Motorcycle tour Dodecanese, Greece

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Motorcycle tour Dodecanese, Greece

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Motorcycle tour Dodecanese, Greece

Motorcycle tour Dodecanese, Greece
Wind-torn islands

Secret dust slopes, volcanoes, sponge divers and Greek originality. The Dodecanese, a wind-ruffled island world between Crete, the Cyclades and Turkey, offer this and more.

Josef Seitz


I stand perplexed in the middle of the reddish, dusty landscape, somewhere in southwestern Karpathos. The windy road ends abruptly before a ravine. A network of unpaved slopes had lured me here. And now? I drive back a little to a lonely farm. An old Greek woman dressed in black laughs with her last two teeth beaming joyfully over the fence. I’m probably not the first person to look helpless out of the laundry. She points to the middle of her courtyard, here it goes. Efcharisto, thank you! I meet the sea again at Agios Nikolao Bay. A touch of the Caribbean lies over the turquoise-colored beach arch. Just right for washing the red sand off your skin. Freshly chilled, I continue to Volada. A bit behind the town begins a pass road that brings me back to the other side of the island. The difference in altitude to the coast is only four hundred meters, but the switchbacks and curves down to the few houses of Katodio would easily be enough for twice that. As the only guest, I strengthen myself on the tiny terrace of an equally tiny restaurant and then take the next gravel road under my wheels. It is the only connection from the south to the north, swings boldly just below the mountain ridge through a steep landscape with deep furrows. There is nothing left to do but be amazed. The feeling of being in a primeval world is spreading more and more. Then suddenly Olympos appears, a mountain village that has been trying for years to bridge the gap between the day before yesterday and today. A few decades ago, the place was as good as cut off from the rest of the world. This allowed traditional customs and traditions to survive. It actually seems to have succeeded in reconciling tourism, which has been burgeoning for years, and the old ways of life. Old women wear their traditional costumes as always, bread is baked in the stone oven, and even one of the windmills is still in operation. A little behind Olympos a road branches off to Avlona, ​​the northernmost place on the island. A handful of stone houses that almost disappear into the gray of the surrounding rocky landscape. So far, tourism has not yet found its way. The tar road ends one kilometer before Avlona. Those who get to this point are usually content with one look and then turn back. The place seems too inhospitable. I bump down the last switchbacks on a dirt road and drive a bit into the village. Not a soul apart from an old woman who looks after me, puzzled, almost frightened, and two billy goats who flee. I feel like an intruder. It seems like the last corner on the island that really belongs to the locals.

The ferry takes me from Olympos on Karpathos to Faliraki on Rhodes. The culture shock could hardly be greater. From the stone bread oven to bungee jumping on the beach. Because of the thousands of sun loungers and parasols, almost nothing of it is to be seen. I am shocked and would love to turn around and take the next ferry. But not all of Rhodes can look like this. Otherwise Zeus would have sunk it in the sea long ago. At Kolymbia I leave the dreary road along the tourist coast, turn off inland and soon follow a sign on the side of the road: “Seven Sources”. A few bends later I almost feel homesick. What is there under the trees could have been imported directly from a Bavarian beer garden. Wooden beer tables with checkered tablecloths under shady deciduous trees. And on the blackboard at the kiosk it says in large letters “pork steak in mushroom sauce with french fries”. The reason for all the effort in the middle of the forest are several freshwater springs that flow into a stony mountain stream. With a freshly filled water bottle, I leave the Bavarian outpost heading north. Once again a stony gravel road lures me away from the tar, higher and higher into the pleasantly cool mountain forest. For a while I shake blindly through the woods until I return to civilization near Apollona.

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Motorcycle tour Dodecanese, Greece

Slopes like from a picture book in the interior of the island of Rhodes.

At the Artamiti monastery, the old road branches off down to Laerma and Lindos. Lindos is one of the little surprises in Rhodes. The village lies between the sloping coast and a mighty boulder like a stone tub. Although the place is flooded with tourists, there is no big hotel. Lindos looks almost like a simple farming village. Both an impressive acropolis and the remains of an old fortress stand on the boulder that separates the town from the sea. A peculiar picture that unites the different architecture of centuries.

