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It'll take three weeks of moderately brisk sailing to cruise this very attractive region, but five weeks give you more leeway. Many people select to travel north along the Turkish coast, then return south through the islands, though the paperwork for each Turkish entry and exit may occupy a full day and some €80. We've included Samos and Ikaria since they form a natural extension to the cruising region, though they are not in the Dodecanese. Compared to the Cyclades, northerly winds here are lighter, and the islands and Turkish coast keep the seas reasonably flat, so working north is reasonably easy. Yacht support is adequate, with good wintering facilities. There are charters from Kos, Rhodes and Samos.
The region has two characters — south of Kos has longer legs, limited anchorages and the most unusual sights, while north of Kos has numerous small anchorages, pretty harbours and a lot of charm.
Ikaria. The meltemi blows strongly over this rather barren island, which is a good landfall coming from Tinos or Mykonos. Like Samos, It's not part of the Dodecanese, but is a convenient extension of the cruising area. The contrast with Samos is strong; Ikaria locals carry on their life with little special effort to woo tourists. Ayios Kiriakos, the well sheltered and rather ethnic main harbour, has a strong Greek character, and an un-manned but usable marina. Evdilos harbour, on the north coast, has a well sheltered set of quays. Frequent ferries to Samos.
Samos. This large, green island is popular with north European tourists. Prices are quite high in the resorts, which mainly cater for older couples. A range of fine sweet Muscat desert wines are made here. A well sheltered marina with hard (15 min walk east of Pythagorion, port of entry, close to airport) is suitable for lay-up ashore or afloat. Marathakampos, at the west end of the south coast, welcomes visitors to its well sheltered fishing harbour (quay with laid lines). Karlovasi and Samos town on the north coast provide good shelter. Charter flights to UK, internal flights to Athens, and good ferry connections. Also, ferries to Kusadasi, Turkey, in season.
Fourni (also not one of the Dodecanese) lives in a time warp. These islands have the rare quality that they never de-populated during the '39 –'45 war, nor the ensuing civil war. Nor have they ever been easily accessible to tourists. Life is still conducted like the rest of Greece was in the late 1970's. The community is self-sufficient; each shop specialises in selling almost everything; visitors are welcome; tourists are rare; tavernas are good. Don't moor up to the village quay, it rocks in northerlies. Try bows to on the small quay in the sandy bay half a mile south and suffer the breathless walk over to the town. Take a torch.
Patmos is a pretty port, at times very busy with tourists from cruise ships. If you're there when they are not, you win. Wonderful hilltop monastery surrounded by a delightful Hora. Occasional cafés and tavernas dotted around the Hora. Lots more down below. There are idyllic sand anchorages scattered richly along the south of the east pointing peninsula, some with cafés, others empty. This is the epitome of a small Greek island, protected from overdevelopment by the monastery, which owns much of the land. In Patmos main harbour (towards the ferry quay) beer buffs will appreciate the 'Art Café', run by Nikos and Catherine (who hails from Bavaria). Whence the fine Bavarian draft beer. If you want a change of food from Greek, seek out 'Veggera'. With its French style cuisine it is more expensive than average, but deservedly popular. You'll usually have to book.
Lipsi is an island for peace and quiet. Moor in the main harbour for comfort, rather than alongside the small pontoon. It's a tiny island, good for walking, with a tiny, characterful hilltop village and a bunch of ouzeries around the harbour, many run by Australian repatriates. Lipsi is at the centre of a small archipelago of islets, most of which provide anchorages and moorings, usually served by small tavernas.
Leros has two useful harbours, and is a good island for winter layup ashore with a choice of three hards. Internal flights to Athens
Kalymnos, rugged and steep sided, has two well sheltered quaysdides (Pothia and Vathi) and two bays with moorings (allied to tavernas) well sheltered from the meltemi; one each side of the northern panhandle. Ferries to Bodrum, Turkey. Place details are:
Pserimos is a tiny island, population 25, with an idyllic little sand cove. Sadly, this is grossly overloaded by hundreds of day visitors and caiques from Kos and Kalymnos. Try an evening visit when they've gone - but the beach brollies remain. How to spoil a lovely beach . . .meanwhile there are other anchorages. Try the largish bay on the east of the island; mind the fish farm.
