1. FIRST THINGS FIRST
There are many interesting facts to know about the South Aegean, one of the most beautiful regional units of Greece, which consists of the island groups of the Cyclades, just southeast of mainland Greece, and the Dodecanese, in the eastern Aegean Sea. Taken together, these two groups include 60 inhabited islands, each with its own seductive charm.
2. HARD ROCK
Absolutely everyone knows that Mykonos is the ultimate Greek party island, but very few know that it has its very own Stonehenge. We’re talking about the remains of two towers from the Hellenistic period, with an impressive portal made of stone blocks that have stood there for more than 2,000 years, just inland from Platis Gialos Beach.
3. JUST DO IT
If you’re a fan of alternative tourism, then a stop at Kalymnos is in order; it’s one of the best international destinations for climbing, hiking, and scuba diving. The island hosts a Climbing Festival every May, and people come from around the world to participate.
4. A SEPARATION
The island of Telendos was once part of Kalymnos, until an earthquake split the single land mass into two separate islands nearly 1,500 years ago.
5. LAST EXIT
In Rinia, a tiny uninhabited island next to Delos and Mykonos, there’s a beach called Karantina (“Quarantine”) where you can find the ruins of a 200-year-old facility used to isolate the sick during plague and cholera outbreaks in the region. Nowadays it makes the perfect destination for a private day-cruise from Mykonos.
Have you ever wanted to walk on the moon? If the answer is yes, then get ready for an otherworldly spot that might have looked familiar to Neil Armstrong: Sarakiniko Beach, on Milos, is a bone-white landscape formed by volcanic activity, with turquoise waters and million-year old fossilized seashells.
7. CLEAN ACT
There’s a small island in the Dodecanese called Lipsi where there’s not a single trash-can in sight! An extremely successful recycling program has been implemented there, and today Lipsi has the highest national recycling rates per resident.
8. WHO COUNTS?
I know you’ve heard about everybody’s dream destination, Santorini, but did you know that once it was thought to have more churches than houses and more wine than water?
9. FALLEN GIANT
Rhodes used to be home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes, a 33m-tall bronze statue of the Greek sun god Helios. It was erected in the 3d century BC and it stood for about 50 years until it collapsed during an earthquake.
10. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
If you can’t decide whether you’d rather go to the mountains or the beach, then Karpathos is just the place for you. One of the most remote islands in the Dodecanese, it’s a place of contrasts, with lush green mountaintops and beaches with crystal-clear waters.
11. DUMBO’S ANCESTORS
Did you know that Tilos, the seventh-largest island of the Dodecanese, is the last place where elephants existed in Europe before they disappeared from this part of the world almost 4,000 years ago?
12. YOU’LL LAVA THIS
Nisyros is another island in the South Aegean region that was formed by volcanic activity. The houses are made of volcanic material, and the island is even home to its own volcanology museum. Remember to buy some volcanic face and body mask cream, so you can give your skin a treat when you get back home.
13. WORLD TRADE CENTER
You might know Delos is the sacred island of the god Apollo, but did you know that, long before the rise of New York or London, it was a major commercial center of the world? Merchants from Europe, Africa, and Asia would head there to trade goods and exchange currencies.
14. MYTHICAL BIRDS
I know it sounds like we’re making things up but, on the island of Kos, there’s a place called the Plaka Forest where peacocks roam wild!
15. TRUE STORY
Around 800 years ago, some pirates stole a donkey from the Duke of Tinos and sold it to the duke of the neighboring island of Naxos. Upon learning that his beloved donkey had been bought by his rival, the duke sought revenge by trying to steal the whole island of Syros, which belonged to the Duchy of Naxos at the time. You’ve probably heard that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but I bet you didn’t know that an island for a donkey almost caused a war in the Aegean.