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Discover the best things to do in Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands – renowned for its pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife and its very own Acropolis.
Inhabited since the Stone Age, Rhodes has a tumultuous history of conquest; its time under such powers as the Romans and Ottomans (to name just two) affords contemporary Rhodes numerous historical monuments and diverse architecture to explore. According to Greek mythology, Rhodes emerged from the sea as a gift from Zeus to Helios, god of the sun. With this in mind, it would be remiss not to dedicate time to enjoying the island’s abundant swimming spots, and dining or hiking in the warmth of the Greek sun.
The island’s capital, also called Rhodes, is one of the oldest inhabited medieval towns in Europe and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is surrounded by four kilometres (2.5 miles) of walls and 11 gates; upon entering through one of these imposing gates, you will feel like you have stepped back hundreds of years. Many different architectural styles coexist in the city, but many buildings date back to when Rhodes was ruled by the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (1309–1522). Be sure to visit the Palace of the Grand Master, built in the 14th century, and walk down the famous Street of the Knights. You will also find Ottoman architectural gems, built between 1522 and 1911, including the 16th-century hammam and Mustafa Pasha Mosque in Arionos Square. The narrow streets of the city are lined with shops, cafes, and bars.
Above the modern village of Lindos sits the Acropolis of Lindos, one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. The citadel’s Castle of the Knights of St John was built in the 14th century to defend the island against the Ottomans, on the foundations of existing Byzantine fortifications. The history of the citadel, however, dates back far further than this. Following the steep footpath, you will encounter a ship carved into the rock in the 2nd century BC. At the top, the Temple of Athena Lindia, which was built in the 4th century BC, is recognisable for its Doric columns. The view from the Acropolis, set 116 metres (381 feet) above the sea, is breathtaking. Pro tip: don’t forget a hat and a bottle of water if visiting during the summer, as there is next to no shade! After your time of cultural exploration, head to Lindos Beach to cool down in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.
Located in the heart of Rhodes Town, the Archaeological Museum is housed in a medieval building (dating to 1440) lined with porticoes, which was originally the Hospital of the Knights of St John. The museum showcases findings from different periods of the island’s history, including collections of Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman sculptures. Be sure to spend some time in the museum’s courtyard, admiring the mosaic floors from the Hellenistic period.
About 26 km (16 mi) from the town of Rhodes is a natural paradise, the Valley of the Butterflies. As its name indicates, millions of butterflies inhabit this area from June until September. The perfect tranquil environment for the butterflies to reproduce, this 600-acre (2.4-square-kilometre) nature park is a wonderfully peaceful place to walk among trees, streams and waterfalls. Complete your visit in the Natural History Museum at the entrance to the valley, and try to keep the noise down during your visit in order not to disturb the butterflies.
Embonas is an agricultural village at the foot of the highest mountain on the island, Ataviros, set 50 kilometres (31 miles) southwest of Rhodes Town. The village is a one stop shop when it comes to tasting locally produced wines – there are several vineyards in the area, thanks to an optimum climate for high-quality grapes, and many of these wineries are open to the public. Explore local wine varieties such as Athiri and meet the friendly owners of the vineyards, who are always available to explain the local methods of wine production. Before your visit, be sure to check the opening hours of the vineyards so that you do not miss out!
The medieval castle of Monolithos was built in the 15th century, 236 metres (774 feet) high on a hill near the village of the same name. To reach the castle, visitors ascend a narrow set of stairs – a steep but beautiful climb through the greenery, against a backdrop of endless blue. The view of the sunset from the castle offers a more-than-worthwhile reward.
The medieval town of Rhodes pops up again on this list because it not only offers a unique cultural experience but is also a great place for a chilled night out. Enjoy a cocktail at Flaws or JJ Bar, or get a taste of tradition at one of the town’s many authentic tavernas, where you can enjoy a delicious meal with Greek wine or ouzo, all the while listening to Greek music.
Prasonisi is located at the southernmost tip of Rhodes. The peninsula ends in a small islet, also called Prasonisi (green island), and the beach here is perfect for surfing and kite surfing thanks to the wind conditions. A number of surf centres offer lessons and equipment rental, or if you just want to relax and enjoy watching the surfers, the sand is fine and soft. Thanks to this soft sand and the shallow waters, Prasonisi is popular with families.
The 800m-long (2,625ft) Tsambika beach is located 25 km (15.5 mi) south of Rhodes Town. The golden sands and crystal-clear waters make this beach an ideal place for swimming and relaxing. The numerous restaurants and beach bars, along with the availability of sun beds and umbrellas, will allow you to fully unwind and experience Greek island beach life. For anyone looking for a more high-energy beach day, watersports are also on offer at Tsambika.
If you like nonstop revelry, Faliraki is your best choice. Rhodes is famous for its nightlife, and the resort of Faliraki has played a central role in this fame. Here you will find a variety of watering holes, including cocktail bars, karaoke bars, and dance clubs – the party doesn’t stop until the early morning. If you prefer a calm night out, however, this area also offers sophisticated bars for a casual cocktail or a drink. Either way, Faliraki is an experience not to be missed.
Ride a horse along a golden-sandy beach while watching the sun go down, or feel at one with nature on a horse trek through the forests. For anyone wanting to add an equestrian element to their Rhodes adventure, Kadmos and Elpida are two highly rated organisations.
Set 9km (5.6mi) south of Rhodes Town, the Kallithea Thermal Springs opened in 1929 during the Italian occupation. The luxurious complex features pebble stone mosaics, landscaped gardens, and spacious patios. These aesthetic elements, together with the healing properties of the thermal springs (both through bathing and water-drinking therapy) and low entry fee of just 3 euros (£2.60), make Kallithea both a beautiful and budget-friendly place to chill and relax.
Rhodes has no shortage of must-see sites, but it would be a great oversight to miss out on the neighbouring island of Symi. Get your boat ticket from Rhodes harbour and hop on a 1.5-hour ferry to this small, picturesque island and be greeted with an idyllic scene on arrival: Neoclassical buildings with colourful facades adorning the slopes surrounding Yialos Harbour, creating an effect akin to an amphitheatre. Take the opportunity to walk the town’s narrow streets, and to eat fresh fish in the tavernas that line the island’s small harbour.