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RHODES - Live your myth in a Greek island

Updated on September 3, 2012
Main Harbor
Main Harbor
Central Square of the ancient city
Central Square of the ancient city
Central Square of the ancient city
Central Square of the ancient city

Summertime 2010

Aincient city of Rhodos
Aincient city of Rhodos
Aincient city of Rhodos
Aincient city of Rhodos
Butterfly Forest
Butterfly Forest
Butterfly Forest
Butterfly Forest


GEOGRAPHY . Cross-roads of civilizations, with an age-old history and astonishing natural beauty, Rhodes is the largest island in the Dodecanese and the fourth largest island in Greece. It lies at the northeast limit of the Aegean, is 1398 sq. km. in area, has 220 km. of coastline and a population of 87,831. There is a regular car and passenger ferry from Piraeus, 260 nautical miles away, connecting the island with the rest of the Dodecanese, Crete and the Cyclades. Local boats also link it with all the islands of the Dodecanese and Samos. During the summer hydrofoils make trips to Kos, Simi, Patmos, Leros, Chalki, Nisyros and Telos. Excursion craft also operate in the summer sailing to Kos, Symi and Chalki. The boat plying the Piraeus-Kavala route to the outlying islands links Rhodes once a week with Melos, Pholegandros, Anaphi, Santorini, the islands of the north and east Aegean, Crete and Kavala. Throughout the year there is a weekly ship to Limmasol in Cyprus and Haifa in Israel. There are frequent flights from Athens and regular ones to Kasos, Leros, Carrpathos, Kos, Crete and Mykonos. Last but not least, Rhodes is a port of call for numerous cruise liners. The island's main town and harbor is Rhodes, focus of the extensive network of roads leading to its many towns and villages. Three mountainous massifs dominate the island (highest peak Atavyros, 1215 m. a.s.I.), separated by fertile valleys and plains with lush vegetation, woodland and running water in plenty everywhere, excepting the south of Rhodes and the area around mount Atavyros.

A mild climate, unique and varied landscape, wonderful sea, monuments of all periods and antiquities; Rhodes is a mosaic of all these elements and its beauty defies description. An international tourist centre with sophisticated ambience, Rhodes is ideal for holidays all year round.

HISTORY . The island's geographical position, between accident and Orient, was the major determinant factor throughout its history. Fruit of the union of Helios and the nymph Rhoda, according to myth, Rhodes was first inhabited in Neolithic times. During the Late Bronze Age (1550 -1100 BC) Minoans settled there (Ialysos) and were succeeded in around 1400 BC by Achaeans who established installations a over it. The Dorians arrived here in about 11 BC, founding three important cities, Lindo" lalysos and Kameiros. In 700 BC these join the Dorian hexapolis, along with Cnidus, Halicarnassus and Kos. Thenceforth Rhodes power was in the ascendancy and it soon dominated the whole of the Dodecanese. This economic, cultural and artistic zenith was sustained throughout the 5th, 4th and 3rd century BC. During the Persian Wars Rhodes fought under duress alongside the Persians but subsequently joined the Athenian League (478 BC). In 411 BC the three cities united and in 408 BC founded the city of Rhodes by common consensus. Situated in the north of the island, on the coast, it was laid out in accordance with plans made by the architect Hippodamos from Miletus on exactly the same site as the modern city. Rhodes enjoyed exceptional splendour throughout the 3rd century BC and dominated the Aegean. Its coinage had a wide circulation and this commercial and economic apogee was accompanied by fervent cultural and artistic activity. Despite natural disasters and enemy incursions, this beset Rhodes following the Roman conquest, it never lost its pre-eminence and continued to be a major naval and mercantile centre. The Byzantine era was one of decline until 1309 when Rhodes was sold to the Knights of John, which heralded a new floruit. It was at this time that the imposing medieval town was built, with its magnificent buildings and enormous castle. Rhodes was captured by Turks in 1522 and they remained until 1912bwhen it passed to the Italians. In 1948 it became part of the Greek state.

