SPECIAL PLACES TO VISIT
Halki was once an island with a large population but emigration to richer countries led to the reduction of its population. Unfortunately, the capital of the island at the time, Horio (Chorio), was badly affected by emigration and it is almost abandoned. Below the medieval castle of St. John’s Knights are the remains of the Old Town, which is a place with amazing beauty combined with the peace and quiet of the area. The blue sea and the blue sky become one and visitors enjoy this unique harmony of Nature.
Halki’s 360 Churches and Monasteries
Like all islands in the Dodecanese, religion has played a very significant role in their everyday life. On most islands there are over 300 churches and monasteries and Halki is proud of its 360 churches and monasteries, which are accessible either by bus, taxi or on foot and are all beautifully preserved according to local colours.
Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicolas), is the biggest church situated in Emborio and was built in 1861with white marbles taken from the temple of god Apollo and its architecture is magnificent. Its yard is beautifully and artistically paved with white and black pebbles placed in different designs based on the imagination of the craftsman. An upper room was made into a museum, where icons, silver dishes, garments and bibles are kept collected from different churches of the island. Aghios. Nikolaos is considered to be the patron saint of seamen, and fishermen and it is celebrated on 6th December. There is a service every Saturday and Sunday, lasting about two and a half hours and anyone is welcome to walk in, light a candle with a small contribution of 50 cents, usually, attend it as long as one wishes.
The Church of Panagia ( Holy Virgin Mary)near the castle dates back to 1400-1600 and is famous for its frescoes. Panagia is celebrated on the 15th of August and many people from the nearby islands visit Halki to pray and to participate in the festivities organized by the people, based on traditional events, offering local cakes and local food.
The Monastry of Ai-Yiannis (St. John) is situated at 600m above sea level, west of the island. The monastery can be accessed by bus or taxi in about fifteen minutes or on foot in two hours starting from Emborio. Like in most monasteries, visitors can stay overnight in one of the cells near the magnificent and quiet courtyard or sit to relax under the ancient cypress tree, which rises high in the blue sky. Stay in a cell is free of charge and the person in charge of the monastery always welcomes visitors with food and drinks. Around the end of August, and namely on the 29th of August, there is the annual celebration uniting friends and relatives from different parts of the world arriving to Halki to participate in this celebration and to pray to Panagia.
The Monastery of Palamiotis /Panormitis is a small Byzantine churchwith a magnificent aspect of the island. What is interesting to see is the ceiling of the monastery which is painted with stars.
The Monastery of Panagia Megalochari is also an ancient church decorated with invaluable frescoes. All monasteries on the island are impressive , well-preserved respecting the local colours of the island. Other similar monasteries are the monasteries of St. Lefteris, St. Nektarios, St. Anargyroi, St. Panteleimonas, St. Varvara, the monastery of the Holy Cross and many others.
ENJOY LONG WALKS
Halki is a small island of 12km in length and 3.5km in width, mostly rocky with very little vegetation in the summer months. In the winter, there is grass and flowers emerging here and there after the rains during the winter. There are three windmills on the south part of the island, which can be seen from any part of the island. They can be reached in only ten minutes on foot; a pleasant walk with a view of the island from their location.
Horio (Chorio) is the old village of Halki and was the capital of the island until the early 19th century, which is nowadays almost ruined. It is built on a hill below the Castle to hide from the pirates. The village is still inhabited nowadays since antiquity and its buildings indicate the prosperity of the people and the island in general. It is a 40 minute walk.
On the hill above the Old Village is The Kastro (Castle) erected by St. John’s Knights between the 14th-15th century on the peak of the ancient Acropolis of the Village. Among the many coats-of-arms one can see the coats –of-arms of the Grand Master D΄Aubusson (1476-1503). A part of the medieval walls can be seen in the north and east and within these walls one can see the church of St. Nicolas. The view is breathtaking.
