The Dodecanese

9 Aug

It’s now been 10 days since we checked back in to Greece and, in so many ways, it feels like slipping on a pair of old shoes – comfy, familiar, even if a little scruffy and worn.

It feels good to exchange greetings with passers by. It’s nice to be able to understand snatches of overheard conversation and to be able to read the signs round about us. We have some idea of the local manners and customs: more so than in Turkey. It feels more like home.

The Dodecanese Islands

The Dodecanese Islands

Our first port of call was the island of Symi, which sits in the entrance of the Gulf of Hisarönu, only a stone’s throw from the Turkish mainland. We’d heard that the main port of Symi Town was picturesque but pandemonium from a yachtie point of view. With crossed anchors and poor holding inevitable, we decided to give it a miss and anchor instead in the neighbouring bay of Pedhi and catch the bus into town to do the official paperwork.

Symi Harbour

Symi Harbour

After an exhilarating bus ride that wound slowly up hairpin bends and then plummeted down at great speed along single-track roads, we spent 4 hours shuffling to and fro between Port Police, the local police and customs. The whole process took unexpectedly (and unnecessarily) long but it did give us time to sit and watch the harbour antics and confirmed that we’d made the right choice anchoring elsewhere.

From Symi we went west to the little island of Nisyros, to the port of Palί to be precise. With the forecast looking favourable we decided to push on after only a one night stay. A mistake, I think, as I consulted the travel guide only after we had left and found out that the island is actually a volcano with an active, but not erupting, crater. Shame, that could have been an interesting visit. A change from ancient ruins and castles anyway. 🙄

Next stop was Kos: big, brash, busy and very touristy. We managed to squeeze into a vacant slot on the town quay having been turned away from the marina-run berths in the harbour. Apparently a reservation is essential.

Kos Town - with minarets hinting at an Ottoman past.

Kos Town – with minarets hinting at an Ottoman past.

Once again, we gave sightseeing a miss. A deliberate decision this time, it was darned hot. We could have explored the Knights of St John Castle and marvelled at Hippocrates’ Askeplion. Instead we had a tasty Chinese meal and hosted our next door neighbours, Guy & Annika, who are nearing the end of a circumnavigation. Just as enjoyable, I’m sure, as perusing castles and ruins.

2 nights in Kos was enough and, once the wind dropped from F7, we moved on again. This time north to Kalymnos.

We side-stepped the main port of Pothia, going instead to the tiny fjord of Vathis on the east coast.

Vathis, Kalymnos

Vathis, Kalymnos

It’s a sheltered little harbour with lovely clear water for swimming but, with only room for about 10 boats maximum, it’s best to get there early. We decided that we’d better drag ourselves out to do some sightseeing here, given our big failures to do so on the previous three Dodecanese islands that we’d stopped at. We managed to clamber up the cliff path opposite the quay to admire not one, but two early Christian basilicas. With that achieved, we repaired to a taverna for an ouzo or two and to watch the world go by…it’s a hard life! 😉

From Kalymnos we had a short but windy hop of 18 miles to Leros. Xerokambos is a large bay on the south of the island with good shelter from the prevailing wind. The holding is reported to be not so good so we were glad to be able to pick up a mooring to sit out some more wind. The tavernas here have taken a leaf out of the Turks’ book and have laid moorings to encourage visiting yachts to eat at their establishments. We’d read online that the food at the ‘yellow’ mooring taverna was good, the ‘white’ was ok but the ‘red’ buoys and taverna should be avoided. With this in mind, we duly went for yellow and were very satisfied with the fare at To Aloni.

Dusk in Xerokambos

Dusk in Xerokambos

With provisions a little depleted and exercise required after all our ouzo & meze stops a trip to the metropolis of Lakki, the main town on Leros, was required. We went ashore to discover that we’d just missed the bus so instead we decided to walk the 5km into town.

It was interesting walk, with sustenance gained from ‘scrumped’ figs on the way. We passed a huge, dilapidated psychiatric hospital with a few patients watching the world go by at the gates. Apparently several hospitals were built on the island in the post-war period and psychiatric patients from all over the country were ‘warehoused’ there. Most were subsequently moved into community care but the army of hundreds of carers, who can’t be made redundant, are still on the payroll but idle.

The town of Lakki, which was built by the Italians in the 1930s to house families of military personnel, is renowned for its Rationalist architecture and wide boulevards.
Whilst the buildings were certainly were different from anywhere else we’ve been in Greece and may well be terribly interesting to architecture buffs, we found Lakki to be rather soulless and dull.

Our last Dodecanese island was one of the smallest and certainly one of the least visited. Levitha, and its sister island of Kinaros, sit out in the windy Aegean, almost midway between Leros and Amorgos. There is very little there other than a nice sheltered anchorage and an enterprising family from Patmos who have set up a taverna, with moorings, to cater to passing yachts.



The island has a lovely feeling of peace and isolation. It is not connected to the electricity network, there is no phone signal and the power for the taverna and the family home is wind & solar-generated. It’s certainly a get away from it all kind of place (well, if we hadn’t been sharing the anchorage with 11 other boats!). You really can imagine ancient seafarers taking refuge from the storm-tossed Aegean here. Get there soon before it is spoiled, as apparently a wind farm is on the cards.


One Response to “The Dodecanese”

  1. dantwothreefour August 10, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Fantastic post! I can’t wait to get out there and see the Dodacanese from a yacht myself. Nisyros is a beautiful island. To be honest; you didn’t really miss much in regards to seeing the crater. It’s just a large, flat indentation, which has a few steaming holes; and the smell is horrific (on the count of the sulphur omissions)

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