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Southern Dodecanese: Karpathos, Ksos, Kastellorizo, Tylos, Astypalaia

By Nigel McGilchrist

216pp (5 island maps, 2 site plans)

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Karpathos has the wildest landscape and coastal waters in the Dodecanese. Its northern half is a steep sculpted ridge of mountains that drop abruptly to the sea, while the southern tip of the island is an open landscape of soft eroded sandstone. The monuments of its past which remain today are characterised by a quality of unusualness: the site of Ancient Brykous projecting into the island's northwestern waters is one of the Aegean's most lonely; further south at Lefkos is a unique and well-preserved hypogeum of the Late Hellenistic period; another of the island's ancient cities Arkaseia flourished into Early Christian times with at least two sizeable basilicas with mosaic floors of extraordinary quality. Kasos today is a friendly and unpretentious island, small and easily walkable for the visitor. In the last decade Tilos has distinguished itself from all other Greek islands by concertedly espousing the causes of wild-life and environmental conservation. The island's dramatically varied landscape, rich in water and oscillating from steep mountains to fertile plains by the shore, helps to sustain its diversity of flora and wild-life as well as to provide countless walking opportunities. Equidistant between Alexandria and Athens, Kastellorizo has admirably refused to be forgotten by history. Its ancient wine-pressing installations, fine burial places, impressive early walls and its network of cisterns are all evidence of an earlier thriving community. Perhaps no other island in the Aegean feels as dramatically spacious for its size as remote Astypalaia; the greater part of the island is populated most visibly by a remarkable quantity and variety of birds. Astypalaia has two artistic treasures of importance. Its splendidly sited Chora is one of the most beautiful in the Aegean islands. Second, perhaps more than any island other than Kos, it has a remarkable wealth of Early Christian mosaic floors dating from the 5th century.

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