The Jerusalem of the Aegean is one way
of describing Patmos or Patnos, as it was referred to in one 5th century inscription. It was here
that St. John the Theologian was exiled between 95 and 97 A.D. and was inspired to write the Book of
Revelation or Apocalypse. Later the emperor Alexios Komninos ordered the monk Christodoulos Letrinos to find a monastery in
honor of the Apostle. Thus the holy monastery of Patmos was built, the most important landmark on
the island. In September 1995 it was celebrated the anniversary of the 1900 years from the date that the Book of
Revelation was written. Patmos, situated between Leros and Ikaria, is a mountainous island with rocky soil and an abundance
of small coves. The majestic fortress-monastery crowns the hill above the port, surrounded by dazzling white,
cube like houses, which spill down its flanks. Interspersed among them are miniscule churches and
grand sea captains’ mansions, separated from each other by narrow lanes, high walls and small squares
opening onto breath-catching views over the Aegean. The construction of the monastery began in the 11th century. It is circumscribed by massive grey
stonewalls with battlements that protected the main church and another five chapels. Its
extraordinary treasury contains Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, sacred vessels, 9th century
embroideries and other priceless objects, while its library houses parchment documents, patriarchal
seals, illuminated manuscripts and rare old books. In the chapel dedicated to Our Lady frescoes can
be seen which date to 1210-1220. Ships arriving at Patmos dock in the island’s harbor, Skala, a lively place with its white houses,
flowered courtyards, fish tavern as, hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops. North of Skala is the village of Kambos, set among trees and greenery, and near it is what many
consider to be the island’s finest beach. Patmos’s indented coastline conceals a host of lovely beaches. Among the
favorites are Grigos, Kallikatsou, Psili Ammos and Diakofti
Not far from
Patmos is a
group of tiny islands, known collectively as Lipsi. They cluster round the largest, the only one
which is inhabited, Lipso or Lipsi. Here you will find beautiful sandy beaches and translucent waters. The island is so small that you
can go everywhere you want to on foot. The hamlet on the protected natural harbor is composed of spotless whitewashed houses, while its mini-piazza boasts tavernas, ouzeri, cafes and other eateries
From Patmos it’s
an easy jaunt to Agathonissi. This islet width its wonderful beaches is an ideal spot for anyone wishing to escape the
pressures of everyday life for a while
Kalimnos , Leros is an island of
small fertile valleys sandwiched between rolling green hills, deep coves and pretty beaches. Leros’ topography has given rise to many villages. The most important is the capital, Aghia Marina – united with two other
villages, Platanos and Pandeli, on the back side of the hill – a collection of little white houses, neoclassical buildings and
narrow alleyways. It starts at the seaside and gradually climbs up the sides of the hill, whose summit is dominated by the
somber remains of a Byzantine castle. Of special significance during Byzantine times, its shape is that given it by the Knights
of St. John, who arrived in Leros in the 14th century. Still standing today are the circuit wall and the church of Our Lady
within it. Laki, 3 kilometers south of Aghia Marina, is the island’s port. It is built at the back of a deep, practically enclosed bay,
whose mouth is only 500 meters wide. This is one of the largest and best natural harbors in the Mediterranean. Alinda, Xirokambos, and Partheni are charming seaside villages, while you’ll find wonderful swimming at the beaches of Aghia
Marina, Pandeli, Vromolitho, Alinda, Laki, Merikia, and Xirokambos, to name a few
The terrain of this fourth largest of the Dodecanese is mountainous, except for two fertile valleys. It is along these valleys that its biggest
villages have sprouted – Kalimnos or Pothia and Vathi. Castles, remnants of fortresses, archaeological finds, and old churches bear witness to the
continuous importance of Kalimnos in the history of the Aegean. Its natural attractions – caves,
lovely beaches, unspoilt scenery – make it a mini earthly paradise. Kalimnos is widely known as the sponge fishers’ island, since such a large portion of the population
is engaged in this age-old occupation. Once the island’s capital was located at Horio, which benefited from the protection offered by the
castle of the Knights of St. John just above it. Today’s capital is Pothia or Kalimnos, founded around 1850 by the inhabitants of Horio. Its brightly colored houses surround the port like the seats in an amphitheatre, arranged along the
hillsides down to the caciques and fishing boats bobbing below. An old church dedicated to Christ the Saviour adorns the waterfront. It is decorated with frescoes and valuable icons, while its