The Monastery of St. John the Far, is a beautiful place loved by all islanders of Halki and favourable destination of many visitors. It is a two-hour walk. On the way to the monastery, around the Pefkias plateau, visitors can see the Keefes, large or small enclosures made of stones, huts or other storage areas, which the shepherds use for themselves or for their animals. The simplicity and the materials used will take you back to almost primitive life, a feeling not to be missed. At the valley of Pefkias, visitors will come across the Temple of Apollo, only in few ruins as the stones from the temple were used to build houses and other buildings including the base of the church tower of Aghios Nikolaos. It is a half an hour walk from Emborio going north east.
There are ruins and remains of ancient houses and villages scattered all around the island since Halki was also inhabited in the ancient times, but unfortunately archaeological excavations were very few . This resulted in the ancient stones being removed from their original places and used in buildings or left in the fields, some of which with inscriptions on them.
Alimnia is an uninhabited offshore rock island on the northeastern side of the island , belonging to the Municipality of Halki. This small rock island was inhabited until the early decade of 1960 by families who settled on it breeding sheep and goats. Today these families have moved to Halki but sheep and goats still live on it. The village of Alimnia is almost in complete ruins, and the church of Aghios Georgios (St. George) is well maintained and people from Halki visit it when it celebrates. Just above the village is the Kastro, overlooking the beautiful bay across the island of Halki. During the second world war, Alimnia was used as a naval base and there are remnants of the occupations of both Italians and Germans. Because of its geographical and geological characteristics, the Italians used it as a submarine base. It has the narrow necked deep barbour, which resembles a lake, where the Italians hid their submarines, closing the entrance with a gate, made of mesh. Its beaches are sandy and pebbly.
It is a sad spectacle to see beautiful houses abandoned by the islanders, when they left the island in 1950s to seek a better life elsewhere. These houses were built based on the Venetian architecture, since the islanders being sponge fishermen, saw different architectural styles in their voyages around the Mediterranean. Their main feature is their large windows, which are falling apart nowadays. Some of these houses were left unfinished as their owners had to leave to find work , mainly abroad. These houses pass from generation to generation and inheritance was not clearly registered and due to relatives’ disagreements on sharing these properties, they are left there to decay through time, unfinished and abandoned, taking with them the labour and dreams of their first owners, who had worked hard to erect these nice buildings to embellish the island and to house their families. However, they seem to withstand time and stand tall and proud, giving an air of grandeur and a magical sense of mystery. A mixture of sadness and pride.
What makes Halki a special destination for unforgettable holidays is the long crystal clear water of the emerald blue sea of its harbor where you can swim and of its three beautiful beaches which can be reached either by taxi, bus or on foot; a twenty-five minute walk through fig trees, buzzing bees in bee boxes and the vastness of the sea compose the scenery.
Pondamos, is the longest beach ten minutes from the harbor on foot. The water is shallow, clean and sandy excellent for kids.
Ftenagia and Kania are two lovely beaches on the north and south side of the village of sand and pebble. These beaches provide a shower, sunbeds with umbrellas, have a small tavern where visitors can have coffee and breakfast or try local food. Visitors have the chance to take a water taxi to take them to other reclused beaches in the neighbouring Alimnia and then return to pick them up at an appointed time.
A lovely beach which can be accessed only by sea. It has the shape of a tongue and this creates two beaches on the east and west of the island.
It is a sandy beach on the south side of the island, just after Trachia. Can be accessed on foot through the Old Village.
It is found on the north side of Halki with deep waters and rough rock formations all around it.
Kelia tou Askiti (Hermit’s cells)
Just before Areta, the visitor can come to this beautiful beach located among rocks, which one can visit if one can climb for about five minutes up to the cells, which are painted with frescoes.
Dyo Giali(Two Seas)
After the Areta beach visitors come to Dyo Giali (Two seas) which are two pebbly beaches which are deserted but exquisite natural bays on the north side of the island .
Lefkos and Pyrgos
Two lovely pebbly beaches on the west side of the island before the “Kefali” point.