Patmos, Kalimnos, Leros, Tilos, Nissiros, Halki, Astipalaia
(Piraeus, 255 nautical miles.) Kassos, the most southern
of the Dodecanese lies just 3 nautical miles away from
Karpathos. Emborios, the port,
and Fri, the principal town, are
scenic settlements, both with good beaches. Selai,
a cave to the west of the village of Agia Marina,
is filled with impressive stalactites.
Kassos can be reached by ferry from Piraeus.
(Piraeus, 140 nautical miles.) St John is said to have been
exiled to Patmos and was enthused to write his Revelations here.
During the 11th century, the massive fortified Monastery
of St John the Divine was built above the capital, Patmos
Town (also known as Hora), in respect of the saint. The
monastery is worth visiting for its church and chapels,
displaying Byzantine icons, and also for the panoramic sight it
affords out to sea. The island’s main tourist resorts
are Grikos and Skala. Grikos is built overlooking Grikos
Bay and has a beach nearby. Skala, made up of bars and tavernas,
whitewashed houses, is also the principal port, and lies 2km (1.2
miles) from Hora Town. Patmos can be reached by ferry from Piraeus.
(Piraeus, 180 nautical miles.) Kalimnos is well-known for
its sponge fishing – a tradition which is
expressed in many folk songs and local dances. Along the
northwest coast of the island there are numerous resorts
with beautiful beaches, notably Mirties and Massouri. Good
hotels can also be found in the chief settlement, Pothia,
a cheerful port town with brightly coloured
houses, founded in 1850. Close to Pothia lies Therma,
a well-equipped spa with therapeutic bathing installations
and accommodation. Horio, the old capital,
stands below the remains of a medieval castle. Kalimnos can be reached
by ferry from Piraeus.
(Piraeus, 169 nautical miles.) Leros is an island of green
hills, fertile valleys and unspoilt beaches. The principal
settlement, Agia Marina is made
up of whitewashed houses, steep winding alleyways, and a
number of neoclassical buildings, and crowned by a 14th-century
Byzantine fortress. Most hotels are found in Laki
(one of the Mediterranean’s largest natural harbours) and
Alinda, both of which have fine beaches.
Leros can be reached by ferry from Piraeus and by plane from Athens.
(Piraeus, 290 nautical miles.) Not much known by tourists,
Tilos is a hilly island with many isolated and unspoilt
beaches. The chief settlements are the inland town of Megalo
Horio, crowned by a medieval castle, and
Livadia, the island’s port.
Close to Megalo Horio it is possible to visit the monastery
of Agios Antonios.
Tilos can be reached by ferry from Piraeus.
(Piraeus, 200 nautical miles.) This small volcanic island
lies between Tilos and Kos. The capital and port, Mandraki,
is built just below the medieval castle. Close by at Loutra
lie the famous hot springs, while in the centre
of the island one can visit the vast smouldering crater,
formed in 1522 by an enormous volcanic explosion.
Nissiros can be reached by ferry from Kos, Piraeus and Rhodes.
(Piraeus, 302 nautical miles.) Halki is a tiny hilly island,
little known by tourists. From the main settlement and port,
Nimborio (also known as Halki), Potamo
is the only beach accessible on foot, although
many other beautiful unspoilt beaches can be reached by boat. The
island’s second town and former capital, Horio,
was built inland to keep away from pirate attacks.
Halki can be reached by ferry from Piraeus.
(Piraeus, 165 nautical miles.) Astipalaia is mountainous
but fertile, and little discovered by tourists. The capital,
also called Astipalaia, is built on a steep hill and dominated
by an ascetic Venetian castle. The most attractive
part of the island is around Livadia, where there is a
beautiful sandy beach. Astipalaia can be reached
by ferry from Piraeus and by plane from Athens.
(Piraeus, 174 nautical miles.) Crete is the biggest and
most southerly Greek island. In spite of a busy tourist
industry concentrated along the north coast, Crete has preserved
its unspoilt nature, local traditions and ancient monuments. Minoan
culture, Europe’s first advanced civilisation, developed here
between 2800 and 1000 BC. When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans
in 1453, many artists took shelter on the island, founding the renowned
‘Cretan School’ of painters.
The capital and main port, Heraklion (Iraklio),
offers a number of cafes, restaurants, nightlife and sightseeing
opportunities. The old town lies within the 16th-century
Venetian city walls, while the harbour is protected by Koules, an
impressive Venetian Fortress. The National Archaeological
Museum is one of the country’s top museums, displaying
finds from the Minoan era, and the History Museum tells stories
from Byzantine times up to the present day. Close to town stand
three wonderful Minoan sites – Malia, Knossos and
Phaestos. The palace at Knossos,
founded in 2000 BC, was a huge city of 50,000 inhabitants, destroyed
around 1600 BC by earth movements provoked by the volcanic eruption
on Santorini. Places of interest here are the frescoed
sanctuary and the royal apartments. Another palace, built on an
the same plan around a central courtyard, can be seen at Phaestos,
though the frescoes here are not so well preserved. The remains
of yet a third palace can be seen at Malia.
East of Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, one of the island’s
best-known holiday resorts, overlooks the Gulf of Mirambello
and numerous fine beaches. East from here stands
Sitia, another popular resort with
restaurants, bars, hotels and a Venetian fortress. West of Heraklion,
the well-preserved port town of Rethimno is made
up of narrow winding alleys preserving a number
of 16th-century Venetian stone buildings and 19th-century Turkish
houses with traditional wooden balconies. At the western end of
the island, Hania has a mixture of modern,
neoclassical and Venetian architecture, as well as a Naval
Museum and good beaches.
South of Hania, the beautiful Samaria Gorge, declared
as a National Park, is the longest gorge in Europe. Enthusiastic
hikers will be able to walk the 18km (11.2 miles) length in a day,
while the less sporting can join an organised tour, departing from
The only major resort on the south side
of the island is the small port of Matala,
offering attractive sandy beaches and excellent fish restaurants.
Crete can be reached by ferry from Piraeus. There are airports at
Iraklio, Hania and Sitia, with regular flights to Athens and several
other Greek islands, as well as a number of European cities.