Points of Interest
Horio (The old village)
The island supported a much larger population but following emigration in the mid-twentieth century the old capital of the island, Horio (Chorio), was almost completely abandoned. Nowadays the remains of the old town built below the ruined medieval castle of St. John’s Knights, create an amazing spectacle for the visitor and provide a fine opportunity for a quiet walk and a breathtaking view of the sea blending with the sky in the horizon.
Monasteries and churches
Halki has 360 churches and monasteries. Many of them are visitable. They can be reached either on foot, by bus or taxi and are particularly impressive.
- St. Nicolas is the main church of Emborio, an exquisite architectural sample, built in 1861 with marble parts from the ancient temple of Apollo. It has the tallest belfry in the Dodecanese. The courtyard and the entire space surrounding the church are decorated with a superb mosaic of white and black pebbles masterly fashioned into different designs. There is a small upstairs museum with vestments, icons, silver dishes, bibles collected from various churches around the island. St Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors and fishermen and is celebrated on the 6th of December. Services are held every Saturday and Sunday. Anyone is welcome, just buy a candle (50c) and leave when you please.
- The church of Panagia (the Holy Virgin Mary) just above the old village and under the castle that dominates the area. It is dated from 1400-1600 and includes magnificent frescoes. Holy Virgin is celebrated on the 15th of August with festivities which attract people all over the Dodecanese.
- Monastery of Ai-Yannis (St John). Situated at the high plateau (at 600 m above sea level) at the western end of Halki. More than 2 hours walk from Emborio or 15 minutes by bus or taxi. Visitor will appreciate the astonishing views all over Halki and much much further. It is possible by arrangement to stay overnight in one of the cells off the peaceful courtyard with its ancient spreading cypress tree. No charge is set – just make a donation. The caretaker of the monastery will provide food and drinks. At the end of August (29) it's the scene of a massive annual celebration, with friends and relatives of the islanders flocking to Halki to join in the party.
- Monastery of Palarniotis (or Panormitis) housing an idyllic small Byzantine church with a ceiling painted with stars and its magnificent view over the whole island.
- Monstery of Panaghia Megalochari, an ancient church with frescoes of inestimable value.
- Impressive are also the monasteries of St Varvara, St Lefteris, St Nektarios, St Anargyri, St Panteleimonas, Sotiros, Stavros and many others.
When visiting Halki, take the opportunity for some long but rewarding walks and discover some of the more than 360 country chapels. Halki is a rocky island 12km long and 3.5km wide. During summer it is rather barren, but the early months of the year bring grass and flowers in the mild weather after the winter rains.
Just above the settlement, and on the south side, there are three windmills that offer a panoramic view of the island, and can be seen from almost everywhere. Just 10 minutes walk.
Τhe old village (Horio)
The ancient capital of Halki (up till early 19th century), now mainly ruined, is built on the slopes of the hill, below the Castle for the fear of the pirates. Inhabited since antiquity, replete with buildings that reflect the past prosperity of the land.
(40 minutes walk)
At the peak of the mountainside, ten to fifteen minutes up the hill above the old Village, is located the old Castle (Kastro). It was erected by the Knights of St. John during the 14th-15th century, on top of the ancient Acropolis of the Village. The coat-of-arms of the Grand Master D’ Aubusson (1476-1503) can be seen on the inside spaces among other coats-of-arms. The northern and eastern walls survive, and within them the small church of St. Nicolas. The view from the castle is unique.
On the western side of the mountain is located the monastery of St. John (‘the far’) a site ‘in-the-heart’ of all Halkites, and a destination of many visitors.
(more than 2 hours walk)
Around Pefkias plateau on the way to St. John’s monastery, have a look at the Κeefes, small or large stone enclosures, huts, or storage spaces, used by the shepherds and farmers for themselves and their animals. You will feel like you have traveled back in time. You can also visit the temple of Apollo at Pefkias valley: Very little remains of the ancient ruin, as stones were used in other buildings, notably the base of the church tower of St. Nicholas. Half an hour walk northeast from Emborio.
Remains of houses and villages of ancient times can be seen all around the island since Halki has a rich history and was inhabitant since the very old years. Unfortunately there has never been a systematic archaeological excavation so precious ancient stones with ancient inscriptions are found everywhere in Halki either used for building or abandoned in the fields.
The Municipality of Halki includes several uninhabited offshore islands, the largest of which is Alimnia to the northeast. It was inhabited up until the early ’60s by a number of families now settled on Halki, but is now deserted but for sheep and goats. The village is mainly ruined, though the St George church is maintained and used for occasional festivals. Above the village is the small ruined castle, affording glorious views over the beautiful double bay and across to Halki. Alimnia has a memorable wartime history as a valuable naval base, and remnants of the occupation of first the Italians and then the Germans can be seen. Alimnia has a narrow necked deep bay which is like a lake and the Italians used it as a submarine base, closing the entrance with a steel mesh gate. Excellent sandy and pebble beaches.
After the 1950s when the population of Halki dwindled, the beautiful houses in their special large-windowed Venetian style, influenced by the architecture the sponge fishermen saw in their travels around the Mediterranean, began to decay. A number of the stone shells are not ruins, but simply unfinished properties which had to be abandoned when the owner had to move elsewhere for his livelihood. Their ownership passed to generations whose lives were based in another country, and the sharing of property among siblings often meant that no one could agree on the fate of their crumbling asset far away.
The remains exude class but also create a sense of sadness when realizing how many of these beautiful houses have now been abandoned.
They stand proud, however, with their back seemingly resting on the bare mountains, which in turn surround the small town providing an air of grandeur and an appealing sense of mystery.