General Information on Rhodes
The island of Rhodes is part of the Dodecanese cluster. It is the largest in terms of land area and population, situated in eastern Aegean. It lies approximately 18km west of the Turkish shores, between the Greek mainland and the island of Cyprus. Its landscape mainly consists of hills and low mountains, which are mostly covered in forests. The island is known as the “island of light” because there are hardly any days without sun.
Rhodes also has the highest tourist rate of the cluster, welcoming a great amount of package tour or individual tourists attracted by sunshine and sandy beaches. The beauties and attributes of Rhodes are even more, though; the island still has pristine villages which have kept their authentic colours and architecture. Rhodes today offers visitors a plethora of year round leisure alternatives, covering all types of tourist activity. The natural beauty of the island, historical monuments, a cosmopolitan character, as well as the warm hospitality of the inhabitants, and an excellent tourist infrastructure thrill visitors.
History of Rhodes
According to Greek Mythology, after Zeus (King of Gods) won against the Giants, he divided earth among the Olympians; only Helios (God of Sun) received nothing. He was absent at the time and no one remembered to include him in the draw. When he came back and demanded his share, Zeus told him he was not able to redraw because the other gods would not agree. Helios then asked Zeus and the others to promise that the land that would rise out of the sea would be his. As he spoke, a beautiful island slowly emerged from the bottom of the sea, Rhodes. Helios bathed Rhodes in his own radiance and made it the most beautiful island in the Aegean Sea.
Because of its strategic position –on the crossroads between the East and the West), Rhodes has been under constant attacks since ancient times. According to evidence, the island has been inhabited since the Stone Age. In Prehistoric times, the first settlers of the island came from Asia and Crete, as there is evidence of a Mycenaean settlement. The Dorians and the Phoenicians were the next settlers.
After the Trojan War, the rapid progress and development of the ancient civilization of Rhodes commenced, examples of which can now be seen in the ruins of the three largest and most powerful cities at the time, Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros. At the end of 5th century BC, these cities united into a single political force and founded Rhodes, which reached its peak in the 3rd century BC. During that period, famous artists, philosophers and writers lived here.
Invasions by the Persians eventually overran the island, but after their defeat from Athens in 478 BC, the cities joined the Athenian League. When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BC, Rhodes remained largely neutral, although it stayed in the League. The war lasted until 404 BC, but by this time Rhodes had withdrawn entirely from the conflict and had decided to go on its own way. In 408 BC, the city-states of Rhodes united and formed the new city of Rhodes, which came under the influence of the two great Greek powers of that time, Athens and Sparta, until Macedonian intentions in that era became clear to everyone.
With the reign of Alexander the Great, Rhodes fell under Macedonian domination. After the death of Alexander, his generals vied for control of the kingdom. Three of them, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigonus, succeeded in dividing the kingdom among them. Rhodes formed strong commercial and cultural ties with the Ptolemies in Alexandria, and together they formed the Rhodian-Egyptian alliance which controlled trade throughout the Aegean in the 3rd century BC. In 305 BC, Antigonus had his son, Demetrius, besiege Rhodes in an attempt to break its alliance with Egypt. Demetrius crated huge siege engines to conquer Rhodes. However, in 304 BC, he relented and signed a peace agreement, leaving behind a huge amount of military equipment. The Rhodians sold it and used the money to erect a statue of their Sun God, Helios, known as Colossus of Rhodes. The statue –one of the Seven Wonders of the World– was constructed above the harbour; this impressive giant statue was destroyed during an earthquake.
For 150 years, the island flourished and showed great navigational and maritime skills, establishing its reputation as one of the best in these domains. In 164 BC, Rhodes signed a treaty with Rome, and became a major schooling centre for Roman noble families, famous for its teachers of rhetoric, such as Hermagoras. At first, the state was an important ally of Rome and enjoyed numerous privileges, but these were later lost in various machinations of Roman politics. Cassius eventually invaded the island and sacked the city. Thus, Rhodes fell under Roman rule which lasted for three hundred years. In the 1st century AD, the Emperor Tiberius spent a brief term of exile in Rhodes, and Saint Paul brought Christianity to the island. Rhodes reached its zenith in the third century, and was then by common consent the most civilized and beautiful city of Greece.
