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The Dodecanese Islands

The Dodecanese or Dodecanisos is the name of the island complex in the north eastern Aegean. They are situated between the islands of Crete, the Cyclades, lkarias, Samos and the Asia Minor seaboard.

Geophysical condition
Apart from the twelve main islands, which gave the name to the island complex (Rhodes, Astypalia, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Kos, Leros, Nysiros, Patmos, Symi, Tilos. Halki), the islets of Lipsi (16 square kms), Pserimos (14.6 square kms), Agathonisi (13.4 square kms), Sari a (11 square kms), Kastellorizo (9.1 square kms), Levitha (9 square kms), Giali (6 square kms), Kinaros (4.3 square kms) amongst other islets, barren islets and rock peaks, all constitute the group of islands known as the Dodecanese. Sea shells and crustacean fossils which are found on top of mountains indicate that the formation of this island chain, either wholly or partly, occurred under the surface of the sea. During lengthy and complex geological upheavals, dry land emerged only to be, to a great extent, resubmerged some 3-4 million years ago, leaving only the mountain tops of" Aigaiida" above sea level to form today's Aegean Islands.
The Dodecanese climate is of a transitional type and ranges from temperate to dry tropical climates which is characterized with lots of sunlight and an extended dry summer period.

Fauna - Flora
Forests and bush lands of pine, cypress, wild olive, cedar, mastic. arbutus bush and holly together with a variety of annual and long lasting turf, aromatic plants (oregano, thyme, lavender), carob and olive trees, all make for a rich mosaic of plant varieties. Often on the islets unique plant and animal species have been observed (especially reptiles and invertebrate), remnants of an isolated evolution and adaptation to the unique conditions, which were created when these islets were cut off from the larger islands.
At the same time these islets, from which both human beings and land meat eaters are absent, serve as refuges for ancient species which have disappeared with the passage of time from other areas. Fossil findings, which show the different evolution of animal species on these isolated ecosystems, aren't rare, a prime example being the dwarf elephants of Tilos

The many caves, crevices in the rocks, high rocky formations, and dangerous dins all serve as refuges for rare species of birds such as birds of prey small hawks, wild pigeons, herons and cormorants. Also, due to their geographical position, the islands are a stopover for migrating birds. Tens of millions of these birds visit the islands each spring and autumn.
Quite surprising is the rich sea life found in the Dodecanese seas. The rare Mediterranean seal finds refuge in the coastal caves, together with the dolphins, turtles, many varieties of fish, mollusks and crustaceans which form the rich ecosystem of the Dodecanese Sea.
Every single island and islet is of itself a unique natural museum. This of course favors the development of special types of tourism. For example only the island of Kasos boasts 450 plant species, which is more than exist in the whole of Holland.

The inhabitants of the islands keep to a traditionally light diet. They find nourishment mainly in vegetarian food (vegetables, greens), dairy foods (which are prepared even today by traditional methods), honey of exceptional quality as well as in fresh fish which are cooked according to traditional local recipes.

Activities of the inhabitants
The traditional occupations of the inhabitants are farming, animal farming, fishing, sponge diving and trading due to the advantaged position of the islands which lie between Europe, Asia and Mrica. For the poorer islands a source of income and therefore development was the monetary exchange coming from Dodecanese emigrants and shipping. Today, the main activities of the inhabitants has to do with tourism. However, many of the traditional occupations still survive such as stone masonry, carpentry and ship building and the women have never ceased producing exceptional textiles, knitted handicrafts and embroideries.
The European Union and the Greek government support development through special programmes, which are helping the islands to participate in the new economic reality.
These islands are: Agathonisi, Astypalia, northern Karpathos, Kasos, Lipsi, Megisti or Kastellorizo, Nysiros, Tilos and Halki from the Dodecanese island complex.

Information by:
· The Dodecanese Guide, published by the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of the Dodecanese.
· Greek National Tourism Organization - GNTO
Dodecanese islands map
Agathonisi is the north most islet of the Dodecanese island complex with a quite impressive coastal configuration and many beautiful windless bays.
Astipalea (Astypalia)
Astypalea, called Ichthyoessa (Island of the Fish) by the ancients for its rich fisheries, resembles two islands linked by a natural bridge.
Halki (Chalki)
Halki looks like a part of Rhodes minus the great current of tourism. A mountainous island, it is ideal for those who wish for peaceful holidays.
Kalimnos (Kalymnos)
This island of barren rock, golden beaches and tiny green valleys owes its fame to its celebrated sponge fishers.
This oblong island, third largest in the Dodecanese, possesses incomparable natural beauties and traditions jealously guarded by its inhabitants.
This is the southern end of the Dodecanese, as if it were to meet Crete by sailing out in the Carpathian Sea.
Kastelorizo (Megisti)
This small but heroic island to the east end of the Aegean, outer link of the wondrous Dodecanese chain, used to be called since Antiquity, Megisti (=maxima).
This island has given the world Hippocrates, father of medicine; it looks like a huge floating garden. The city is built along a wide bay and catches the eye from the very first moment.
A generally mountainous island with deep bays often full of greenery picturesque valleys and dented coasts.
This is a small charming island with magnificent beaches and picturesque tavernas serving fresh fish and local wine.
As we approach Nisyros by boat we cannot fail to be deeply impressed by the image that emerges before our eyes: perfectly white houses, dense greenery, and the colors of the volcanic soil.
Called Jerusalem of the Aegean, Patmos is the island of ascetic austerity. It is made of rock and bays and surrounded by seagull-islands.
Simi (Symi)
This is mainly a rocky island, except for its southern part which is covered with pines, mulberries and fruit-bearing trees.
This is an island with marvellous sandy beaches, full of springs and streams and Genoan towers. Tourists are still few.
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