Colorful and Laid-Back: A Guide to the Tiny Island of Halki

The smallest inhabited island of the Dodecanese, Halki is worlds apart from its large, cosmopolitan neighbor of Rhodes.


What to see and do in Halki: OUR PICKS

PICTURE-PERFECT: Lining the port of Emporios, the brightly colored 19th-c. houses (many lovingly restored) with their ceramic-tiled roofs and wooden windows worked their magic on us before we even stepped off the boat. Some of these houses are right on the water, and residents dive from their front patios right into the port’s crystal-clear waters. Regardless of when you arrive at Halki, the clock on the tower will read twenty after four. The clock, too, dates back to the island’s heyday and has been restored, but because of its jarring chimes, it’s been turned off.

SACRED SPOTS: The Church of Aghios Nikolaos in Emporios was built in 1861 and has a bell tower supported by an arch partially built using ancient columns. If you’re heading southwest, the 19th-c. Monastery of Ai-Yiannis Alarga has a pretty café in a garden with an impressive cypress tree, where the monks serve souma, a traditional spirit, and local cheese with honey.

Info

  • Area: 28 sq. km.
  • Population: 480 (2011 census)
  • Distance: 302 (sea miles from Piraeus)
  • Highest Peak: 593m (Merovigli)

MYTHICAL SUNSET: According to the story, Zeus and Hecate watched the sun set behind Paleo Horio while sitting on a pair of thrones hewn into the rock on the spot where the castle now stands. You can catch the same view by walking down the cobbled path from the village (it takes about an hour). The castle was built in the 15th-16th century by the Knights of Saint John on the ruins of the Hellenistic-era acropolis. There’s a gate with the coat of arms of the Grand Master of Rhodes, Pierre d’Aubusson.

WHERE TO SWIM: Only a handful of cars circulate on the streets of Emporios during the day and there’s a complete ban from 18:00 onwards in the village center, but you can get around the island by bus, boat or on foot. It’s an 8-minute walk west to the white-sand beach of Pontamos and 50 minutes to Areta, which consists of large white pebbles. Ftenagia, another pebble beach, is 10 minutes due south, and Kania, with a blend of coarse sand and fine pebbles, is 40 minutes due north. You can get to Tracheia in the south by boat; there are two quiet pebble beaches that face each other on the narrow neck of a small peninsula.

ISLET OF GHOSTS: Explore the 7.4 sq. km islet of Alimia, where relics range from a Hellenistic-era shipyard and Roman graves to the ruins of barracks built during the Italian occupation and the remains of a traditional village abandoned in 1940. There’s a medieval castle at the highest point (269m) which affords a great view of Halki and southern Rhodes.

EARLY BIRDS: We tasted delicious baklava and oven-hot pougi (small cream pies) as well as 40 flavors of handmade ice-cream at Theodosia Patisserie, at 06:00 in the morning. 

TOWN EATERIES: All of Halki’s tavernas serve fresh fish. The cook/owner at Paradosiako Piato tis Lefkosias had spent 50 years in the kitchen stuffing vine leaves and kneading dough for traditional makarounes pasta. 

ON THE BEACH: At a small taverna in Kania, the highlights were the tuna, the swordfish and the shellfish fresh from the family’s boat, while Ftenagia’s taverna served us dishes such as local salted bonito, herring and stuffed eggplant. At Nick’s taverna at Pontamos, our beer was kept cool in an ice bucket down at the beach.


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