The Dodecanese islands are perhaps the most ethereally beautiful part of the Aegean. Set in a sparkling topaz-blue sea, they have a rich and intricate history stretching back millennia, and a distinctive culture. From the deck of our gulet, you will cruise in comfort as the islands come to you, each with its own distinctive silhouette and story: mountainous Kalymnos; Nisyros with its brooding volcanic cone; Patmos crowned by its extraordinary monastery – a World Heritage Site; and serene, secluded Pserimos. Anchoring in coves of the bluest shimmering water and harbours with bright white houses rising above you, you can relax as you wish before dining on meals freshly-prepared on board or go to specially selected tavernas on the islands themselves. In a tranquil and unhurried way, you can drink in the vistas of picturesque villages, rocky backdrops and volcanic cones as verdant headlands and glittering bays slide by.
The islands have a long history as a place where cultures met and learned from each other, or came into conflict. Our expert guides will introduce you to some of the finest traces of this long past. You will see the great columned temples of the Greeks, including the famed healing shrine of the god Asklepios on Kos, and their spectacular statues, some newly brought up from the depths of the sea. Roman imperial rule brought with it the fine houses of aristocrats, blessed with cool sheltering colonnades and intricate mosaics, and the buildings that supported their busy trading, a testament to a long era of peace. As the Roman Empire became the Christian Byzantine Empire, so we find artists’ hands turning to the intense emotion-filled icons of Orthodox Christianity, and lovingly-made manuscripts prepared in the exceptional monasteries central to their way of life.
With the fading of Byzantine power, we encounter new strands in our story: the Crusader Knights of St John, who ruled the islands and added their own military stamp to them as they strove long and hard in a doomed struggle to maintain an increasingly-isolated Christian outpost in the east. The long Ottoman years followed, adding another layer with their own characteristic architecture and culture, fountain houses and baths. From the unexpected and singular traces of Italian occupation, we reach modern times and the captivating culture of today’s islanders. From the food, sounds and atmosphere of the welcoming tavernas, to the unique local craft of sponge-diving, you will come away feeling truly immersed in this varied archipelago’s many delights.
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Day 1: We embark on our gulet, about 40 minutes from Bodrum airport, in the town’s beautiful grand harbour. Welcome drink and dinner on board.
Day 2: After a morning cruise to Kos, we begin our adventure by exploring the archaeological museum of Kos, a superb collection of sculpture, pottery and other finds, ranging from prehistory to the Roman era and serving as a perfect introduction to the archaeology of the region. We then set out for our first long crossing to the little-visited island of Leros, where we anchor in a picturesque bay.
Day 3: On Leros, we make our way to the formidable medieval Castle of Panteli, whose military history extends as recently as the tragic Dodecanese campaign of 1943. Its extensive medieval walls crown the heights of the former ancient acropolis as it sits high above a deep blue sea and overlooks a fascinating scenery of coves, bays, and a dense jumble of ornate mansions. Originally a Byzantine stronghold, it later became a major outpost of the Hospitaller Knights of St John, who greatly expanded it to ward off the threats of the fiercely-contested fourteenth century Aegean. From the castle we take a stroll around the Italian military town at Lakki, a unique planned outpost in a then-showpiece architectural style before making our way westwards to sacred Patmos, to anchor in a beautiful cove.
Day 4: In the morning, we explore the extraordinary cultural riches of Patmos, some of the most memorable images of our tour. We discover the Cave of the Apocalypse, now a chapel, and traditionally the refuge of St John the Divine as he composed, or transmitted, the Book of Revelations. At the great Monastery of Saint John, we find one of Greece’s greatest medieval treasures, whose soaring and stout walls house some extraordinary Byzantine survivals. Clustered around is the breathtakingly beautiful Chora, the island capital with its maze of cobbled streets and beautiful houses. The setting, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, is stunning and reveals a thousand years of life in a small and remote island uniquely connected to a greater world. In the afternoon, we set out for the rugged island of Kalymnos.
