One of ’Greece’s top three cultural holidays’ – The Telegraph (2014)
One of the ’Top 10 Cultural Holidays in Greece for 2016‘ – The Telegraph (UK)
One of the ’50 Best Holidays in Greece for 2016‘ – The Times (UK)
This spectacular gulet cruise, starting and ending in Bodrum, takes you through the entire Dodecanese chain (plus the island of Samos), beginning with the famous island of Kos and including eleven of the most beautiful and evocative of the Greek islands and no less than three UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites.
The islands’ strategic location, between the open Aegean and the mainland of Asia Minor, has made them a well-connected cultural interface throughout history. Carians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, the Crusader Knights of St. John, Ottomans and Italians visited or settled them, leaving behind a rich legacy of grandiose ancient sanctuaries, mighty castles, serene monasteries and traditional villages, all set within an ever-changing maritime scenery.
The sites you see on this itinerary include world-famous relics, like the Asklepieion of Kos, the extraordinary archaeological museum of Samos, or the medieval fortifications of Rhodes, each among the best of their kind. On the smaller, off-the-beaten-track islands you gain a more intimate view of traditional Greek island life, with their picturesque harbours, village squares adorned with pebble mosaics, and beautiful domestic architecture. These islands are also rich in diverse landscapes: craggy hilltops, strange volcanic formations, and of course coastlines featuring a succession of bays and islets. Another highlight of the cruise is the series of you will meals enjoy at selected venues throughout the islands, ranging from home cooked local cuisine in family-run tavernas to real gourmet food, the finest the region has to offer.
Sightseeing aside, your stylish gulet will moor in secluded coves, allowing you to bathe in azure seas, admire the pristine scenery, or simply relax. From fabulous food to epic history, this is a fascinating journey through Greek culture, past and present. Don’t miss it!
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Day 1: Our gulet awaits you about 40 minutes from Bodrum/Milas airport, in the harbour of Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus. If you arrive early enough, there may be time to stroll through town and perhaps visit the remarkable Castle of the Knights of Saint John, which houses an excellent museum of underwater archaeology. Welcome drinks and dinner on board.
Day 2: We have our first taste of the Greek islands when we explore Pothia, the main town and harbour of the rugged island of Kalymnos. The local archaeological museum provides a fit introduction to the earlier history of the Greek islands, demonstrating how even remote places like Kalymnos were integrated into an Aegean cultural continuum since the Bronze Age, both as recipients of cultural influences and as participants in them. The museum's collection of sculpture, from the island's main sanctuary to the god Apollo, but also from the bottom of the sea nearby, is one of the best in any provincial Greek museum, not least because of the wonderful Lady of Kalymnos, a nearly fully preserved bronze statue of a woman dating to the 4th or 3rd century BC. As Kalymnos is the last island in the Aegean to maintain a sponge-diving fleet, a tradition going back millennia, we also visit a local sponge-washing workshop to learn more about this ancient trade.
Day 3: In the morning we make the crossing to the holy island of Patmos and enjoy a relaxing swim and lunch in one of its coves before setting out to explore the island. Patmos is where Saint John is believed to have received his vision of the Apocalypse. As a result, it has been a centre of Christian worship for many centuries. We explore the resulting Byzantine riches, listed by UNESCO as World Heritage. At the monastery of the Revelation, we find a medieval church added onto the cave said to be the venue of John's account, a place of dense atmosphere and dignity. The main Monastery of Saint John, founded nearly a thousand years ago by the Blessed Christodoulos, is one of the chief Byzantine treasures in the Aegean, sternly fortified on the outside, and serene and beautiful within, with superb frescoes revealing the full splendour of Late Byzantine art, of a quality we would expect to find in a metropolitan centre like Istanbul/Constantinople or Thessaloniki. The monastery museum houses rare treasures, including fragments of the most famous Byzantine book, the Purple Codex, and an icon by Domenikos Theotokopoulos, the Cretan painter later known as El Greco. The monastery is surrounded by the immensely picturesque Chora, a fine town of traditional mansions from the last four or five centuries.
