The Dodecanese is a group of 15 large and 150 small islands in the south eastern Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey, of which 26 are inhabited, the best known being Kos and Rhodes. We visited three of the islands Kos, famous for its beaches, Symi, a beautiful small gem, and Rhodes famous for the historic old town and with many large resorts.
Kos is the third largest of the island group and is a well known holiday destination with excellent beaches and a reputation for lively night life, we stayed in Kos town which is an attractive vibrant town. The island has a busy airport and good ferry links and also has day trips to Turkey which can be reached in under an hour.
Symi is truly a gem, the small island only has one main town Symi port, the coloured neo-classical houses on the three sides of the harbour climbing up the hill make it a stunning arrival by boat. There are a number of lovely beaches on the island and the famous Panormitis Monastery. The harbour is full of visiting yachts of all sizes, the majority of other visitors are on day trips from Rhodes, this makes it a lovely place to unwind and chill out for a few days.
Rhodes is the largest island and is well known as a major holiday destination, the medieval Old Town of Rhodes City is a world heritage site and we based ourselves in this part of the city. Although this part is extremely busy with many visitors arriving on local buses from resorts there was always a lovely quiet square away from the teeming streets of the bazaar like shops.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com. We stayed at The Hotel Sonia, Irodotou 9, www.hotelsonia.gr very near the harbour front. This family run simple hotel offers very reasonably priced accommodation and the location is excellent.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com. We stayed at Myrtia Apartments, Akti Pavlou, there are three lovely apartments situated just by the waterfront above Vasilis Taverna and run by the lovely Doukissa, who with her father and brother also own the restaurant. The care and attention shown by the family is wonderful and and you feel at home immediately.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com. We stayed at D’Argento Boutique Rooms, the small family run hotel is just minutes from the Marine Gate entrance to the old town. The rooms have been beautifully appointed and Eleni and family are very helpful and welcoming.
There is a huge choice of restaurants in Kos town, the advice is to eat away from the waterfront and also to be very aware of ordering fish when it is sold by weight and price.
Elia, Apellou Street 27, Old Town, had been top of my list to try and we enjoyed it so much we went three times during our stay. An old school taverna it has a lovely garden terrace, great staff and really good old school food. The value for money is amazing given the quality.
Evdokia, Mummy’s Cooking, Bouboulinas 13, we found this when looking for another restaurant and seeing how busy it was we stayed and luckily managed to get a table. Good fresh cooking and excellent value and friendly service.
Aegli, Eleftherias Square, this is a women’s co-operative and given it’s situation on this main square it is a good choice for a meal, we enjoyed a good lunch and friendly service.
Kapari Meze, Diagoras Square, Old Town, is in a lovely setting and as the name suggest specialises in meze dishes, we had a lovely table on the terrace and enjoyed sharing four lovely dishes including an excellent shrimp saganaki. Lovely friendly service and very reasonably priced.
Vasilis Taverna, by the Stone Bridge, owned by the family that have the Myrtia Apartment above, we loved the setting, the service and the food, for either lunch or dinner this is recommended.
O Meraklis, Protou Lochou, this very popular taverna was top of our list for the first night on Symi and we were lucky enough to be able to get a table by arriving just after the early rush. The staff are incredibly friendly, the food good and we enjoyed it so much we returned for dinner on a second occasion.
Taverna O Haris, on the harbour front by the taxi stand, had read good things and were not disappointed, the owner/manager is a lovely guy we really enjoyed the food and the rabbit dish was delicious. You are guaranteed a warm welcome and good food.
Pantelis, on the harbour front past O Haris, Pantelis is the upmarket choice and booking is advised. We enjoyed the food and the house white wine was indeed as the waiter said excellent, there are lots of very expensive options on the menu for the yacht owning visitors.
Tholos, is at the end of the boat building harbour just before the small beach, we stopped for lunch and the setting is fabulous, the food was good and a great choice if exploring that area.
Taverna Katsaras, Pedi Beach, take the bus over to Pedi beach relax, and have lunch at Katsaras. We enjoyed it so much we went twice and loved the food and the service. There are mixed reviews but we were impressed and while it is not the cheapest place we thought it worth the money and an idyllic spot.
Taman, Leontos 1, New Town, was simply the best restaurant we had eaten in on our travels around the Dodecanese, it is outstanding. There are no reservations but it opens at 1pm until 10.30 pm we went twice the first time just after it opened the second around 4.30 pm arrive later and be prepared to queue although with a glass of wine. Andrea the owner, his daughters and the rest of the team are serving up fabulous food beautifully presented, the seafood & fish dishes were fantastic, it is Greek food with a contemporary twist. Top notch hospitality, excellent wines, an amazing free desert for all diners with a mastika make this a wonderful experience and the value is incredible.
La Varka, Sofokleous 5, Old Town, was recommended by a local and we enjoyed the food, a couple of dishes that were just a bit different from many places and good accompaniments, and a pleasant setting in a lovely area with some good places for a drink before or after dinner.
