Rhodes or The island of the Knights is the capital of the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea, ideal for those who wish for a simple break or those looking for an energetic action-packed holiday! With its bright hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is considered a blessed place. Further to the offered excellent facilities for tourism and its special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional accommodation, the exceptional cultural and archaeological sites found on the island make it a perfect holiday destination.
Due to its strategic position, Rhodes has become important since ancient times. The construction of the ancient city of Rhodes began in 407 BC and it was designed by the greatest city planner of antiquity, Hippodamus of Miletus. Rhodes soon developed into one of the most important seafaring and trading centres in the Eastern Mediterranean. When it became a province of the Roman, and later the Byzantine Empire, it initially lost its ancient glory. But in 1309 the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem conquered Rhodes. They built strong fortifications to protect the island, turning it into an important administrative centre and a thriving multinational medieval city. In 1523 Rhodes was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, and the Greeks had to settle outside the city walls. During the Ottoman occupation, new buildings were erected within the Old Town, mainly Mosques and Baths. In 1912 Rhodes and the rest of the Dodecanese Islands, were seized by the Italians. The new rulers embellished the city with magnificent buildings, wide roads and squares. The Palace of the Grand Master was rebuilt and the Street of the Knights was reconstructed. In 1948 Rhodes officially became part of Greece. In 1988 the Medieval City of Rhodes was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The island of Rhodes is shaped like a spearhead, 79.7 km long and 38 km wide, with a total area of approximately 1,400 square kilometres and a coastline of approximately 220 km. The last known population figure on 20111 was 49500 Inhabitants.
The Old Town
Rhodes town is one of the largest medieval towns in Europe through the Gate of Freedom. The Old Town of Rhodes is a mosaic of different cultures and civilizations.
A visitor can stroll within medieval walls and explore twenty-four centuries of history. The fascinating medieval fortress-like buildings, the bastions, walls, gates, narrow alleys, minarets, old houses, fountains, tranquil and busy squares make him feel like he has stepped back into medieval times. The Palace of the Grand Master is certainly the highlight of the Old Town. The Palace, originally a Byzantine fortress built at the end of the 7th century A.D., was converted in the early 14th century by the Knights of the Order of Saint John into the residence of the Grand Master of the order and the administrative headquarters of their state; now it has been turned into a museum.
The cobblestoned Street of the Knights, one of the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe, is packed with medieval inns that used to play host to the soldiers of the Order of the Knights. At the end of the Street, in the Museum Square, stands the Hospital of the Knights, which houses the Archaeological Museum. Across the square is the Church of Our Lady of the Castle, the Orthodox Cathedral of Rhodes in Byzantine times that became the Catholic Cathedral when the Knights occupied the city. Now it hosts the Byzantine Museum. Polidoro Street leads to a square with outdoor cafés and restaurants. Moving on, you enter Sokratous Street – always buzzing with life thanks to its cluster of cafés and shops – which leads down from the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent towards the harbour. If you decide to take a detour and head off for Arionos Square, don’t forget to stroll around the Turkish district, where you will find the Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the 16th Century Yeni Hammam (Turkish Baths).
Outside the walls
Outside the walls of the Old Town lies the new city, with its magnificent Venetian, neoclassic and modern buildings. Among the most remarkable buildings are the Post Office, constructed by the Italian architect Florestano di Fausto, the Prefecture of the Dodecanese, formerly the Italian Governor's Palace that resembles the Doge's Palace in Venice, Evangelismos Church (Church of the Annunciation), the Town Hall and the National Theatre.
A stroll around Mandraki, the small marina with the Rhodes deer statues at its entrance and the surrounding windmills, is an experience not to be missed. The multicultural character of Rhodes is also evident in this part of the city since next to the Prefecture stands the Murat Reis Mosque. Close by is Elli beach where someone can find the beautifully renovated historic Grande Albergo Delle Rose, which today operates as a Casino. A visit to the Aquarium, one of the most important marine research centres in Greece, is a must! In the underground aquarium, reminiscent of an underwater cave, the visitor can see many of the species living in the Aegean.
On the other side of the city, you can visit Rodini Park, a true paradise with many peacocks. Rodini is considered as the site of the famous School of Rhetoric, where prominent Greeks and Romans, including Julius Caesar, Cato the Younger, Cicero, Pompey, Brutus, Cassius and Marc Anthony, studied. Saint Stefanos Hill (known as Monte Smith) marks the site of the Acropolis, one of the most important centres of worship, education and recreation in ancient times on Rhodes. At the top of the hill, you will find the remains of the Temple of Apollo, a Hellenistic stadium and a gymnasium.
Heading down to the east coast, the first tempting stop is Kallithea, a cosmopolitan holiday resort. Here the main attraction is the Roman baths – a unique example of orientalised Art Deco from 1929 – and the long sandy beach of Faliraki. The picturesque small bay at Ladiko (where the film "The Guns of Navarone” was shot) and the scenic “Anthony Quinn” Bay are just some of the beautiful beaches where you can chill out!
Ialissos (or Trianda) used to be one of the three powerful cities of ancient Rhodes which acquired great fame thanks to the Olympic Champion Diagoras. Today Ialissos is a popular cosmopolitan resort; its beach is a favourite destination for windsurfing, kite-surfing and sailing enthusiasts.
On the slopes of Filerimos (meaning “lover of solitude”), Hill stands the Monastery of the Virgin Mary and the ruins of an ancient acropolis. In front of the church, there are the ruins of 3rd-century temples of Zeus and Athena. Visitors can walk up the Via Crucis, which leads to an enormous crucifix. The view from there out over Ialissos
In the verdant area of Afandou, you can either bask on beautiful sandy beaches or play golf on a modern 18-hole golf course (close to Afandou beach) that is open all year round. The road from the beautiful seaside resort of Kolymbia leads through a forest and along the banks of the River Loutanis to Archipoli, a picturesque rural village, offering ideal chances for hiking or cycling.