It goes almost dead straight to the south. Although the coast at Gennadi is brimming with beaches, the corner is pretty quiet. What escapes mass tourism in northeastern Faliraki is caught by Lindos. Even the landscape looks a bit quieter towards the south. A few grain fields, in between some old farms, which, despite the crumbling state, suggest that one could at some point make a very good living from the soil here. Behind the last mountain range, south of Kattavia, Rhodes flows into the sea in a flat tongue of sand. Land’s End. Only the surfers make it a little further. They have declared the windy corner to be their main base. Back in Kattavia you can choose between the paved road along the west coast or a dusty road through the middle of southern Rhodes. I let a coin decide. Head, so slope. Lucky. Soon I find myself in a landscape that is fighting doggedly to maintain its original state. Large areas seem so unruly that no one has yet managed to make them arable. At some point, due to the lack of an alternative, I swerve towards the northwest coast. Melon fields spread out along the roadside, criss-crossed by black irrigation hoses like giant snakes. The island changes faces like a chameleon. While Monolithos had just seen a fantastic coastal landscape, a few kilometers later the Honda rolls through the barren mountains around the 1215 meter high Attaviros, only to plunge into a bright green pine forest. Cool, shady and above all curvy. The western north coast should be five to six degrees cooler than the south coast because the wind usually blows from this side. But that also means that the few clouds that are driven onto the island accumulate here. The result is a green oasis.

At Theologos, on the edge of the Psinthos mountains, you have the last chance to enjoy a few more curves before Rhodes town. Another look into the butterfly valley, then it’s the end of the line for the Honda. The old town of Rhodes wants to be explored on foot. The eventful history and the important location within the Mediterranean region has left behind truly impressive buildings. Imagine a part of the old town of Istanbul with a mosque and Turkish bath, paired with a mighty crusader castle, enclosed by a huge, crenellated defensive wall. When I take a last look at the city from the ferry, I can well understand that in view of these walls, many a sea power did not even dare to attempt to attack the bulwark.

The next island is tiny compared to Rhodes. Nevertheless, there are problems with orientation at first. Either the guy who sold me the map of Nissiros has no idea about the only three streets behind his front door, or he mistook the Africa Twin for a billy goat. The way he took me after appraising the Honda with a casual ?? no problem ?? sent, I don’t even want to walk. The second gravel road that could take me to the interior of the island doesn’t look any better, at least on the map. An old Greek who drives a couple of goats down the mountain tells of a slope along the southwest coast. She should be in better shape. And anyone who travels with goats on the island knows their way around. That’s the way it is.

Motorcycle tour Dodecanese, Greece

The island of Nissiros is basically nothing more than the upper part of a volcano, the crater of which the slope leads past.

Shortly before the remains of the wall of the old castle on the southern edge of Mandraki, I find the junction. The path climbs up a couple of serpentines, hikes along the mountain slope for a while, climbs back down over a piece of loose scree and then swings up to the ridge. What can be seen behind it first lets the jaw drop down. I am on the edge of the original volcanic crater. Because Nissiros is basically nothing more than the upper part of a volcano, the tip of which protrudes from the sea. I scramble down to the inner crater. On the bottom of it it stinks barbarically of sulfur, and on the east side hot mud is seething in open holes, as if someone down there had forgotten to turn off the stove. And under the floor on which I am standing, a rushing sound can be heard, as if a waterfall were falling into the depths. Not far from the main crater, fields of solfataras puff up pungent steam from holes the size of a fist. Fragile, yellow crystals form around the holes. When I step hard, the ground sounds hollow underfoot. I am not really at ease.

Later I get to know Kostas, who uses a seismograph to monitor the earthquake activity in the area. He says that the volcano has to be imagined like an enormous Swiss cheese. Sea and rainwater collide with glowing magma at a depth of just a few kilometers, evaporate explosively and then hissing through the holes in the cheese to the surface. Descriptions of the volcano from the 19th century suggest that it was significantly more active at the time. From an explosive crash is there talk of “flames that were higher than the highest peaks” and of “rocks that whistled over the mountains into the sea”.

Kalymnos, my final destination, is not much bigger than Nissiros, but completely different. Tourism is secondary here. Kalymnos is the island of fish farming and sponge divers. For a century men fetched the sponges from the sea around the island, often at risk of death. At first they are reminiscent of a broken soccer ball made of brown leather, are rock-hard and full of rocks. So that the stones loosen, the sponges are worked with the feet. At least that’s what the owner of a sponge shop in the Chora of Kalymnos town says.

