A Hike to Horio: Exploring Halki’s Old Abandoned Capital

In this trip report we will hike to Horio (Palio Chorio), the old abandoned capital of the island of Halki with its hilltop castle (Kastro).

Halki

Despite its small size, the Dodecanese island of Halki (Chalki) still manages to pack in quite some amazing sights.

In the previous chapter of this trip report, I already explored the wonderful surroundings of Emborios (Halki Town), but even outside the main island port and town there are some noteworthy things to explore.

One of these sights is the old island capital of Horio, which now lays abandoned underneath the impressive ruins of a hilltop castle. A visit to Horio, which is named Palio Chorio (‘old village’) on most island signposts, makes for a great half-day trip from Halki Town.

halki town emborios
The Halki Town waterfront. ©Paliparan

Getting to Horio

The distance from the Halki Town waterfront to Palio Chorio is only 3 kilometres and it’s certainly feasible to hike all the way there. All you have to do is basically following the only road of the island to the west, you cannot miss the place!

Even though you will be walking along the main island road for most of the journey, it’s a relaxed and quiet hike as there are barely any cars on Halki!

If you go hiking, just make sure that you pack plenty of water and don’t venture out at the hottest time of the day, especially in summer.

As Horio is located at an altitude of 210 metres about sea level, you also should be aware that it’s an uphill hike – and it’s easily a climb of some 100 metres more to reach the castle ruins.

If this sounds like too much of an effort, you can always take the local taxi to Horio or perhaps hire a scooter.

halki hike horio
The hike to Horio is three kilometres, long and takes about an hour. ©Google Maps

Hiking to Horio

Having enjoyed the good Greek life a bit too much during the last week, I opted to hike to Horio in an effort to burn some of the calories of all the delicious food.

Leaving Halki Town behind, all you need to do is basically following the main asphalt road to Horio. That said, for the first part of the journey you can also walk on a foot path through the countryside which runs parallel to the main road, which was exactly what I did.

From the path there are some pretty views across the relatively fertile valley with its many terebinths and other trees and shrubs, contrasting sharply with the barren grey hills behind.

emorios road halki
Walking on the main road out of Emborios. ©Paliparan
halki emborios road
As there basically is only one road on Halki, there aren’t many cars on the island. Outside of town, you basically have the entire road to yourself as a pedestrian! ©Paliparan
chalki
View from the road to Horio. ©Paliparan
halki countryside island
If you take the footpath away from the main road, you can enjoy some lovely views over the Halki countryside. ©Paliparan
emborios church
A small church just outside Emborios. ©Paliparan
halki horse
Hello there! ©Paliparan
emborios chalki
Abandoned boat and van just outside Emborios. ©Paliparan
halki chalki
Approaching Pondamos Beach. ©Paliparan
terebinths halki
The barren interior of the island of Halki. ©Paliparan

Uphill

After a while, you will pass by Pondamos Beach on your left-hand side. From this moment on, the road will climb uphill in a series of hairpin turns.

It’s a scenic stretch of road, so don’t forget to pause a few times in order to look back and admire the view.

road climb chalki
After a while, the road starts to climb up. ©Paliparan
hairpin road halki
The road sneaks up the hill to Horio. ©Paliparan

Horio

Although Horio was the capital of the island of Halki until the 19th Century, you are hard-pressed to find back any of the old grandeur these days.

Even though one or two churches and a couple of houses still stand upright, most of the buildings in Horio are in a state of complete disrepair. Heck, most of the houses are in such a ruined state that they aren’t much more than a pile of stones.

Despite Horio being eerily quiet and there being no sign of life whatsoever, some people do still live here these days, but it’s all a far cry from the 3,000 inhabitants the town had in its heyday.

You certainly won’t find any facilities shops and cafés in Horio, so make sure you have stocked up on water and other supplies in Emborios before you set off.

A bit of Horio history

The reason why Horio was chosen as Halki’s capital back in the days is quite clear when you look at the geography.