Kos. Kos Town is an amazing mix of tourist tat, wonderful spreads of old ruins, a bar area (which throbs with muscular boozing and dance music), old Italianate squares and a market. More about Kos. There is a very good full service marina, excellent for winter lay up if you book early enough, and offering a good range of yacht maintenance skills. But it is often full on charter turn around days. It's then better to find a berth in Mandraki, the town harbour, most of which is also managed (and charged for) by the marina. Kardamena, on the south east facing coast, is a convenient harbour for the airport, but perhaps a place to avoid unless you value the all night excesses of British youth on holiday. Many charter flights to UK in season, flights and ferries to Athens, ferries to Bodrum in Turkey.
Astipalea is rather isolated from the rest of the Dodecanese. It's worth a visit for its multitude of different anchorages. It's a place for a sailboat to explore. In July and August the island springs into life with visitors from various Greek cities who have holiday homes there; the Hora wakes up and opens music bars and cafés. The rest of the year the island is very quiet, when the town seems a little run down and isolated.The harbour is now well sheltered for yachts, with the west end of the commercial quay extended to 90m towards NNE, with a 27m right angle left turn at the end, giving good shelter.
Nysiros has a steaming volcano crater. Palon is the only suitable harbour, well sheltered with the entrance facing east. Originally dredged to 3m, it does silt up over time, so check recent depths before entering. Hire a scooter, go and visit the crater. Mandraki, 2nm west, is the main town. It has a rather exposed quay, usually full of excursion boats. Beyond the quay, keep going into the maze of the old town. The centre is a small shaded square with lots of character and a forgettable taverna. Fuel by bowser: Manos K car/scooter hire or call 2242031551. Electricity in both harbours. Water in Palon.
Symi is a very steep sided, rather barren island, with many deep inlets providing anchorages around the shores. Symi Town is settled by quite a few English expatriates, and invaded daily by noisy tripper boats from Rhodes. The quay manager will point out a suitable berth for you. Water and electricity are available. Lovely old houses (many ruined or vacant) line the hillside to the south. Climb one of the great staircases to the Hora. Hunt for the old museum there — you'll probably get lost — it's worth it. On the south quay of the harbour is a very good restaurant, 'Mythos'. Expensive, but great if you're looking for a change from the usual Greek diet; the chef trained in Spain. You'll need to book. Ferries to Datcha, Turkey.
Tilos is quiet and friendly, though port police are sometimes intrusive. The harbour at Livadia has been enclosed to the east and has good shelter inside. Go alongside or end on. It's a small harbour, so you can expect some anchor wrestling at departure time. Water and electricity are available. The inland village is now all but deserted. The island lives off a small tourist trade of repeat visitors and walkers. Nothing special, just peace and quiet.
Khalki is quiet, with just one genteel little village of renovated villas around the harbour, mainly rented to up market holidaymakers from UK. A pontoon on the north side of the harbour caters for yachts. There's a good, isolated anchorage in Alimia, an island a couple of miles east. Otherwise, little of interest.
Rhodes has a world heritage city/castle to visit, a 'must see'. In Mandraki harbour visitors lie to their own anchors end on to the long east quay. This is dense with charter vessels at weekends, when finding a berth is difficult. Book ahead through Mike or George ( 2241037927) who seem to control berth allocation. Otherwise anchor 1nm SE of Mandraki, at the southern end of Limin Akandia, the commercial harbour. Limin Akandia has a slip and crowded shore hard (Nereius Yard) with travel lift, so layup ashore is possible.newA marina in the southernmost basin has been in use since June 2015, completion due by July. There is a good nearby chandler. There are frequent charter flights to UK. Ferries to Marmaris, Turkey
Karpathos is windy, and a bit out on a limb, useful for a passage stop en route to Crete, but that's about it.
Reviewed Jan 2016