iconostasis is the work of the well-known sculptor, Yiannoulis Halepas. Kalimnos has other charming villages, like Vathi, set in a fertile valley full of citrus tress, and
Metohi, on the southeast side of the island. The quiet hamlet of Emborios lies to the north. To the west are Massouri, Mirties, Kamari and Panormos where one can try seafood delicacies such as
“fouskes” and “chtapokeftedes”. On the road to Panormos, you will notice the remains of a three-aisled basilica dedicated to Christ of Jerusalem, which was erected around the 6th century on
the site of an ancient temple where Delian Apollo was worshipped. To the north of the main town is Perl Kastro, also called the Castle of the Golden Hands (Hrissoheria),
because the chapel in its interior has an icon of the Virgin whose hands are covered with gold leaf. Northeast of Pothia, at the foot of Flaska hill, is the cave of the Seven Virgins or Nymphs (not to
be visited). Kalimnos boasts two other caves, the richly decorated Skalies, about 100 meters from the village of Skalia in the north of the island (not to be visited), and Kefalas or Trypas Kefalas to the south
(which can be visited and one can approach it by boat). At Therma, only one kilometer or so from Pothia, there are radioactive springs and therapeutic bathing installations, rooms
where visitors may spend the night, and specially trained personnel to assist them. Among the lovely beaches on Kalimnos are Massouri, Mirties and Arginondas along the west coast and
Vlyhadia in the south
The islet of Telendos lies directly opposite the village of Mirties .
Separated by a channel only 700 meters wide, it was united with its larger neighbor until 535 A.D. Though completely barren, it does have wonderful beaches with clear water on its west coast; its few
inhabitants all live in the tiny fishing village across from Mirties. A cacique ferries people back and forth between the two
This tiny island lies to the southeast of
Its sparse population consists of sponge fishermen and their families.
it’s an easy jaunt to Agathonissi. This islet width
its wonderful beaches is an ideal spot for anyone wishing to escape the pressures of everyday life for a while
Kos is the island that gave the world Hippocrates, the father of medicine.
The third largest of the Dodecanese, it is long and narrow in shape, mostly
flat with two low mountains, Dikaio (875 m.) and Simpatro that run along its
It lies south of Kalimnos and was first inhabited in the Neolithic era. In
700 B.C., it joined together with Lindos, Kameiros, Ialyssos, Knidos and
Halikarnassos to found the Dorian Hexapolis. In the 4th century B.C., ns
Asklepieion became famous as the leading “hospital” of antiquity. The
capital, Kos, is situated in a verdant district on the northeast of the
island, at the back of an open bay. Around the port you can still see the
ruins of the ancient city and the castle, built between 1450 and 1478 after
the Knights of St. John took over the island. Excavations in the ancient
city brought to light building foundations of the Classical era (e.g. the
Agora) and of Hellenistic and Roman times (the Gymnasium, Odeon, Roman
baths, a Roman mansion with beautiful mosaics), sections of wall from the
ClassicaJ period, the foundations of a temple of Aphrodite and another
temple, probably dedicated to Heracles.
The rest of the town is modern and well – laid – out, with contemporary
buildings, hotels and avenues lined with palm trees. In a lush area 4
kilometers west of town, you’ll find the Asklepieion (Asklipiio) or
Sanctuary of Asklepios. Its buildings, owing to the slope of the site, stand
on four different terraces united by a marble staircase. The view from the
highest one is stunning.
The most important structure is the temple of Asklepios, a Doric peripheral
temple erected in the 2nd century B.C. Other buildings include the Stoa
(Colonnade), which housed Hippocrates’ medical school and the Bomos or Great
Altar (3rd century B.C.), which was decorated with sculptures attributed to
the son of Praxiteles.
During your visit to Kos, it would be well worth your while to visit the
pretty villages, which are scattered round the island. Among them are
Asfendiou, 14 kilometres southwest of town, built on the slopes of Mt.
Dikaio overlooking the sea; Pili, further south, with its ruined Byzantine
castle and the Ypapanti church within it; Andimahia, perched on a plateau in
the middle of the island; Thermes, with its hot springs and spa and
Kardamena, a seaside resort, both on the east coast; Tingaki (near the
airport), Marmari, and Mastihari, Kos’s second harbour, on the north coast;
and finally Kefalos on the southwest coast with its splendid beach. The
ruins of the ancient town of Astypalaia can be seen at the district known as
You’ll find wonderful beaches all over the island. You can reach the closer
ones by bicycle, a popular means of getting around on Kos.