Day 5: In the morning, we visit the beautifully laid-out archaeological museum of Kalymnos, home to a surprisingly rich collection of ancient Greek sculpture. Outstanding even amidst the fine marbles is the over life-size ‘Lady of Kalymnos’, a superb and near-complete bronze statue of a himation-swathed woman, drawn up from the sea as recently as 1994 after being found by fishermen. Kalymnos being the last redoubt of the once extensive sponge-diving industry, we take the opportunity to visit one of the remaining sponge-washing workshops and observe this almost-lost art first-hand. In the afternoon, we continue southwards, anchoring near the tiny islet of Pserimos with a permanent population of just a few dozen.
Southwards to Giali, a small island famous for its ample supplies of pumice and obsidian, a rare volcanic glass, used for cutting tools since early prehistory. There is ample time to swim and relax before we enter the port of Mandraki on Nisyros. Here, we explore the small but excellent archaeological museum of Mandraki, with rich finds from the island’s ancient cemeteries. Later, we discover the astonishingly well-preserved Hellenistic fortification of Palaiokastro, probably built by the Rhodians to secure their northernmost possessions. Afterwards, we enter the island’s huge volcanic caldera to visit the atmospheric steam crater of Stephanos, where we see, hear and smell the true nature of Nisyros: the whole island is an active volcano. We walk past mud pools to stand in the stark amphitheatre of its crater where hot water bubbles on the surface and steam vents from beneath, leaving mounds of crystallized sulphur, before heading off to enjoy a well-earned dinner with unforgettable views of the island.
Day 7: We return to Kos. Here we explore the Casa Romana, the vast mansion of a Roman aristocrat, partially restored to give a strong sense of the palatial residence’s original opulence. Mosaics and wall paintings still adorn its spacious expanse and the restoration offers a rare chance to experience what the colonnades and courtyards of a Roman aristocratic home really felt like. Afterwards, we go to the beautifully-set Asklepieion, the most important sacred site on the island. The extensive shrine, an important international sanctuary where pilgrims sought the attentions of the healing god Asklepios while they slept, post-dates Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’ so closely associated with Kos, but the picturesque terraces, monumental stairways and ornate columns attest the god’s lasting presence. After our final crossing back to Bodrum port, farewell dinner on the gulet.
Day 8: Transfer to Bodrum airport, about 40 minutes away.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Bodrum Milas
Departure Airport – Bodrum Milas
We plan for the gulet to depart around 17.00. Embarkation is from 15:00 onwards. You are more than welcome to arrive earlier to drop off your bags, but please be aware that the crew will be busy cleaning and tidying making everything ready for your group so you may not be able to settle in to your cabin. If you arrive at the gulet after 17:00, we will do our best to enable you to join the tour at a convenient time and place. Departure time can be subject to change depending on weather, harbour or other conditions.
Disembarkation is around 09:00. We will arrange local transfers on the first and last day of the tour.
Booking Flights: The cheapest way to book flights is directly with the airline online.
Please note: Flights are subject to change. Please contact the airline for exact details.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
Travel Insurance Travel insurance is a requirement of our booking conditions and we recommend you investigate the options thoroughly to make sure that your trip is properly covered. Please be advised some insurers may require you to take out a policy within 15-20 days of booking your holiday to receive all of their insurance benefits.
Visas A Visa is required to pass through Turkish customs during the cruise. Visas are easily obtained online at eVisa and must be purchased before you travel.
Citizens of European Union or Schengen Treaty member states need no visa for Greece, those from the United States, Canada and Australia do not need to apply for a visa to visit Greece for trips of less than 90 days duration.
Athens, Kos and the Greek islands If you are planning to stay in Athens before or after your tour we have included below links to more information and things to see and do. If you intend to add time on Kos or any other Greek island, we are happy to offer information and advice.