If it’s true you never get a second chance to make a first impression, then Halki has nothing to worry about. As the boat approaches the island you are welcomed into a harbour, shaped like an embrace. A welcome hug from a relative you never knew you had. The faces of colourful neoclassical houses are warm and pretty. The little harbor IS Halki and its beautiful in the fuzzy-feeling way only a pretty Greek island can be. The houses are arranged around the harbor and tumble down right to the waters edge. And that is right where we are going too.
We come off the boat blinking in the bright sunlight to meet Meni. Her welcome is as warm as the summer breeze. We walk together to our apartment, under the plane trees of the harbor side cafes, past the little fishing boats bobbing gently in the water and take a shortcut through the churchyard. We continue along a narrow street, lined with pastel painted houses, vibrant bourganvillea and fragrant jasmine. I tell myself to shut up as I can’t stop saying ‘Ah its beautiful’ ‘how lovely’ because words just don’t do it justice.
We arrive at our waterfront house. We are introduced to our immediate neighbours who we sort of share an outside patio with. They don’t look the types to be much bother judging by the stack of books on the table. The house is wonderfully spacious. It has a full kitchen, a dining table and sofas as well as a downstairs WC and shower. Upstairs are 2 bedrooms with lovely wooden ceilings and a second bathroom. But I don’t care about any of this. Because I can’t get over the fact that we step down from our patio and descend some swimming pool type steps to get straight into the sea! I would have slept in a goat shack to be able to sit on that patio and just gaze out to sea, dipping in and out whenever I wanted to. So it was a bonus really that the accommodation was so fantastic.
There isn’t much to do on Halki (that’s it’s charm) but everything you can do is wonderful. (Just enjoying an early morning cup of tea and spotting dolphins playing a few hundred metres from my patio is something i will never forget.) There are several small beaches which could rival the Caribbean for clear waters and white sand. The nearest one to us was Podamos and was an easy 10 minute walk from the house. It has a nice taverna there which also serves drinks and ice creams. It does get busy when the day trippers are in as this is the closest beach to the harbor, but there is still plenty of room.
Eating out is a delight. There are plenty of eateries along the harbor front and an endless parade of people to watch for entertainment. The locals are wonderful, helpful and friendly. I enjoyed several conversations with the old boy in the ‘Pandopoleio’ when I went for supplies. A ‘Pandopoleio’ is a sort of mini market, literally a shop that sells everything and he really does! Its neatly stacked shelves line the shop from floor to ceiling and everything is meticulously labeled. He tells me about Halki during the war, under the occupation of the Italians and then the Germans. He liked the Italians. ‘They are like us’ he says ‘they were kind and not cruel.’ He doesn’t say anything about the Germans. Many of the houses along the waterfront were built by the Italians and some are still owned by them. Typically the Greeks lived further inland as through the centuries they were subjected to pirate raids and needed to be hidden from the sea. When the Italians came no such threats existed so they built at the waters edge to make the most of the clear waters and fantastic views.
If you need a bit more physical exertion than walking to the tavernas and back you should take a walk up to the castle. I followed the Nissia Holidays info-book advice and went early morning just as the sun was appearing over Rhodes in the distance. Its about five kilometres each way and its an ascent, make no mistake. The road is wide and well surfaced as you venture upwards towards ‘Paliochori’, the old village. Once you reach here you are pretty much ascending a vertical rock face, luckily there is a newly made rough stone path. There isn’t any information or a map up there to tell you about it, but you might find a local guide. I picked this one up along the way:
He didn’t say much, but he was very attentive and knew the way. In fact he stayed with me the whole time and showed me the best bits of the castle.
The effort is worth it (as long as you are not on heart medication) the views are amazing and when you stop to catch your breath you are rewarded heartily.
On your way back, stop off at the bakery and pick up some freshly baked ‘Bougatsa’ or vanilla cream pie. Come on, you just burnt at least 1000 calories
We stayed in Villa Korali with Nissia Holidays, you can see the details here. Halki can only be reached by boat. You can fly into Rhodes and catch the daily boats to and from Halki from either Rhodes town or Kamiros scala.