For those who are looking for a stunning beach destination for their next vacation, Greece is an obvious choice.
Don’t limit yourself to Mykonos and Santorini, though. There are plenty of other islands worth adding to your travel itinerary, including the Dodecanese Island Group — a collection of 12 large islands and numerous smaller ones surrounded by crystal clear waters and pristine beaches in the south-eastern Aegean Sea.
Read on to learn about the Dodecanese Islands in Greece and find out what each one has to offer.
Astypalaia is the westernmost of all the Dodecanese Islands. It’s known for its unique butterfly shape, as well as its deep blue seas and sunny beaches.
Astypalaia is divided into two sections connected by a strip of land just 100 meters wide. The west section is called Mesa Nisi, and the east section is called Exo Nisi.
Of all the places to visit on Astypalaia, Chora — the island capital and port — is a must. It’s a picturesque town and home to gorgeous churches, as well as the Castle of Astypalaia.
Chalki is the largest in a chain of islets west of cosmopolitan Rhodes Island. For those who want to enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday in the Aegean Sea, Chalki is a low-profile place to visit.
Chalki got its name from its copper mines (chalkos is the Greek word for copper) that were used during ancient times. It’s known for its rich history and was once a very prosperous island. During the second half of the 19th century, trade growth and sponge harvesting brought tremendous wealth to the island’s locals.
Kalymnos is known throughout the world for sponge harvesting. In the wake of World War II, the island’s sponge trade business was the only one of the Greek sponge businesses to survive.
Kalymnos is also known for its impressive landscape, which is an especially good fit for adventurous tourists. It offers giant vertical rocks for climbing and centuries-old shipwrecks for exploring.
Karpathos is the second-largest island in the Dodecanese island group. It is a popular holiday destination with tall mountains and fragrant pine trees.
Travelers are always welcome to join in local celebrations while they’re in Karpathos to see how the residents live.
Kasos is the southernmost island of the Dodecanese group. It shares common features with the nearby island of Crete and is an excellent place for those who are fascinated by archaeology and history.
Kasos also features beautiful villages, as well as lots of fun local feasts and cultural events. This includes taliera, a type of traditional kite-making, and the annual Clean Monday celebration.
This is one of the smallest of the Dodecanese Islands, but it’s also known for being one of the prettiest.
During antiquity, the island was known as Megisti. Its history dates back to the Neolithic era and its original name remained until the knights of St. John built Castello Rosso (or Red Castle) during the Middle Ages. Afterward, the island was renamed Kastellorizo.
The island of Kos is the third-largest of the Dodecanese Islands. It features relaxing natural springs, lush vegetation, and a wide range of ancient and medieval monuments.
The name Kos most likely comes from Koos, the daughter of mythical King Meropas. It is also the birthplace of Hippocrates and was attacked several times during the Ottoman occupation.
Leipsoi is a collection of small islands and islets located in the Southeastern Aegean Sea. It makes up the northern part of the Dodecanese islands and is named after the chain’s largest island.
Leipsoi features a charming landscape and is known for its friendly residents. It’s a great place for a one-day boat trip and provides a quiet, relaxing atmosphere.
Leros is known for its natural harbors, coves, and inlets. It is protected from harsh winds and offers a wide range of beaches, both sandy and pebbly.
Leros is also home to the town of Lakki, which was originally named Porto Lago by the Italians who built it. This island was under Italian rule from 1912 to 1943, which explains why many of the island’s buildings are constructed in the Italian Rationalism style.
Nisyros is a lesser-known island in the Aegean sea.
Located next to Kos and Tilos, Nisyros’s economy was fueled in antiquity by the obsidian trade. A pumice mining factory is still in operation today, too.
Greek mythology says that Nisyros was created during a war between the Gods and the Giants. Poseidon chased Polyvotis, a giant, to Kos, then cut part of the island and threw it at his enemy, causing this to sink to the bottom of the sea. The legendary rock is said to be the island of Nisyros today.
Patmos is known throughout the world as a sacred island. It is believed to be the place where Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation.
In 1981, Greek Parliament named Patmos a “Holy Island.” UNESCO also designated it a World Heritage Site in 1999.
In addition to being a popular tourist attraction among religious people, Patmos is also an exciting place for nature lovers to explore because of its sheer cliffs and volcanic soil.
Rhodes is an island with impressive natural beauty, from sunny beaches to mystical pine woods. It’s home to quaint mountain villages that overlook the seaside towns and offers fascinating archaeological sites and medieval monuments.
For modern travelers, Rhodes also features several cosmopolitan resorts worth visiting.
For those who want to experience a traditional Greek village and its unique architecture, Symi is a wonderful place to go. It is filled with two and three-story stone houses painted in colors like indigo, terracotta, and ochre.
Symi is perfect for exploring and taking photos, as well as relaxing on the beach. It’s also home to the Μonastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis.
The entire island of Tilos is an ecological park that is protected by various international treaties. You’ll find all kinds of flowers and plant life here, as well as rare birds like Bonelli’s eagle, nightingales, goldfinches, bee-eaters, and more.
The last elephants of Europe called this island home, and it also housed the famous poet Erinna during ancient times.