In 395 AD, the long Byzantine Empire period began for Rhodes, when the Roman Empire was split and the eastern half gradually became the Byzantium. In 1309 the Byzantine Era came to an end and the island of Rhodes was subjugated by forces of the Knights Hospitaller. Under the rule of the newly named “Knights of Rhodes”, the city was rebuilt into a model of the European medieval ideal. Many of the city’s famous monuments were built during this period. In 1523, after a long siege, the Knights of Rhodes were chased away by the Ottomans, who took control of the island. Rhodes remained under Ottoman rule until 1912. During World War I, Rhodes was taken by the Italians, who left the island when they capitulated to the Allies in 1943. Then the Germans took it over for a short period, followed by the English who maintained their rule until 1948, the year during which the island of Rhodes, and the other islands of the Dodecanese, became part of the new Greek State.
Towns & Villages in Rhodes
Town of Rhodes: The modern city of Rhodes is one of the biggest municipalities in the Greek islands, with about sixty thousand permanent residents. It is the financial and cultural centre of the southeastern Aegean and successfully combines a lively present with a rich historical past. The city is divided in two parts: the Old city, or medieval, and the New city. The Old city is surrounded by strong walls and is one of the biggest and best preserved medieval settlements of Europe. This fortified medieval city is full of buildings, testifying about the past and the history of the island, from the antiquity, the Byzantine times, the middle Ages to the Turkish rule. The amazing Palace of the Grand Masters, the building of the Collachium, the superb hospital of the knights, the lovely inns that were used by the Knights, and the Gothic churches, along with the narrow stone-paved alleyways, the stone arches and apses, the Palace of the Castellan, the various influenced by Venetian and Arab architecture, form a magical and unique image. The New city of Rhodes was constructed when the inhabitants living in the Old city built new settlements outside the walls, after the siege of Suleiman the Magnificent (1522). Most of the buildings in this part of the city date to the Italian era, which adorned the buildings according to the neo-Gothic and Venetian architectural style. This has created a particular and charming character to the city, particularly in the area of the port of Rhodes. Careful planning, numerous parks and squares and wide streets complete the beautiful aspect of the New city of Rhodes where all tourist, commercial and cultural activities are gathered. The city has an excellent tourist infrastructure and offers a wide variety of entertainment – nightlife, sports, cultural events and day trips to Lindos, Kos, Patmos, Karpathos, Kalymnos and Leros.
Lindos: The beautiful village of Lindos is one of the most attractive settlements of Rhodes, and it is located south of the capital, on the eastern coast of the island. Lindos is for most visitors the most impressive archaeological site on Rhodes. Here the dramatic natural landscape is enhanced by the picturesque quality of the modern town. Built amphitheatrically around the hill, the village is full of whitewashed houses with pebble-paved courtyards, narrow alleys and buildings influenced by Byzantine, medieval, Arab and Rhodian architecture. Apart from the impressive acropolis that can be reached on foot, the old theatre of Lindos, carved from a rock, and the Doric sanctuary of Athena Lindia are also worth seeing.
Faliraki: This is one of the most popular holiday resorts on the island. Organized beaches, more than 5km wide, can be found in front of the resort as well as a plethora of hotels and other kinds of accommodation, clubs, bars, cafes, shops and restaurants. The nightlife in Faliraki is intense and the cosmopolitan aspect and atmosphere of the place attracts thousands of visitors during high season. However, the noise here can be overwhelming at nights, as bars and clubs wind up to full power.
Ialyssos: The scenery is more or less the same, wherever you may find yourself along the Ialyssos shoreline. The beach is highly organized with gardens and a swimming pool just next to it, along with multi-storey hotels, tennis courts and other facilities. The hotel beaches alternate with organized public beaches, used mainly by occupants of local hotels. It is an ideal place for those who love swimming and surfing. There are kiosks, mini-markets, fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants just a short distance away.
Monolithos: The village of Monolithos is situated southwest of the City of Rhodes, 73km away. Whitewashed courtyards with geraniums, stone houses with tile roofs overlooking the sea, the hill with a medieval castle at its top, windswept deserted beaches compose one of the most attractive destinations on the island of Rhodes. The village is small and well-kept, built in the form of an amphitheatre, with just a few small taverns. The main attraction of the village is the medieval castle of Monolithos, built during the 15th century by the Knights of Rhodes. The view from this spot is breathtaking and it is worth climbing to the top. Inside this castle is a lovely single-aisle church dedicated to Saint Panteleimon.
