Nearby Islands

Islands within fairly easy reach of Rhodes are:
• Symi
• Halki
• Karpathos
• Kastellorizo
• Tilos

SYMI

Symi is probably the easiest of Rhodes' neighbouring islands to reach. Almost daily during the tourist season there are boats departing from Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes town for the crossing to Symi. My wife and I took several holidays on this island from 1993 until our moving to Rhodes in 2005. Since then we have both worked as Excursion Escorts taking day-trippers there and I made weekly visits to Symi throughout the summers of 2007 and 2009. There is only one main village/town/harbour on the island, but it's impossibly beautiful, if a little cauldron-like during July and august.

Getting to Symi: To make the crossing it's probably best to take a stroll along Mandraki in the early evening of the day before you're planning to go. Apart from the fact that there are far worse things you could do with an evening on Rhodes, you'll be able to check out which boats are going and what their schedules are. The boats all have their little ticket desks stationed right at the foot of the gangway and there you can establish exactly which boat and what timetable you wish to follow. If you're staying a little way from Rhodes town and it would be impractical to take a reccy during the preceding evening, no sweat. Just try and get to the harbour by 8.45am on the day and you can sort it out then.

Some boats call in at Panormitis Monastery at the extreme south of the island before continuing round to Symi Harbour, others visit Panormitis on the return leg. The trip from Mandraki to Panormitis is around an hour and a half, the stopover at Panormitis usually lasting around 45 minutes. Departing Panormitis it's another 45 minutes or so to Symi Harbour itself, where you get three or four hours to look around before heading back. I'd recommend taking the Nikolaos X, which goes from Mandraki almost daily during the summer season. 

On Symi there are loads of eating places to choose from. The island's speciality is "Symi Shrimps". My fave taverna is Taverna O Meraklis, which is 100 metres or so up the side street from the left-hand end of the harbour as you face it from the sea. Sotiris runs it with his wife Anna. He's a very gentle, slow-paced kind of guy who puts me in mind of the old comedian from the UK, Freddy Davies!! (He was in the movie "Funny Bones", along with Lee Evans and Gerry Lewis). Also, if you can find the "Kali Strata", a series of stone steps (around 450 in fact) which lead upwards from a tucked-away corner of Symi Harbour, and you're feeling fit enough to make the climb, you'll be rewarded by spectacular views and the delightful whitewashed streets of the traditional village of Horio at the top.

There are some good Symi websites on my links page. Scroll down to "Good Greek and Rhodean Sites"

 If you're adventurous enough to stop a few nights, then it's well worth getting away from the harbour to spend a day on one of the many extremely unspoilt beaches on the island. We used to walk to Nymborio, which was around 45 minutes, following the road from behind the harbour and over the hills along stone walled paths, examining huge lizards below and birds of prey circling above en route. Maria's Taverna on Nymboria "beach" is wonderful...




Other beaches which can be reached by the intrepid walker are best explored here. That's an excellent and accurate guide to Symi's beaches.

Finally, (April 9th 2012), just found this little piece of video from 2003 (-ish! the memory's not what it was you know), when we had a holiday on Symi. There is no sound, but it does show how delightful the scenery is around Symi Harbour, taken as this was from a small studio way up behind the harbour area. 




Before you go to Symi, it's a good idea to check out Symi Dream too.


HALKI 





Halki boasts the same Venetian style architecture in its pastel-coloured harbourside house as does Symi. Its beauty lies, though, in the fact that, while Symi is beautiful, it is also very, very busy during the daytime in the tourist season. Halki on the other hand, remains unruffled by the modest numbers of visitors it gets on a daily basis during the season and - as I often explain to the guests who make the daytrip with me - within a few moments of the boat tying up, the visitors are soon swallowed up by the Halki environs to the extent that its sleepiness carries on regardless, even in August.

There are probably six or seven tavernas all within seconds of the quay where the boats tie up, plus as many relaxed looking bars. There are one or two small souvenir shops, but not enough to make the place look "touristy". About fifteen minutes walk from the quay, through the village and over a gentle hill, there's a good swimming beach, sandy underfoot as one enters the water and it also sports a taverna at the water's edge. A few minutes walk to the West of Halki harbour and over a small headland, there's also a rocky beach called Ftenagia, also with a bar/taverna in residence. 

