General information about the island of Rhodes
Rhodes is a greek island of the Dodecanese steeped in history with a stunningly beautiful medieval capital and a long coast peppered with lovely beaches. In the heart of the capital is one of the most well preserved medieval towns of Greece and Europe, a 14th century citadel encircled by massive walls and a living museum which attracts a million visitors a year to its labyrinthine alleys and hidden palaces.
Much of the north coast has been commandeered by high-rise holiday hotels while the east, while heavily developed until Faliraki, still has many secluded spots away from the main beach resorts.
The best beaches lie down the east coast with the beautiful sandy bay at Lindos the jewel in the crown. South of Lindos its far less developed and crowded and the far south is an almost uninterrupted beach of pebbles and sand.
Highlights of a Rhodes holiday are a trip to Lindos overlooked by an ancient acropolis, the ancient city of Ialysos with its temple remains and the Valley of the Butterflies at Petaloudes where thousands of red-winged tiger moths swarm each year.
Rhodes offers the perfect mix of relaxation and exploration, from its fabulous beaches to its fascinating sights and places to visit. The capital is home to a stunningly well-preserved medieval town, surrounded by substantial protective walls – a living monument with over one million annual visitors. A variety of ancient spots are scattered throughout the island, as well as quaint mountain villages and monasteries. And no trip would be complete without looking around the spectacular Butterfly Valley where tourists come in their thousands to marvel at its many colourful inhabitants.
When visiting the old quarter of Rhodes Town, get there early in the morning if you’re travelling during a busier time of year – that way you can beat the crowds that flock the maze-like 14th century citadel. You enter through one of 11 surviving gates where the beautiful Palace of the Grand Masters presides like a sovereign. It was once home to the Knights of St John, who invaded and governed Rhodes for two centuries before being removed by the Turks. Despite withstanding sieges and earthquakes, it eventually met its fate when an ammunition depot exploded in 1856. Fortunately, the Italians restored it with pomp during Mussolini’s regime – yet neither he nor King Victor Emmanuel III ever stepped inside its walls.
At the south east corner of the palace stands the remarkable Street of Knights, home to inns belonging to knights organized into seven “tongues” – each allocated to protect a specific fortification. Not far away is the Archaeological Museum formerly used as a Knights’ Hospital. Inside, is splendid painted pottery from 6th and 7th centuries BC, topped by the iconic Aphrodite of Rhodes statue made in the 1st century BC.
Rhodes’ old town has a Jewish quarter with an active mosque that displays a plaque in memory of the many who were deported from the island to Auschwitz. The Turkish quarter, home to pink-domed Suleiman Mosque and functional Turkish “Hammam” baths, is another key feature of this historic town.
One of the main appeals on Rhodes is the old settlement of Lindos, situated 47 kilometres away from the capital. This picturesque town features 15th to 18th century sea captain’s mansions built with artfully crafted pebble mosaics. Its acropolis contains a temple that was constructed in 1100 BC before being restored in the 6th century BC and dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom.
You can explore the ancient city of Ialysos, located 10 kilometres south west from Rhodes. Here you will find ruins of a temple that dates back to the 3rd century BC. Kamiros, situated further down the western coast, was once one of three great cities (along with Lindos and Ialysos) who formed a unified city state in the 5th century BC – the powerful city state of Rhodes. On this picturesque hillside site you can observe parts of two temples and a 3rd century BC colonnade.
Petaloudes Valley is one of the most visited attractions on the island. It is 2.5 kilometres south from Paradisi airport and houses thousands of vibrant tiger moths that are drawn to the resin of the local styrax trees.
Rhodes Greece continues to attract and enchant thousands of people. It was one of the first Greek islands to acquire tourism. It is the largest island of the Dodecanese with thousands of years of history, able to offer to the international travelers a wide variety of attractions.
From the time of the Italian occupation in the beginning of the 20th century until the begining of World War II, Rhodes was the ideal holiday island for wealthy Italians and other Europeans, even the famous writer Agatha Cristi dedicated a novel with her hero Hercule Poirot set on Rhodes with the title “Triangle at Rhodes”.
Rhodes is one of the most popular Greek islands, a few years ago it was the 5th most popular island in the world. It is located in the southern Aegean, with a crystal clear blue sea that has made the seaside resorts of Greece so popular.
It is true that the majority of tourists come here for the beaches, but here, sunbathing and swimming can be combined with interesting cultural visits, like the historic districts of the city of Rhodes or the archeological site of Kamiros and Lindos.
