible to fly to Rhodes by plane, it would cost only slightly more expensive, but it would take much less time and there would be fewer passages. However, the three years old memories baited me, I wanted we repeat it. Besides, all these passages give to our tour some resemblance to the sea cruise. Nevertheless, our journey is better than any cruise - there are no cruises that allow you to stay on the island for a few days or for a week.

Close to midnight, we approached the island of Sýros and made a stop in the harbour of Ermoúpoli city - the capital of the Cyclades islands. There were stops and further, but we were already asleep.

By eight in the morning the ferry approached the final stop - the island and the city of Rhodes.

Click the images to enlarge them.



Dodecanese Islands, which means "twelve islands" (another name - Southern Sporades) lie on the south-eastern Aegean Sea, near the Turkish coast of Asia Minor. Rhódes - the largest and most important of them. The rest of the twelve: to the south-west of Rhodes, between Rhodes and Crete there are Kárpathos and Kásos, north-west of Rhodes, close to the Cyclades there is Astypálea, 125 kilometres to the east, just two kilometres from the Turkish coast there is a small island Kastelórizo (Megísti) - the easternmost territory of Greece. To the north of Rhodes there is a row of main group of islands: Sými, Tílos, Nísyros, Kos, Kálymnos, Léros, Pátmos (just this group, along with Rhodes, we visited). There are other small, but inhabited island of the archipelago: Hálki, Psérimos, Télendos, Lipsí, Arkí, Agathonísi, Farmakonísi.

In ancient times the islands sometimes retain their autonomy, sometimes fell under the influence of Athens or Persia. Further they were included in the Roman and Byzantine empires, in VII century were conquered by the Arabs, and then reclaimed back. In XIV century Rhodes and the neighboring islands were seized by Knights of Ioannites (Hospitallers) that made Rhodes their residence. In XVI century the islands were occupied by the Ottoman Turks, and in 1912 - by the Italians. In the end, the Dodecanese islands became the part of Greece only in 1948, latest, and now they form a nomos of the same name.

Rhodes (Ródos) is the fourth largest Greek island (area 1400 sq. km, population 118 thousand people), stretches from north-east to south-west, dividing the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. Sea on the eastern Mediterranean coast is considered to be calmer.

Island map
Click at the part of the island to jump to its description.

Rhodes is the sunniest Greek island; according to legend, it is the residence of the sun god Ilios (Helios). In antiquity there were three cities in its territory: Ialyssós, Líndos and Kámiros. In 408 BC their inhabitants was founded on the north-eastern tip of the island city of Rhodes, who is now the only city on the island and the capital of the nomos Dodecanese. The density of population, number of villages, and in general the presence of civilization is slowly but steadily decreases with going away from the city, that is, when moving from the north-east to the south-west of the island.

Upon arrival at the port, the representative of the car rental company "Rodos cars" waited for us, brought us to the car, Kia Picanto, helped to load the luggage, drew up the documents, showed the way, showed the place where to put the car at the time of delivery and left, all as usual. We have paid for the rent in advance by bank card (200 euros for 9 days).

Apartments "Kyriakos studios" were selected as the place of our stay in Rhodes, it is located in 500 metres from the long and not crowded beach Afandou, 2 km from the village Afandou. It is a quiet (and cheap) place near the sea, at the same time close to the city. One can meet here occasional houses, including the same apartments as ours, small gardens, greenhouses among the space filled with olive groves and empty lots. There are no shops nearby; there are a couple of taverns near the sea, but I have not seen in there even a couple of visitors.

The hotel include a two two-story blocks next to the greenhouses and next to the road to the beach. A small office of the owner, Panagiotis, is located nearby. The space of accommodation is divided into a bedroom and a kitchen, there are a corridor and a bathroom between them; unfortunately, there is no door in the corridor. In the kitchen, besides the standard kitchen set there is a bed. In the bedroom there are a double bed, wardrobes, TV, and balcony. There is air conditioning, it equipped with satellite TV. On the balcony, I caught a free wi-fi from the neighboring, more expensive apartments.

Further, in the description of places we visited in the island, I will follow the geographical principle, as in the case of Corfu. I will begin with Rhodes City and pass around the island along the coast in a clockwise direction, as necessary going inland. I don't pretend to the completeness, as the time to visit all the places marked in advance, as usual, was not enough. The division is: Rhodes City, The East Coast, The West Coast.


