Turkey & the Dodekanese

- 14 DAYS -

Explore the most beautiful, interesting part of the Turkish coast where natural beauty and human intervention cohabit in harmony. Discover the diversity of the Greek islands that make up the Dodecanese in the southern Aegean, from cosmopolitan Rhodes to tiny Arkioi…


The port of Göcek is pleasantly attractive, situated at the foot of a large mountain-range and well-protected by the feisty summer meltemi wind. From here you will sail to Fethiye –the ancient city of Telmessos- a fine natural harbor in a bay scattered with pretty islands.

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The Museum at Fethiye is well-worth a visit as it houses interesting Lycian findings from Telmessos, such as pottery and jewelry. However, the most impressive sight at Fethiye is the mammoth Tomb of Amyntas, an Ionic temple façade carved into a sheer rock face in 350 BC that is best visited at sunset. In the centre of the city, just behind the harbor is Telmessos’ 6.000-seat Roman Theatre dating from the 2nd Century BC. The Old Orient Carpet & Kilim Bazaar is where the discerning buy their carpets, so if you have your heart set on an original kilim this is the place to head for.

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Ekincik-Dalyan-Caunos – Marmaris

The trip to Marmaris is lined with fascinating places to see: starting from Ekincik and on to the riverside town of Dalyan, with the hinterland of beautiful waterways and the atmospheric ancient ruins at Kaunos. One reaches the archaeological site at Kaunos on foot after crossing the river in a rowing boat; the temples carved into the sheer rock façade are awe-inspiring and not to be missed. Iztuzu Beach in Dalyan, a 4.5 km stretch of sand, is the natural habitat of the endangered loggerhead sea turtle known as Caretta-Caretta; they come here to lay their eggs from May till September.

Arriving at Marmaris’ pretty harbor with Suleiman the Magnificent’s castle ruling over the city, this is your chance of a taste of Turkish ambience: wander the hilly streets of the old city around the castle and don’t miss the chance to haggle over almost anything at the closed bazaar.

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Leaving behind the sounds, colors and smells of the Turkish bazaar, you sail across to Greece with Rhodes, the largest and, historically, the most important of the Dodecanese, as your first stop. An abundance of sandy beaches, wooded valleys and ancient history in combination with significant tourist infrastructure make Rhodes the popular destination it is. You, however, can stay away from the boisterous tourists and choose to enjoy the best it has to offer: see the atmospheric Old City, a maze of cobbled streets that will spirit you back to the Byzantine Empire; The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, a fine example of gothic architecture with a rich history of residents; beautiful Lindos, sprawling downhill to the turquoise sea from the top of the hill, its ancient Acropolis sitting majestically on a 116m rock above it.

After your sightseeing –extensive or limited – you will be rewarded with a dip in the brightly turquoise, to be found all around the island!

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You may want to continue your sightseeing in Rhodes this morning or just to relax and take in its cosmopolitan atmosphere; you can do anything at leisure as your next stop, Symi, is only a short trip away.

Your first glimpse of Gialos harbor on the island of Symi is something you’ll never forget; the impression is that of a beautifully designed, vividly colored, two-dimensional backdrop. The amphitheatrically built town, with biscuit-coloured buildings rising up the hill, is a testament to the Italians who ruled the island until a little over than a century ago, establishing the neoclassical architecture that Symians have adhered to since. 

It’s by no means a small island but it is largely deserted apart from its three settlements: Gialos, the old village Horio and Pedi. All around it are coves and small beaches with crystal clear blue waters mostly reached by boat. It is, undoubtedly Gialos, however, you will have fallen in love with; and the truth is the blue sea is everywhere in the Dodecanese and you will be enjoying it wherever else your cruise takes you too…

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Tilos, Greece’s “green island”, is tiny and is a nature reserve in its entirety, with more than 150 species of resident and migratory birds, over 650 plant varieties, and a permanent population hovering around 500. Walking around the island you are more likely to encounter partridges, rare orchids and endangered eagles than people!