Entertainment and nightlife in the nightclubs of Faliraki and Rhodes town, exciting day trips to the nearby island of Symi or refreshing walks in the inland forests and parks. Do not miss the charm of Lindos, the romantic city that of all the cities of Rhodes best embodies the image of a Greek postcard with the white houses that descend to the blue sea and the wonderful archeological sites.
In short, Rhodes is an all-inclusive island, ideal for holidays, relaxation, fun, romance, culture, nature and gastronomic delicacies combined with the friendliness and joy of life that distinguish the Greek people. Ideal destination for everyone: young people, families, couples, lonely travelers, groups of friends.
Renowned as an archaeological treasure house, the city of Rhodes, or Rodos, sits on the northern tip of the island with sea on three sides. Rhodes is really three cities in one.
The first Rhodes Town is the modern city – a monumental heap of whitewashed concrete which, but for some nice Italian buildings, varies from the dull to the seedy.
The second Rhodes Town is the medieval walled city – a national treasure granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO and a maze of cobblestone streets and beautiful sights.
The north east coastal part of the town of Rhodes is the seashore development that runs along the north and east coasts awash with luxury hotel complexes and overwhelmingly devoted to tourism. There are smart restaurants and some interesting shops and cafes but the main impression is cheap, brash and tacky.
Rhodes Town beach is shingle and sand with little in the way of charm despite the setting and the sunshine. Backed by tower block holiday hotels and bizarrely shaped luxury conference centres it has a sort of regimented misery that belies its lovely location.
The beach is usually very windy and the sea can get very rough. Stones, rocks and pebbles are sometimes flecked with oil from passing ships and there is a steep drop into the sea, so it’s unsuitable for children. Visitors can also expect to pay top prices in bars and tavernas.
The ‘new town’ is dominated by blocks of hotels and throughout the summer it throbs to disco music and revving motorbikes. Mandraki Harbour, guarded by its twin bronze deer, is the hub and cafes banked up beneath the nearby arches are where to sit to watch the city go by. It may be noisy and expensive but it oozes atmosphere with its street sellers, pavement artists and boat trips.
There are interesting Italian buildings near Mandraki harbour and remnants of the Turkish presence that once dominated still persist at the Mosque of Mourad Reis.
The nearby aquarium too is worth a visit, although the stuffed and moth-ravaged monk seals looked a sorry sight. Visitors can catch the scenic holiday train outside the town hall for a tour of the sites with excellent commentary from the driver.
To explore the old city, the wise visitor will get a map and guide. It brands them dumb tourists, of course, but there is just so much to see that there is really no alternative.
A good place to start is Symi Square, near Mandraki harbour, for a tour of the Castello where the knights left their most enduring marks.
For a different era in Rhodes’ history find the Plane Tree Walk where the clock tower marks the wall that separated the knights’ quarters from the rest of the city. The place is packed with shops, bars, cafes, restaurants – you name it, but expect to pay for it.
What to see
Rhodes offers more than just stunning beaches; it presents a rich tapestry of historical attractions and natural wonders. The capital boasts a well-preserved medieval town surrounded by towering walls, serving as a mesmerizing historical hub that draws nearly a million tourists annually. Beyond the beaches, the island unfolds with ancient landmarks, untouched mountainous villages, monasteries, and the ever-popular Butterfly Valley, often teeming with visitors eager to view its vibrant inhabitants.
Begin your journey in Rhodes Town’s ancient quarter. If you’re traveling during peak season, it’s wise to head there early to experience the charm of its winding 14th-century pathways without the crowds. Entry is through one of the eleven remaining gates, leading to the grand Palace of the Grand Masters, a historic epicenter of the Knights of St John. These knights ruled for two centuries after 1306 until the Turks took over. Though the palace has endured various calamities, it was reconstructed in a lavish style by the Italians as a potential summer residence for Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel III, although neither ever set foot on the island.
Adjacent to the palace, the Street of the Knights unfolds, showcasing inns that once housed knights categorized by their nationality, each group tasked with guarding a segment of the city’s walls. A few steps away, the Archaeological Museum, previously the Knights’ Hospital, displays artifacts like ancient pottery and the renowned Aphrodite of Rhodes statue from the 1st-century BC.
Rhodes’ Old Town further unveils a Jewish section with an active mosque that commemorates the victims sent from Rhodes to Auschwitz. The Turkish quarter is distinguishable with its eye-catching pink-domed Suleiman Mosque and operational Turkish “Hammam” baths.
Another gem on the island is Lindos, located 47 kilometers from the capital. This town showcases 15th to 18th-century mansions designed around pebbled courtyards. Towering above Lindos is the ancient acropolis, home to the remains of a temple dedicated to Athena, first constructed around 1100 BC and later reconstructed in the 6th century BC.