SIGHTS -MONUMENTS . Rhodes, the island’s capital, built on its northeast tip is a combination of medieval atmosphere and worldly sophistication. One can visit the medieval town, ancient acropolis, Byzantine and Turkish monuments, walk around the fortification walls and then get to know the new town with its exciting hustle and bustle.

The harbor, Mandraki, with its picturesque windmills and countless craft moored beside the quay, was first arranged in antiquity. In all probability the gigantic statue of the Colossus, of Rhodes stood here. The church of St. John at Mandraki merits a visit, as does the Governor’s palace and the Murat Reis mosque, built on the site of the church of St. Anthony which was demolished by the Turks. The market and shopping centre known as the Nea Agora is just behind Mandraki. One enters the old town through the Freedom Gate. Here the history of the time of the Knights of St. John comes to life at every step. One proceeds to the Collacium where the Knights lived, and then to the palace of the Grand Master of the Order. One walks along the cobbled Street of the Knights, flanked by the "Inns" of each of the "Tongues" of the Order and should visit the Arsenal (formerly the Hospital of the knights) and Museum of Decorative Arts. In the Rhodes Archaeological Museum, housed in the later Infirmary or Hospital of the knights, finds from excavations all over Rhodes, as well as elsewhere in the Dodecanese, are displayed. The most impressive building of all is the Grand Master's Palace which was originally constructed in the 14th century and which survived intact until 1856. In 1939 it was restored by the Italians, new grandiose additions made, since it was intended to serve as a residence for King Victor Emmanuel ll and Mussolini. It is indeed an impressive edifice consisting of numerous halls and chambers, the floors of which are set with Roman and Early Christian mosaics, mainly brought from Kos. In Socrates Street one may see the Clock Tower, several mosques (Suleiman mosque, Aga mosque, Kavakli-Mestits on the site of an Early Christian basilica, Demirli mosque on the site of a Byzantine church, and others). There is also the Mercantile Court and Aristotle street with its rather oriental ambience. Important churches include that of the Virgin (15th century), St. Panteleiimon and the ruined church of the Virgin of Victory, built after the successful repulsion of the besieging Turks in 1480. Close by is St. Catherine's Gate leading also to the Harbor Gate and St. Paul's Gate. The town is girt by a wall 4 km. in perimeter and at set times there are organized walks upon it, a truly memorable experience. These ramparts were built in the 14th century, replacing an earlier Byzantine enceinte. A large number of Early Christian churches have survived in Rhodes, including the outstanding 5th century basilica (at the intersection of P. Melas and Cheimaras Streets). Other significant churches are the Virgin of the Castle (11th -12th century), St. Phanourios (for some time the mosque Plial el Din) which is of 13th century date and has important wall-paintings and St. George, which has 14th - 15th century wall-paintings. The ancient city of Rhodes, founded in 401 BC extended northwards and eastwards of the acropolis (Monte Smith) and the medieval town of the Knights stands on top of a greater part of it. The summit of Monte Smith, from where there is a magnificent view over verdant land and azure sea, was the ancient acropolis. Remnants of the temples of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus are preserved and, to the west, the temple of Apollo. Restored and ruined edifices can still be seen, including the theatre and stadium (2nd century BC), both restored by the Italians, and the gymnasium. The new town is also an interesting place with its numerous Italian colonial style buildings and many churches. There is also a Municipal Art Gallery, Islamic Library and rich Folk Art collection.

A visit to the island's interior is an unforgettable experience on account of the wonderful scenery and abundance of monuments in every village and hamlet.

15 km southwest of the town of Rhodes, near the village of Trianda, on top of mount Philerimos is the ancient site of lalysos, one of the island's three Dorian cities. The foundations of the temple of Athena and Zeus Polieus are preserved (4th century BC), as well as remnants of Byzantine and medieval buildings. Here too is the important church of the Virgin of Philerimos which belonged to a 15th century monastery built by the Knights of St. John. Yet another significant church is that of Ai Yorgi tou Chostou in which there are 14th and 15th century wall-paintings. There is also a well-preserved 4th century BC Doric fountain and a 134-stepped Way to Golgotha with mosaic plaques of the Twelve Stations of the Cross along its right side the Valley of the Butterflies (20 km. south of Rhodes) is a densely wooded region which attracts myriads of brightly colored butterflies between June and September and is a popular tourist haunt.