What is more remarkable though are its forward-thinking inhabitants and pioneering spirit that hat have led Tilos to stand out in several fields: the mayor of Tilos was the first to conduct same-sex marriages starting in 2008 (they became legal in 2015); soon Tilos will be the first completely solar and wind-powered island in the Mediterranean; the current mayor has extended an open invitation to refugee families to settle here, working with NGOs to establish sheltered accommodation, language classes and mentoring schemes to help asylum-seekers set up organic farming businesses in partnership with locals.

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From Tilos to mysterious Nisiros, an island not many people chose to visit until fairly recently. The island centers round its volcano, the startling colours of its crater in stark contrast with the blue sea surrounding it and the white-washed buildings of its settlements. Black volcanic sand characterizes its beaches and the odor of sulphur from the thermal springs permeates the air in many places. Its unique beauty has avid fans who return year after year and it is jokingly said that they have been struck by “Nisiriasis”, an addiction to the volcanic energy of Nisiros!

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Escaping a possible addiction to volcanic energy, set sail for Astypalaia that sits alone in the ocean, stranded between the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, but belonging administratively to the latter. Swathed in blue sea, the butterfly shaped island combines mountainous valleys, rugged beaches and a stunning Chora (main village): a cascade of white-washed houses that tumbles down, from the medieval castle at the top, to the Skala harbor below. If you feel like it you can go up to the Castle that was built by Venetians in the early 15th century, or visit the Archaeological Museum in Skala.

Two deserted tiny islands off Astypalaia, Kounoupi with its golden isthmus of sand and Koutsomyti, offer the best scenery for a swim.

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Leros is said to have been the home of the ancient goddess Artemis the Hunter. Arriving at the lovely little port of Agia Marina with its Italianate biscuit-coloured buildings, eucalyptus trees and mounds of yellow fishing nets, is a blast from the past. Rising behind it, the contrast of the white sugar-cube houses and windmills of the main village of Platanos, higher up the hill, built around Pandeli Castle. Leros is quiet and relaxed; no one is in a hurry to go anywhere, holiday-makers enjoy their coffees in the shade of the maple-tree at leisure, the beach –any beach- only a few minutes away. Join them and breathe in the old-time ambience of this special little island.

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Two thousand years ago St. John the Apostle stood in his cave and experience the revelation known as the Apocalypse. Nothing much has changed on the “holy” island since then; a monastery in his name was built in the place of his cave and a much larger one atop the hill at Hora; as you wander the incense-scented warren of 17th century houses in its alleys you will begin to understand why David Bowie was drawn back here several times and why several foreigners have chosen to buy property here. Hora is easily reached by road from the port of Skala but what we recommend is the 40-minute walk through the woods up the Byzantine path that starts a little outside Skala. On the way up you may want to stop off to visit the cave of the Apocalypse. It’s ideal to walk up in the evening just before the sun goes down as it should be cooler and Hora is at its best at dusk and after dark.

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Once you’ve seen Lipsi you’ll understand why Odysseus was way-laid by Calypso here for several years… The good thing about Lipsi is that there isn’t much by way of sightseeing; you experience the place just by wandering around the alleyways of Lipsi Village -the only settlement on the island- , swimming in its sparkling blue sea of one of its many deserted beaches or just enjoying a Greek coffee in the harbor watching the fishermen untangle their nets.

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The last two days of your holiday will be all about peace and relaxation, charging your batteries fully before you return to everyday life. So after quaint Lipsi, a stop at Aspronissi for a swim in the most vividly turquoise water you’ve probably ever seen, you will arrive at the haven of Arki. Here there no cars, no motorbikes, just calmness, sand and blue water. The island has 50 inhabitants during the year and a few discerning visitors in summer who appreciate the get-away-from-it-all spirit of the place.

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It won’t be easy to tear yourself away from this small paradise but, alas, real life is waiting for you back at home… Have a last dip, breathe in the salty air, fill your ears with the sound of crickets and sail away to Bodrum, in Turkey, where you will disembark.


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