Kassos, the most southern of the Dodecanese, is only 27 nautical miles
northeast of Crete. Its first inhabitants are thought to have been the
Phoenicians. Homer mentions it in his catalogue of the Greek cities that
took part in the Trojan War. Kassos is a mountainous island with a steep,
rocky coastline and few beaches. In the 18th century, Kassos established its
own merchant fleet and grew rich from trade. It played an active role in the
Greek War of Independence of 1821, earning the revenge of the Turko-Egyptian
armada, which set fire to the island in May 1824 and subsequently
slaughtered its inhabitants. Only a few survived.
The capital of the island is Fri, built on picturesque Bouka Bay. Its old
stone houses – many of them constructed by sea captains – extend on both
sides down to the sea.
To the east and very near Fri is Emborios, the island’s other coastal
village. It boasts a beautiful church dedicated to the Nativity of the
Other villages include Aghia Marina, set on a hill just one kilometer
southwest of Fri, and Arvanitohori, southeast of Aghia Marina, nestled in
the island’s only valley.
Two kilometers from Aghia Marina there is a cave called Sellai, 30 meters
deep and 8 metres wide, with impressive stalactites.
Swimmers will find pleasant beaches at Fri, Emborios, Ammouda and on the
nearby islet of Armathia.
The largest of the Dodecanese, Rhodes (or Rodos) has become an important
regional Center, thanks to its location, climate and natural attractions.
It is known as the isle of the Sun. Pindar mentions in one of his Odes that
it was born of the union of Helios the sun god and the nymph Rhoda. In
antiquity it also bore the names Aithraia, Ophiousa and Telchinis.
It was first inhabited in the Neolithic era. A major milestone in the
island’s history, which affected the fate of the other Dodecanese as well,
was the founding in 700 B.C. of the Dorian Hexapolis, a union of its three
cities with Knidos, Halikarnassos and Kos. Its economy and culture continued
to flourish until the 3rd century B.C., when it was the predominant power in
the Aegean. When, a thousand years later in 1309, it fell into the hands of
the Knights of St. John, it became again the Center of power, symbolized by
its magnificent mediaeval town and the imposing castle and palace of the
The island’s terrain is in large part fertile with a great variety of
vegetation; its highest mountain is Atavyros (1,215 m. asl) in the
The capital, also called Rhodes, occupies the northernmost tip of the
island. There are actually three cities on this site – modern, ancient and
mediaeval. The modern town has a cosmopolitan character, many late 20th
century buildings and hotels. The ancient town, which was founded in 408
B.C. according to plans by Hippodamos of Milesios (the first town planner),
started from Monte Smith hill where the acropolis stood and extended as far
as what is now the mediaeval city. All that is left of it today is the ruins
of the temples of Zeus, Athena Poliados and Apollo, the Stadium, Gymnasium
and the Theatre, which has been restored.
The mediaeval city is still surrounded by the high walls erected by the
Knights. It is divided by an inner wall into two unequal parts, the smaller
Collachio and the larger Burgo or Hora.
Collachio is further split by the Street of the Knights, both of whose sides
are lined with the sombre stone facades of the Inns of the Tongues or
nationalities that belonged to the order of the Knights Hospitalers of St.
John. At the end of the street stands the palace of the Grand Masters, which
today houses a collection of 16th and 17th century furniture and Roman
mosaic floors from Kos. The Hospital of the Knights, another of the town’s
most magnificent buildings, has been converted to the Archaeological Museum.
Burgo / Hora lies to the south of Collachio; its walls once enclosed the
humbler residences, the marketplace, the Synagogue and Jewish quarter,
Orthodox and Catholic churches, public buildings and army barracks.
The island abounds in lovely and interesting places to visit, such as the
Valley of the Butterflies; the village of Trianda near the site of ancient
lalyssos (Ialissos) on the top of Filerimos hill, where the 15th century
monastery of the same name also stands, along with the ruined temples of
Athena and Zeus Poliea in the ancient acropolis; Kameiros (Kamiros) and the
ruins of the Dorian city; Kalithea with its thermal baths; Koskinou, AfandOu,
Faliraki and Rodini.
But above all don’t miss Lindos. The contrast between the brilliant white
houses and winding lanes of the more recent village built around two
crescent beaches and the ancient acropolis towering above it from its
austere pinnacle makes for one of the most stunning views in Greece. The
temple of Athena lindia (4th century B.C.) coming gradually into view as you
ascend the stairs is a sight never to be forgotten.
