Greek island holiday guide: the Dodecanese

Rhodes and Kos may be the most popular of the Dodecanese but lesser-known islands – including Nisyros, Kalymnos and Symi – offer an equally scenic holiday, minus the crowds but with affordable accommodation and food

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The Dodecanese translates as “the twelve islands”, of which the most well-known to the British traveller are the green expanses of Rhodes and Kos. Those who know their biblical history will have heard of Patmos, where St John wrote his Book of Revelation. In recent years canny visitors have been heading for lesser-known islands. Karpathos, the third biggest of the chain, has a stunning coastline divided between the beaches and bays of the south, and the rough crags of the north. Smaller Kalymnos, Kasos, Kastellorizo and Symi are less lush than their bigger companions but all have elegant harbours – a legacy of their trading past – and rocky interiors that offer good walking.

Nisyros, built on a still-active volcano, is a different story, and its dramatic, blackened, landscapes will please geology lovers. Astypalea, on its own to the west of the other islands, feels more part of the Cyclades than the Dodecanese. The more benevolent landscape of Leros and the low-key, and little-visited, charms of Tilos bring the count of 12 to an end.

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