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A Guide to the Medieval Castle of Halki

Perched on a rocky outcrop above the abandoned town of Chorio, with mesmerising views over the island and out to sea, the Castle of the Knights is one of the most important – and most fascinating – sites on Halki. Following our recent article on the history of Halki, we thought it would be fun to focus on the castle and demonstrate why it’s worth the climb.

Here’s our guide to the medieval castle of Halki.

Location of the Castle of the Knights, Halki

The smallest inhabited island in the Dodecanese archipelago, Halki sits just six kilometres west of Rhodes. To the east of the island is the town and port of Emborio, while the castle sits proudly atop the hill of Agios Nikolaos in the southeast – keep your eyes peeled for its unmistakeable outline above Emborio as your ferry approaches from Rhodes.

Halki’s medieval castle is located directly above the abandoned village of Chorio, once the capital of the island. These two sites are the most important archaeological sites on Halki.

The History of Halki’s Medieval Castle

The location of the castle is important. From its vantage point you can see for miles along the coast – essential for protection during Halki’s past when the island’s inhabitants needed to keep a lookout for pirates and other invaders.

For this reason, the location has been important for the island dating back to prehistoric times, when the Pelasgians (a pre-Hellenic race) lived here. Traces of their walls remain today, along with remains of an ancient acropolis from the Hellenistic era.

The main structure visible today was built by the Knights of St John in the 14th century. Its high walls provided protection for the islanders during pirate raids, and enabled the knights to control the sea routes to the island, the harbour and the Trachia Peninsula beneath.

In 1522, control of the castle was ceded to the Ottomans when they took over Halki, though it remained a safe haven for the population during invasions.

Visiting the Medieval Castle of Halki

Access to the Castle of the Knights is via the abandoned town of Chorio. You can either walk here from Emborio (which takes around 45-60 minutes) or take a minibus during the summer months. However, you still have a climb ahead of you through the village and up the steep slopes to the castle, so we recommend doing this either early or late in the season, or starting early in the morning. Whenever you go, take plenty of suncream and water!

Abandoned Chorio is one of the most beautiful photo spots on Halki, so it’s worth lingering as you climb the winding path through the village (or you might want to leave your explorations for the way down).

Once you reach the Church of Panagia, there’s a steep paved path ahead as you climb to the castle. But we promise, it’s worth every lung-busting step!

At the entrance to the castle, there is the built-in coat of arms of Pierre d’ Aubusson, who was the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St John between 1476 and 1503. Next to this is the deserted church of Agios Nikolaos, which has frescos dating from the 15th to 17th centuries.

Much of the castle lies in ruins, and we recommend wearing a good pair of trainers or walking boots to get around safely. There is some signage and boards explaining a little history and geography of the area.

But most magnificent of all are the stupendous panoramic views from the top! You don’t want to forget your camera for this trip…

Visit Halki with Nissia Holidays

If this guide to the medieval castle of Halki has inspired you to book a holiday to our peaceful, historic island, check out our fantastic range of Halki accommodation.

To find out more about the island, see our Ultimate Guide to Halki.

To book your holiday to Halki, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: info@nissiaholidays.com.

Jo

Jo worked on Tilos in 2006, as the last Island Manager for Laskarina. She now runs a travel writing business and travel blog, The Wandering Wordsmith, and spends much of her year travelling. But Greece, especially Tilos, will always hold a special place in her heart.

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