In the past, piracy was a major concern for the inhabitants of the Dodecanese islands. This is why many of the old island capitals in Greece are located inland and not on the coast as hilltop positions are generally more easily defensible against enemy raids.

In modern times, such raids were however not of a concern anymore and it became much more attractive to live on the coast being as close as possible to the sea and all trade routes.

While Emborios boomed, Horio fell into a gradual decline. Especially during the early 20th Century a large swath of the population of the Horio moved away, with many people emigrating all the way from Halki to Tarpon Springs in Florida, which coincidentally has the highest percentage of Greek-Americans in the entire United States.

palio chorio chalki
After a good 50-60 minute hike you reach Palio Chorio (Horio), the abandoned island capital of Halki. ©Paliparan
horio castle
Horio is built below an imposing castle. ©Paliparan
palio chorio chalki
Apart from three or four intact buildings, most of the houses in Horio are in a ruined state. ©Paliparan
chalki palio chorio
Horio. ©Paliparan
palio chorio
The old village of Horio. ©Paliparan
horio halki palio chorio
The streets of Horio. ©Paliparan
palio chorio
Horio. ©Paliparan
horio halki palio chorio
Horio. ©Paliparan

Climbing up to the castle

On a hill high above Horio you can find the ruins of the Kastro (castle). This castle was built in the 14th Century by the Venetians who had already occupied Halki in 1204.

It were the Knights of Saint John (Knights Hospitaller) who were tasked with constructing and manning the castle, and the coat of arms of Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson can still be seen on the fortress walls.

The Venetians were however certainly not the first to recognise the great defensive location as the same hilltop was also the site of an ancient Greek acropolis.

From Horio, the footpath up the hill to the Kastro is clearly marked. On your way up, you pass by the Church of Panagia Choriani, from where you have fine views over Horio and the valley.

horio halki
Passing by some ruined buildings on the hike up to the Kastro. ©Paliparan
chalki palio chorio
Finding the path up to the Kastro is straightforward. ©Paliparan
Panagia Choriani church chalki
On your way up, you pass along the Panagia Choriani Church. ©Paliparan
horio halki
Looking down from the church over the ruins of Horio. ©Paliparan
horio halki palio chorio
Horio. ©Paliparan
panagia choriani halki horio
From the Church of Panagia Choriani, the path climbs further up the hill. ©Paliparan
horio valley palio chorio
The higher you climb, the better the views over the valley become. ©Paliparan
horio halki palio chorio
Looking down over Horio. ©Paliparan
kastro hike palio chorio
Views are great on the hike up to the Kastro. ©Paliparan
horio kastro path
As the cobbled path can be a bit uneven and steep, it’s best to ditch your flipflops and wear good shoes if you want to explore Horio and the Kastro. ©Paliparan
castle walls
After a while, you will arrive at the castle walls. ©Paliparan
halki kastro
The entrance to the Kastro. ©Paliparan
gate tower kastro halki horio
The old gate tower of the Kastro. ©Paliparan

Inside the castle

Just like Horio itself, most of the Kastro is in a ruined state and there isn’t a great deal to see. The exception is the Church of Saint Nicholas which can be found in the centre of the castle.

That said, the main attraction of Halki’s Kastro isn’t the castle itself, but the breathtaking views. From the castle’s ramparts, you can even easily see Rhodes in the far distance.