In the village itself there is a small house called "Traditional House of Chalki", which does cost a few Euros to go in, but it's run by a widow and is her means of income, so don't begrudge her her enterprising spirit. The house isn't large, but it is very interesting and she's managed to create the feel of a Halki home from the turn of the last century (that is 19th-20th). If you're non-plussed about Halki being spelt both with and without the "C" at the beginning, perhaps check out this post, and read the bit right at the bottom.

Getting to Halki isn't quite as straightforward as Symi. For the regular Halki ferries, one has to get to Kamiros Skala, half-way down the West coast of Rhodes and worth a visit in itself anyway. Driving there from the south East coast is described in this post, which may help a little.

From Kamiros Skala you can take one of two small ferries, the Nissos Halki [Call Kristianis on 6988-155630] and the Nikos Express [Call Kristos on 6945-743539]. There is also a water taxi, which seats around 15 to 20 people and last time I asked was €12 each way. It does the trip in 35 to 40 minutes, whereas the ferries take around 1 hour 15 minutes each way. 

It's also possible on some days to use the Dodekanisos Express, the orange, blue and white boat which departs from Rhodes Commercial Harbour, right beside the Old Town wall. During the season the Dodecanese Express does go from Rhodes Harbour at 8.50am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Departs Halki for return at 16.00. Fridays and Sundays departs Rhodes 9.00am. Departs Halki for return at 17.50.

The Fedon, new ferry: 
The family who run the Babis Taverna, who include Zois (see last pic in this post) and his wife and sister-in-law (Katerini and Soula), are related to the owners of the Fedon. Here she is... 




She is a new vessel and slightly smaller that the existing two, the Nissos Halki and the Nikos Express (both mentioned above), both of which can carry a couple of vehicles. The Fedon is passenger-only and thus can travel faster.

Confirm Fedon sailing times with captain Vasilis on: 0030 6942 799487 or 0030 6986 420747. 

Other Halki info:
The traditional dish in Halki's tavernas is Halki Pasta. It's OK for vegetarians too. 

Staying on Halki
A lovely little web site about accommodation on Halki can be found by clicking here: That link is to their very good page about how to get to the island, plus there are some other nice touches. You can navigate to the other pages on the site from there. Also, another good site if you want to arrange your accommodation DIY, is Halki Direct.

This site also has some delightful accommodation on the island, for those who really want an away-from-it-all experience: Lindos Destiny.

I was recently (July 2013) introduced by a mutual friend to Jane, who's lived on Halki for decades and works in the office of Zifos Travel. Jane told me that there is much accommodation on the island, plus two UK tour operators do packages there. To find out more, here is the business card, with all contact details...

The office also does currency exchange and will change Travellers' Cheques. 

Please be aware if you're planning a visit to Halki: Best not to rely on plastic. There is one ATM, but it's often out of action. This situation, they're hoping, will improve, but for the present my advice is, take cash. More recently local businesses have begun to take cards, but have plenty of cash on hand to be sure.

If you want to plan a DIY holiday staying on Halki, definitely check this out too:




If you've 10 minutes to spare, then take a helicopter ride all the way around the Halki coastline here:
http://www.tripinview.com/#/presentation/177/?video=34309



KARPATHOS
I haven't spent more than around fifteen minute (yet) on this island. But that is something which I hope to rectify some day. The fifteen minutes were passed sitting in an Olympic Airways propjet aircraft en route from Rhodes to Sitea in Crete. I suppose I should make that half an hour, since I did the same flight coming back to Rhodes!

We do have a couple of friends living on the island, as well as an ex-pat correspondent who's very graciously forked out for some of my books! Pigadia is the island's capital and there are probably 14 other villages to be explored, ranging from almost as big to a clutch of fishermen's cottages. 

Getting to Karpathos: There is (as you'll already have deduced) an airstrip and if you don't mind how much you spend, it may be a good option to take a local flight, which only takes 20 minutes from Rhodes Diagoras airport.  

This is a useful link for ferry schedules.



KASTELORIZO


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

This island is the furthest point East of any part of Greece and is huddled up close to the Turkish coast some distance East of Rhodes.

