|The Dodecanese is the easternmost group of Greek islands, some of which are just a few kilometres from the west coast of Turkey.
Although the name Δωδεκάνησα means "the twelve islands", there are actually over 160, ranging from Rhodes, the largest and most important, to tiny uninhabited islets such as Stroggyli, near Kastellorizo.
These days it is relatively easy to visit many of the islands by plane or ferry, but historically they were quite remote from the mainland and from each other. This remoteness, as well as the dry climate, mountainous terrain and poor soil on many of the islands, forced the inhabitants to become seafarers - merchants, fishermen and sponge divers.
Conquered and settled in ancient times by many peoples, including Minoans, Carians, Mycenaean and Doric Greeks and Romans, in more recent times dominance over the islands was contested between the Byzantine Empire, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, Venetians and Genoese.
The islands gained independence from the Ottoman Turks in 1912 and formed the Federation of the Dodecanese Islands. However they were occupied by Italy soon after, and only became part of the modern Greek state after the Second World War.
Several of the islands have a distinctly Dodecanese culture, most obviously apparent from the architecture of its old houses and churches, local cuisine and unique features such as choklakia mosaics. Other cultural traditions, such as local costumes, dialects, music and dances, are becoming less easy to find, except in folklore museums and at special events. The Italian occupation, during which the Greek language was forbidden, also had an effect on local culture.
Beyond the crowds of the main towns and tourist centres such as Rhodes town, life is quite relaxed and easy-going. For those who wish to explore, there are plenty of places of natural beauty, uncrowded beaches and historical sights.
|Facts & figures
(Greek, Δωδεκάνησα, literally the twelve islands)
||The Dodecanese consists of 12 larger islands and over 150 smaller islands and islets in the eastern Aegean, close to Turkey's Western Anatolian coast. Many of the islands can therefore be considered to belong geographically to Asia, though ethnically all are very decidedly Greek.|
||By far the largest island is Rhodes, which also has the largest population and attracts the most tourists.|
26 of the islands are nominally inhabited, although on some of the smaller islands the only inhabitants are soldiers who are stationed temporarily there.
The inhabited islands, in order of size:
Rhodes, Karpathos, Kos, Kalymnos, Astypalea, Kasos, Tilos, Symi, Leros, Nisyros, Patmos, Chalki, Lipsi, Pserimos, Agathonisi, Levithia, Megisti (Kastellorizo), Arki, Kinaros, Marathi
||(administrative region) Southern Aegean islands|
(Greek, Περιφέρεια Νοτίου Αιγαίου)
The semi-autonomous region consists of the Cyclades and Dodecanese island groups in the central and southeastern Aegean Sea, and is divided into 13 regional units:
Andros, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kea-Kythnos, Kos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes, Syros, Thira (Santorini), Tinos
Capital: Ermoupoli, on the island of Syros.
For further information about Greece's administrative divisions see our page:
Greece facts and figures.
||2,714 square km|
||Eastern European Time (EET)|
Daylight Saving Schedule:
Summer (from last Sunday in March)
GMT/UTC +3 hours
Winter (from last Sunday in October)
GMT/UTC +2 hours
||Mediterranean (temperate, with wet winters and hot, dry summers)|