The islands of Rhodes and Kos are relatively well known among those who have long been dreaming of visiting the Dodecanese Islands. But this section of the South Aegean Sea also has numerous other islands that offer equally impressive coastal landscapes and gastronomic experiences.

    Thanks to a well-connected network of ferries, it's not difficult to plan out a trip that makes the most of these incredible escapes. To help you decide which picture-perfect destinations to visit, we've highlighted idyllic Greek islands that will impress you with their unmistakable beauty, culture and history.

    1

    Symi

    For a breathtaking Greek island experience

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    The tiny island of Symi is famous for its ancient shipbuilding traditions and wine culture. Situated close to the Turkish border, the island's central town of Gialos features an array of striking townhouses that look like something you'd find on a postcard. Together, these multi-coloured facades combine to create a truly picturesque hillside community.

    Symi's idyllic port is where you'll find a thriving selection of cafés, bars and restaurants, which provide a great vantage point to enjoy the seaside scenery. For something a little more strenuous, climb Kali Strata's 500 steps, leading upwards past a variety of historic monuments and finishing with some wonderful panoramic views.

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    2

    Kos

    The island where old and new combine

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    For decades, the island of Kos has been one of the most popular holiday destinations for Greeks and Turks alike. Sprawling resorts and hotels have opened up along the heavenly coastline in recent years. Alongside these modern additions, Kos' enduring past remains clear, as age-old mosques, citadels and basilicas in various states of ruin are there to be explored.

    The bustling Eleftherias Square is where you'll find cafés and bars surrounded by historic city walls, while the seafront Neratzia Castle dates back to the time of the Crusades. The natural hot springs of Ebros Thermes are another relaxing highlight, plus beaches like Kardamena and Psalidi are ideal for cooling off during the blistering summertime.

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    3

    Halki

    Roam the island's famous neoclassical buildings

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    Halki, set only 6 km from Rhodes, is an island getaway that's ideal for both daylong and overnight trips. The main town of Nimporio is where much of the island's action revolves, with ferries from Rhodes docking in the quaint port. Once you disembark, head along the waterfront and admire the colourful collection of neoclassical structures. Be sure to take a tour of the Church of Agios Nikolaos, which makes for an outstanding centrepiece.

    Beyond Nimporio, there are loads of opportunities to relish the coastal landscape. The beaches of Potamos and Kania are found not far from town, while the Halki Medieval Castle sits atop a soaring hillside overlooking the rest of the island.

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    4

    Kastellorizo

    Greece's most far-flung island getaway

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    Kastellorizo is tucked away along the eastern edge of Greece, hidden among its Turkish neighbours. However, the island's Greek heritage is clear for all to see, as distinctly Hellenic landmarks dot the landscape. The harbour's surrounding alleyways are lined with brightly decorated houses, while the waterfront features a selection of top-notch tavernas and bars that look out across the water.

    Kastellorizo is just a tiny speck on the map, with a population of around 500 permanent residents, but that makes it a dream destination for a genuinely peaceful holiday. Don't miss the island's many diving spots, with the likes of Plakes and Faros offering gorgeous scenes.

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    5

    Karpathos

    A top-notch destination for exploring nature

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    Karpathos is the second-largest island of the Dodecanese, positioned between Rhodes and Crete. The mountainous landscape has 12 distinct villages, each offering their own incredible highlights. Upon arriving by ferry at the island's capital of Pigadia, you’ll be greeted with whitewashed buildings that contrast wonderfully against a mountaintop that rises above the town.

    Perched atop this lofty position, the 14th-century Karpathos Acropolis of Arkassa is a must-see landmark. For travellers who love hiking, Karpathos offers a well-connected network of trails that lead to remote spots like Tristomo, Kali Limni and Achata Beach. Begin the day early with a scenic walk before heading into town and cooling off at one of the many traditional tavernas serving Karpathian cuisine.

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    6

    Tilos

    Experience spectacular beaches and wildlife

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    For nature lovers, Tilos is one of Rhodes' nearby neighbours you have to tick off your bucket list. Home to a special assortment of fauna and flora, the entire island is designated a protected ecological park, ensuring seemingly endless unspoiled landscapes to explore. Tilos' beaches are also regarded as some of the best in the region, showcasing brilliant turquoise water thanks to a lack of widespread tourism.

    Other highlights on Tilos include the Medieval Castle of Tilos, the 15th-century Taxiarchis Church, and the Monastery of Agios Panteleimonas, each of which has stood for hundreds of years. For something a bit different, the abandoned village of Mikro Chorio is a must-see.

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    7

    Patmos

    Discover the island's incredible religious history

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    In terms of history, Patmos is hard to match even among the rest of the storied Dodecanese Islands. That's because St John wrote the Book of Revelations when he was exiled on Patmos, leading to the island becoming an important location for Christian pilgrims. As such, there are numerous significant religious landmarks to visit, including St John's Cave of the Apocalypse and the ancient monasteries built throughout the island's capital of Hora.

    Elsewhere on Patmos, the charming port town of Skala provides a host of delightful bars and restaurants serving the region's renowned seafood. Further south, Petra Beach not only offers a sandy shoreline but also a giant rock formation that punctuates the end of the coastline.

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    8

    Leros

    An old-world island escape

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    Leros' rough, hilly landscape is covered with pine and olive groves, while the coastline is rich in pristine bays and concealed coves. The 2 most populous towns on the island are known as Agia Marina and Alinda, both of which offer a series of impressive hotels and resorts. Agia Marina is also home to a much-loved flour mill, an old-world structure that's located within the port's shallows.

    As you make your way to either side of the island, you'll inevitably come across the Church of Agios Isidoros. Set on an inlet off the coast of Alinda, the monument is connected to Leros by a long walkway. Meanwhile, the Church of Prophet Elias provides an unbeatable hilltop setting to watch the sunset from.

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    9

    Kalymnos

    World-class climbing and scuba diving

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    Kalymnos is recognised around the globe as a top rock-climbing destination, with people flocking to Kalymnos to summit the jagged limestone formations. The island is also celebrated as one of Greece's best places for scuba diving, with beautiful reefs and shipwrecks waiting to be explored.

    Beyond these extreme activities, the island's capital of Pothia includes a series of charming streets with market stalls selling the island's famous sea sponges.  There are also numerous imposing former estates – the Vouvalis Mansion offers a glimpse into the island's affluent history in the 19th century.

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    10

    Nisyros

    Wander the island's active volcano

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    The island of Nisyros includes some incredible sightseeing possibilities, but the obvious highlight remains the Nisyros Volcano. Following the last eruption in the 1880s, the site continues to bubble with activity – you can walk past the boiling holes and see hot lava flowing just beneath the surface.

    The attractive harbour town of Mandraki hosts an abundance of top-notch restaurants, bars and shopping boutiques. Like most of the Dodecanese Islands, Nisyros comprises a maze of pebbled streets, where you can admire the historic houses painted in radiant tones. Plus, don't miss the black pebble beach of Chochlákia, a must-visit spot for those who want to snorkel or windsurf.

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