16 Incredible Islands Near Rhodes You Will Want To Visit

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Most Incredible Islands In Rhodes Greece

Rhodes, Greece is the largest of the Dodecanese island group, located in the Aegean Sea. In antiquity, it was home to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The island in the 21st century caters well for tourists with a satisfying mix of gorgeous beaches and captivating archaeological and historical sites.  

As a result of its size, it’s relatively easy to reach, with direct flights from numerous cities across Europe.

Though many flights are offered by low-cost and charter airlines, several scheduled airlines operate flights with onward connections through major hubs such as Amsterdam, London, Paris, Frankfurt and of course Athens.

This means that if you’re planning a trip to one of the smaller Greek islands, you’ve a good chance that you’ll find yourself on Rhodes first.

Likewise, if you’re keen to arrange an island-hopping vacation, it’s not difficult to put together an itinerary that begins or ends with a Rhodes ferry. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of those island destinations.

Crete/Kriti (plane and ferry)

Crete Island Greece

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. Like Rhodes, it has a long history: this was the center of the Minoans’ trading empire more than 4000 years ago.

Today, tourists come here to admire the frescoes that survive in Knossos Palace, once home to King Minos.

It’s a stone’s throw from Heraklion, where the 16th-century Koules fortress overlooks the city’s Venetian port. But nature, too, is spectacular here.

Beaches such as Elafonisi, with its pink sands and clear water; Balos, nicknamed the Cretan Caribbean; and Falassarna, known for its spectacular sunsets are the standouts amid stiff competition.

Inland, make time for a hike along the rocky trails that wind through the breathtaking Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains. 

Kos (plane and ferry)

Kos Greek Island

Kos is the second most populous island in the Dodecanese. Its hot sunny summers draw many visitors to the island’s coast in summer; they pass the time sunbathing, surfing and diving.

At Agios Fokas, you’ll find thermal springs. The water has a temperature of between 42 and 50°C; when mixed with sea water it’s ideal for bathing.

Beyond the beach, Kos has much more to offer. In Kos Town, the 14th century Nerantzia Castle, also referred to as the Castle of the Knights, stands at the entrance of the port on the site of what was once a Byzantine fortress. Close by is the Ancient Agora.

Also of interest is the including the impressive Asklepieion, the ruins of a medical center which date from the 3rd century BC.

Inland, take a trip to the quaint village of Lagoudi Zia, overlooked by Mount Dikalos, whose pretty cobbled streets are lined with blue and white houses.

Santorini/Thira (ferry)

Santorini Island Near Rhodes

Santorini’s flooded volcanic caldera ensures that this island is one of the most photographed in Greece.

That’s especially the case at dusk when crowds of onlookers gather on the hillsides in Oia, Fira and Imerovigli to watch the sun puddle into the water.

The whitewashed houses that surround traditional windmills and churches with their signature blue domes turn a pretty shade of peach. Though you could be forgiven for simply wanting to idle away your time gawping at the view, there’s more to explore.

Don’t miss Akrotiri, nicknamed the Pompeii of Greece as it suffered a similar fate. Pyrgos, once the island’s capital, is very much alive and well.

Flanked by vineyards, you could learn about the Assyrtiko wine they produce. If you’re keen to catch one more ferry, the neighboring island of Anafi retains an authentic and unspoilt charm.

Leros (plane and ferry)

Leros Greece Island

You’ll find the usual tavernas, fishing boats and ruins on this little island in the Dodecanese.

What sets it apart is the planned town that was constructed in the 1930s under the orders of the Fascist dictator Mussolini, with its distinctive architecture and wide boulevards.

The Italians called it Portolargo, though the Greeks refer to it as Lakki. After the war, its military barracks were repurposed to house political prisoners and as hospitals for those suffering from mental illness.

Today, the events of World War Two are covered in the museum on the edge of town. Within walking distance is the Parabolic Acoustic Mirror, a concrete structure used to listen for approaching enemy aircraft.

Astypalaia (plane and ferry)

Astypalaia Island Near Rhodes Greece

This attractive island is nicknamed the butterfly as its two distinct halves, Mesa Nisi and Exo Nisi, are connected by a narrow strip of land. Astypalaia Town is authentic and has retained much of its original character.

Stroll uphill from Skala by the water’s edge to Hora with its eight windmills. As you climb, the buildings get older, some adorned with wooden balconies.

While you’re up here, make sure you visit the Guerini Castle, constructed by the Venetians in the 13th century; some of the area’s houses are built into the outer wall of the fortifications.

