What to See in Rhodes
Present-day Rhodes is a medieval/modern amalgam which impresses and fascinates visitors. Its medieval aspect, fortified behind an impressive wall, merges harmoniously with the refined, cosmopolitan air of a modern resort with luxurious hotels, broad avenues with rows of trees, and rich commercial stores.
The old town
It's fascinating to walk in the medieval town, full of impressive 15th-century buildings, stone-paved lanes with arches and vaults, rows of little shops -- as a modern touch to the medieval picture -- offering a surprising variety of commodities.
Perhaps the best starting-point for a journey through medieval Rhodes is the wall (14th century and 5 km long).
As we cross one of the most famous gates, Pili Eleftherias (Freedom Gate) we encounter traces of the Temple of Venus (3rd century BC), also the Inn of the Auvergne Knights, the Arsenal, the Museum of Decorative Arts (folklore exhibits from the Dodecanese islands), the Byzantine Museum (in a 13th-century church), and the majestic Harbour Gate . The Archaeological Museum (tel. 0241/27.674), housed in the 15th-century building of the Knights' Hospital, includes collections of coins, pots and sculptures from the Mycenaean up to the Roman era. We note the kneeling Venus of Rhodes (1st century AD) and the sepulchral column of Tymarista and Crito.
The Knights' Road, official street of the medieval city, follows the ancient road to the end (the Acropolis) but to the Palace of the Grand Masters.
Along the road lay the Inns of the Knights of Seven Languages, of which four still remain.
The Palace of the Grand Masters or Knights' Palace (14th c.) is a palace and fortress that dominates the old town. It was destroyed in 1856 and rebuilt in 1939. Floors are covered with ancient mosaics from the island of Cos. There is an interesting collection of 16th and 17th-century Western furniture, and an impressive arcade used as a place for meetings and as a majestic entrance. The Palace has been renovated and is used to house important international functions.
Other remarkable sights in the old town are the Mosque of Suleiman, an old church with a beautiful Italian door, the Castellania (16th- century building now housing the Library) with its beautiful fountain,St Catherine's Hospital, the Admiralty Palace to its right, and finally the Folk Dance Theatre working to preserve traditional music, dances and costumes in their purest form.
The new town
On entering Mandraki (yacht harbour), the most picturesque of the three ports of the city, we are welcomed by two bronze deer. Erected where probably the famous Colossus of Rhodes used to stand, they have become the modern emblem of the town.
Nearby on the mole stands the lighthouse tower of St. Nicholas and the three old colourful windmills.
Numerous monumental buildings surround Mandraki and add to its majestic air - among others the New Market (Nea Agora), a polygonal building with internal courtyard, the Archbishop's Palace, the Evangelismos (Annunciation) church, the Central Post Office, Town Hall, Theatre and Government-House (Italian-period building now used as Prefecture) all four impressive buildings along the pier. At the north end of the town stands the Institute of Marine Biology (Aquarium).
The ancient city
Although ancient Rhodes was a large city relatively few ruins have been found. The ancient Acropolis stood on the eastern side of the Monte Smith hill, overlooking the city. Further on, one sees the Stadium (3rd century BC) and the curiously square sized Odeum (both rebuilt). Performances of ancient drama are held every summer in the Odeum. There are also a few ruins of the temples of Polias Athena, Pythian Apollo and Zeus.
Sights near the city
Only 3 km from the city lies the luscious greenery of Rodini Park, with lots of flower-gardens, picturesque lanes and ponds. From Rodini one can visit the Tomb of the Ptolemies and the ruins of a Roman aquaduct.
Most visitors to the island's east coast flock to Lindos (47 km from the city of Rhodes), built on the ruins of the ancient Doric town of the same name.
In medieval times Lindos was the second most important centre of the island, after the city of Rhodes itself. The ancient Acropolis was then built into a castle. It is said that St. Paul the Apostle landed here when he came to the island of Rhodes accordingly, the tiny harbour on the other side of the village has been named "Agios Pavlos".
Under the steep cliff of the Acropolis lies the present townlet, charming with its whitewashed houses and pebbled courtyards. Houses retain traditional interiors, heavy ironwork on balconies and brown windows. Some 15th-century houses have been officially declared traditional buildings to be preserved. One should also visit the Church of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Lindos and the Chapel of Agios Pavlos.
A series of steps leads to the Acropolis. Inside the main gate we discern the ruins of the Knights' Lodge and the Byzantine church of St. John. Outside theDoric Stoa the prow of a Lindian Hellenistic trireme has been carved in a rock (4.5m x 5m). We cross the Doric Stoa (5th century BC) with its 42 columns (20 have been restored) and climb the majestic staircase to a higher terrace with Propylaean ruins (5th century BC).