Ta Petaladika, Menekleous 8, Old Town, another recommendation and we really enjoyed a meze lunch with an outstanding liver dish, courgette fritters and small squid, washed down with some decent house white wine.
Hermes Grill, Sofokleous 7, Old Town, is a simple grill house with well cooked excellent value dishes run by a very pleasant chap.
Auvergne Café, Great Alexander Square, Old Town, in a lovely location, went for breakfast and were impressed by the quality and staff and returned for lunch and enjoyed the light dishes we had, at the pricey end of the scale and no house wine.
Mango, Dorieos Square, in a lovely location with pleasant staff, the food was good but perhaps didn’t quite live up to expectations.
The Waterfront is lined with bars and cafes and they offer a very enjoyable place to sit and watch the harbour and relax. There is also a bar area with loud, rock style bars aimed at a young crowd just back from the waterfront. The main square Eleftherias has some old school café bars which are great for sitting with a drink and people watching.
Kantouni, Apellou 12, Old Town is a cool, cocktail bar and café, the outside sitting is a great place for an early evening drink, there is also a food menu, it becomes a very popular place later in the evening. There are a few cool bars in this area.
Symi harbour front is lined with café bars where you can relax and watch the arrival of the yachts and ferries. There are also a couple of cool cocktail bars in the street behind the front.
Mediterraneo Café, is on the harbour front and was one of our favourite stopping places, the owner and staff are lovely, the house wine very drinkable and just a lovely place to relax.
Elpida Café, on the clock tower side of the harbour front, is where the locals go at night to drink wine and ouzo and with each drink comes a small plate of meze. A lovely place with delightful staff, just wish we had found it earlier
Raxati Café, Sofokleous 1-3, our favourite bar in Rhodes Old Town, opens at 6pm in the evening and is a great place for a drink before or after dinner or even for dinner with the cold meat & cheese selection and warm varieties of Greek “pies”. The location is lovely with a number of other small bars and restaurants nearby.
Baluse Club, Sofokleous 10, has a comfortable terrace with very comfortable couches, slightly more pricey than some, also serves food although we didn’t try the pizzas looked good.
The Cellar of The Kinights, Hippocrates Square, built into the old city walls this lovely wine shop also has an outdoor space with a few chairs and serves top notch wines by the glass, all served with nuts, crisps or cheese. The owner is very helpful if you are unsure what wines to try.
10GR Wine Bar & Hotel, Polydorou 16, Old Town, this was a find while exploring the old town shopping streets, lovely top class wines and nibbles, very knowledgeable & friendly staff.
There is a small bar owned by Yiannis next to his restaurant Pizanias Sea Star, in the old town and he is also a well known local musician, worth a visit.
Flaws, Iroon Politechniou 20, New Town, owned by the same family as the fabulous Tamam restaurant, this is a very smart bar specialising in cocktails, but also with wines and beer. Fabulous professional top notch service and quality as expected.
GranCaffe, Grigoriou Lampraki 43, New Town, a very smart upmarket café, bar and restaurant catering in the main for the locals shopping at the nearby high-end boutiques. Service not wonderful but a good place to stop to relax and the food looked good.
Ouzo is of course probably the best known Greek drink and while still seen being drunk with meze it has apparently lost popularity presumably as people change their drinking habits and more cocktail type bars open up.
Cocktails are popular both in the cities and on the islands, and many of the island waterfront bars are great for happy hour drinks.
Lager type beers such as Mythos are very commonly drunk and there is also Alpha and Fix, the latter excellent quality but usually only available in bottles, but there are increasingly bars focusing on small craft breweries with more ale type beers such as IPA’s.
Lastly wine and in more informal eating places house wine by the litre is both cheap and drinkable with white, rose and red usually available however the white is normally the best option for quality. If you are going to try more upmarket wine then it is worth doing some homework before you go to learn about grape types. Greek wines are gaining more and more admirers so check out some of the wine bars that have opened in recent years and the quality now is excellent.
White grapes varieties to look out for are Assyrtiko, Moscofilero, Roditis, Athiri and Malagusia, you will also come across well known grape types like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc but why not try traditional Greek ones. Red ones to seek out include Agiorgtiko, Xinomavro and Augoustatis.
We were based in Kos Town and meant to explore some of the many beaches on the Island which can be done easily by bus but we were enjoying chilling out in the Old Town and coming across the many ancient ruins. There are many day trips to Turkey and we went to Bodrum, good value and less than an hour by boat.
The joy of Symi is simply walking round the harbour and looking at the beautiful town while watching the departing and arriving yachts. There is an hourly bus service to Pedi beach which also stops at the high part of the town known as the village which otherwise is up 500 steps. There are also taxi boats to various beaches and trip to Panormitis monastery.
There is so much to see in the old town, the Street of the Knights and the Grand Palace and a number of fine museums of antiquities and arts. The moat of the city walls is very well landscaped and can be explored. It is only a short walk to the new town and the harbour and there are many excursions available.