Two dazzling white churches, Panagia Evangelistria and Agios Georgios, are worth more than a cursory glance, as is the Panagia Portaitissa church down below, which boasts a remarkable wall of icons. 

Karpathos (plane and ferry)

Karpathos Greece

This island combines a rich cultural heritage with outstanding natural beauty yet somehow managed to avoid the mass tourism of some of Greece’s other islands. Long and thin, a mountainous spine runs along its length.

A number of excellent beaches, such as Kyra Panagia and Apella, delight those tourists that make it here. It’s worth tearing yourself away to visit the village of Olympos; with its ancient dialect and customs, some class it as a living museum.

Watch the boats come and go at the fishing port of Diafani and take in the view from mountainous Aperi. Wander the alleyways of Volada whose whitewashed walls are covered with brightly colored bougainvillea. Venture up to Othos, the island’s highest village, where you’ll find a fascinating folklore museum.   

Samos (plane and ferry)

Samos Island Near Rhodes

Though Greek, Samos is separated from neighboring Turkey by the Mycale Strait, less than a mile across.

In ancient times, it was a dominant maritime power and home to mathematician Pythagoras. Herodotus described its temple, the Heraion, as the largest in Greece; today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site although only one of its 155 columns still stands.

Agriculture was, and still is, important on the island. The fertile soils of this verdant island enable grape vines, olive groves and stands of pine trees to thrive and provide a gorgeous backdrop to those who come here to hike.

And of course, its sandy and pebbly beaches lure sun seekers throughout the summer months. 

Mykonos (plane)

Beautiful Mykonos Greece

Lively Mykonos is Greece’s answer to Ibiza, a party island that’s all about having fun. Crazy and cosmopolitan, it’s known for its hip hangouts and glitzy resorts. By day, beaches such as Paradise, Super Paradise and Psarou throng with tourists. A boat trip to Delos Sacred Island is a must for anyone with an interest in history; Rhenia Islet is another popular excursion.

There are myriad opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and a whole host of water sports.

As the sun sets, visitors crowd the area known as Little Venice and take selfies with a backdrop of the island’s landmark windmills. This is a place for night owls, as Mykonos is packed with bars and clubs. 

Kalymnos (plane and ferry)

Kalymnos Greece

Once, Kalymnos was known for its sponge fishing industry, a way of making a living on a barren island short on options.

To enable them to stay beneath the surface for longer periods of time, villagers developed a diving suit called a skafandro which had a bronze helmet.

The natural sponge market has declined but there’s still a factory in Pothia if you’re keen to learn more about the tradition – sponges are imported and processed here.

Elsewhere, the island’s limestone crags attract rock climbers from around the world, and several outfits run courses year-round. Routes vary in difficulty, so whether you’re a first-timer or experienced pro, you’ll enjoy climbing here. The island also hosts climbing festival, usually held in October.

Lesbos/Lesvos (plane)

The island of Lesbos has been attracting visitors for centuries, who come for the natural beauty of its beaches, mountains and forests.

Its two highest points, Mount Olympos in the south of the island and Mount Lepetymnos in the north, are officially the same height, though that’s disputed. Local rivalry dictates that each community must claim theirs is the tallest.

The capital, Mytilene, boasts a 14th century fortress, one of the largest in the Mediterranean. It was built on top of Emperor Justinian’s castle which stood here hundreds of years earlier. Another imposing fortification is the 11th century castle of Molyvos.

So close to the Turkish coast, it’s no surprise that you’ll also find some beautifully restored Ottoman baths, now preserved as a museum. Foodies will enjoy tasting the local produce, such as cheese, pomegranates, figs, quinces, oranges, almonds and ouzo. 

Naxos (ferry)

Naxos ruins

The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos boasts mountains interspersed with vineyards, orchards and lush valleys. This beautiful island is blessed with countless churches, monasteries and Venetian castles too.

Some of its many must-see sights include Bazeos Castle, which doubles as a cultural center.

Make a point of visiting at least a couple of its villages, such as Apeiranthos with its marble streets or tranquil Filoti, a convenient place to grab a coffee if you’ve walked up to Zeus’ childhood cave.

It’s worth trying to be in Naxos for carnival in February, when the noise of violins, tsabounas (instruments similar to bagpipes) and doubakia drums fills the streets and squares.

Lemnos/Limnos (plane)

A holiday on Lemnos, though endowed with lovely beaches, isn’t just about lazing around.

Give your legs a workout: one of the best views anywhere on the island of Lemnos is that overlooking the water from the castle of Myrina. It dates from Byzantine times but the Venetians put their own stamp on it in the 13th century.