Rhodes City

The main attraction of the city is its walled part - the Old Town, which include in the UNESCO world heritage list. The builders of the fortress and its principal inhabitants were the knights of Saint John Order. They seized the island from the Byzantine Empire in 1309, and decided to make his residence its eastern extremity - closer to the Holy Land. In 1522, troops of the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, after a six-month siege, forced the knights to surrender the fortress and allowed them to freely sail to Malta, where this Order still exists today under the name Maltese.

The northern part of the Old Town, Kollákio, was built in knight's era; the most magnificent of the buildings is the Grand Master's Palace, destroyed in the Turks' governing and restored in the Italians'. In the Hospital building now is the Archaeological Museum with many interesting exhibits (3 euros per ticket).

In another part of the old town, Hóra, you can find ancient churches, mosques with minarets, the ruins of an early Christian basilica. And there are old houses everywhere, many of whom are still inhabited.

As nowhere else in Greece, there are many Turkish mosques here. One of them, the mosque of Suleiman, still working.

In Rhodes, as well as in Kos, a small Muslim community has been remained (I don't know if we can now call them Turks, according to the official Greek policy - we can't). Under the Italian authorities, the local Turks escaped the total population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 (it will be recalled that according to the agreement between the countries, the Turkish Greeks and Greek Turks had to leave their homeland and move to the country of their titular nation. The move doesn't take place quietly everywhere. It is known the massacre in Smyrna, the former Greek city where the Turkish authorities have given the Greeks too short time for evacuation, prevented it in every way; and who hadn't time to take a boat were shot by the Turkish army. At present a small Greek community has remained only in Constantinople and in Greece there are several Turkish villages in the north, as well as a small community here in Rhodes and Kos.)

The fortress that surrounds the old town is well preserved (or well restored, it looks like new) and has several passageways-gates around its perimeter. A part of the fortress fronts the sea, the southern and western sides of the fortress are surrounded by a wide moat; there is a park behind the moat with high shady trees. Here is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Francis of Assisi with his statue, built by the Italians in the Constructivist style, fashionable in the 30-ies of XX century. From the north to the fortress adjacent the open concert venue "Sound and light".

The coast by the old Town forms the three harbours, separated by piers: Akadiá, Commercial and Mandráki. The shuttle ferries moor to the easternmost pier. The next pier is for cruise liners, it separate Akadia and Commercial harbour. It ends with the tower of the Angels. Between the piers are the beach and the free parking, where we left the car during our visits to the city.

The Commercial harbour approaches directly the fortress walls. There is also a small beach, and next - the embankment with moored yachts, which offer day cruises along the coast of Rhodes and the neighboring islands. A pair of boats converted into the souvenir shops filled with sponges, shells, etc. The small pier with a tower, built by Grandmaster Philibert de Naillac, limits the harbour on the west.

Another pier, a bigger one, ends with the fortress of Saint Nicholas with the lighthouse and forms the inland harbour Mandraki. There is a marina here - the mooring place for yachts and small boats. Statues of deer, male and female, stand on columns-pedestals on both sides of the entrance to the harbour. During our stay, the female was on the restoration. It is believed that in ancient times, instead of the deer stood the legs of a huge statue of sun god Helios - the patron of Rhodes. The statue, known as the Colossus of Rhodes and ranked for the Seven Wonders of the World, stood there not long and was destroyed by an earthquake.

All-round panorama from the pier

Further, behind the territory of the yacht club, a large sandy beach starts. He reaches the extreme northern point of the island, the confluence of two seas, the Mediterranean and the Aegean, and continues. There is the Aquarium building at the cape. Along the coast between the fortress of the Old Town and the cape, there are a number of picturesque buildings, many of which were built during the Italian occupation: New Market, Evangelistria Church, Prefecture, National Theater, Casino.

In the western part of the city on the hill of Mónte Smith, there are the ruins of ancient constructions: well-preserved Stadium of III century BC, theatre Odeon that was restored by the Italians, columns of the temple of Apollo. The hill is named in honor of British Admiral Sidney Smith, who observed the maneuvers of Napoleon's fleet here in 1802.

In the south of the city, along a small river, is located the Rodíni Park. Everything here disposes to rest from the heat and noise of the city on a bench in the shade of trees and in the cool. Peacocks roam freely, the water are inhabited by ducks, turtles.


Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.