The island of Halki (Chalki) is one of the smallest islands in the Southern Aegean, lying west of Rhodes in the Dodecanese Islands. At only 28 sq. km. it is easily possible to take in all of the island’s beauty in one holiday, and it’s 34 km of coastline and numerous hidden caves provide the ideal backdrop for lazy boat trips in its calm coastal waters.
The first sight of Halki for visitors making the 75 minute boat trip from Rhodes is the main town & port of Emborio (Halki Town) where all of the island’s accommodation is situated. Emborio is a quaint and traditional, typically Greek settlement, home to around 350 permanent residents, rising up from the centuries old harbour to resemble an ancient classical amphitheatre. Hidden amongst its cobbled streets a traditional baker and numerous fishermen can be found carrying on the family vocations at a pace unaffected by the growing tourism found elsewhere in the Dodecanese.
Beyond the main town Halki rises to the rocky peak of Mount Maistros at nearly 600m above sea level and the surrounding inland areas provide spectacular walks and views in every direction.
For the sun worshipping visitor there are four beaches on the island, none of which can ever be called busy! The closest to Emborio is Pondamos Beach, which is also the only sandy beach on Halki. Only a gentle ten minute walk away the beach enjoys warm waters with family-friendly swimming and has both an excellent and traditional taverna and had sunbeds and shades available to hire.
A little further beyond the rocky coves can be found Ftenagia Beach, made up of small smooth pebbles. Although this beach again has a taverna and facilities to hire sunbeds and shades, the peace and quiet here is unparalleled and it can be easy to forget that there is anyone else on the island as you spend lazy afternoons listening to the waves breaking against the shore.
The two other beaches, Kania to the north and Yiali to the south, are both smaller pebble beaches and even quieter than the previous two. Relying on nature’s shade and your own refreshments these two provide the ultimate refuge for those hoping to ensure no interruption whilst turning the pages on the holiday paperback.
At all four the waters are some of the cleanest in the Southern Aegean and, with the exception of Yiali where the still waters sometimes belie some stronger under-currents, they provide excellent swimming for all ages.
For one of the smallest accessible islands in the Dodecanese the island can not be said to be lacking in sightseeing opportunities, whether that’s man-made or nature’s own special sights that you are interested in.
The closest to Emborio for an early morning or late afternoon stroll is Chorio, the now abandoned settlement which up until the 19th century was the ‘capital’ of the island and home to over 3,000 people. Concealed from the shoreline the ruins clearly tell a tale of prosperity past and are a must see for those with even a passing interest in the history of the island and well worth the thirty minutes or so leisurely stroll. Chorio still plays an important role in Halki life as it is here that all the island’s residents make a pilgrimage once a year on the 14th August for the Festival of the Virgin Mary. One this special day the church doors are thrown open, the bells rung loud and the dancing continues long into the night. This taste of genuine Greek passion has to be experienced to be believed and with all visitors more than welcome to join in with the locals it is one not to be missed.
Looking above from Chorio you will spot Panormitis, a Byzantine monastery, which in recent times has undergone considerable restoration work to help slow the affects of the ages upon it. As it’s name suggests the views from here are beyond description and it is not hard to see why this was chosen as holy land by early settlers.
High above Emborio is Kastro, the ruined castle built for the Medieval Knights of St. John. The reward for the climb is again panoramic views which can not be done justice here and it is becomes immediately clear why this spot was chosen as the ideal lookout to protect the island from would be invaders crossing the horizon.
At the western end of the island, a good two hours on foot from Emborio, can be found the Monastery of St. John which is today still tendered by the Caretaker and his wife. One of the more sacred spots in the Southern Aegean the monastery is surrounded by a picturesque courtyard with the thankful shade of a huge pine tree, and speaks to the former riches of the island with intricate carvings and murals still in situ, as well as the sacred idols. To make a return trip will take a full day and is not advised during the high heat of the early afternoon, but for a donation towards its upkeep lodgings can be sought from the Caretaker in one of its simple rooms. This experience is just about as authentic as it can get in Greece and brings home to visitors the dedication that residents over the centuries must have held. If the walk seems a little too much after you have settled into the Halki pace of life, the islands lone taxi can be hired for the journey but although this will save your legs and ensure you can be back in time to enjoy dinner around the harbour you will miss out on the spectacular views that those intrepid walkers will experience along the way!
The handful of traditional tavernas on the island have extensive menus containing all of those authentic Greek dishes you would expect to find but, as with most Greek islands, Halki has its traditional dishes which surely must be tried on your visit. Amongst these are Ofto, lamb stuffed with rice & kidneys slow cooked in the wood-fired oven, Halkitiko Macaroni, a fine cut fresh pasta dish served traditionally with fried onions, and the ever-popular salted & fried small-fry caught and prepared each day on the harbour-side.View Accommodation