The beautiful island of Halki, also known as the “Center of Peace and Friendship for the young people of the world”, is situated just a few miles west of Rhodes and is part of the Dodecanese group of islands. This small and mountainous island, inhabited by around 400 people, spans an area of 28km and takes its name from the copper (chalkos in Greek) that was once mined there. Halki’s tranquil ambiance, wonderful climate, and friendly locals make it an idyllic vacation destination for those seeking respite from the stress of modern living. The island’s stunning scenery, interesting architecture, and limited nightlife render it perfect for peaceful and relaxing holidays.
Visitors to Halki will find a selection of traditional hotels, rooms, studios, and apartments for rent scattered around the island. However, due to the limited number of accommodations available, it is advisable to make reservations in advance. Upon arriving at the charming and serene harbor, visitors are greeted with a picturesque view of old churches, the monastery of Agios Ioannis atop a hill, and quaint buildings that provide an idyllic setting.
The only populated region on the island is the little port town of Nimborio or Emborio, which is a fantastic array of houses, taverns, and shops clustered around the picturesque harbor area. The town is made up of 2- and 3-story Venetian style renovated mansions that are overshadowed by a Byzantine bell tower and a backdrop of rugged mountains. The town has a noble air about it that reflects its past glory and prosperity, and it is worth walking through its narrow and graphic streets to take in the neo-classical architecture, Byzantine Church, Monastery, and ruins of an ancient castle.
The island is surrounded by a string of pure white beaches that are best reached by boat, although some are within walking distance. Visitors can hire a little motorboat to explore beaches such as Yiali, Trachia, Kania, or Areta, as well as the isle of Alimia. Just ten minutes away from Emborio is Pondamos beach, a sandy length of coastline framing crystal-clear waters. Deep in the mainland, a ruined Knights castle on the edge of a hill guards the remains of Chorio, the old capital, which is now abandoned. The hike to the stronghold is amazing, and visitors can witness ancient marbles, foundations of temples, walls of the Hellenistic/classical period, Byzantine churches, and ancient cisterns, Greek, and Byzantine. The views from the unguarded walls, over the town towards Rhodes or out towards far-off Karpathos, are breathtaking. Northeast of the castle is the church of St. Nicholas and its marvelous frescoes. Halki is an island with a prolonged and significant history that stretches back to ancient times. According to Greek mythology, the Titans were the first inhabitants of all the neighboring islands, followed by the Pelasgians, the Carians, the Dorians, and later the Phoenicians. The famous queen Aretanassa of Halki lived on the island before being exiled to Karpathos, where she committed suicide following her husband’s death. Ruins of three temples of the god Apollo are preserved at the locality of Pefkia, today’s Nimborio (along the coastline). The god was worshipped here with incomparable honors. During the flourishing period of Athenian supremacy, Chalki paid the alliance taxes on a regular basis.
Halki was once in a military alliance with its neighboring island of Rhodes, particularly during the Peloponnesian War of 412BC. However, in the 7th century, Halki fell under the Arab occupation, which lasted until 825. During the 13th century, Venetians and Genovese gained control of the island, and they took it upon themselves to renovate the ancient acropolis while simultaneously erecting a fortress on the nearby island of Alimia. In 1523, the Turks occupied Chalki, and the island became a part of their Ottoman Empire. Halki played an active role in the 1821 War of Independence, and in 1912, it was conquered by the Italians. By the end of World War II, the island was annexed to Greece along with the rest of the Dodecanese.
Halki is a superb destination for walkers, as all the points of interest on the island are within a short distance, with none exceeding 10km. You can opt to walk along the island’s one and only paved road or take the unbeaten path. Exploring the trails, paths, and cliffs can be an exhilarating experience, making Halki an ideal island for trekking, where you can bask in the natural beauty and stunning landscapes. You can take a leisurely stroll to explore the roughly 360 countryside chapels that dot the island, most of which are ancient and now in ruins. The friendly locals will gladly guide you to hidden gems around the island.
The island of Halki is home to about 6000 goats, and many islanders raise bees for honey and wax. The island boasts 14 species of butterflies and 40 types of birds. If you plan to visit during the island’s festivities, you will enjoy the peak of Chalki’s hospitality. The whole island celebrates with great fervor, and everyone is welcome to join in. On the 29th of August, the island’s most significant feast, held at the Ai Giannis Monastery, is celebrated by Chalkians from all over the world.
Despite being just a few miles away from the bustling island of Rhodes, this tiny island has managed to escape the chaos of its larger neighbor. Once a self-sufficient island that prospered from sponge diving, Halki is now a peaceful destination that promises a relaxing yet captivating holiday. For those looking for more activity, lively Rhodes can be reached in a day, provided you start early enough to beat the crowds.
Since Halki does not have an airport, visitors must fly to Rhodes and then continue by transfer. In high season, two alternating boats depart each day from Kamiros Skala, a small harbor on the West coast of Rhodes, to Halki. The ferry journey takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Ferry companies that connect the island of Rhodes to Piraeus also serve Halki, with a journey time of around 2 hours. The ferries depart from the commercial harbor near the Old Town of Rhodes. Halki also has sea connections with nearby islands such as Kasos and Karpathos. Crete is also accessible via Sitia and Agios Nikolaos.
Pondamos Beach, Kania, Trachia, and Areta are just a few examples of the many pristine beaches with crystal-clear waters that can be found on Chalki. The waters in the harbor are also remarkably clear, making it an attractive spot for swimming and diving enthusiasts alike.
Yachting is a popular pastime in the waters surrounding Chalki, although the island itself is not equipped with facilities for refueling or provisioning. The closest refueling station is located on the neighboring island of Rhodes.
Due to its small size, Chalki does not allow motor vehicle traffic, making walking the primary mode of transportation.
Some of the most significant historical and cultural landmarks on the island include the ancient Crusader castle, the Church of St. Nicholas, the Monastery of Stavros, the old monastery of Taxiarchis Michail Panormitis, the small chapel of Ai Giannis, Phoeniki with the half-ruined monastery of St. Zaharias, Pefkia with Apollo’s temple, and the islets of Alimia and Krevati.
Chalki hosts several festivals throughout the year, with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15th and the annual feast held on August 29th at the Monastery of Ai Giannis Alargas (St. John) being two of the most popular celebrations. Visitors from around the world join local Chalkians in honoring these events.