For the intrepid traveler in search of a blissful haven, Halki emerges as the idyllic refuge. This unspoiled paradise, with its majestic mountains and verdant landscape, provides an enchanting setting for those desiring serenity, far from the frenetic pace of tourist-laden locales.
The sparse historical records of Halki only serve to enhance its mystique and magnetism. As one wanders through the labyrinthine cobblestone streets, the island's enigmatic past beckons, sparking curiosity and intrigue. While Rhodes may have eclipsed Halki in the annals of history, the island's resilience and the richness of its heritage remain unshaken, unfolding within the broader narrative of the region.
In essence, Halki emerges as the quintessential retreat for those captivated by the allure of the unknown and the beguiling beauty of an untrodden destination. This hidden treasure eagerly awaits the discerning traveler, eager to embark on a journey of authenticity and genuine connection, far from the madding crowd.
The island of Halki is situated 35 nautical miles west of the city of Rhodes and just 5 miles from the promontory of Monolithos, Rhodes. With an area of 37.0 square kms and 34 kms of coastline, it is one of the smallest islands of the Dodecanese group. It has an irregular rectangular shape with a length of 10 kms from west to east and a width of approximately 3 kms from north to south. The landscape is mountainous with the most important peaks being those of Prophet Elias (518m), Kapouli (512) and Kapnikari (500m). With the exceptions of the main port of Imporio and the beach of Pontamos, the other beaches found of the island are small and rocky.
History of Halki island
From the mists of prehistory, Halki has been a home to humankind, its legacy intertwined with the ebb and flow of ancient civilizations. Throughout its storied past, the island has at times found itself under the dominion of Kamiros, while at others, it has enjoyed the independence of being part of the Athenian alliance, as evidenced by the tax catalogues of the Delian League.
This enchanting isle has experienced its share of shifting allegiances, ultimately coming under the control of Kamiros once more and sharing in the fortunes of Rhodes throughout the ensuing centuries. As the 14th century dawned, the Knights of Rhodes bestowed Halki upon the distinguished Assanti family of Ischia as a feudal fief.
The Assanti clan, keen to leave their mark on Halki's landscape, constructed a formidable fortress atop the remnants of the ancient acropolis. Today, visitors can still marvel at the well-preserved coat of arms of Grand Master D'Aubusson (1476-1503), a testament to his efforts in rebuilding the fort following the devastating incursion of the Venetians.
As tumultuous invasions swept across Halki's shores, its resilient denizens would seek sanctuary within the protective embrace of the fort, a testament to their indomitable spirit. The island's fortunes took a turn for the better in the 19th century, under Turkish rule. United with neighboring Symi, Kalymnos, and Kastellorizo, Halki entered a golden age of prosperity, with flourishing trade and a thriving sponge fishing industry.
This period of affluence saw the establishment of schools, contributing to a marked increase in the literary prowess of the island's inhabitants. However, as the curtains drew on Turkish rule and the onset of Italian domination, the once-privileged rights granted to the islands were revoked. The consequences were dire: the collapse of trade and the sponge industry led to a population exodus, as residents sought greener pastures elsewhere.
In 1912, Halki and its fellow Dodecanese islands succumbed to Italian military control, and by 1923, the island found itself politically subjugated as well.
During the Second World War Halkite heroes, as was Lieutenant Alexandros Diakos and Captain Diogenes Fanourakis, brought glory to the island.
Villages and Settlements of Halki island
There is only one settlement on the island named Halki or Imporios, which is both the port and capital of the island. It was established during the 19th century when the steam ships of the sea police wiped out piracy completely in the area and allowed the establishment of coastal settlements.
The village of Chorio, west of Halki, once the only settlement on the island, is built around the hill upon which the fort is built and has olden style stone houses. The village of Chorio was abandoned gradually and today is deserted. The town of Halki, built during prosperous times, is architecturally aristocratic, with traditional two and three story houses positioned amphitheatrically around the harbour. Of special interest are the neoclassical Council building, the stone clock tower and the church of St. Nicholas (built in 1861) with its characteristic bell tower and finely worked wooden iconostasis.
Behind the town tower the bare and precipitous mountains of the island. Although these mountains are not particularly tall, the highest peak of Maistro located a little east of the centre of the island is only 593 metres high, they seem extremely tall due to their gloomy and grand haughty appearance.
Theophrastus refers to the extremely fertile valleys of Halki as being able to be cultivated twice a year, thanks to the excellent temperate climate. Famous were the large delicious figs and the honey of Halki as well as the numerous flocks of partridge, which even today bring many hunters to the island every year. Today, in common with all the Dodecanese islands, tourism is tending to become the only activity. A sizeable hotel and tourist infrastructure has been developed lately on the island. Halki was declared in 1983 an island of worldwide friendship of young people by the Ministry of the New Generation. The works completed then by the government body, helped considerably in the development of the tourist industry of Halki.
The feast of St. John of Alakra celebrated on the 29th of August at the well known monastery and pilgrimage site on the western edge of the island, gathers Halkites from all over the world. At a small distance are the monasteries of the Holy Trinity and the Holy Cross. All the festivals of Halki are celebrated in the traditional way and are extremely colourful.
Of special interest to linguists and historians of folklore is the unique linguistic idiom of the people of Halki, as well as the periodical customs and festivals, the monuments of folkloric literature (proverbs, songs, two-versed sayings etc.) and the rural, nautical and shepherding customs etc.
Halki is literally abounding in monasteries, chapels and cisterns of common use. The need for God and water in such a land can only be subject to the logic of sharing. Rainwater has been collected from very ancient times in wells and cisterns because there are no natural springs on the island. Older Halkites speak of cypress and pine trees and other vegetation coverage but today vegetation is sparse and the once plentiful fruit bearing trees of the valleys are few. The only vegetation found today is the small bushes, sage, thyme, rhododendron etc.
Food and sweets
Ofto (paschal lamb stuffed with rice and kidneys baked in a traditional wood fire oven), salted small-fry, lentil-rice (lentils frits with onions and rice), koulia (hand made mocaroni cut in the shape of pebbles), Halkitiko macaroni (hand made and cut finely and cooked after a few hours and served with fried onion) etc.
Kserotigana, kneaded loukoumades amongst others.