Located about six kilometres northeast of Halki, the abandoned islet of Alimia offers an intriguing adventure. Blessed with natural water sources – unlike its barren neighbour – this pint-sized islet is sprinkled with green, giving it a somewhat gentler ambiance than Halki.
Alimia, also known as Alimnia, benefits from a large natural harbour, which played an important role in the island’s history. While Alimia has been uninhabited since the 1960s, it remains a popular picnic and swimming spot for locals and tourists from Halki and Rhodes. But the tranquil scenes you see today belie the island’s sometimes turbulent past.
In ancient times the islet was known as Eulimnia, which translates as ‘with good harbours’. It was mentioned by Pliny, who described it as having two harbours providing safe shelter: the large bay of Ayios Giorgos where boats dock today, and smaller eastern bay of Emborio.
While there’s evidence of settlement here during the late Neolithic period, the earliest building remains date from Hellenistic times, when the bay of Ayios Giorgos was used as anchorage for the Rhodian fleet. During this period, a small tower was constructed on the island’s tallest peak to act as an observatory. Potsherds and other archaeological evidence suggest that this was a substantial settlement with a fortified acropolis.
When the Knights of St. John conquered the Dodecanese in the 14th century, they incorporated this watchtower into a medieval castle, the ruins of which still crown the peak today. Look carefully and you can see the solid, rectangular 4th century blocks underpinning the medieval structure.
Alimia During & After the Second World War
Alimia offers a fascinating story for lovers of wartime history. The large bay played a valuable role during the Second World War, when its deep waters were used as a submarine base by first Italian and then German troops. Remains of the submarine pens can still be seen underwater.
In April 1944, seven British commandos attacked the harbour, aiming to sabotage the German submarines. They were captured by the Nazis, bundled off to Rhodes and then Thessaloniki, where six of them were executed for spying. In the aftermath of the attack, several locals were deported from the island for trying to assist the British commandos.
This marked the decline of Alimia as a settlement. Over time, only one family was left on the island. They moved to Halki in search of a better life and schooling for the children. Since the 1960s, the only occupants are sheep, goats, and the occasional shepherd tending his flocks.
In 1978, the deserted village was declared a protected settlement, with the nearby small saltwater lake one of 37 natural reserves in the Dodecanese.
Visiting Alimia Today
The only way to visit Alimia is by boat from Halki or Rhodes. Boats anchor in lee of the picturesque Ayios Minas church, from where people can swim to shore or hop in a small rowing boat.
The church sits next to a decaying jetty and is worth visiting to see its attractive frescoes. Next to this are military buildings constructed during the Italian occupation, which are dotted with bullet holes. The main village sits at the head of the bay, overlooked by the castle and swaying palms.
The tumbledown, whitewashed buildings lie in ruins with remnants of furniture scattered around. The only building in the village that’s maintained is the church of St George (Ayios Giorgos), which stands in a traditional Dodecanese pebbled courtyard shaded by mature trees. The church is open to visitors and still hosts the feast day of St George every April.
There’s a grander building near the main church that once served as a taverna. Snoop inside and you’ll find crude graffiti from bored Italian and German troops.
The southern shore of the bay has a couple of excellent sand and pebble beaches, which make for an ideal picnic and swimming spot. Don’t forget your snorkelling gear because there’s a fascinating underwater world to discover, including remnants of the submarine pens.
If you’re feeling active, climb the loose scree trail to the castle. While it can be a challenging path to navigate, you’ll be richly rewarded with superb views across Alimia, Halki and Rhodes, and interesting ruins to explore. The trek takes about 45 minutes each way.
Because there are no organised facilities on the island, make sure you have enough water, food and suncream for your visit.
Visit Halki and Alimia with Nissia Holidays
If you’re visiting Halki with Nissia Holidays and wish to find out more about popping over to Alimia, call into our island office for a chat. We can tell you everything you need to know and help arrange your transport so you can explore this little green islet.
To book your holiday to Halki, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: email@example.com.