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Island Hopping: The Dodecanese in 10 Days

Old wind mills in Agia Marina, Leros
Old wind mills in Agia Marina, Leros | © anybookers / Flickr
The Dodecanese, located in the southeastern Aegean Sea, is a fascinating complex of islands, ranging from tiny uninhabited islets to historic and picturesque lands, each with a unique character and charm. Island-hopping is ideal in the Dodecanese during the summer, as the meltemia winds allow for smooth sailing across the lot. Here is a 10-day itinerary that will let you see some of the top islands in the Dodecanese.

Island-hopping is a sailing aficionado’s dream, and there are plenty of charters offering tours around the islands, which is an excellent alternative as it allows you more flexibility and more time to explore. But if you have a restricted budget, we have put together a small itinerary so that you can see the best of the Dodecanese in 10 days by using traditional ferry routes.

Day 1: Karpathos

Start your voyage in Karpathos, reachable from Athens via a 70-minute flight. This small island, not very familiar to foreigner visitors, boasts stunning beaches, walking trails and fantastic landscapes. The island may not be as popular as the others, but this is why it deserves a chance, especially if you are a wind-sports enthusiast.

The small village of Olympos, built amphitheatrically across the mountains from the sea, is charming, and the views from the castle and the Acropolis in Aperi are lovely. However, the island’s picturesque coves and beaches (make sure to check out Apella) dotting the coastline are something else.

View of Diafani, Karpathos © boaski / Flickr

Day 2: Karpathos–Rhodes

On the second day, after a hike in this paradise (we recommend the northern part of the island) where you will stumble upon ancient sites and forgotten villages, take the five-hour ferry ride to Rhodes, where you will arrive in the early evening. You will have plenty of time to see the island, so for now, just appreciate a relaxing stroll by the marina.

Days 3 & 4: Rhodes

This is your chance to explore Rhodes, the crown jewel of the Dodecanese. This island allows for a journey into the past, with its Old Town, its medieval buildings, and knight stories. But Rhodes also boasts a stunning Acropolis in the town of Lindos, which offers a spectacular view over the waters. The coastline features a few beaches worth exploring, including Prasonisi, Lindos, Pefkos, Faliraki, Haraki, and Kolymbia. And if you need to escape the heat, a visit to the Butterfly Valley, or Petaloudes, in the northern part of the island is a must. The area is brimming with quaint villages where you can take a break and relish the tranquility of the island.

Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes © kirkandmimi / Pixabay

Day 5: Symi

The most remote yet cosmopolitan island of the Dodecanese, Symi might just be the prettiest of all. Take the ferry (one hour from Rhodes) to Symi in the morning so that you can enjoy a full day on this stunning island. After a stroll around town, head to Pedi, a small village near Symi town, for lunch before venturing out to Agios Nikolaos Beach, one of the few sandy shores on the island. On your walk back home, the stunning harbor will welcome you with open arms.

Days 6 & 7: Kos

From Symi, take a ferry (which lasts about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on which ferry company you opt for) to the island of Kos. The island, only a 30-minute boat ride from the Turkish coast, is a popular holiday destination, with a collection of luxury resorts and hotels. Besides wind and water sports, Kos is a paradise for cyclers thanks to its flat terrain.

Since this is an island trip, on the second day, make sure to visit Nisyros island by taking a cruise. You will have a chance to see the volcanic crater of the island and feel hot lava flowing underneath your feet. After visiting the crater, you can head back to Mandraki for lunch and visit the monastery of Panagia Spiliani, one of the most beautiful monasteries of the Greek islands.

Kos, Greece © Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

Day 8: Kalymnos

Approximately 35–45 minutes away from Kos, the island of Kalymnos awaits. This paradise for rock climbers is a little jewel that contrasts strongly with the flat land of Kos. Virtually untouched by massive tourism, you will be welcomed in the relaxing and colorful harbor town of Pothia. As sponge diving has always been the main activity on the island, you can still watch divers remove the sponge caught in their nets. Take a drive into the inland, and admire the fascinating landscapes. Also, sign up for some climbing lessons, or spend the day on a beach.

Day 9: Patmos

After a two-hour ferry ride north, you will arrive on the island of Patmos. Filled with spirituality and boasting stunning beaches and tranquil villages, the island is also known for its hiking paths crisscrossing the entire territory. Make sure to visit the monastery and stroll around the main town after visiting the Cave of the Apocalypse; this is where Saint John had the visions that he later documented in the Book of Revelation. In the afternoon, relax in the port town of Skala. Take a walk by the quay, and have dinner in one of the many fish tavernas.

View of Monastery of St. John in Patmos, Greece © leoks / Shutterstock

Day 10: Leros

This leg is the last one of your sea journey around the Dodecanese. Take the ferry to Leros, 50 minutes away, and spend the day on this charming little island before heading back by air to Athens. Leros is a perfect last stop for an island-hopping trip, thanks to its laid-back vibes and relaxing atmosphere. Settle for a tour of Lakki or a quick swim at the nearby beach of Agia Marina where you should visit Mylos fish taverna before heading to the airport. Life has never tasted so sweet.