If you're a David Gilmour fan you'll find the name of this island very familiar. If you're a dedicated fan, you'll already know why, as it's the inspiration behind his solo album from 2006, "On An Island". Track one is called "Castellorizon" and even features some sound effects recorded during a brief stay which DG had on the island with his wife and kids some time back. Of course, you'll also know that he still owns a house in Lindos here in Rhodes and was a sort of inspiration (along with other Floyd-Lindos/Pefkos connections) behind the Lindos "FloydFest" which evolved into the annual rock festival held there called "Rhodes Rock". Rhodes Rock isn't run any more at Lindos, but the "Lindos Rock" event has now superseded it.

Kastelorizo also features in a beautifully shot movie from 1991, called Mediterraneo, about some halpess Italian soldiers sent to "occupy" the island during WWII, but ending up being "absorbed" by it. It's in Italian, but well worth the trouble of reading the subtitles as it's a wonderful movie, with gentle comedic overtones and a great advert for the island.

Kastelorizo can be reached in around two hours aboard the Dodekanisos Seaways katamaran ferry. Their site is HERE. They don't appear to run this route during the winter, but that shouldn't bother you if you're here during the tourist season.  Blue Star ferries are also an economical way of getting there. Sometimes if you stroll round the commercial harbour on Rhodes and occasionally also Mandraki, you can see details of excursions to Kastelorizo, a wonderfully sleepy island, with a beautiful harbour very reminiscent of Symi and Halki. It's probably for the more adventurous, since an overnight stay is by far the better way to experience this island.



TILOS


We have some friends in Rhodes Town who have a house on this island and they ask us every summer to come over with them to do a spot of fishing and generally chill, something which we still haven't managed to do, but a situation, as with Karpathos above, which we hope to rectify some day soon.

A very good start on garnering info about Tilos is the Tilos Travel site. They have quite a few pages, including: Getting around on Tilos and How to get There. On the "How to Get There" page there really is a lot of info. Keep scrolling down to find info and a link regarding the Tilos Sea Star katamaran, which goes from Mandraki Harbour very frequently during summer time. This page contains info on all kinds of boats and their schedules.

If Tilos interests you, then a visit to "An Octopus in My Ouzo" is a must.

Other useful links:


...That should do you for starters!
 

31 comments:

  1. Cor this sounds just up our street!!!! will definately be paying a visit to Halki after having read about it on your page and on the links provided, one thing you may be able to tell us though??? is it possible to get to Kamiros overland from Haraki, or does it mean driving into town and out again??? and also are there facilities to leave our hire car at the harbour for a couple of days to enable an overnight (or two) stay on the island?? Thankyou, a very informative article.

    Regards "Porridge Oats"

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    1. East peasy. You drive to Kolumbia, then take the left towards Epta Piges. You pass through Arhipoli and Eleousa, two delightful villages, and eventually arrive on the West coast road at Fanes. Take the left and it's about 20 minutes drive to Kamiros Skala. There the port is ver rudimentary and it's dead easy to park up and leave the car for a few days, right by the quay where the boats tie up. All in all I'd say allow an hour for the drive from Haraki to K. Skala.

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  2. Thankyou very much John, and a double wammy, we get to see those "delightful villages" i was banging on about as well!!! I'm copying the info as i type to take along with us.(singing ay ay ippy ippy ay), hope its not too mountainous haha.

    Regards and thankyou again

    "Porridge Oats"

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    1. hello there, now the hols are getting nearer i thought i'd get out my travel agents hat to make plans for our trip over to Halki, without wanting to put you on the spot do you happen to know if a) the two smaller boats you mentioned run a daily service and
      b) do Kristianis and Kristos speak English if i were to ring them for their timetables?
      Thankyou in anticipation and regards

      "Porridge Oats"

      p.s. tried the frappe recipe this morning, as i have never known exactly the req. ingredients i was eager to try it out, delicious thankyou!! never knew my whizzer had it in it.

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    2. I've never had occasion to ask them how good their English is I'm sorry. But I don't doubt that you'll manage. usually they run every day during the season. Sometimes there's a 9.30am departure, but we always take the 11.00am one.

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    3. Thats grand, yammas, efharisto poli!!

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    4. Do you think you'll know before next weekend ie.Saturday or Sunday? No pressure!! :)

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    5. I'm not going to Halki until Friday, when I'll be able to collect some cards from the owner and take a photo or two to place on this page. Just as a taster, go to the following link to see a photo taken for maritime Traffic dot com:
      http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/shipdetails.aspx?mmsi=239740400&header=true

      It's called the "Fedon" in English and is in fact brand spanking new. If you scroll down to the section entitled "Vessel's Wiki" you'll see May 2012 as it's manufacture date. Although it actually means launch date of course.

