The Dodecanese island group – translated, it literally means ‘twelve islands’ – lies at the southeastern corner of Greece’s national borders, hugging the coastline of Turkey. While the name might make one believe that there are only twelve Islands in the Dodecanese, in truth, there 165 islands that belong to the Dodecanese grouping.
Since antiquity, the Dodecanese Islands played a pivotal role in shaping the histories of Asia Minor, mainland Greece, and the rest of Greece’s islands – especially those in the Aegean Sea. For much of their history and despite their close proximity to one another, the islands that are most commonly associated with the Dodecanese – like Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Nisyros, and Karpathos among others – largely did not work in concert with one another and were constantly in a competition for regional supremacy.
From the site of the ancient Colossus of Rhodes, the titanic statue that was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, to scenic commercially important ports dotted with lively tavernas and marketplaces, the Dodecanese Islands are a paradise for those who have a special place in their hearts for history, culture, and the sea.
The islands often changed heads throughout history beginning in the Minoan and Mycenean ages and continuing through the Hellenistic and Roman Empires and the crusader kingdoms, to centuries of Ottoman Turk rule that ceased in May 1912. Alas, Turkish rule gave way to Italian rule which was formalized in 1923, but the islands were finally given to Greece in 1947 after the conclusion of World War II.
In the early 20th century, due to Turkish occupation and sometimes repressive Italian rule of the islands, many local inhabitants immigrated to the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Crete, and mainland Greece, creating substantial diasporas in those locations.
The blending of cultures through the centuries have created unique architectural styles and produced fusion cuisine specialties that allow visitors to not only walk around old cobblestone streets and visit fine museums to experience history but to be able to also taste what the islands have to offer.
When visitors think of the Dodecanese, it’s natural for the mind to wander to Rhodes, the most populous and largest of the island group that is known for its scenic castles, and its uniquely verdant and fertile landscape for that part of Greece, but the islands surrounding Rhodes – I would highlight Kos – are worth a visitor’s time all the same. The region’s commercial reliance on the seas and the natural landscape of the islands themselves have made seafood the staple of most locals’ diets. Sun-drenched octopus, the scaros fish (parrotfish) which is dried and salted on the island of Simi, along with a locally-caught lobster are ever-present and waiting to be enjoyed by visitors to the Dodecanese Islands. These islands, combining the majesty that the sea has to offer with centuries of rich culture, are the ideal getaway for visitors who seek to get away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Thank you for allowing The National Herald to be your gateway to this special region of Greece.