Everything that was found in the sea during sponge diving has been exhibited in the Sea World Museum in Vlihadia. From antique amphorae to aircraft parts from the Second World War, the museum owner has compiled a collection of finds. Even more interesting, however, are the prepared fish that are displayed in showcases. One of them looks like a shrunken alien. Others have bits that make you want to swim. And riding a motorcycle on Kalymnos? Well, the curves can practically be counted on two hands. Basically there is only one street of note. On the one hand it connects Kalymnos town with Vathys, where fish is farmed in a long, narrow bay. The other end first crosses the narrow chora of Kalymnos town and then slouches towards the north near the coast. Emborios is at the end of the street. A simple place, a few accommodations, a few tavernas, a small beach. That was it. Just right to relax for a few days.


When the cold, wet wind whistles around your ears in this country, the islands of Greece are already warming up under the Mediterranean sun. It is a world of its own, in which almost every island surprises with its own character. Volcanism on Nissiros, climbing rocks on Kalymnos or the wild landscape on Karpathos. Even on Rhodes, apart from mass tourism, there are plenty of beautiful corners to be found.

Duration of the trip: 8 days; Distance covered: around 740 kilometers

getting there
The islands visited are in the farthest corner of the eastern Mediterranean. If you arrive with your own motorcycle, you can take one of the ferries from Italy to Greece (for example the Venice – Patras ferry, in which a cabin space with motorcycle transport costs around 320 euros) and can then either take another ferry directly from the port in Piraeus Cross over Rhodes or via Crete to Karpathos or via Kos to Kalymnos or Nissiros. It is advisable to book the ferry during the high season. Information about the ferry connections is available on the Internet at, or more clearly on the websites of the respective ferry lines:,,

Domestic ferries
The internal Greek ferry system works like a bus system. The large islands are connected to the main port in Piraeus by direct ferries. The small islands are sailed by ships of the line that call at one island after the other. Rhodes has the best ferry connections within the southern Dodecanese. Karpathos is regularly approached from Crete or Rhodes. Nissiros and Kalymnos are very easy to reach from the island of Kos. The ferry connections within Greece can be researched on the website

Travel time
Either in spring, from the end of April to mid / end of June, or in late summer, when the season is over. In between it is very hot for motorcycling, the beaches and accommodations are full and the prices are at the top. Rhodes already experiences the first rush of holidaymakers in the Easter holidays. It gets narrowest in the first two weeks of August. Then many emigrated Greeks are on home leave, as the second most important religious festival in Greece is celebrated on August 15th. After that, the stream of tourists abruptly subsides.

During the season, the offer is good on all four islands. Some accommodations are closed outside of the main season. Usually there is always a room to stay overnight. The prices vary a lot depending on the location and facilities. Simple accommodations can be found from as little as 20 euros, depending on the season. Especially outside the main season, the prices are negotiable within certain limits.

The gravel road species has been significantly decimated on the Greek islands in recent years. Nevertheless, there are still enough specimens to be found to return home from vacation with a dusty enduro. The most beautiful slope among the routes driven is the connection between the northern and southern part of the island on Karpathos. But here, too, work has been carried out on extermination with EU funds for some time. If you still want to experience it, you should set off soon.

Worth seeing
Nissiros: the active volcanic area and the volcano museum in Nikia. Rhodes: the Palace of the Grand Masters and the old town of Rhodes City (UNESCO World Heritage Site); the remains of the walls of the ancient Kamiros; the butterfly valley (Petaloudes), butterflies flutter here unfortunately only in the hottest season from late June to early August. Kalymnos: the Sea World Museum.

Kalymnos has developed into a meeting place for sport climbers over the past ten years. There are now many excellent and secured climbing routes. The surfers meet on Rhodes on the Prasonisi peninsula near Kattavia, on the extreme southern tip of the island. The surf spot is far away from the tourist centers (but that does not mean that there is nothing going on here). Here you can rent surfboards as well as the right course.

The Karpathos travel guide from Michael Muller Verlag is specially designed for Karpathos and its neighboring islands for 15.90 euros. The Marco Polo Rhodes Travel Guide is handy for a motorcycle and costs € 9.95. It also includes a usable road map. The same goes for the Rhodes band from the Merian live! Series, which also includes specific tour suggestions (9.50 euros).

For Rhodes the Allianz Leisure Card Rhodes 1: 100000 (6.95 euros). For Nissiros and Kalymnos, the tourist card available on the respective island is sufficient. A very good map for Karpathos: Karpathos / Kasos, 1: 60000, Road Editions Greece, for 7.50 euros.

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