Dodecanese Islands Travel Guide for 2024

Written by James
 Last updated: May 14, 2023

Meet the islands



Embrace the charm of Greece’s sunniest corner, the Dodecanese Islands.

Lying in the southeast Aegean Sea, these 12 large and 150 smaller islands are steeped in history, boasting a melting pot of ancient Greek, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Italian influences. 

Each island sings its own melody, from the medieval streets of Rhodes to the healing springs of Kos and the untouched landscapes of Karpathos. Discover the diverse architecture, vibrant local cultures, and cuisine that dances with flavour. 

Breathe in the scent of wild thyme on hillside walks and listen to the lullaby of the sea from secluded beaches. Welcome to the Dodecanese, your Greek island dream come true.

Why visit the Dodecanese Islands?

Seeking an authentic Greek experience? The Dodecanese is your answer. It’s a blend of traditional charm and natural beauty that guarantees a memorable getaway.

Historical Riches: The islands’ tumultuous history has left a vibrant cultural tapestry and fascinating archaeological sites.

Stunning Landscapes: The islands offer diverse natural beauty, from serene beaches to rugged mountains.

Charming Villages: Traditional homes, cobblestone streets, and friendly locals create an enchanting atmosphere.

Delicious Cuisine: Savour the unique flavours of the Dodecanese, a gastronomic paradise.

Year-round Sun: Enjoy the warm Mediterranean climate, perfect for sun-seekers.

Reasons to love the Dodecanese Islands

The Dodecanese has a special allure, blending rich history with natural beauty and warm hospitality. There’s a lot to love:

Ancient Heritage: Sites like the Palace of the Grand Master on Rhodes take you back in time.

Sandy Beaches: Like Simi’s turquoise bays, the islands’ beaches are heavenly retreats.

Vibrant Festivals: Traditional celebrations, such as Medieval Rose Festival, bring the islands’ culture to life.

Outdoor Activities: Hiking, diving, windsurfing – there’s an adventure for everyone.

Unique Flora and Fauna: Encounter rare species like the Rhodes fallow deer.

Explore the Islands of the Dodecanese

  1. Rhodes: The largest of the Dodecanese, Rhodes pairs rich history with vibrant nightlife. Don’t miss the medieval Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  2. Kos: With its stunning beaches and impressive ancient ruins, Kos is a haven for sun-seekers and history buffs.
  3. Patmos: Known as the ‘Island of the Apocalypse’, Patmos is revered as the place where the Book of Revelation was written.
  4. Karpathos: Brimming with tradition, Karpathos offers a glimpse into authentic Dodecanese life. Its rugged landscapes are a hiker’s dream.
  5. Kalymnos: Once famous for its sponge divers, Kalymnos is now a magnet for rock climbers, thanks to its steep cliffs.
  6. Leros: With a relaxed vibe and a beautiful harbour, Leros is an excellent spot to unwind and enjoy Greek island life at a slower pace.
  7. Symi: The neoclassical architecture of Symi’s harbour is a sight to behold. The island is also known for its sponge and shipbuilding history.
  8. Nisyros: This volcanic island is home to one of the few accessible volcano craters in the world. A unique experience not to be missed.
  9. Tilos: A nature lover’s paradise, Tilos is known for its biodiversity and is a crucial habitat for rare bird species.
  10. Halki: A tiny gem in the Aegean Sea, Halki is an idyllic retreat with neoclassical houses, crystal clear waters, and a tranquil atmosphere.
  11. Astypalea: Often mistaken for a Cycladic island due to its white houses, Astypalea boasts a stunning medieval castle and beautiful beaches.
  12. Kastellorizo: The most easterly of the Dodecanese, Kastellorizo is famous for its colourful neoclassical houses and the Blue Cave, one of the most beautiful in Greece.

Where to go

Rhodes Old Town: Wander the UNESCO-listed streets, a living museum of history.

Patmos’ Monastery of Saint John: This holy site offers stunning views and religious artefacts.

Asclepieion, Kos: Explore this ancient healing centre dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine.

Karpathos’ Olympos Village: Step into a living folk museum where traditional customs thrive.

Kastellorizo: The most remote Dodecanese island, with colourful houses and peaceful vibes.

What to do

Castle Hopping: Discover the islands’ many fortresses, each with its unique tale.

Taste Local Delicacies: Join a culinary tour or cooking class.

Hike the Trails: Venture into nature on paths like Rhodes’ Epta Piges.

Dive into the Blue: Explore underwater worlds, home to wrecks and rich marine life.

Relax in Thermal Springs: Soak in Kos’ natural spas, a rejuvenating experience.

Local foods to try

Souvlaki: Enjoy this grilled meat delicacy, served with pita and tzatziki.

Melekouni: A traditional Rhodian sesame and honey sweet.

Octopus: Try it grilled, a typical treat across the islands.

Pitaroudia: Taste these chickpea fritters, a speciality of Rhodes.

Local Cheeses: Sample unique varieties like Myzithra and Kopanisti.

Souvenirs to buy

Local Wine: Take home a bottle of local vintage, an authentic taste of the islands.

Ceramics: Handmade pottery is a beautiful reminder of your trip.

Natural Sponges: Sourced from the sea, they’re a local and sustainable choice.

Olive Oil Products: Soaps, cosmetics, or oil – all great gifts.

Embroidery: Traditional patterns make for a charming keepsake.

Are the Dodecanese Islands expensive?

The Dodecanese offers a range of options to suit all budgets. While Rhodes and Kos might be pricier due to their popularity, smaller islands like Leros offer affordable stays. Eating out and transport is generally reasonable, especially compared to more touristy parts of Greece. Plan ahead, and you’ll find the Dodecanese a good value destination.

The Dodecanese Islands’ weather

The Dodecanese enjoy a pleasant Mediterranean climate. The best time to visit is spring or autumn, when the weather is warm but not overly hot, with fewer crowds. Expect hot, dry summers (June – September), around 30°C. Winters are mild, rarely falling below 10°C.

Helpful recommendations

Language: Knowing a few Greek phrases will be appreciated by locals.

Transport: Island hopping by ferry is a must. Consider a scooter for local travel.

Safety: The Dodecanese is generally safe, but keep an eye on your belongings in busy areas.

Respect Local Customs: Dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

Stay Hydrated: The summer sun can be intense. Drink plenty of water and wear sunblock.

Nearby locations

Crete: Just south, Greece’s largest island is known for its diverse landscapes and Minoan ruins.

Cyclades: To the west, this famous island group includes Santorini and Mykonos.

Turkey’s Coast: A short ferry ride takes you to bustling Bodrum or ancient Ephesus.

Athens: Combine your island adventure with a visit to Greece’s historic capital.

Ionian Islands: Extend your trip to include these western islands, like Corfu.

From ancient ruins to vibrant traditions, the Dodecanese promises a journey of discovery. These sun-kissed islands are waiting to share their secrets. So, pack your bags and prepare for your Greek island adventure. You’ll return with a suitcase full of memories and a heart full of love for the Dodecanese.