Day 4: We make the long crossing to the great island of Samos in the morning, arriving in the charming port village of Pythagoreio which was built on the ruins of the ancient island capital. In antiquity, it was called Samos, like the island itself, but today it bears the name of the island's most famous son, Pythagoras. Samos was one of the most powerful Greek city-states in the Aegean, especially during the sixth century BC, when it was a place of great wealth and unusual sophistication and innovation. We begin our visits with the famous Tunnel of Eupalinos, a wonder of ancient Greek engineering. Another achievement of the island's golden age in the 6th century BC, it is cut through sheer rock for a length of over a kilometre. It served as the base tunnel for an aqueduct (which runs in a separate tunnel below its floor), supplying the city of Samos with fresh water while being invisible to any attacker or besieger. The story of how the tunnel was made, by teams working towards one another from both ends, has been painstakingly reconstructed by archaeologists and is truly marvellous. Next, we visit the superb and state-of-the-art archaeological museum of Pythagoreio, a carefully designed exhibit that strives to present the history of this age-old settlement and to bring the life of the ancient city of Samos back to life: its prehistory, its shrines, its graves, its art and its domestic life.
Day 5: Still on Samos, we visit the Heraion, one of the most important shrines in the region, said to be the birthplace of the goddess Hera, and the site of her wedding with Zeus. The sanctuary, another World Heritage site, set in an atmospheric wetland area by the sea, was richly embellished, especially with the huge Temple of Hera, built and rebuilt in the sixth century BC. The massive foundations and the single standing column allow us to appreciate the lost grandeur of this structure. Next, we make our way to the island's modern capital, Vathi, where the archaeological museum contains the rich finds from the Heraion, including fantastic examples of early Greek sculpture, among them the stunning colossal kouros, an Archaic statue of a nude young man and the largest known piece of its kind. There is also a vast array of small finds, among them bronzes from all over the eastern Mediterranean and even further afield, rare carvings in ivory and wood, and much more. In the afternoon, we may set out southwards for the island of Leipsi or enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Pythagoreio.
Day 6: We visit Leros today, where we have much to explore. We begin in Lakki Town, once Porto Lago, an Italian military town of the 1930s, built in the style known as 'razionalismo', an odd combination of stark fascist aesthetics, Bauhaus modernism and Art Deco eclecticism. Next we explore the Castle of Panteli, visible from most of Leros, which is really three castles, one built around the other in succession, exemplifying the structural differences between an eleventh-century Byzantine fortification, one built by the Crusader Knights of Saint John in the fourteenth century, and the Knights' own fifteenth-century modification, a reaction to the introduction of gunpowder. In the castle's chapel, we catch a glimpse of the miracle-working icon of the Virgin of the Castle. Here, we also learn about the events of the pivotal Battle of Leros in October and November of 1943, when the island fell from Italian to German control.
Day 7: We make an afternoon crossing to the great island of Kos and its ancient harbour. Founded in 366 BC as a cohabitation of the earlier Koan cities, Kos Town quickly became one of the main commercial centres in the Dodecanese, famed for its wine and set on one of the major Mediterranean trade routes. The destruction of its later successor by a devastating earthquake in 1933 led to a major rebuilding by the Italian authorities then in control of the island, and to a series of excavations, many of which are preserved as archaeological parks within the new town: a charming juxtaposition of old and new. We visit the ancient harbour quarter and the agora or market, the meeting space defining an ancient city, and the superb archaeological museum, displaying the city's history from prehistory to the Roman era. Its collection of sculpture is superb, featuring many depictions of Greek mythological characters, as well as a wealth of other fine finds, throwing light on many aspects of the wealth and sophistication of ancient Greek and Roman Kos.
Day 8: Straight after breakfast we visit one of the most important sites on Kos: the Asklepieion, the great sanctuary of Asklepios, the God of Healing, a place revered across the ancient world. Its remains, set on a slope with wonderful views across the straits to Asia Minor, are a key example of Late Classical architectural planning and they elucidate some of the key functions of an ancient sanctuary. A late morning crossing takes us to a cove off the volcanic islet of Giali for a leisurely swim overlooked by an island of unique industrial heritage. For thousands of years, it was important as one of only two sources of obsidian, natural volcanic glass, a material that was used in prehistory to make cutting tools. In recent years, it also produces high-quality and pumice and perlite, two distinctively volcanic resources. In the late afternoon we continue a short distance to the beautiful island of Nisyros, essentially a dormant volcano. We travel inland to see the stunning fortification at Paliokastro, one of the best examples of defensive architecture of the Classical and/or Hellenistic eras in the Greek Islands, in a superb setting overlooking the sea. Then, we continue to the interior of the caldera, the volcanic centre of Nisyros, to walk right into the Stefanos steam crater, estimated to be about four thousand years old. It is a fascinating place, offering deep insights into a geologically volatile region. After a traditional dinner on the rim of the caldera, we return to the boat in Mandraki.
