Scattered against the coast of Turkey , the Dodecanese , or Twelve Islands , are the farthest Greek island group from the mainland. Closer to Asia Minor than to Athens , these islands have experienced more invasions than the central parts of the country. In ancient times, the Dodecanese flourished before falling to Alexander the Great. A favourite target of evangelizing biblical luminaries including St. Paul and St. John , the inhabitants of the islands were some of the first Greeks to convert to Christianity. The islands prospered in the early Byzantine years, before suffering from raids that later hurt the entire empire. Crusaders stormed through during the 14th century, building heavily fortified castles as bases for their religious wars. The Ottomans ousted them in 1522, and the lucky Dodecanese received special concessions for their proximity to Turkey . The Dodecanese ultimately joined the Greek nation in 1948 after fighting fiercely in WWII.
Eclectic architecture is the most visible legacy of all these comings and goings: Classical ruins, castles built by Crusaders, and Ottoman mosques all coexist. Travellers who venture here will find landscapes ranging from Rhodes 's fertile hills to the volcanic terrain of Nisyros. Kos 's hopping nightlife, the apocalyptic beauty of Patmos , the secluded beaches of Karpathos , and the hidden glory of Kalymnos are sure to entice even the most discriminating traveller.