Avoid Crowds On Your Greek Vacation At This Beautiful Sleepy Island Full Of Unique Charm

There are so many islands and cities to visit in Greece that it can be hard to choose. If you want a bustling cityscape, travel pro Rick Steves suggests the iconic Athens with the best museums in the country. If you're looking for stunning beaches (which aren't hard to find in Greece), you can visit the lovely island of Hydra, and you can also find unrivaled hiking in the under-the-radar Epirus. However, if what you want from your Greek vacation is a sleepy and quaint spot with few crowds and charming spots to explore, Chalki Island is the place to see. Also spelled "Halki" (Χάλκη), this unbelievably pretty, 11-square-mile spot located less than 4 miles from the popular island of Rhodes is the smallest in the Dodecanese and one of the smallest in Greece. 


The name comes from the Greek word "halkos," meaning copper, which was once mined here, and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Despite that, it has been ruled by many countries/empires, including Italy, and only became part of Greece in 1948. There are small villages dotting the island, as well as the charming capital called Nimporio (though you'll also see Emporio). There are few cars here, but you can walk to most places, including a medieval castle and several lovely beaches. What you won't see, fortunately, are crowds of tourists. 

Getting to Chalki and visiting the beaches

Chalki is a little over an hour away from Rhodes by ferry, around $23 each way. You can take a ferry from Piraeus port in Athens, though that's around 20 hours. Instead, take an hour-long flight from Athens to Rhodes and then grab the ferry. It takes you into Nimporio port (above), which is close to several beaches. (You can also hire a boat to visit the nearby islet of Alimia, which was abandoned after WWII, to explore the ruins and swim at the beaches.) Wander the streets full of colorful houses and shops when you get there, and dine by the water, though tourists should be careful while eating at the beach


You can walk or take a local bus to many of the beaches, which are great for swimming. The ones closest to Nimporio have more amenities, but the ones further away have even more privacy. The most popular beach is Potamos (also spelled Podamos), which is a mere 15-minute walk from Nimporio. It has sunbeds and umbrellas available and is a great beach for kids with calm water and a pretty church sitting on a high cliff. Another close beach is Ftenagia, which is also a 15-minute walk from the capital. It has umbrellas and sunbeds, as well as some tavernas to grab snacks at. Another great one to visit is Kania Beach (a 30-minute walk), which boasts the Chalki Dive Center, where visitors can take scuba lessons. 


Chalki's medieval castle and other things to do

Chalki is a serene destination, and you can spend hours wandering around old footpaths and absorbing the peace and quiet. As you walk, you can visit the old village of Chorio (or Horio), which was abandoned in the 19th century. It's a bit of an uphill hike of less than 2 miles to check out the ruins. Above it is a 14th-century castle, which was built by the Knights of the Order of St. John, who ran the island at the time. There, you can see the coat of arms of Pierre d'Aubusson, the Grand Master of the order back then. There is a gorgeous view of Rhodes from the top. At the base of the hill are chapels to the Virgin Mary, the Holy Trinity, and Saint Nicolas. The latter, called Agios Nikolaos Church, has a lovely bell tower and was built in 1861. It's worth a visit to see the frescos. 


Another spot to check out is the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Alarga on the west side of the island, with its beautiful courtyard, around 6 miles from Nimborio. UNESCO recognized Chalki as the Island of Peace and Friendship, and the first two weeks of September feature the Chalki Festival with lots of young visitors there to celebrate with seminars and activities.