Day 9: In the morning, we set out for Tilos, the 'greenest' island in the Dodecanese. Tilos is the first Aegean island to rely entirely on renewable energy, and the only island to ban all bird-hunting. An inland excursion takes us to the monastery of St. Panteleimon, a place in a nearly absurdly picturesque and precipitous location, combining the serenity of Greek Orthodox monasticism with unusual neoclassical influences to create a unique whole. At the Chora, the island's capital village, we discover tantalising remains of an ancient city and admire some of the finest of the famous Dodecanesian pebble mosaics. We also learn about the island's unique palaeontological finds, namely the island’s extinct species of pygmy elephant. These odd mammals, apparently survivors of a wider-spread species that got stranded after the last ice age (or ice ages) in many islands from Sicily via Crete to the Dodecanese, appear to have survived on Tilos until fairly recently: 6,000 years ago.
Day 10: We cruise to Chalki this morning to enjoy a swim before disembarking for lunch and the chance to wander the lanes of the lovely port town before travelling inland to the abandoned former main village of Chora. We ascend a steep slope (the most demanding walk on this itinerary), covered in crumbling terrace walls, houses and chapels, all crowned by the mighty walls of another castle of the Knights of Saint John. As we approach the various structures, we discover that there is more to the place: the medieval buildings of the village and castle stand on mighty predecessors: the remains of a large ancient Greek city, with vast terrace walls, bases for statues and dedications, rock-cut cisterns and a mountain-top citadel. Atop, we are rewarded by wonderful views across the local seas and over to Rhodes. Later, we make the crossing to Alimia (weather permitting), a small island between Rhodes and Chalki. Uninhabited today, it was the winter anchorage for the great Rhodian fleet of the third and second centuries BC, and also served as a naval base during the Second World War.
Day 11: A long morning cruise brings us to the great island of Rhodes. We moor just below the medieval city walls of Rhodes Town. a major centre in Antiquity, in the Middle Ages, and now. The city of Rhodes, founded in 408 BC as a 'synoikismos', a moving-in-together of the earlier cities of Ialysos, Kamyros and Lindos, and thus a collective decision changing the fate of the island and its surrounding region, is a most unusual place. It was taken over by the Knights Hospitallers or Knights of Saint John in 1310, henceforth the Knights of Rhodes, leading to a complete reorganisation of the city, which stands as one of the best-preserved medieval ensembles in Europe, with streets, lanes, squares and houses still following their fourteenth-century outline, another World Heritage site. We spend the afternoon in the former Hospital of the Knights of Rhodes, one of the most significant pieces of Crusader architecture in the Aegean. It now houses the island's main archaeological museum. Its rich trove of treasures is fit for the largest island of the Dodecanese: examples of Rhodian sculpture, sensual and sensitive at the same time, are one of the highlights, but the Hellenistic pebble mosaics, a Macedonian tradition transferred to wealthy Rhodian homes in the third and second centuries BC, are as spectacular. There is also a superb display about the island's prehistory, when Rhodes was a key recipient of first Minoan and later of Mycenaean influences.
Day 12: Our morning is given over to the medieval city of Rhodes. We start by walking through the huge rock-cut moat, reflecting the Knights' increasing sense of threat in the changing geopolitical theatre of the 14th and 15th centuries and revealing many details of medieval fortification architecture. Then, we visit the grandiose Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights, rebuilt as a royal residence by the Italian occupants in the 1930s and embellished with many fine Roman mosaics from the excavations in Kos. We then set out for the island of Symi. Weather permitting, we stop for a lovely chance to swim in a cove below steep cliffs. Once we continue, we are eagerly watching on deck as we enter Symi's lovely neoclassical port town, one of the prettiest sights in the Mediterranean, based on its nineteenth-century affluence from sponge-trading and shipbuilding. Striking pastel-coloured homes cascade down the slopes towards the harbour.
