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The Dodecanese in Greek literally means “twelve islands.” However, there are in fact fourteen large islands, three smaller ones, and several more that are uninhabited which can be called islands instead of rocks. The capital of the group –and by far the largest – is the island of Rhodes, popular with cruise ships and holiday visitors. It’s a great place for getting around some of the other islands. Symi is an easy day from Rhodes, so it Kos with its good beaches and nightlife.
To escape the crowds and see a little bit of what Greece really is all about, try the lesser-known islands like Kastellorizo or Karpathos. In between are islands where there is some tourism, good restaurants and hotels, but there are not yet overrun by visitors, including Astipalea, Halki, Nisyros, Leros and Tilos. Remember, though, that what is quiet and lovely for one might be too quiet for someone else. Among the Dodecanese, though, you should find an island that is just right for you, whether you are looking for deserted beaches, noisy nightlife, or somewhere in between.
Short introduction of the Dodecanese Islands
Agathonisi. This is a small island with a less than 200 population. It has rooms and sailboat rentals, and is the perfect for those who want to get away from it all.
Arki. Only a few dozen people live here, and there are no cars on the island. This is the place for those who like walking, unwinding and sailing Greece.
Astypalaia. Shaped like a butterfly, this lovely island is largely unspoilt. It is hilly with lots of good beaches, with windmills silhouetted against the sky.
Kalymnos. This island is known as the island of sponge fishers. Most of the sponge fields are wiped out by night, others are overfished, while others are off-limits.
Karpathos. The largest of the Dodecanese, this remains one of the most traditional island. It now has its own airport that takes domestic flights.
Kos. This is the second largest in the Dodecanese and the second busiest. With its largeness, it has places to escape from the crowd.
Leros. A popular destination among Greeks, this island has good beaches, a few museums, good hotel and dining options, and a stunning castle.
Patmos. Considered a place of holy significance, this island is home to a monastery and holy cave. This is important in the Greek Orthodox Church.
Pserimos. This tiny and heavenly island is far removed from any other island in the east Aegean because of its complete lack of commercialism.
Rhodes. The largest in the Dodecanese, this island has a lot of variety, including the medieval Rhodes Old Town, sandy beaches, archeological remains, castles, and monasteries.
Symi. A little Greek island jewel, this island looks magical if you take the ferry that arrives in the evening. Symi Harbor is considered as one of Greece’s most beautiful.
Tilos. This is a pretty and delightful island, with a good amount of tourism. It does have several good accommodations options, along with some good tavernas and restaurants.