Beaches in Rhodes
Rhodes has been blessed with many, wonderful, long stretches of beach. The northwestern side of the island, from Rhodes town and the cosmopolitan Ixia down to Mandriko and Skala Kameirou, has large beaches developed for tourism. On the southeastern shore are the equally well developed beaches at Kallithea, Afandou, Tsambika, Vlycha, Lindos, Lardos and Gennadi. On the rest of the island, you may find many small sandy coves, almost hidden, such as Glyfada, Paliohora, Kopria, the small beaches of Monolithos down to Kalamos, Kerameni Bay and the exotic beaches of Prasonisi. The west coast of Rhodes is subject to shore winds and can be rough, but it is a windsurfer’s paradise.
Kalathos: This beach is situated 50km southeast of Rhodes City. It has soft and golden sand and clear waters. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available for rent and few accommodations can be found near the sea.
Faliraki: This is the biggest beach resort of the island. It is located on the northeastern part of Rhodes, 14km from the capital. The beach here is excellently organized and has golden sand that extends for over 4km.
Afandou: This beach is extremely long and large and it is situated 22km southeast of the capital, in front of the village of the same name. The beach is sandy and organized and visitors can practise at the golf course of the village behind the beach.
Vagies: The small and picturesque bay of Vagies is mostly known as the bay of Anthony Quinn, since this is the film setting of “The Guns of Navarone”. It is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, situated 3km from Faliraki and 15km from the capital. The beach is surrounded by beautiful rocks and has crystal waters that shimmer under the sun. Vagies is an organized beach ideal for scuba diving because of the beauty of its underwater world.
Kalithea: This beach is known due to its hot medicinal springs which were built by the Italians and are no longer in use. The surrounding landscape is amazing with palm and pine trees while the buildings influenced by Arabic architecture create a unique atmosphere.
Agathi: This small sandy beach lies on a picturesque cove, near the beach of Haraki, 38km southeast of Rhodes City. The beach has golden sand and emerald waters. Three food trucks offer refreshments and snacks as well as sunbeds, umbrella rentals and showers.
Traganou: This beach is located 15km southeast of the capital. It is a very long beach and only one small part of it is organized. The beach has small light-coloured pebbles and a superb cave.
Tsambika: This long sandy beach is situated 26km southeast of the capital, under the imposing rock where the monastery of Tsambika stands. The beach has golden sand and turquoise waters. Water sports are available as well as sunbeds, umbrellas and a mini-market, right next to the bus station.
Prasonisi: This beach that lies on the southern tip of the island is one of the most impressive of Rhodes. Here, you will find two sandy coves and an island that can be reached on foot or by swimming, depending on the weather and the water level. This is a paradise for surfers especially in July and August. However, it is well worth a visit even if you are not a surfer, just to enjoy the magnificent landscape.
How to Reach Rhodes
Air: Diagonas International Airport is 16km southwest of Rhodes City. The airport has expanded in recent years and now handles about 3.2m passengers annually. In addition to regular domestic and international flights, there are flights to many countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Sea: Rhodes is also regularly connected with ferry services to Piraeus and several other islands.
Getting Around in Rhodes
To/From the Airport: There are about 21 buses daily between the airport and Rhodes Town west side bus station.
Bus: The capital has two bus station. From the east station on Plateia Rimini there are 18 buses daily to Faliraki, 14 to Lindos, three to Kolymbia, nine to Gennadi via Lardos, and four to Psinthos. From the west station which is situated next to the New Market there are buses every half hour to Kalithea Thermi, about 10 to Koskinou, five to Salakos, two to ancient Kamiros, one to Monolithos via Skala Kamirou, and Embonas. The EOT and municipal tourist office can give you a schedule.
Car & Motorcycle: There are numerous car and motorcycle rental outlets in Rhodes Town’s New Town. Shop around and bargain because competition is fierce.
Taxi: Rhodes Town main taxi rank is east of Plateia Rimini.
Excursiion Boat: There are excursion boats to Lindos every day in summer.
Weather in Rhodes
The climate of Rhodes is subtropical. It is characterised by sunny and dry summers and mild winters. Refreshing breezes and winds blow during July and August, making the temperatures more bearable.
Top 10 Destinations in Rhodes
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Map of Rhodes