Known principally as a summer beach & fun destination with lots of hotels and holiday apartments, and attracting a lot of package-deal tourism (and not always of the best kind), the island of Rhodes in Greece is generally carefully avoided by people who’d like to draw more from their holidays than a few beers and a golden tan. What a pity that is, because Rhodes has so much more going for it. It is a multi-facetted island, with a rich history and culture, as well as a beautiful landscape (it is a walkers’ paradise). The ideal Rhodes holidays would be in spring or autumn, with some days spent in the old town, and at least another week further south on the island, to explore the beautiful inland and enjoy some of the best beaches. And to make it absolutely perfect, you could spend a few extra days on the island of Kastelorizo…
The historical town of Rhodes
The historical city of Rhodes is one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world and a destination in its own right. The moment you pass through one of the gates to the 14th century city ramparts and you enter the old town, you feel as if you travelled back in time. As long as you don’t venture into the few streets where most of the tourists gather, you will experience a uniquely medieval atmosphere as you wander around the narrow, stone-paved pedestrian streets tracing the footsteps of the Knights of St. John who ruled the town from the beginning of the 14th century for over 200 years. Major sights such as the Palace of the Grand Master, the Archaeological Museum, the Suleiman’s Mosque and the Byzantine Museum are all within easy walking distance one from another, and there are plenty of places to eat, drink or shop in between, so you could easily spend a few days in the town without ever getting bored and without ending up totally exhausted. If you see lots in only one day, you could sign up with the city biking tour organised by Trekking Hellas. It is a great way to explore both the historical town of Rhodes as well as the modern parts of the city.
Where to go on Rhodes
Now as far as the rest of the island goes, avoid the coastal stretch between the airport of Rhodes and the town. It has been developed to cater to mass tourism, and you should simply stay away. The beaches on the other (southeast facing) side of the island are a lot better anyway, though there are some big resort hotels there as well. Basically, the further south you go, the better it gets. You could use Lindos as your base, a (village-sized) town crowned by a magnificent Acropolis. The ‘town’ is somewhat Cycladic in style (i.e. very picturesque!) with whitewashed houses (including some beautiful mansions), narrow alleyways and an array of little shops, cafés and restaurants. Beneath Lindos lies a wonderful sandy beach, but of course it gets crowded.
The best beaches of Rhodes
You will find the best beaches on the southern part of Rhodes, some with white sand and dunes, beautiful! Prasonissi, all the way down, is great for surfers. On the south-western part of the island, you’ll find some good sandy beaches near Monolithos.
What else to see on Rhodes
Do also explore the inland of Rhodes: the Venetian castle near Monolithos, the Tharri Monastery, and the village of Asklipio in the south; the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Foutouklis, Prophitis Ilias, the archaeological site of Kamiros and the valley of the butterflies further north. This list of places to see is by no means exhaustive. Rent a car for a few days and get a detailed map of Rhodes, and you will discover a lot more. Or sign up for a tour organised by Trekking Hellas. The outdoor specialist offers some great one-day guided hikes (one to the acropolis of Filerimos and one to the monastery of Profitis Ilias) and biking tours (the Red Water Tour and the Kamiros Bike Tour). A wonderful way to explore the island away from the masses.
And what else to do on Rhodes
If you’re interested in doing sports, you’re on the right island as well. Rhodes has plenty of organised activities, though of course for some you will have to go to the areas I just told you to avoid. There’s scuba diving, paragliding, bungee jumping, sailing and surfing, waterskiing and horseback riding. If you’re into golfing you won’t be disappointed by the 18-holes Afandou Golf Course 15 km from the town.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Rhodes