Day 13: We spend the morning wandering Symi's winding and stepped streets, making our way from the harbour settlement up the traditional main artery, the many-stepped Kali Strata ('beautiful street') to the upper village. Along the way, we admire its many fine mansions, all following the same basic design but featuring an endless variation of Neoclassical façade decorations, revealing the great wealth that was once concentrated on this tiny and rocky island. In the afternoon, we set out northwards, re-entering Turkey at the port of Datça in the peninsula of that name (the Knidos Peninsula of antiquity). After customs, we continue westwards, to spend the night in the harbour of ancient Knidos.
Day 14: The morning is devoted to the spectacular Greek and Roman city of Knidos, set on the tip of the long and sinewy Datça peninsula, in a spot literally surrounded by the islands of Kos, Nisyros and Tilos. With a double harbour offering shelter to ships plying north and south, Knidos made its mark on Greek history and grew rich from its stunning natural position, and we’ll see the results in the grand and ordered city rising in tier upon opulent tier. Like many a classical predecessor, we’ll anchor in the eastern harbour, the heart of the ancient city rising above us. Decades of excavation have freed a beautifully planned city from the soil, allowing us to wander through its streets and along terraces festooned with temples to be met with a magnificent view across the Aegean. In the afternoon, we return to Bodrum.
Day 15: Transfers to Airport.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Bodrum (Milas)
Departure Airport – Bodrum (Milas)
Departure from Bodrum Harbour (approx. 40 mins from Bodrum Airport) is planned for approx.17:00 in order that the gulet can clear customs and enter Greek waters. Embarkation is from 15:30 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 will not be able to settle into your cabin.
If your travel plans or flights do not allow you to arrive before 17:00 we recommend arriving in Bodrum the day before the tour starts. This would also allow time to relax, recover from any jet lag and arrive at the boat on time for embarkation and departure.
If you arrive to the gulet after 17:00, we will do our best to enable you to join the tour at a later time and place.
Please Note: Departure time is subject to change depending on weather, harbour or other conditions.
Disembarkation in Bodrum is around 09:00. We will arrange local transfers from Bodrum Airport and to Bodrum Airport on the first and last day of the tour.
Booking Flights If you are staying in or connecting via Istanbul then the easiest way to get to and from the gulet is to fly. There are a number of airlines that offer domestic flights in Turkey. 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:We consider adequate travel insurance to be essential. You should ensure that you take out a suitable policy, to make sure that your trip is properly covered.
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. From 2 March 2020, British nationals travelling to Turkey for tourist or business purposes will no longer need a visa for visits of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
For UK Nationals, travel to the EU will change from 1 January 2021. Please check the current situation regarding visa requirements before you travel. You can find more information online here.
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 or if you intend to add time on Kos or any other Greek island, we are happy to offer information and advice.
Nature of the Cruising the Dodecanese itinerary Cruising and Itinerary: This fabulous cruise through the Aegean, visits 11 of the Dodecanese Islands and has a character very different to that of most of our other gulet cruises. We will be crossing some stretches of wide open sea between the islands and covering considerable distances on some of the days. The Dodecanese Islands (running as a chain alongside the shore of southwest Turkey) are renowned for their wealth of nature and beauty and cruising between them offers a wonderful opportunity to experience and appreciate their fascinating diversity. There will be some early starts so we can make passage in the early morning before the wind picks up in the afternoon. While the average travelling time will be longer than our normal coastal gulet cruises, there will be opportunities to swim each day (schedule and weather permitting).
As with all of our gulet cruises, we have spent a great deal of time crafting the itinerary to be as good as it can be, but we are travelling aboard a boat and may need to make changes according to the weather and the captain’s advice.
Overnights: Compared with our coastal gulet cruises in Turkey and Italy, where we tend to spend a good number of nights moored out in isolated bays, on this trip we will be spending more nights in harbour on the islands. This means you’ll have the chance to explore not only as part of the expert led outings, you’ll also be able to go ashore and wander in the mornings and evenings when we are tied up in the picturesque Greek harbour towns.
Food: The boat is a Turkish gulet with a Turkish crew including a chef who will be cooking up wonderful meals throughout your cruise. As such the food served on board will be traditional ‘Turkish’ or Eastern Mediterranean. We will be going ashore to eat authentic Greek food in family run tavernas at intervals along the way and your tour leader will ensure you’ll have the chance to sample a good many of the local Greek delicacies of the islands. The gulet will be stocked with Greek wine and spirits and your guide, Heinrich, something of a Greek wine connoisseur, will introduce you to some of the best beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) the Greek islands have to offer.