Published in Travel Guides
In the Aegean sea, between Karpathos and the shores of Asia Minor, Rhodes —population some 100,000— shows strong evidence of the influence of western Europe from the days of the Knights and more recent Italian domination. The scenery is composed of lush vegetation, numerous torrents, protected coves as well as wide bays exposed to the wind. The climate is soft and mild with a great deal of sunshine over nine months of the year. Medieval castles, combined with the nightlife, make for a nostalgic evocation of the past, yet with the liveliness of modern times. Tourist facilities are excellent as tourism constitutes the island’s principal source of income. The majority of tourists are concentrated in the town of Rhodes, in the Ixia quarter with its sizeable hotels and numerous restaurants, in the Faliraki quarter and in Lindos. The further south one goes, and into the hinterland, the less touristic are the areas to be discovered.
The characteristics which make the island so attractive to tourists are the superbly preserved monuments, the high standard of tourist infrastructure, the excellent quality and value of the shopping opportunities and above all its wonderful climate. The throngs of visitors apart, you will greatly enjoy this trip and it is certain that you can never be bored on an island as large and sophisticated as this one, because you will have a vast choice of things to see and a great variety of entertainment and pastimes.
Dedicated to the sun god Helios-Apollo, Rhodes, or Ophioussa, or Asteria, Aithraia or Kolimbia —some of the names it bore in times past— acquired its present name in honour of a daughter of Poseidon —the sea god— or, according to others, from the rose, for which the Greek world is «rodho». There is mention in Homer of three ancient cities, Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros, which, according to myth, took their names from three princes, grandsons of Helios and were probably founded during the Mycenaean period, surviving to the time of the Dorians. The first inhabitants, back in the days of mythology, were the Telchines, then came the Achaeans and, after 1200 BC, the Dorians. In the 5th and 4th c. the island had 5 major harbours and its statutes constituted the international law of the day. In 70 AD it was subjected to the Romans and later passed to Byzantium. In 515 AD it was destroyed by a violent earthquake, in 1097 it fell to the Crusaders and from 1309 was ruled by the Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, who remained on the island for two centuries. There followed the Ottoman domination and then the Italian, until 1947 when Rhodes was liberated and incorporated into Greece.
With a population of 43,500, the contemporary town of Rhodes was built by the Italians and has a number of interesting neo-classical buildings. Rhodes flourished in 300 BC when it was adorned with exceptional works of art in sculpture and architecture, of which —one of the Wonders of the World— was the Colossus. In the 4th c. BC, the orator Aeschinis, exiled to the island, founded a school attended by major personalities.
The Knights of St. John fortified the town and constructed splendid monuments and public works. In 1480, when Pierre d’Aubusson was Grand Master, the town was besieged but not taken. In 1522 the Turks again invaded Rhodes, with an army of 20,000 and 280 ships. After heroic resistance the Grand Master Villiers de l’Isle Adam, whose later death signalled the end of the era of chivalry, was forced to surrender the town to the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Located within the ramparts, in a semi-circle round the port. Only cars with special permits are allowed in. The Greeks and the families of the Franks lived in the southern part, the Jews in the eastern, while the Knights Hospitallers lived in the northern, in the quarter named Castello, with a perimeter wall.
Their residences and their hospital are still in an almost perfect state of conservation today. The style is Late Gothic, local limestone was used, with many very apparent western European elements and very little of the architectural heritage of Byzantium and the Orient.
A 14th c. construction, at the NW highest point of the medieval town, this also served as the ultimate stronghold in case of invasion. It was abandoned in the days of Ottoman domination and suffered extensive damage from an explosion in 1856. The attempt to restore it was undertaken by the Italian governance, at which time the flooring was covered with Hellenistic and Roman mosaics imported from Kos.
The palace is impressive, decorated with the coats of arms of the Grand Masters. Of particular splendour are the refectory, the halls with the Hellenistic marble trophy and with the cross-vaulted ceiling.