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    6. Thankyou for that,will try and find it,wasn't The Titanic brand new? Haha

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    7. Well thanks to you John we had a wonderful trip to Halki today.Up at dawn to cross the island through spectacular scenery and along the west coast to catch the boat from Kamiros Skala to Halki.We had a choice of 3 boats or a small water taxi. "Fedon" was our means of sailing to the beautiful Halki.Just as you described it, picure postcard quality with ancient and modern houses clinging to the hillside overlooking the lovely harbour.On arrival Dimitris bakery was our first stop for a cream pie for breakfast under the huge tree in thepretty square, then 10 minutes walk over the hill to Pondamos beach for a swim in turquoise water.A lovely blue and white taverna for drinks or to eat.Back down to the harbour for a delicious and leisurely lunch before returning at 4.o'clock for the journey home, FAB, would recommend it to anyone.

      Porridge Oats

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    8. forgot to mention, journey time 35 minutes, 10 euros each way per person

      Porridge Oats

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  3. In view of the fact that you are branching out with your section on nearby islands,may I suggest a new title for it, John. Dodderings from the Dodecanese. Now, did I mention age anywhere?!

    Vicki

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    1. You cheeky mongrel. Why, if you were standing here now I'd, ...I'd, ...ah, what was I saying..?

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    2. John,we are plannng a trip to Halki at some point during the 1st 2 weeks of May. We were hoping to be able to stay overnight there. Given that the ferry may run/not run due to the possibly still unsettled weather,can you advise on the likelihood of just being able to find a room, any room, on spec.? In other words, we'd like to be able to take a toothbrush and just stay the night if we feel like it.
      Vicki

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    3. Vicki, I don't think the ferry will be interrupted at that time of year. Even when it's quite choppy they'll run, but the excursions sometimes don't. You shouldn't have any problem finding a modest room. I'd just go into the bakery or the info office next to Maria's taverna and ask. They'll point you in the right direction. I start doing Halki at about the same time, so if the weather's OK I may bump into you! I'll be going on Fridays.

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  4. Thanks John. I only thought the ferry may be interrupted as last year we tried to go on the 1st friday of May and it was so windy and choppy the captain said he would be leaving later in the day and probably not coming back. Then he said he wouldn't be going at all, that day. Is Maria's taverna the one where we ate at on your recommendation last year?

    Vicki

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    1. Could be. It's not Mihalis and Lefkosia's, it's the one under the tree just back from the quayside.

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  5. Oh right, thanks. No we ate at Lefkosia's. Memory problems indicative of a mis-spent youth!!
    Vicki

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    1. You wanna job with "Dodderings from the Dodecanese"?

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    2. Cheek!!
      Vicki

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  6. Working in Faliraki this summer and want to at least try and visit Symi for a day or two. Thanks for the Info, Great site.

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    1. Thanks Tom, hope you have a good season. Let me know if you get to Symi won't you.

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  7. Thanks for mentioning the "ex-pat" on Karpathos who buys your books!!!! Its nice to have my 15 minutes of fame. I now want the fourth one, so will be purchasing soon.

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    1. Always knew I liked you, for some reason...

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  8. So John why haven't you been to Tilos,Living here for 12 years now,we have to come to Rhodes for Big supermarket shopping,but I enjoy your blog and pics of town,know most of them.Come to see us for a day,will gladly be your tour guide.
    Edward.

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  9. Yes..fabulous blog..we are visiting Halki from 23rd sept for 10 nights at Dolphin Villa...need some info on getting to tilos! Why have you not been?? !!! Rosie.

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  10. I have no excuses. It's just that, when you live here, you tend to let everything ride. Know what I mean? "Yea, well, we'll do thus and so, ...another time."

    But seems we've an invitation that just may need taking up on some time soon now, thanks to Fast Eddie!!

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  11. John you have two new fans in Arapaki

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    1. Thank you. And who might you be then? It would be nice to at least know your names.How did you find me?

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  12. We are Lee Richards and JD Farmakidis, on a balcony in Arapaki, and Big Lee found you by accident on Google Voice search on his new Sony phone

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    1. Thanks for ID-ing yourselves Lee & JD. That does sound a little bit super-hi-tec for me though!! Welcome on board and please do comment on the posts from time to time won't you.

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