Another of the major archaeological sites on Rhodes is Kameiros, one of the three Dorian cities. Built in a valley it has neither a city wall nor an acropolis and its houses and temples were revealed in excavations conducted by the Italians. The restored columns of a Hellenistic house are particularly impressive, as is the Doric stoa in the agora and part of the temple of Athena. South of Kameiros is Kastell10, a castle built by the knights on the pinnacle of an imposing crag. At Embonas (13 km. southeast), one of the quaintest villages on Rhodes with lovely traditional houses, local customs are still very much alive and many villagers still wear Rhodian costume. The most impressive fortress is that of Monolithos (92 km. southwest of Rhodes). This is an inland village on the south side of the island, far off the tourist track and rather difficult to get to. The knights built the castle in the 15th century at the very top of a precipitous cliff beside the sea, from where one has an unrivalled view. Other interesting villages on the south coast are Mesanagros (106 km. from Rhodes) and Kattavia, famed for its woven goods. The now-ruined Skiadi monastery merits a visit to see the important wall-paintings in its katholikon and the Ypseni monastery near Lardos is also of interest. Archangelos is a particularly pretty village (south of Rhodes) with dazzling white houses, then there is Malonas from where one can visit the castle of Faraklos, one of the largest and mightiest on Rhodes. Further south (58 km. from Rhodes) is Lindos, perhaps the most beautiful village on the island, with its narrow streets and fascinating houses in which the traditional interior decoration is still kept with copious wood-carving and the famous "Lindian" plates. An inscription bearing the date 1489/90 is preserved in the parish church and the coat-of-arms of Grand Master d' Aubusson. The village is dominated by the ancient acropolis built at the edge of a steep rock. Remnants of the sanctuary and temple of Athena Lindia (4th century BC) have been uncovered and partially restored, as also the Stoa and Propylaia. There are also traces of the temple of Dionysos and, on the west slope, the ancient theatre is preserved in quite good condition. Graves have also been brought to light in the area, including that popularly known as the tomb of Kleoboulos. Just inside the entrance to the acropolis is the ruined castle of the knights and Byzantine church of St. John. At the base of the large stairway leading up to the acropolis there is a large Hellenistic relief of a trireme carved in the rock and to the right of it steps of the ancient flight of stairs are preserved.

At Thermes Kallithea (10 km. southeast of Rhodes) there are therapeutic springs. Kalliithea is a particularly attractive region on the coast, very richly vegetated. Afantou is yet another delightful village (20 km. south of Rhodes) which developed in the days of the corsairs and was so named because it was not visible from the sea. There is a golf course nearby. Villages in which the vernacular heritage of Rhodes is still much in evidence include Koskinou (8 km. southeast of Rhodes) where the house interiors are decorated with Rhodian ceramics and woven items. Kremasti (12 km. southeast of Rhodes) is a tourist village, surpassed by Faliraki (14 km. southeast of Rhodes) which is even more cosmopolitan. Other places worth visiting are Asklipeio, and the church of Aghios Nikolaos at Fountoukli.

Beaches and stretches of coast suitable for swimming and sea sports abound on Rhodes. Within the main town the beach between the yacht club and Hotel Mediterranean is fully equipped for all manner of sea sports. The beaches at Kanaris quay, Faliraki and Lindos are lovely and the bays at Kremasti and Kameiros large. The eastern shores are more sheltered. There are stretches of sand at Afanntou, Koskinou and the entire strip of coast as far as Lindos and Prasonisi. There is an athletics stadium, riding club, volley court, tennis courts, golf course and two water skiing schools on Rhodes. Fishing is particularly good at Kallithea, Kameiros, Lindos and Vlychoi bay. In the mountains of the hinterland and the Lindos area one can shoot small game and birds. There are scores of hotels of all categories, as well as pensions, rooms and apartments to let. The visitor is assured an enjoyable and comfortable stay. Those with a private yacht or boat can refuel at the harbor and at Mandraki boats can also be hired for those wishing to make excursions to nearby islands.


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