Ascending straight from the port to the palace, it is 200 m long, 6 m wide, and lined by the most imposing and richest buildings of the Knights of St. John. Avoid the crowds, and you will be transported into the past and may even have some mystical communion with someone of the Order.
Mighty fortifications to withstand cannon fire transformed the old Byzantine ramparts into an impregnable medieval fort. Its size is grandiose and it is in a fairly good state of conservation, the hallmark of the Old Town’s distinctive character.
The coats of arms, stone carvings in relief and the round towers which resisted three major sieges grip the imagination of today’s visitor as forcefully as they impressed those who saw them as restored by the Knights, who regularly cared for their maintenance. A broad moat surrounds the walls which have seven entrances, the grandest being the Amboise gate, with a bridge.
It stands on the end of a pier opposite Mandraki and was also known as St. Aimé or Adamantos. Construction began in 1464 on the site of the small chapel of the same name, because of the strategic importance of its position. The Turks were never able to capture the tower, which had powerful defence mechanisms.
Housed in the Hospital of the Knights, the substantial, imposing
construction dates from 1440. In the museum, you can see noteworthy vases, tools, sculptures and miniatures, clay sarcophagi, figurines, a fine Rhodian oenochoe (wine jug) of the 7th c. BC, ancient coins, the finds from the acropolis of Ialyssos and funeral offerings from the graves of Kameiros. Also shown are stelae, fragments from temples, Christian mosaics, coats of arms, weaponry, coins and medals. Worth seeing are also the two archaic Kouroi, the stele of Krito and Timaristi, the stele of the dead warrior, the statue of Aphrodite bathing and the two headless statues of nymphs.
The Gothic Church of the Panagia was erected in 1480 by the Grand Master Pierre d’ Aubusson to give thanks to Our Lady for preventing the Ottoman invasion. It was destroyed in the subsequent and fatal siege by the Ottomans. The museum now in it contains splendid frescoes and icons of the Late and Post Byzantine periods. Of special interest are the diptych icons of the Panagia Odigitria of the mid-14th c.
The clock tower was built in 1852. Climb its stairs and gaze over the town from its height. A cafe-bar of the same name is located there.
It was erected shortly after the siege of 1522, probably on the site of the church of Agion Apostolon and restored in the 19th c.
Built on the site of the church of Agios Antonios, it is distinctive for its delicate and elegant minaret. Murat Reis, Suleiman’s admiral in the siege of 1522, is buried in the Turkish cemetery.
Founded by Havouz Ahmed Agha in 1794. Among the significant manuscripts stored there is an interesting chronicle of the last siege of the town.
An oriental atmosphere in an authentic Turkish bath in operation.
It was a bronze statue of Helios 31 m high, the work of Haris, a pupil of Lysippos or of Lahis. It took 12 years to be made, from 302 to 290 BC. There are no records of the statue’s position, but it is unlikely that it straddled the two ends of the entrance of the harbour for ships to sail through between its legs, as the legend goes. When the Saracens captured the island they sold it piecemeal as scrap metal. At the place where it was said that the Colossus once stood you will see today two bronze deer. They remind the inhabitants that Rhodes was once named Serpent Island (Ophioussa) and that the deer were used to protect them from the infestation of snakes, which they killed with their horns.
Slightly out of the centre of town, with oleanders, swans, peacocks, abundant streams of water flowing in beds forming little pools and plenty of foliage, this garden is ideal for a respite from the midday heat of summer. See the tomb of the Ptolemies chiselled out of the rock in the cemetery dating back to the 3rd c. BC.
The spa waters of Kallithea which Hippocrates recommended to his patients are now dry, and the premises of the baths are no longer in operation. There is however a little hamlet nearby, built in 1020.
The perfect place for relief on hot summer days. The plane trees and other foliage flourish by the springs, which pour into a lake with a waterfall. Organize a picnic or visit the taverna.