Finally, there are splendid beaches allover the island, some of which are
equipped with facilities for bathers and equipment for water sports
Situated to the south of Tilos and west of Rhodes, Chalki has been inhabited
since antiquity, when it must have been very prosperous, judging from the
coins found by archaeologists.
Its name most probably reflects the copper ore (halkos) once mined there.
It is a small but mountainous island, just 28 square kilometers in area.
The island capital cum port is called variously Chalki or Nimborio. Situated
on the southeast coast, its two-storey houses with their tile roofs seem to
climb up the sides of the hill overlooking the bay of the same name. Worth a
visit is its church of Aghios Nikolaos, built in 1861, whose magnificent
bell tower soars above the surrounding houses.
In earlier times, the capital was at Horio, which was placed well inland in
an effort to escape the frequent pirate raids that were once the scourge of
the Aegean. At its peak, it boasted 4,000 inhabitants; nowadays it is
virtually deserted. Its stone houses, built in tiers like an amphitheatre,
are mute reminders of its past prosperity. Above Horio the ruined mediaeval
castle occupies the site of the ancient acropolis. Within its walls is
another church dedicated to St. Nicholas (Aghios Nikolaos) with frescoes.
Pontamo is the only beach in Chalki accessible on foot from Nimborio (10
min.), but caiques are on hand to take you to its other wonderful beaches:
Trachia, FtenAghia, Sarri, Chania and Dyo Villi.
Megisti (or Kastellorizo) is the Aegean’s easternmost island. It has been
inhabited since prehistoric times. The Dorians who settled it later
constructed fortified acropolises near the present day town and at
Palaiokastro, where some ruins can still be seen. The name Kastellorizo
comes from its castle, Castello Rosso (or red castle), erected by the
Knights of St. John.
The island’s only settlement is Megisti, otherwise known as Kastellorizo, on
the northeast coast. Its houses line the horseshoe-shaped port and climb up
the foothills of the mountain behind it. The top of the mountain is crowned
by the aforementioned castle, where Lambros Katsonis fought the Turks in
1788. The gracious two-storey neoclassical houses with their brightly
painted doors and windows, wooden balconies and tile roofs on the waterfront
and the majestic domes of the churches testify to the island’s former
prosperity. A photograph in the Archaeological Museum will show you how many
hundreds of houses there used to be. Most of them were destroyed by World
War II bombs.
Though there are no beaches as such on the island, you can take a little
boat to the particularly beautiful blue grotto of Parasta, and there is
excellent swimming from the rocks near the port. Boats are also on hand to
take you to the nearby islets of Ro (6 n.mi. west) and Strongli (5 n.mi.
southeast). Both islands have wonderful beaches. Ro became famous when its
sole inhabitant, the lady of Ro, used to raise the Greek flag there every
This second largest island of the Dodecanese chain lies between Rhodes and
Crete. It is rather rectangular in shape and its terrain is mountainous, the
highest peak being Kali Limni at 1,214 meters above sea level. Most of its
settlements are to be found on its south coast, which is relatively flat.
Near the north coast is a small island called Saria, with which Karpathos
used to be united. On this islet, at the site called Palatia, there are some
ruins belonging to the ancient town of Nisyros.
Karpathos’ capital and main port is Pigadia or Karpathos on the southeast
coast. It was built primarily with funds sent home by immigrants to the
United States and it does not reflect the local architectural style found in
the older villages.
Southwest of the capital is Menetes, whose history started after the Middle
Ages, and Arkassa which has been identified as the site of ancient Arkesia.
Here the ruins of a Christian Basilica of 5th/6th c. A.D. can still be seen.
Thirteen kilometers to the northwest. you come to Piles, mountainous Othos
to the northeast with its folk art museum, and Volada, a traditional village
with houses whose interior decoration is well worth a look.
Further north, near the west coast, is Messohori, where there is a genuine
Karpathian house open to the public. Note its characteristic wooden
ornamentation and the pebble mosaic floor. Still further north, almost cut
off from the rest of the island is its most important village, Olimbos,
which is accessible only from Diafani, Karpathos’ second port.
Olimbos sits on a hillside overlooking the Aegean. Founded sometime between
the 10th and 15th century, it was originally fortified to afford its
residents protection from the pirates. The highest spot in the village used
to be crowned with a tower. Even today Olimbos has preserved its local
architecture intact, both in the interiors and exteriors of the houses. Its
citizens take pride in maintaining their traditions and still speak a
dialect, which contains several Dorian words and idioms.