From this point we reach the Sanctuary of Lindian Athena, with its elegant bi-prostyle temple on the edge of the cliff (4th century). Ruins of an ancient theatre have been found on the slope of the Acropolis.
There are other beauties on this part of the island besides antiquities.
- Koskinou (10 km) is an inland village with charming traditional houses.
- Kalithea (10.5 km.) is built around a colourful pine-covered bay with old spas.
- Faliraki (14 km) is a cosmopolitan resort with an exquisite beach.
- Ladiko boasts a beautiful coast.
- Afandou (21 km) is an old Rhodian village with an interesting church and a golf course.
- To the right of the Kolimbia coast a road leads to the enchanting Seven Springs (Epta Piges), a cool oasis with pine and plane-trees and crystal-clear waters.
- Tsambika is a beautiful sandy coast but also a mountain, with a Virgin Mary monastery on its top.
- Arhangelos (29 km) is noteworthy for its beautiful traditional houses, ceramics and carpet workshops.
- Haraki, a charming fishing village, lies at the beginning of the marvellous coast which leads to the Vliha Bay, and includes the medieval castle of Faraklos.
To the south of Lindos we meet traditional villages and charming coastlines here and there, until the road abandons the coastline and turns left towards Katavia (80 km), a major village in southern Rhodes.
But the journey is not over yet. It's worthwhile following the unpaved earth road leading to the Prassonissi peninsula, full of sand dunes and accessible only in the summer, as the sea transforms it into a true island in winter.
Populous resorts, important archaeological sites and picturesque villages await us on this side of the island as well. Following the road to the west we cross the great coast where most of the island's hotels are clustered and reach Trianda (8 km) or Ialissos, a townlet surrounded by orchards. The beach of Ialissos marks the end of the great chain of hotels starting from the beach of the city of Rhodes.
Here one should visit the church of the Dormition of Theotokos (Virgin Mary) with its famous woodcarved temple, and then follow the winding picturesque road which crosses the pine-wood up to the Acropolis of Ialissos (6 km) - the important Doric city built on the flat top of Mt Filerimos, strategically overlooking the island. Places of archaeological interest include the temple of Polias Athena (3rd century BC), the Baptismal Font of an early Christian church, the brilliantly restored church of Panagia Filerimos, the monastery, the ruins of a medieval castle, the Doric fountain and the ancient necropolis.
Further to the west on the coast road, after Kremasti and Paradissi, one should go up left and reach the lush greenery of the famous Petaloudes (Butterflies) valley (25 km), unique in the whole of Greece. Millions of butterflies gather here in the summer. The slightest sound drives them in flocks from among the trees and shrubs -- a rare sight.
Returning to the coast road we reach the side-road leading to Ancient Kamiros, third in importance as a commercial centre in Antiquity (34 km). Archaeologists discovered this city, forgotten for centuries, in 1928. We discern parts of houses and buildings, the Agora, with its Doric Stoa (3rd century), a hellenistic temenos with Doric Temple, ruins of an aqueduct and remnants of the peripheral temple of Kamiriad Athena. Beside the foundations of that temple stands the Panagia Monastery, near to a proto-Christian Catacomb.
The west road continues for a while along the coast, reaches the village Scala Kamirou (51 km), then turns inland. From this village, with picturesque windmills and a panoramic view of the opposite islets, one can reach Chalki by caique.
The traveller will be pleasantly surprised by the amphitheatric Kritinia village (55 km), with a nearby medieval castle, then Siana, (69 km), full of old stone houses, and Monolithos, built on the pine-covered slopes of Mt. Ataviros. A nearby medieval castle, built on a steep cliff, imposes its presence. To the south one crosses endless green fields to reach Apolakia (84 km), famous for its marriage feasts, and finally -- from the opposite side Katavia (102 km).
Not only coastal Rhodes is worthy of visit. An inland journey uncovers beautiful traditional villages, untouched by the cosmopolitan spirit of tourist resorts.
If we start out from Agios Syllas monastery, lost among the pine and beech, we can reach Profitis Ilias (altitude 720 m) with its monastery and panoramic view of the sea. This is an enchanting journey, leading to idyllic villages on hilltops or built on gentle slopes, with stone houses, whitewashed or ochre. Villages like Apolona, Agios Isidoros, Embonas, Laerma, Askiplio, Messanagros, Psinthos and Salakos, stay in the visitor's memory for ever, each with its own charms but all with equally gentle and hospitable inhabitants.