The area of Petaloudes (meaning Butterflies) includes the villages of Kremasti, Paradisi and Theologos. However, the most fascinating and popular attraction of the region is the Valley of the Butterflies, a habitat of unique value for the reproduction of the Panayia Quadripunctaria butterfly. Also well worth is a visit to the Valley where the Museum of Natural History is located.
Archangelos was rebuilt in medieval times away from its initial site by the sea (to guard it against pirate raids) and the Knights of Saint John later protected it by building a castle. The locals live a more simple lifestyle, almost untouched by the rapid growth in tourism elsewhere on the island and still reverentially maintain their age-old traditions, customs, their local dialect and even the distinctive decoration of their houses. The area is famous for its golden beaches, such as Tsambika Beach at the foot of a cliff, where there is also the famous monastery of the Virgin Mary. Stegna is a picturesque resort close to Archangelos, while at Haraki (with its idyllic small bay) visitors can see the ruins of a medieval castle: Faraklos. At the northern edge of the region lies “Epta Piges” (Seven Springs), a green valley with clear flowing waters.
Kamiros was one of the three most powerful cities of ancient Rhodes and flourished during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The ruins of the city and the neighbouring necropolis were discovered in 1859; magnificent public buildings, a market, temples, houses and an acropolis on the hilltop bear eloquent witness to the splendour and wealth of ancient Kamiros.
The highest mountain on Rhodes, the imposing Mt. Ataviros, with its rocky summit and green slopes, is an eternal symbol of the island. The amazing view will compensate those who will make the effort to reach its summit! Watching the sunset from the medieval castles of Ataviros, Kritinia and the 14th-century Monolithos, both built on the summit of an imposing rock, is a richly rewarding experience.
The ancient city-state of Lindos was one of the three major towns of ancient Rhodes thanks to its great Naval power. The remains of the acropolis of Lindos, a natural watchtower facing the open sea built on a steep rock 116 metres above sea level, bear eloquent witness to its long-standing power and wealth. At the foot of the acropolis lies the traditional village of Lindos with its cubic whitewashed houses, mansions, Byzantine churches and narrow cobbled streets. By following a path through the village or by hiring a donkey from the main square you can climb to the ancient acropolis, which is surrounded by well-preserved walls. Here you can see the remains of buildings from ancient times, the Byzantine era and the era of the Knights, such as the 4th century BC temple of Athena Lindia, the Propilea, the large Hellenistic arcade, the Byzantine chapel of Agios Ioannis and the castle of the Knights of Saint John.
In southern Rhodes nature is unveiled in all its splendour: sun-drenched bays stretch from Kiotari and Genadi to Lachania, Plimiri and Prassonisi, the southernmost tip of the island and a popular location for windsurfing and kite-surfing.
Don’t forget that while you are on the island you can take the opportunity to go on a day trip to the following nearby islands:
Kastellorizo (or Megisti), Chalki and Tilos.
By aeroplane from the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki or many major European Airports. There are also connections to and from other Greek islands such as Kos, Leros, Mytilini, Karpathos, Kasos, Kastellorizo, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete (Iraklion city).
The port of Rhodes has daily connections to the port of Piraeus. The trip lasts approximately 12 hours with intermediary stops at the islands of Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos and Kos. Rhodes is also connected directly to all the other islands of the Dodecanese and Crete.
Sport & Nature
Rhodes is home to some unique and beautiful flora and fauna, much of which can be found just a short stroll from the main resorts but to get a true taste of what the island has to offer, exploring the interior is a must.
Here are some of the best places to visit to make the most of the island's nature.
The Municipal Park of Rhodes
The Valley of the Butterflies
The Seven Springs (Epta Piges)
The Biotope of Apolakia Dam
Rhodes is famous for its night life, which offers many alternatives. There are a lot of available venues for entertainment, from taverns and cafeterias, to clubs, pubs, bars, cinema and even a well known casino. Someone can go for a walk and choose the ideal place according to the music preferred. There are sophisticated bars for a relaxing evening and clubs for an extreme night with alcohol and dance. Rhodes life is particularly cosmopolitan and the most popular locations to go are in the Old City, in Ialysos and / or Faliraki. In the Old City by the coastline, there are plenty of bars essentially causing the street to be renamed to Bar street. Faliraki is a notorious place, but mostly for young people who enjoy drinking a lot. Especially during summer the night life in Rhodes takes off and visitors have fun and dance up to the early morning hours.
Culture and History
Due to its strategic position, Rhodes has become important since ancient times. The construction of the ancient city of Rhodes began in 407 BC and it was designed by the greatest city planner of antiquity, Hippodamus of Miletus. Rhodes soon developed into one of the most important seafaring and trading centres in the Eastern Mediterranean. When it became a province of the Roman, and later the Byzantine Empire, it initially lost its ancient glory. But in 1309 the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem conquered Rhodes. They built strong fortifications to protect the island, turning it into an important administrative centre and a thriving multinational medieval city. In 1523 Rhodes was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, and the Greeks had to settle outside the city walls. During the Ottoman occupation, new buildings were erected within the Old Town, mainly mosques and baths. In 1912 Rhodes and the rest of the Dodecanese Islands, were seized by the Italians. The new rulers embellished the city with magnificent buildings, wide roads and squares. The Palace of the Grand Master was rebuilt and the Street of the Knights was reconstructed. On 1948 Rhodes officially became part of Greece. In 1988 the Medieval City of Rhodes was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site.