Rhodes island (also known as Rhodos/Rodos) is the largest island of the Dodecanese, and the easternmost of all the Greek islands. It lies just a few miles south of the Turkish mainland, a location that has made it a focalpoint for trade and wars throughout the millennia. Greeks, Romans, The Knights of St. John, Turks and Italians have all controlled the island and left their mark.
The terrain of Rhodes is more similar to Asia Minor than a typical Greek island, with pine and cypress forests and a mountainous interior. Beautiful and clean beaches, a historical old town in Rhodes city, the stunning village and acropolis of Lindos, untouched villages in the interior and a valley of butterflies makes the island of Rhodes one of the Greek islands that you shouldn’t miss.
The city of Rhodes is the capital of the island, and its Old Town is a World Heritage Site. In ancient times it was known for one of the seven wonders of the world, the Colossus of Rhodes. There’s so much to see, that we’ve dedicated a separate article to the town of Rhodes.
The town of Lindos is the most picturesque town on Rhodes, and its Acropolis is what brings most tourists out of Rhodes city. The town was first settled in 2000 BC, and was an important Doric site because of its good harbour and good view of the sea.
Lindos has bays on two sides, and the village consists of white painted 17th century houses, many with black and white pebble mosaic floors (hohlakia). The main streets are filled with shops and cafes, but its worth exploring the side streets to really see the beauty of the village. Above the village lies the Acropolis, originally built in ancient times, and later expanded by the Knights of St. John.
To the south of Lindos lies the lovely beach at St. Paul’s Bay. This is where St. Paul supposedly landed on his way to Rome. To the southwest is Mount Krana, where caves hid cults to Athena after Christianity had taken over.
Buses leave frequently from Plateia Rimini in Rhodes town. Taking a taxi instead will cost about 40 euros. Excursion boats also depart from Mandraki harbour.
Acropolis of Lindos
The Acropolis of Lindos is placed on the 116 meter high rock above the village. It’s a bit of a walk, but well worth the effort. The impressive remains of the Sanctuary of Athena Lindos were later surrounded by turreted walls, when the Knights of St. John refortified the acropolis. The Italians tried to reconstruct parts of the acropolis, but did a poor job, so there’s ongoing restorations to repair the site.
When you reach the inside of the entrance gate, you’ll see a square with a famous relic carving of a trireme, a three-banked ship, from the 2nd century BC by the sculptor Pythocretes. From the top of the ramparts you’ll have a splendid view of Lindos and the surrounding areas.
At the acropolis itself, you’ll find the remains of a Hellenistic stoa from 200 BC, with 20 columns. There’s also a 5th century BC propylaeum. but the main sight is the 4th century Temple to Athena. Athena was probably worshipped here as early as the 10th century BC, so this temple replaced earlier ones.
Medieval Lindos has the gorgeous Byzantine Church of Agios Ioannis, from the late 14th or early 15th century. The floor is made of sea pebbles, while the church has more than 200 restored frescoes (originally from the 18th century) covering the walls and ceiling, depicting creation, nativity, passover and the last judgement.the village.
Ancient Ialysos (Ialyssos/Ialisos)
10 km south of Rhodes city, you’ll fiund Ancient Ialysos, which has contains Doric, Byzantine and medieval remains.
The Phoenicians were the first known settlers here, but they were driven out by the Dorians in the 10th century, who built a temple to Athena and Zeus Poliios on Mount Filerimos in the 3rd century. The base of the temple can still be seen. The Dorians also built a fountain in the 4th century BC, which has been restored to good condition.
The Knights of St. John also embarked from Ialysos when they began their conquest of Rhodes. They built the Chapel of Agios Georgios, a small subterranean chapel with frescoes of knights and Jesus. Later the Italians built the Monastery of Our Lady right over it. Proper dresscode is required for visitors to the monastery.
The ruined fortress at Ialysos was used by Suleiman the Magnificent during his siege of Rhodes Town.
The remains of ancient Kamiros are larger than those of Ialysos, and are located on a hillside on the coast, 34 km from Rhodes town, This Doric town peaked in the 6th century BC, prospering from the production of figs, olives and grapes, the latter two sold in the form of oil and wine. Its significance waned as the town of Rhodes rose, and it was finally destroyed by earthquakes in 226 and 142 BC.
The town was divided into an upper porch for religious purposes, and a lower valley for everyday life. At the lower half you can see the remains of a Doric temple, the main street with some well-preserved houses and the ruins of a 3rd century stoa with a 206 m long portico. At the upper level is a 6th century cistern, which was filled with water through use of aqueducts, and at the very top a temple dedicated to Athena.
Buses from Rhodes city stop along the coast road, 1 km away from the ruins.
Valley of the Butterflies (Petaloudes)
The Valley of the Butterflies is among the most popular sights on Rhodes. The area consists of ponds, footbridges and streams. During July and August, millions of butterflies gather, attracted by the scent of resin from the storax trees. The butterflies are actually black-and-white striped moths (Callimorpha quadripunctaria), which are revealed to have intensely red undersides when they take flight, often as a result of being disturbed by noise.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll see the moths in flight, but its worth a visit. Petaloudes is 25 km south of Rhodes and inland.
A couple of kilometers south of Kamiros lies the knights castle of Kastellos (Kritinias Castle), built in the 15th and 16th century, with a dominating view of the sea.
If you go south from there, and then inland to the northeast, you’ll reach Embonas, the wine capital of Rhodes. The white Villare and the red Cava Emery or Zacosta are worth a taste, and can be purchased at Emery Winery. There’s not much else to see in Embonas, but the tavernas around the main square serve good barbecued meats, and often have live music and entertainment.
The best beaches in Rhodes are along the east coast, and with 300 days of sunshine each year, you’ll probably want to visit one during your stay. Many of the beaches are off road and a bit difficult to get to. The upside is that you’ll be able to find undisturbed beaches even in the middle of tourist season.
The easiest beach to access is probably the one next to Lindos. There are also a couple of beaches south of Lindos,
Kalithea Thermi is a restored spa, originally built by the Italians. The beach is ised by the diving schools in Rhodes. Buses from Rhodes Town stop nearby,
Ladiko Beach, often called ‘Anthony Quinn Beach’ by the locals, consists of two coves with a pebble beach on the north side, and volcanic rock on the south. The beach is realtively undisturbed from nearby development.
Kolymbia and Tsambika beaches are nice and sandy, but also quite crowded.
Epta Piges (Seven Springs) is a beautiful valley 4 km from Kolymbia, where springs flow into a lake. The area is a popular tourist destination.
Stegna Beach lies near Arhangelos, further south, and can offer the sandy cove of Agathi, with nearby beach restaurants, and the Castle of Faraklos as a backdrop.
How to get there
Diagoras International Airport is located 14 km southwest of Rhodes city, and has regular connections to Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete and Turkey. During summer there’s service to Karpathos and Santorini, as well as a myriad of international charter flights to Rhodes.
Ships, ferries and hydrofoils regularly go to Athens, Crete, Cyprus, Turkey and Israel. In high season daily departures also leave for nearby destinations in the eastern Aegean, like Kos, Patmos and Samos.