Island Profile: Rhodes, Greece
The island of Rhodes has been inhabited since the stone age. Thanks to its strategic position between East and West, the island was ruled by several different empires from the time the first Asian settlers arrived. According to Homeric texts, the city of Lindos even took part in the Trojan war. The ancient center of Rhodes was constructed later, around 407 BC. The territory was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, followed by a period of independent prosperity when the Colossus of Rhodes was born. Next came Roman rule for about 300 years, then the Byzantine Empire, and after we have the beginning of the historical period that shaped the city of Rhodes as we know it today. In the late middle ages, the Knights Hospitaller came to occupy the island and build many of its magnificent monuments and fortifications. Despite these defenses, the city fell to the overpowering army of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522, and the Ottomans ruled the city on into the next 4 centuries. In 1912, Rhodes was again seized, this time by the Italians, who added some nice buildings and also renovated important sites, such as the Street of the Knights. Finally, in 1947, Rhodes was united with Greece.
Today, this largest of the Dodecanese islands is especially rewarding for history buffs. But pay attention beachgoers, there are many pristine swimming and lounging spots to while away the time in between visits to ancient landmarks and scrumptious seafood restaurants.
Scroll through our picture story to find some of our top Rhodes picks.
Rhodes offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. In fact, walking through the streets of the capital city’s historical center will truly make you feel as if you’ve stepped into the middle ages. Rhodes Old Town, also a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the largest inhabited medieval cities in Europe.
Check out all the impressive gates into the old town.
You can even find a swimming beach in the shadow of the old city walls.
There are many gems to be found amidst the typical, gimmicky tourist paraphernalia. First of course is the Street of the Knights (labeled Ippoton on your map), a somewhat serious but thought-provoking medieval boulevard lined with ‘inns’ for the Knights Hospitaller who ruled Rhodes in the 14th century.
At one end is the grandiose Palace of the Grand Master…
… and the other leads to the impressive façade of the former hospital of the Knights of St. John (now housing the city’s archaeological museum).
Nearby you have the beautiful rose-pink Mosque of Suleymaniye, constructed in the 16th century to commemorate the sultan’s conquest.
And also the Byzantine-style clock tower that you can climb up for views out over the city and port.
Art lovers can visit the Byzantine Art Museum, located in the 13th-century Church of St. Mary.
And of course you can wander the endlessly charming streets inside the old city walls.
Besides Rhodes Town, one can’t miss a trip to the beautiful city of Lindos.
You can climb up the hill, perhaps starting from the town’s beach below…
… and amble through the winding cobbled streets lined with shops and interesting doorways, like those at the captain’s houses once built by wealthy maritime merchants. Notice the typical pebbled entryway.
Finally, reach the top to visit the ruins of the partially-excavated Acropolis. Perched over 300 feet above the clear blue water, the site includes the remains of a Temple of Athena dating back to the 4th century BC. Admission is free on Greek national holidays and the last weekend in September.
Besides the rich tapestry of history one can walk through, the island also has more modern and natural attractions going for it. In the “New Town” of Rhodes, find wonderful buildings, including some gems from the Italian occupation such as the Church of Annunciation (pictured), the Prefecture and the National Theatre.
Enjoy strolling the Mandraki port, where the famous Colossus is said to have stood, guarding the harbor. There are also charming windmills that add to its character.
The city’s Aquarium is small, but a wonderful place to see various species of the Aegean, when they’re not on your dinner plate that is.
Outside of Rhodes city, you might travel down to Kallithéa, a vibrant resort town along the coast of Faliraki beach. Here you can see the beautiful hot springs spa complex.
Also, near the beach at Afándou, golf-enthusiasts will appreciate a modern 18-hole course.
And tucked away in the area of Petaloúdes, about a 30-minute drive from Rhodes Town, is a truly amazing display of mother nature: the Valley of the Butterflies. In the summer, visitors can witness this awesome phenomenon, where millions of tiger moth butterflies gather to blanket the tree trunks and moss-covered stones situated next to the natural stream, wooden footbridges and pathway. You can also take the trolley ride up to the small Kalopetras Monastery.
You can also take a day-trip to nearby islands, such as Symi, Tilos or Kastelorizo. Symi (pictured below) is the easiest to reach, with daily boats during the summer traveling from Mandraki harbor and some also stopping at Panormitis Monastery or the gorgeous St. George’s bay (pictured below) at Symi for a quick swim.
Close to Rhodes Town, there’s the popular Elli Beach, with all the amenities visitors and families could hope for, as well as the iconic “Trampoline” diving platform courtesy of the Italians.
