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The Dodecanese islands



The Dodecanese (Δωδεκάνησα, Dodekánisa), which means ' the Twelve Islands' in Greek, lie in a crescent chain down the Asiatic Turkish coast curving west towards Crete. The name "Dodecanese" is of comparatively recent origin. They are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. They have a rich history, and many of even the smallest inhabited islands boast dozens of Byzantine churches and medieval castles.

The islands are for the most part bare of vegetation although not to such an extent as the Cyclades. Several of the islands with abundant natural springs, notably Kos and Rhodes, are relatively green and wooded. The most popular islands of the Dodecanese are Rhodes and Kos, while Karpathos has recently become a more popular holiday destination. Kalymnos is popular for rock climbing, Leros for diving, while Patmos is famous for its spiritual character.

Rhodes, Mandraki


The Dodecanese have been inhabited since prehistoric times.The island of Rhodes has dominated this part of the Aegean since ancient times, although many other islands in the Dodecanese also developed into significant economic and cultural centers; most notably, Kos, which in classical times served as the site of the school of medicine founded by Hippocrates.

Like the Ionian islands, the Dodecanese have experienced a varied and turbulent history, at different times being occupied by the Minoans, the Mycenaens, the Dorians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Byzantians, the Venetians, the Ottomans until 19 12 and then the Italians until World War II. In 1947 they became Greek again.

The Dodecanese islands

Wind and sailing conditions

In the summer the prevailing wind is the Meltemi blowing from the NW-W. It starts fitfully in June, blows strongly in July through to September and again fitfully in October. In the summer months it regularly blows Force 4-6 and may on occasion reach Force 7. It does not blow every day, but may blow without break for 5-10 days. When the Meltemi is blowing at full strength in July and August the gusts off the lee side of an island can be considerably stronger than the wind strength in the open sea.

Gusts are particularly strong off Patmos, Kalymnos, Kos, Nissyros, Tilos, Karpathos and Astypalea. In the comparatively open stretch of sea between Astypalea and Karpathos a large and distributed sea is set up when the meltemi blows for days on end. Although it is possible to go N when the meltemi is blowing, it makes better sense to plan to be heading S in July and August. The typical short seas it sets up make sailing or motoring to windward arduous and tiring. In spring the Meltemi blows mainly SE and is not very strong. During the winter it usually blows SE and sometimes N or S. Temperatures in the summer can reach 35 degrees Celsius.

A Turkish gulet

Planning your trip

There are direct flights to Rhodes, Kos and Samos from many international locations, or domestic flights from Athens. A longer route, by sea is possible, with daily ferries from Athens' main port of Pireaus.

Whether you fly to Kos and head south, or Rhodes and head north, you will most likely do a circular route, returning back to the same base, though sometimes one way trips between the islands is possible.

Turkey and the Turkish coast is easily accessible, though you will need a special permit to enter Turkish waters by sea and you may need to pay for individual visas too. Crewed gulet charter is popular in this area.

Rhodes at sunset

Key locations

The most historically important and well-known is Rhodes (Rodos), which, for millennia, has been the island from which the region is controlled. Of the others, Kos (home of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine) and Patmos are historically more important; the remaining nine are Astipalea, Kalimnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos and Kastellorizo. Other islands in the chain include Agathonisi, Alimia, Arkoi, Chalki, Farmakonisi, Gyali, Kinaros, Levitha, Lipsi, Nimos, Pserimos, Saria, Syrna and Telendos.

One week itinerary from Rhodes
1st Day Mandraki Marina Check-in 17:00
2nd Day Simi Island 23 NM
3rd Day Palos (Nisiros Island) 32 NM
4th Day Kos Island 21 NM
5th Day Tilos Island 35 NM
6th Day Halki Island 14 NM
7th Day Mandraki Marina 37 NM
8th Day Check-out 9:00

2 week itinerary from Rhodes
1st Day Mandraki Marina Check-in 17:00
2nd Day Simi Island 23 NM
3rd Day Palos (Nisiros Island) 32 NM
4th Day Kos Island 21 NM
5th Day Leros Island 27 NM
6th Day Patmos Island 20 NM
7th Day Lipsos Island 10 NM
8th Day Levitha Island 23 NM
9th Day Kalimnos Island 27 NM
10th Day Astipalaia Island 39 NM
11th Day Tilos Island 53 NM
12th Day Halki Island 14 NM
13th Day Lindos (Rhodes Island) 49 NM
14th Day Mandraki Marina 23 NM
15th Day Check-out 9:00

1 week itinerary from Kos
1st Day Kos Marina Check-in 17:00
2nd Day Nisiros 23 NM
3rd Day Tilos 20 NM
4th Day Halki 17 NM
5th Day Rhodes 36 NM
6th Day Simi 23 NM
7th Day Kos Marina 60 NM
8th Day Check-out 9:00

2 week itinerary from Kos - Cyclades - Kos
1st Day Kos Marina Check-in 17:00
2nd Day Leros 42 NM
3rd Day Patmos 20 NM
4th Day Amorgos 40 NM
5th Day Skinousa 25 NM
6th Day Ios 25 NM
7th Day Folegandros 20 NM
8th Day Santorini 30 NM
9th Day Anafi 18 NM
10th Day Astypalea 30 NM
11th Day Tilos 48 NM
12th Day Rhodes 35 NM
13th Day Simi 26 NM
14th Day Kos 35 NM
15th Day Check out 09:00

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