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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 **