The west coast of the island is more rugged, but beaches like Ixia and Ialysos are popular for windsurfing and watersports. The eastern coast is where most of the buzzy beaches are, starting with Kallithea beach, where you can either swim, dive or snorkel in the crystal clear waters nearby the ancient hot springs.
For the best historic views, you can’t beat the magnificent St. Paul’s Bay right under the Lindos acropolis. In addition to rows of sun loungers, it also features a small chapel and a beachfront bar-restaurant.
Faliraki Bay is a hub with plenty of hotels, a pebbly beach, a family-friendly sandy beach, a nude beach and also a water park.
Perhaps one of the most stunning, but also small and crowded beaches, is Anthony Quinn Bay. The surf is pebbly and the loungers are close together, but the bay is truly a beauty with deep blue waters, a scattering of big rocks in the water, and pine trees all around. You can also find the tiny path to go up and walk through the trees, circling around the beach with a fabulous vantage point from above.
Ladiko, next to Anthony Quinn, is another small and rocky swimming spot.
Farther down the coast, you can come to Tsampika, which is a long stretch of beach with golden sands and shallow waters, as well as watersports centers and beach café-bars.
In Stegna, you will find a nice atmosphere with a sandy beach and several local tavernas.
Afantou is another ideal place to enjoy a typical taverna after your swim. If you’re looking for a quieter beachfront, go farther south to find Plimmiri, or you can try out Aliki beach or Fourni on the west coast.
Finally, at the southern tip of the island you can find Prasonisi, famous all over Greece for its windsurfing and kitesurfing. In the summer months, the tides are low enough to expose a sandbar that divides the beach into two bays – one with wind and waves, while the other is calmer.
For old-world atmosphere… the place to be is unquestionably Rhodes Town.
* Kokkini Porta Rossa is a gorgeous boutique luxury hotel in a medieval mansion.
* Avalon Boutique Hotel offers an intimate medieval retreat within the old walls.
* Notos Suite is a romantic place for two in the Old Town.
* Nikos Takis Fashion Hotel is a gorgeous design hotel in the heart of the old city.
* Rodos Park Suites & Spa, a tranquil and luxurious boutique property.
* Rodos Palladium Hotel, situated on Kallithea Beach 6 miles from Rhodes Town.
For beaches and nightlife… the top resort area in Rhodes, with plenty of beach and an energetic vibe day and night, is Faliraki.
* Mitsis Alila Resort & Spa for an all-inclusive, world-class experience.
* Esperos Palace Hotel is a beachfront property 1.5 miles from Faliraki.
For a bit of everything… try the resort area Ixia on the west side of the island. It is only 2.5 miles from Rhodes, while also offering beachfront hotels, watersports, shopping and proximity to ancient Ialysos.
* Atrium Platinum Hotel at Ixia Bay offers an upscale stay nearby medieval Rhodes.
* Rodos Palace Hotel for a beautiful and stylish setting at Ialysos Beach nearby Rhodes Town.
For extended stays and high-end accommodation… go to Lindos, the white-washed beauty of Rhodes, with its looming acropolis, beckoning shops, and upscale dining and hotels.
* The Aquagrand of Lindos, offering adults-only accommodation with unbeatable Aegean Sea views and a wellness center.
* Melenos Lindos Hotel for a sophisticated, luxury beachfront stay beneath the acropolis.
* Aktaion Cafe – Rhodes New Town
For a great selection of sweet and savory pastries to take away or sit down. Try the different cheese or cheese and spinach pies. Make sure to ask what was baked fresh that day.
* Koukos – Rhodes New Town
For a cozy, old-world atmosphere. The patisserie is also well-stocked for breakfast.
*Archipelagos– Rhodes Old Town
For a great view in the heart of the old town walls, and classic menu options.
* Pizanias – Rhodes Old Town
For exceptional, naturally-prepared seafood with a passionate host and friendly service.
* Grande Blue – Stegna Beach
For a beautiful, tucked away beach retreat and taverna, with friendly service and a stunning view.
* Perigiali – Stegna Beach
For a great local taverna on the beach. The grilled squid was quite big, if you like it that way, but the tzatziki dip and the octopus in vinegar were mouthwatering.
* Captain’s House Bar – Lindos
For the perfect break while walking around the old streets. You can have a brew, a fruit shake or a snack, and also take a peek in the back to see the captain’s living quarters, or where his wife would have stayed when he was off to sea. Appreciate the beautiful ornate doorways and the typical pebbled hohlaki flooring.
* Dionysus – Lindos
For a sophisticated, family-run restaurant with all the traditional Rodian dishes, expertly prepared. There is also a great atmosphere and views from the top terrace.
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