Another lofty landmark, this one reached after a 20 minute walk up a dirt track, is the chapel of Panagia Kakaviotissa. Partially concealed in the rocks, it once housed monks and hermits.

It’s also worth checking out the archaeological site of Hephaistia, where you’ll find a ruined palace, theatre and ancient baths.

Patmos (ferry)

Patmos Greece

Patmos has no airport, but this small island receives a surprisingly high number of visitors in spite of that. The clue is in its nickname, the island of the Apocalypse, for this is where the Book of Revelation was written and as such it’s a place of Christian pilgrimage.

The faithful come here to step inside the cave in which John of Patmos gained his inspiration and also visit the monastery dedicated to him in the island’s capital, Chora.

The town isn’t a one-trick pony, however, and its narrow alleyways flanked by whitewashed homes open out to breathtaking views over the Aegean Sea. It makes this place a joy to explore on foot, whether you’re religious or not.

Ikaria (ferry)

Ikaria Greece

Glorious turquoise water sets off the yellow rocks of Ikaria perfectly. This picture perfect place is renowned for the longevity of its inhabitants.

People say this is the place where people forget to die, and as around a third live beyond 90 years old, they’ve probably got a point. Those who call this isolated island home typically enjoy a relaxed pace of life, plenty of fresh and ample opportunities to exercise over the rugged terrain.

Ask them what their secret is as they play dominoes late into the night and they’re likely to recommend an afternoon nap.

If you’re set on staying awake, then there’s not a lot to do save for swimming or taking long walks in search of the island’s characteristic stone houses, which sounds like the ideal way to spend a vacation somewhere as beautiful as this. 

Symi (ferry)

Symi Island Near Rhodes

Arrive into Symi’s harbour and the first thing that strikes you is the array of colours. Instead of the whitewashed walls you might be greeted with in places such as Santorini, the Neoclassical mansions that line the waterfront are painted in a variety of shades.

They rise steeply from Gialos to Chorio higher up; looking down over all of it is the historic kastro, or castle, erected in 1407 by the Knights of the Order of Saint John.

When planning your trip, it’s worth avoiding the heat of midsummer, as one of the best ways to explore this island is on foot. Hikers can tackle paths that lead to tiny chapels, secluded beaches and sleepy villages.

Don’t miss the Holy Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis, first documented in the 15th century.

Fournoi (ferry)

Fournoi Greece Island Near Rhodes

Fournoi is one of two inhabited islands in the archipelago of the same name.

In medieval times, it was known for its pirates, who could tuck their vessels and illicit cargo out of sight in its inlets, fjords and isolated beaches.

Today, those seeking an authentic and traditional slice of rural Greece will find what they are looking for. Islanders have made a living from fishing for centuries and the place retains a significant fleet.

Tourists benefit from whatever the day’s catch is when they dine at the cluster of restaurants that crowd the harbor.

Be sure to also taste the local honey; there are plenty of beekeepers here who capitalize on the island’s wild thyme and sage as they maintain a longstanding tradition.  

Tilos (ferry)

Tilos Island In Rhodes

Tiny Tilos is an ecotourism gem. Its population has worked hard to legislate to protect their home from negative impacts of mass tourism.

Beyond the picturesque beaches, flower-strewn valleys littered with pine, oak and almond trees are connected to craggy peaks by restored cobbled mule paths.

The island attracts birdwatchers, who come here in the hope of spotting species such as Eleonora’s Falcon, Bonelli’s eagle, goldfinches, herons, hawks, nightingales and bee-eaters.

But it’s not all nature: a wealth of Byzantine chapels, Crusader castles, a monastery and ruined villages add interest to walks.

Don’t miss the chance to check out a cave which proved the island was home to dwarf elephants, the last such place in Europe.

Amorgos (ferry)

Amorgos monastery in Greece

Even in peak season, a trip to Amorgos feels like you are stepping back in time. One of the sleepiest corners of the Cyclades, it’s a haven for flora and birdlife.

The water that laps its shores is crystal clear and it boasts some splendid beaches. Part of the 1988 Luc Besson film about divers, The Big Blue, was shot here.

Chora, the capital, is simply charming, its whitewashed buildings a delightful contrast to the earthy ground against which they nestle.

Follow the cobbled donkey path to the monastery of Hozoviotissa that appears to hang from the cliff face 300 meters above the sea.

It was constructed in 1017 and renovated in 1088, making it the second oldest in Greece. Today, a small population of resident monks welcome respectful visitors.

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