Culture & Travel1 June 2023
These islands, floating in the Aegean Sea and inseparable from each other, ignite the wanderlust of tourists worldwide. Some are barren, while others are lush with forests. There are even islands built on volcanic rock, displaying a rugged terrain, yet these distinctive features never fail to captivate the minds of travelers. The most mesmerizing aspect of these islands is undoubtedly the sight of white village houses standing against the backdrop of the deep blue landscape.
As you may be aware, it has become increasingly challenging for Turkish citizens to obtain a visa for Greece, an EU country. With a rising number of rejections for Schengen visa applications, the Greek government is keen not to miss out on the Turkish tourists who contribute to the prosperity of these islands. Therefore, it is now possible to visit six islands situated right on Turkey's doorstep with a "Gate Visa," without the need for a Schengen visa. Without further delay, let us delve into our article.
The Enchanting Gem of Nine Villages: Chios
One of the islands where the "Gate Visa" is applicable is the captivating island of Chios, also known as Chios. Many notable figures have come and gone through its shores. Apollon, Dedalos, Icarus, and the spirits of numerous mythological names have breathed the air of this island. According to legends, Queen Smyrna, from whom our city Izmir derives its name, was transformed into a gum tree here due to incurring the wrath of the gods. It is believed that this island, along with Izmir, is one of the places where Homer, the architect of Western civilization, was born. In fact, not only Homer, but even Christopher Columbus's father may have traced his lineage back to this island. Columbus himself is known to have visited this island several times to engage in trade involving mastic, as this island is the primary exporter of chewing gum worldwide.
Before delving into the extraordinary villages of the island, it is worth mentioning its center. The castle situated in the heart of the island is undoubtedly one of the most prominent structures on the entire island. Constructed during the 10th century in the Byzantine era, this castle exchanged hands between the Crusaders, Genoese, and Venetians throughout history. It bears many remnants of our influence, such as the three crescent moons that once adorned its posts during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. Within the castle, one can observe mosques, baths, and various other traces of our heritage.
However, there are villages on this island that cannot be overlooked. Among these, Pyrgi undoubtedly holds the greatest allure. Volissos, Mesta, Olympi, and many others converge in the extraordinary realm of Chios, each possessing its own unique charm.
Splendor of the South Aegean: Rhodes Island
There is so much wonderful about Rhodes, our next stop with visa at the door, that we are worried about how to fit it into a few lines. With the most imposing castle in the Aegean, the historic streets, villages and beaches, Rhodes is a different dream. Let's remember that this is the land of one of the 7 wonders of the world. Although it is debated whether the Colossus of Rhodes, which we all know, actually existed with the technology of that period, it is inevitable that this mythological motif is identified with Rhodes and the people of Rhodes. When you visit this island, it is impossible not to see the Colossus of Rhodes in every souvenir shop.
This imposing castle in the center is always identified with the Knights of Rhodes, even though it was originally built by the Byzantines as a small fortress. Because they are the ones who took this small fortress and turned it into a giant residence. When Suleiman the Magnificent conquered the island, the Knights took refuge in Malta and became known as the Knights of Malta. The villages, where olives, oranges and grapes grow in the vineyards, are worth seeing. It is possible to see a European breeze in the streets. Neither the twelve nor all the Greek islands make sense without Rhodes. It is the gateway to the Aegean.
House of Hippocrates: Kos Island
You are in the medical center of antiquity. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was born here and temples were built in honor of Asclepieios, the mythological god of medicine. The Knights of Rhodes stopped here and built the castle that remains in the center of the city today. It is also believed that Hippocrates taught medicine to his students under the Hippocrates Tree, a large 12-meter plane tree in the center of the city dedicated to Hippocrates. The mosque in the city center is one of the most important traces of the Ottomans who ruled here for 4 centuries. Of course, the sine qua non of a Greek island are the beautiful, hidden villages of the island. Kardemena, Kefalos, Tigaki, Antimachia, Mastihar, Marmari, Pyli and more await the passionate and curious.
Inspiration for Legendary Poets: Lesbos Island
Welcome to the birthplace of Sappho, a renowned figure in the ancient Greek world who has left an indelible mark on poets worldwide. For generations, Lesbos has been a haven where lovers would seek each other's company beneath the olive trees, basking in the verses of Sappho's love poems. Unlike the more urbanized Greek islands we've mentioned, Lesbos has preserved its original character, offering an authentic and unspoiled experience. The island's untouched historical village ambiance is the main draw for visitors. Coastal towns that are a must-visit include Petra, Molivos, Eftalou, Plomari, and Vatera. For those seeking to immerse themselves in a unique and untarnished land, the city of Mytilene serves as an ideal center, free from the trappings of mass tourism.
The Southernmost Point: Meis Island
Now we find ourselves at the meeting point of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. Meis, also known as Kastellorizo, is a captivating and unassuming island located just 2 kilometers from Kaş, Antalya. Life on this beautiful island, referred to as the Red Castle by the Knights Hospitallers, exudes tranquility. Meis is the perfect place for an afternoon visit, where you can soak up its vibrant atmosphere. The Kastellorizo Castle, perched atop the hill that lends the island its name, is a worthwhile attraction to explore. The castle's strategic location allows for breathtaking views, even extending as far as Antalya. While grapes and olives are cultivated on the island, sponge fishing remains a significant livelihood. One of the most delightful activities here is to lose yourself in the turquoise waters, immersing yourself in their splendor.
The Hidden Treasure of the Aegean: Samos Island
You have arrived here with a ferry from Kuşadası, benefiting from the "Gate Visa" application, and you are contemplating your first activity upon reaching this place. Well, let us tell you that before immersing ourselves in the cool and sparkling waters, you should explore the Heraion Temple, the Eupalinos Tunnel, and the ancient city of Pythagorion. After all, this is the place mentioned by Homer in the Iliad. Samos holds such great importance as the island of science and wisdom. It is the birthplace of Pythagoras, Epicurus, and Aristarchus. Of course, I won't fail to mention the unique beaches and villages, but make sure not to leave Samos, with its marvelous nature, without indulging in hiking and nature excursions. The iconic whitewashed houses perched on its breathtaking hills offer vistas that you witness and truly feel.