The view over the deep blue waters of the Aegean and Halki’s barren coastline is what makes the Kastro so special. Especially when you hike all the way from Emborios to Horio and up to the Kastro, those views are the ultimate reward for your effort.

kastro halki view
The view from the Kastro over the island of Halki is breathtaking. ©Paliparan
castle ramparts
The ramparts of the castle. ©Paliparan
rhodes view
In the distance you can easily see the contours of the island of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
church st nicholas halki castle
The Church of St Nicholas is located inside the castle walls. ©Paliparan
halki kastro castle
Halki Kastro with the Church of Saint Nicholas. ©Paliparan
halki castle
The views from the castle are some of the best on the entire island of Halki. ©Paliparan
kastro
Exploring the Kastro. ©Paliparan
halki rhodes kastro view
VIew from the Kastro over the barren island of Halki, with Rhodes being visible in the distance across the sea. ©Paliparan
trachia beach halki
Trachia Beach as seen from the Kastro. ©Paliparan
chalki
The views over the barren island of Halki are simply amazing. ©Paliparan
kastro halki
View from the Kastro over Halki. ©Paliparan

Climbing down

After spending some time at the Kastro admiring the fabulous views over Halki, it was time to climb down again.

Even though the temperatures were slowly soaring this late morning, climbing down the hill from the Kastro back to Horio didn’t take too much effort.

If you walk back from Horio to Emborios (Halki Town) you will pass by Pondamos Beach, which makes for a perfect place to dive into the sea and cool off a bit.

palio chorio
Hiking down from Halki’s castle back to Palio Chorio. ©Paliparan
palio chorio
Hiking down. ©Paliparan
palio chorio
The path from Halki’s Kastro to Palio Chorio. ©Paliparan
halki emborios palio chorio horio
Looking down from Horio towards Halki Town (Emborios). ©Paliparan
halki road
With views like these, the hike back down to Emborios is rather pleasant. ©Paliparan
pondamos beach halki
Cooling off at Pondamos Beach. ©Paliparan

Conclusion

Visiting the old island capital of Horio and its Kastro (Castle) is a must-do half-day trip if you find yourself on Halki. Whether you take a taxi here or hike all the way from the port of Emborios, it’s a straightforward and highly rewarding trip.

With its ruined mansions, Horio is already an interesting sight to see, but it only gets better when you climb up to the Kastro. From this Venetian castle, which was founded by the Knights Hospitaller, you have some absolutely stunning views over Halki, the deep blue Aegean Sea, and even the island of Rhodes in the far distance.

Weirdly enough, not many tourists seem to make the effort to visit Horio and its castle while staying on the island of Halki. During my visit, I did not encounter a single other person!

As most people seem to linger around Emborios (Halki Town) or one of the nearby beaches, you are likely to have both Horio and the Kastro all to yourself, which makes the entire experience even more magical.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘A Dodecanese Dream: Summer Island Hopping in Greece‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Back in the Skies – My First International Flight in the Age of Corona
2. Review: Kimon Hotel, Athens, Greece
3. Exploring Plaka: Through the Winding Streets of the Old Town of Athens
4. Climbing up the Acropolis: Visiting Athens’ Most Famous Sight
5. Review: Skyserv Melina Merkouri Lounge Athens Airport
6. Review: Sky Express Athens to Naxos (ATR 42)
7. Review: Studios Zafiri, Naxos Town, Greece
8. Naxos Town: The Gorgeous Historic Heart of the Cyclades
9. Review: Blue Star Ferries Naxos to Astypalaia
10. Review: Belvedere Studios, Astypalaia Town, Greece
11. Astypalea Town: The Unknown Crown Jewel of the Aegean Sea
12. Astypalea Island Guide: Exploring the Butterfly of the Aegean
13. On a Night Boat in Greece – Astypalea to Kastellorizo With Blue Star Ferries
14. Review: Traditional Apartments Alexandra, Kastellorizo, Greece
15. Kastellorizo: A Look Around Greece’s Easternmost Island
16. Hiking on Kastellorizo: Two Sunset Hikes Detailed
17. Review: Olympic Air (Dash 8-100) Kastellorizo to Rhodes
18. Guide: How to Travel From Rhodes to Halki by Ferry
19. Review: Dorothea Apartments, Halki, Greece
20. Halki Town: Eating, Swimming & Relaxing in Beautiful Emborios
21. A Hike to Horio: Exploring Halki’s Old Abandoned Capital (current chapter)
22. Guide: The Best Beaches on the Island of Halki

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.