These scattered islands and their countless peripheral islets, framed between Leros, Patmos and the coast of Asia Minor, and circled on their further horizons by the magnificent mountain profiles of Samos , Ikaria and Kalymnos, together form a wide seascape of consummate and ever changing beauty. This was in Antiquity the Milesian Sea, and these small and almost waterless islands were too close to Miletus, the greatest city of this part of Ionia, to have a life independent of its influence. Traces of ancient settlement can be seen on them all, but the scarceness of what remains points to these islands—with the exception of Lipsi—having had only a small port-community and a somewhat seasonal agricultural population. Little more was possible, because the availability of fresh water was an absolute and determining factor on how many people such islands could sustain throughout the year. Evidence of Hellenistic watch towers and forts is common to them all. Current excavations on Agathonisi also point to the primary importance of their harbours because these islands lived by protecting and facilitating the immense volume of commercial traffic that passed in and out of Miletus. In essence, they watched one of the principal gateways between Asia Minor and the rest of the Greek world, and their waters were probably busier then than they are today. Miletus does not exist any more as a city, and a modern political border has separated the islands from the heart land that was their sustenance before. As a consequence they have become remote backwaters whose principal appeal today is that very fact. Their land is poor, with shade and tree-cover at a premium, but their sea is rich both in underwater life and the beauty of its shifting light and landscape. Blessed with limpid waters and a great variety of sand and pebble beaches which are not much frequented outside the high season, these fragments at the very edge of Greece are beginning to attract a quiet and mostly independent tourism. Lipsi and Arki teeter on the edge of losing their tranquility to new building projects. Agathonisi has, better than any, preserved a just balance between the need for tourism and the conserving of a local identity and landscape. Although walking on these islands is enjoyable and unfailingly affords wide and interesting views, the best way to understand them is by boat. The faithful ferry-boat Nisos Kalymnos, which weaves its way up and down this chain, is the simplest solution; there are also many private cai―ques, based in Patmos and Lipsi, which offer more explorative trips during the summer months. But nothing is better than visiting the islands in a small sailing-craft, in order to reveal their endless variety of shapes, colours and vistas, and to capture some sense of what this corner of the Aegean was like in Antiquity.

Agathonisi Island, Marathi Island, Arki Island and Lispi Island are part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.

Book your Trip to Greece