Lindos, with 900 inhabitants, is perched on a triangular rock and preserves the local colour of traditional Cycladic architecture, with its blinding-white houses, steep alleys and the plane tree in the square. At the same time, it pays the price of intense tourist development with lots of boutiques, advertisement signs and the crowds which converge here in the summer months. Choose sunset for the time of your stroll around Lindos, when the sun’s last rays reflecting off the white-washed houses create magical rainbow hues. The ancient city began to develop during Dorian overlordship and reached its zenith in the 6th c. BC when ruled by Kleovoulos, one of the sages of antiquity descended from an ancient royal line. Lindos’ most significant ancient and medieval monuments are on its acropolis, a huge rock plunging sheer to the sea. You go up on foot or on donkey-back.
Skala: This leads to the plateau on which the acropolis stands.
Triiris (Trireme): The base of a bronze statue carved into the rock, it has the shape of a ship.
Knight’s Headquarters: An elegant and imposing medieval building.
Byzantine church: Ruins of the Byzantine church of Agios Ioannis.
Stoa: 88 m wide, in the Doric style, reached by a great central staircase, it has wings jutting at the ends and eight central columns behind which a further stair leads to the propylea.
Propylaia: A wall with five openings, round which there are porticoes and enclosed spaces.
Temple of Athena Lindia: In Doric style with four columns in front and four at the back and a length of 22,4 m, dating back to the 4th c. BC, apparently reproducing the architectural structure of an older temple which stood on the same site.
The monastery of Taxiarchis Michail tou Tharri, with an impressive wood-carved iconostasis (rood) and frescoes of the 17th c., stands in a wood amid beautiful scenery.
A charming village with white-washed houses below the ruins of the castle. See the Late Byzantine church of the Kimissi tis Theotokou with interesting frescoes. Next to it is a small devotional and folk art museum.
Monolithos is a village of 500 inhabitants, in the traditional style, amid olive-planted hills. The architecture of the old stone houses is interesting, and also very attractive are the narrow lanes and steps of particularly picturesque aspect. 3 km out of the village you can visit the Venetian fort, built on an impressive and huge rock. The small pure-white church of Agios Panteleimon is inside the fortress, a semi-ruined chapel and antique cisterns. Enjoy the panorama of the deep blue Aegean from the heights, before taking the road with spectacular vistas and landscape to Fourni where there is a good beach.
A wonderful route with much greenery, flowing waters and plane trees. You will come across the 15th c. monastery of Agios Nikolaos Fountouklis, with fine frescoes. There you’ll also discover a delightful picnic spot with a playground, a spring, and the shade of plane trees. Further down there is a cluster of houses built in the years of Italian domination, converted into a sanatorium by Queen Frederika. Today there is a school and a guardhouse, but unfortunately most of it is crumbling. At Prophitis Ilias there were two beautiful hotels, the Elafos and the Elafina (Stag and Hind), famous in the old days but abandoned today. This route will constantly reveal new views of natural beauty as far as your final destination of Salako village.
Archaeological finds from Mycenaean cemeteries as well as major monuments of the Classical period are evidence of the age-old history of this second ancient city of Rhodes. Its acropolis was on a hill with sheer sides all round, except that which slopes gently down to ancient Milantion, the promontory now called Agios Minas. Here were the private buildings of Kamiros, whereas the public and sacred buildings were on a plateau at the highest point. The most significant remains are from the temple of Athena Kameirados and a Doric portico with double colonnade over 200 m long, erected over a large cistern at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 2nd c. BC.
A verdant valley with a stream, plane trees, a path and wooden bridges where you can have a delightful walk of 1 km. It is worthwhile to go there even if you don’t see the kind of moth called Panaxia, which come here like clockwork on 15 June to reproduce, leaving again on 30 September. They sleep in the daytime, requiring your respect because they die if you make them fly. After your walk, you can make a stop at the Petaloudes cafe-bar.