Venture 10 kilometers southwest of Rhodes to discover Ialysos, showcasing the remnants of a 3rd-century BC temple. Further along the west coast, Kamiros reveals its past as one of the trio of cities, alongside Lindos and Ialysos, that merged in the 5th century BC to establish the influential city-state of Rhodes.
Lastly, a must-visit is the Valley of the Butterflies at Petaloudes, situated close to Paradisi airport.
The most popular, but not necessarily the best, of Rhodes beaches are on the north and east coasts. The north coast resorts are strung between Rhodes Town and the airport; mostly narrow strips of sandy shingle backed by enormous hotel complexes. This is the main tourist holiday and conference hotel strip of Rhodes island.
On the east coast expect busy beaches backed by resort hotels. Every bay off the main highway has a busy holiday resort and they can vary from the notorious beach party playpen of vast Faliraki, to the upmarket kitsch hideaway of Therma Kalithea and to the bare beauty of Afandou.
Beaches tend to get quieter as you head south with the hugely popular Lindos and neighbouring Pefkos the exceptions. Beautiful sand beaches are tucked away in glorious bays at Kolymbia, Tsambika, Stegna and Agathi.
The south of the island is comparatively quiet as poorer roads, fewer facilities and the distance from the airport tends to keep numbers down. Plenty of hotels have sprung up in recent years to meet demand but empty, dune backed sands can still be found. Beaches may be rarer but Rhodes feels more authentically Greek here than in the package holiday north.
Where to stay on Rhodes
As you might expect on such a popular holiday destination Rhodes offers visitors a vast choice of accommodation. Rhodes Town itself, both the island capital and the main port has some of the best and most luxurious hotels.
Those located in the medieval centre are full of character but very expensive while outside the outskirts, particularly heading inland has a good supply of cheap rooms and apartments.
If you want luxury and have deep pockets then the restored Turkish and medieval buildings in the old town’s 14th century citadel should be just the ticket. If you are on a budget then aim for the area between Sokratous and Omirou for small hotels and a cheap youth hostel.
When to go to Rhodes
Rhodes is located close to the Turkish coast and enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate, with long hot summers and mild, temperate winters. Rhodes has the longest holiday season of all the Greek Islands, running from early April to mid-November, and gets well over 300 days of sunshine a year.
Spring on Rhodes sees warm days with up to nine hours of sunshine and temperatures rising to 21°C in May. In June temperatures climb to 25°C, reaching 28°C in August with at least 12 hours of daily holiday sun. High temperatures are tempered by the cooling sea breezes.
Warm holiday weather continues in early Autumn with temperatures of 20°C to 24°C. Late autumn storms can usher in the winters which stay mild at an average 11°C in January, which is the wettest month on Rhodes.
Road links on Rhodes are relatively good in the north, less so in the south. Crowded buses serve the east and west coast cheaply and regularly but not many go south of Lindos.
A main road runs south from Rhodes following the coast past Faliraki. There’s a good public bus service in Rhodes linking the north coast resorts. East cost buses leave from the East Side Bus Station on Plateia Rimini while the West Side Bus Station is at Averov.
There are few bus services south of Lindos. Rhodes Town has plenty of taxis. The biggest of the many taxi stands is on the harbour front at Plateia Rimini. Taxis on Rhodes are dark blue with white roofs and tourist information offices have a list of charges.
How to get to Rhodes
diagoras-airport-rhodesThe Diagoras International Airport is near north coast Kremasti, about 16km from Rhodes Town. International charters and regular domestic flights bring in more than 3 million visitors annually. Rhodes Airport has one terminal with 13 check-in desks and opens round the clock.
Rhodes airport is still notoriously chaotic so expect long queues and organized chaos. There is short term and long term parking opposite the terminal. There are 30 daily buses to Rhodes and the journey takes about 40 minutes.
There are plenty of taxis and car hire companies have offices here. The airport is on a dual carriageway along the coast and clearly signposted.
getting to rhodes by ferryRhodes Ferry Port is at the north-eastern end of the old town. Regular ferries run to Piraeus (Athens) but it takes about 16 hours as it calls in at Astypalea, Kalymnos, Kos, Nisyros and Tilos.
Blue Star operates ferries to Syros, Patmos, Leros and Kos. Hellenic Seaways has routes to Paros and Kos both ways while ANEK Lines head for Milos, Santorini, Crete and Karpathos.
The Dodecanese island are linked by a fast catamaran service to Kos, Kalymnos, Leros and Patmos. There are regular trips to Mamaris, Turkey and many daily boat trips around the island but mainly to Lindos. There are daily excursions to Symi, calling in at Panormitis Monastery.