Karpathos has many beautful beaches: Finiki and Amfiarti to the southwest,
Makriyialos to the southeast, Aghia Irini on the west coast and Aghios
Nikolaos on the east
Nissiros (or Nissyros) is a small volcanic island, a mere 41 square
kilometers in area, situated between Kos and Tilos. In antiquity it was
known as Porphyris. Mythology holds that once it was united with Kos and
that when Poseidon was chasing the giant Polyvotis, he split the two islands
The capital and port of Nissiros is Mandraki, set in the northwest at the
foot of a steep hill. The whiteness of its houses forms a striking contrast
to the dark, volcanic earth. Yet another castle erected by the Knights of
St. John looms above the small town, while a chapel nearby dedicated to the Panayia tis Spilianis (Our Lady of the Cave), the patroness of the island,
clings to the tip of the rock. Built in 1600, it is linked with many
traditions and has a lovely 18th century iconostasis.
The island’s hot springs, fabled since antiquity and still in use today, are
to be found at Loutra just 1.5 kilometers from Mandraki. East of Loutra is
the picturesque fishing village of Pali.
Another village, Emborios, lies to the southeast of Mandraki, in the
interior of the island, in a lush area with mineral springs and planted with
olive trees, fruittrees, fig trees and grapevines.
You have to go almost to the middle of Nissiros to the Lakki plateau, to see
the crater of the extinct volcano, Polybates. It is 260 meters in diameter
and 30 metres deep with steps leading down to its Center. The reek of
sulphur fills the surrounding air, while the scenery could belong to the
In the south of the island, the charming village of Nikia perches on the
crest of a hill 400 meters above sea level. Its white houses with their
brightly colored doors and windows and tile roofs are an attractive
complement to the greenery that abounds in the district.
Nissiros is blessed with many lovely beaches: at Mandraki, Hochlaki, Aghia
lrini, Avlaki and on Giali, the islet directly opposite
Although small, this island situated to the south of Nissyros captures the
imagination of anyone interested in paleontology, for here there once lived
a prehistoric dwarf elephant, whose skeletons were found in one of its
The capital of Tilos is Megalo Horio (literally Big Village), located in the
interior to the north of the island. It is built like an amphitheatre on a
hillside topped by a ruined castle erected by the Knights. The village
occupies the site of the ancient town, whose remains can still be seen
scattered among the houses.
Some 2.5 kilometres west of Megalo Horio, you can visit the monastery of
Aghios Antonios, while 6.5 kilometres to the northwest is another monastery
– with guesthouse – dedicated to Aghios Panteleimon. Lush greenery surrounds
this walled, 18th century edifice.
Tilos’s main port is Livadia, southeast of Megalo Horio.
The island’s best beaches are at Livadia, Aghios Antonios, Plaka and Erysto
(2.5 km. from Megalo Horio).
A lovely, mountainous island, Symi (or Simi) was reputed to be the
birthplace of the Three Graces.
While its interior is punctuated with small valleys, its coastline
alternates between being steep and rocky or sandy and indented with little
In antiquity it bore the names Aigli and Metapontis. It took its present
name from the nymph Syme, who was Poseidon’s wife.
After its conquest by the Knights of St. John in 1373, commerce and shipping
flourished until steam replaced sail. The stately mansions in the main town
date from this period, which reached its peak in the 19th century.
The capital in the north of the island bears the same name and is divided
into the upper and lower town, Ano Symi and Kato Poli. The lower town is
also called Yialos. The two districts are linked by a lane so steep it has
steps. It is flanked by charming neoclassical houses, some of them painted
in warm pastel colors, with balconies and peaked, red tile roofs. Many of
them also are embellished with neoclassical features on the doors and
windows. Their interiors are decorated with woodcarvings, the locals having
been adept at the craft for generations.
The highest point in Ano Symi is capped by the usual castle of the Knights
of St. John, whose emblem can be seen above the main portal.
The traditional village of Emborios is Symi’s second port. The ancient town
of Metapontis was situated close by.
One of the island’s most famous landmarks is the monastery of the Archangel
Michael Panormitis on the southwest coast. Built in the early 18th century,
it overlooks the bay bearing its name in a setting combining mountain and
sea. It contains marvellous Byzantine frescoes and an intricately carved
There is no lack of wonderful beaches on Symi. You’ll find good swimming at
Yialos, Pedio, Emborios, Marathounda, Nanou as well as on the nearby islets
of Aghia Marina and Nimos