Destination Inspiration: Dodecanese Islands, Greece
Island hop on the far-flung corner of the Aegean, where the sun-soaked Dodecanese sands are lapped by cerulean waters. Rhodes and Kos are the star attraction of this cluster of islands, but when you’ve done eyeing medieval monuments, make tracks for slow-living Leros and the dramatic hiking trails of Kalymnos.
17 August, 2020
Many flock to the famous isles of Santorini, Mykonos or Halkidiki for a Grecian fix, only in-the-know travellers visit this cluster of islands in the far-flung corner of Greece. Peppered with whitewashed houses, ancient castles and caves, this archipelago remains virtually unspoiled. It's as ideal for keen explorers as it is those looking to sail offshore with an ice-cream and Sally Rooney's latest rom-com.
The largest of the islands, Rhodes, has been the cultural and commercial capital of the Dodecanese since antiquity. Recognised for housing one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (the Colossus of Rhodes) and one of Europe's best-preserved medieval towns, this is stomping ground for history buffs and aesthetes. Trace the walls that form a crescent around the old town before sinking into a feta salad and the cerulean waters that lap against Elli Beach. We'd suggest starting your Dodecanese Island escape here before embarking on an island-hopping tour of the rest of the archipelago.
Keen to skip the crowds? Hop to Kalymnos, threaded with some of the toughest hiking trails in the Mediterranean. Embark on the 100km Kalymnos Trail, a multi-day route that takes you between mountain-top vistas and secluded shores, through crumbling caves and ramshackle villages. Warning: it'll test your stamina. We're not judging if you doze with a bottle of local plonk instead.
To really embrace the slow-travel movement, add another lesser-known isle to your plans. Venture across to Leros, where beaches are outshone only by the shipwrecks that surround them. Avid divers (and keen snorkelers) will want to hire a fisherman to take them to the numerous skeletons of military vessels that are dotted beneath the waves - most of them are remnants of the island's once-thriving naval complex. Elsewhere, you'll find a distinctively Italian feel (Leros was conquered by Mussolini in 1912). Spot art-deco-style architecture and inhale the garlicky scent of taverna dishes.
Visiting Kastellorizo. Geographically closer to Turkey than to mainland Greece, it has nailed the "charming island" aesthetic. Bright-coloured neoclassical houses are set like an amphitheatre around the harbour - residents position their sunbeds right outside their front doors. Forget snagging a spot on the beach (there is none), do as the locals and dive straight into the sea.
Where to stay
Nefeli Hotel. The creeping bougainvillea, blooming geraniums and waterfront location in Leros will leave you weak at the knees.
Where to go for dinner…
El Greco. A pretty taverna perched on Leros's waterfront.
And for a drink…
The Savana Bar. The crescent-shaped bay beyond makes this spot ideal for sundowners.
Who to take with you
Take anyone who doesn't get seasick. There'll be much seafaring between the islands.
When to go
Despite not registering on most travellers' radars, the Dodecanese islands still have a busier midsummer period, so visit in June or September to escape any crowds.
Essentials to pack
To appreciate the clear waters, pack this Leica X-U Typ 113 compact underwater camera. Your 'gram will appreciate the under-the-sea updates.
How to get there
Flights direct from London to Rhodes take four hours. To visit the surrounding islands, there are plenty of charters with island tours available or check out the traditional ferry routes that link the islands.