Visit the church of the Kimissi tis Theotokou, dating back to the 17th c. and the chapel of Agios Nikolaos next to it with 15th c. frescoes. Walk along the Dromos tou Golgotha (Calvary), climbing its 134 levels with stone stelae on your right depicting the Passion of Christ, to reach the top of the hill and its grandiose cross.
One of the island’s most ancient cities initially inhabited by Phoenicians, from which they were ousted by the trickery of the Greek, Iphiklos. The birthplace –in antiquity called Achaia– of the Olympic champion Diagoras, today it is the meeting point for the various periods of the civilizations of Rhodes. At the highest point of the hill of Filerimos, there are a very few remnants of the ancient temple of Zeus and Athena, in Doric style with four double frontal pillars, dating back to the 3rd or 2nd c. BC. In the 2nd or 3rd c. AD, a triple-aisled Christian basilica with a baptismal font was erected on top of the ruins. On the same spot in the 14th c., the Knights built the church and monastery of the Panagia. On the south side of the acropolis, see the fine Doric fountain of the 4th c. BC, with its four lion-heads.
The western beaches are to be avoided when, as often happens in Rhodes, there is a north wind, unless you are windsurfers. Other than Lindos, the eastern beaches are less crowded the farther you go from Rhodes town.
In very green surroundings, a promontory with two creeks. At the farthest, below the canteen, you have the choice of several delightful little coves for a swim from the rocks.
Actor Anthony Quinn bought this land in the sixties when he was filming the Guns of Navarone.
Avoid the crowded beach you will find there and go south of the village. Past the fish-taverna and in front of a hotel there is a small, attractive and unfrequented pebble beach where you can enjoy bathing.
Between two steep rocks, this is the most popular beach in Rhodes. It is organized, there are canteens and the sands are golden. If you enjoy a view from a height, visit the monastery of Panagia tis Tsambikas.
You can swim, go for water sports or lie under the umbrellas at two sandy, organized beaches, Megalo Limani and Agios Pavlos. There are also canteens if needed.
A lovely little bay with lots of trees and greenery. It has umbrellas and a canteen.
Follow the dirt path beyond the taverna and pick the spot you prefer with more or less people. It is a long beach with clear waters, sand and pebbles.
A sandy peninsula at the southernmost point of Rhodes, which the sea covers in winter and which attracts windsurfers. To get there, you go a short way along from Kattavia on a practicable dirt track.
This is your best choice if it isn’t windy. The sunsets are gorgeous from here and there is also a taverna at Monolithos.
A long, sandy beach below a series of hotels, very crowded, organized, with umbrellas and water sports.
5 km long, pebbly, with fantastic crystal-clear sea.
3 km long, shingle, a clean sea and a few canteens. It has not been spoiled by mass tourism.
By air with Aegean Airlines
From Piraeus Port Authority, tel. 0030210 4172675
Rhodes is linked by ferry or hydrofoil with most of the Dodecanese islands and some of the Cyclades. Rhodes Port Authority, tel. 0030 2241028888
By air from Rhodes to Karpathos, Kassos, Kos, Kastellorizo, Heraklion, Santorini and Mykonos with Aegean Airlines
The Old Town is visited on foot and you will need at least three hours. For Lindos there are daily departures by public transport (KTEL) and excursions by coach organized by the travel agents. To see the rest of the island, by hired transport. One day is enough for you to see the majority of the most important sights.
All year round except July and August when the island is swamped by crowds and the thermometer rises to tropical heights. Ideal seasons are spring and autumn.
Rhodes Town Hall 0030 2241023801
Rhodes Municipal Tourist Information 0030 2241035945
Tourist Bureau 003022410 23255
Rhodes Tourist Police 0030 22410 27423
Rhodes Police 0030 2241023294
Rhodes Port Authority 0030 2241028888
Rhodes Hospital 0030 22410 25555
Rhodes Taxis 0030 22410 64712
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