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This very attractive chain of islands can easily occupy 3 weeks of cruising, but 5 weeks give you more leeway. We included Samos and Ikaria, though they're not Dodecanese, since they form a natural extension to the cruising region. The region has two characters: south of Kos has longer passages, fewer anchorages and the most unusual sights; north of Kos there are many small anchorages, pretty harbours and lots more charm. 

Regular summer winds are northerly (the meltemi, brisk at times) but compared with the Cyclades, lighter, with reasonably flat waters. Yacht support is adequate, with good wintering facilities. Seasonal flights to UK from Kos, Rhodes and Samos connect to other islands through the inter-island ferries. Out of season travel to UK is cumbersome, via Athens by ferry or small aircraft.

Greece & Turkey?

A northerly leg along the Turkish coast is easy. Sadly, paperwork for each Turkish entry from Greece (and exit) can occupy a day and €80, so "legal" trips back and forth waste time and effort. To see both countries in a couple of weeks, go north through Turkey, and return through Greece, starting from Rhodes or Kos. Traffic between the two countries is monitored to detect refugee traffic.

Greece, and Boat regulations

Islands and Harbours of the Dodecanese

Dodecanese chartsIkaria. 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 on the south coast, runs frequent ferries to Samos and has a nearby small marina. On the north coast, Evdilos harbour has a well sheltered set of quays.

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

  • Pandeli harbour, on the east coast, is a small, peaceful and attractive fishing village. Go alongside. Most of the harbour is dredged to 3m. As you look to the shore, the left hand most restaurant has been consistently good. Go inland, climb to Platanos on the saddle of  the hill to the north. Divert up to the Kastro for some splendid views, then descend to Alinda. Try a side road on the way back. Numerous day anchorages, and Nisos Archangelos (to the north) provides a peaceful overnight anchorage.
  • Lakki  on the west coast is a very spacious, rather charmless town, once a harbour for the Italian fleet. There are two marinas. Agmar Marine runs a simple and older marina west of the bay's head, electricity and water at all berths (and a yard at Partheni). Leros marina lies on the opposite side of Lakki bay, and boasts three travel hoists (one suitable for catamarans), a large capacity crane, and an extensive hard; a good place for laying up ashore.
  • Partheni, north of the island, has two yards straddling the airfield. Leros Boatyard Ltd runs the more recent arrival, while Agmar marine runs a long estabished yard with a 70 ton travel hoist and a full range of yacht support facilities

Kalymnos, rugged and steep sided, has two well sheltered quaysides (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:

  • Pothia, the noisy, busy principal town, has about 15,000 population. It's authentically Greek, but there are quite a few English ex-patriates settled there. Main quay is end on anchoring off the main town, facing the entrance,water, electricity. SW of this is crowded with boats and moorings but occasionally has space. Good place to stock up on meat and vegetables. The pleasant area of harbour front cafés and restaurants (some run by UK expats) is rather spoilt by passing motorbikes demonstrating their wheelie skills through the pedestrian crowds. Fuel berth east of town.
  • Ormos Vathi. This lovely little cleft in the rocks on the east coast is served by four very attentive tavernas. Competition is good for service! It is sometimes difficult to squeeze in . . .
  • Eborious, on the west side  of the pan handle in the north, is sheltered from meltemi. Anchor, or moorings laid by tavernas.
  • Ormos Palionisos, east side of pan handle, opposite Eborious, also sheltered from meltemi, anchor or moorings owned by a couple of tavernas

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 easier 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. Rhodes marina, in the southernmost basin has been in use since June 2015; still some work in progress (Sep 2017). There is a good nearby chandler. There are frequent charter flights to UK.  Ferries to Marmaris, Turkey

Karpathos is windy, a bit out on a limb, but useful for a passage stop en route to Crete.


  • Attractions. Variety; very pretty small islands; many anchorages, good winds.
  • Snags. Over-attentive port police
  • Ports of Entry. Rhodes, Symi, Kos, Pythagorion (Samos) 
  • Layup or Wintering. Live aboard marinas: Kos, Leros, Samos. Shore hards Rhodes, Leros (3), Kos, Samos.
  • Transport. All islands are linked to each other by ferries of varying frequency. Year round flights every day to Athens from Rhodes, Kos, Leros, Karpathos, Kalymnos, Samos; 4 a week from Astipalea, Ikaria. Summer charter flights from UK to Samos, Kos, Rhodes. 
  • Boat Charter. Skippered and bareboat from Samos, Rhodes, Kos.



Reviewed Oct 2018


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