The island of Rhodes captivates the imagination with a history steeped in mythological tales, narrated by its ancient sun-bleached ruins. Under the golden light of Helios, this historic heart of the Dodecanese archipelago boasts beaches of spun gold, archaeological treasures, and a kaleidoscope of legends eternally retold.

Unfurl the magic of Rhodes with us; we’ll delve into its most significant historical landmarks, lead you to the most vibrant beaches, and introduce you to mouthwatering food experiences. 

Cruise Ships at Rhodes © GNTO/P. Merakos

Rhodes: Timeless tales from walls to wonders

By virtue of its long and fascinating history dating back to ancient times, the island of Rhodes is a haven for history enthusiasts. A myriad of grand structures and landmarks maintain Rhodes’ unbreakable link to the distant past offering visitors a unique glimpse into the island’s rich and varied heritage.

Rhodes Old Town

Rhodes Old Town © GNTO/P. Merakos

Stroll through Rhodes’ Old Town, a place where the history of the Byzantines blends with the lingering influences of the Ottomans and the Romans. This captivating enclave rests upon ancient foundations, each step a gentle touch with centuries past.

Head north to the Knights’ Quarter—known locally as Collachium— where sturdy stone inns (more akin to reverent halls than mere lodgings) line the straight streets. Built by the Knights Hospitaller, these structures once echoed with the clatter of armor and the heartfelt prayers offered within their walls.

Church of Panagia © GNTO/P. Merakos

Venture south and find yourself in the Hora of the Turks/Turkish Quarter, where life pulses through labyrinthine alleys with a maze of cobbled paths filled with enticing spices and freshly brewed Turkish coffee.

Discover solace in the southeastern La Juderia—the Jewish Quarter, a serene haven that speaks of resilience. Make your way through its narrow alleys and let them remind you of the once-thriving community. 

Street of the Knights

Streets of the Knights © GNTO/P. Merakos

The Knights Hospitaller, alternatively known as The Knights of St. John, arrived in Rhodes and made their mark as dedicated protectors of pilgrims making their way to the holy land. Their firm grip and presence on the island are immortalized by the striking architecture along the Street of the Knights (Odos Ippoton in Greek).

Coursing through the heart of Old Town, this historic thoroughfare is lined with inns where weary pilgrims once sought and found respite. These inns are more than mere structures; they represent the various European languages and cultures making up the order of St. John. 

Today, the Street of the Knights serves as a portal to the past, conjuring up images of a time when the ethos of chivalry prevailed.

Grand Master’s Palace

Within the walls of the Old Town, the Grand Master’s Palace once served as the heart of the knight’s sphere of influence. The structure proudly surveys its surroundings as it stands as a silent witness to the glories of days past. At the height of its influence, the citadel housed the Grand Masters and the administrative seat of the monastic state of the Knights of Rhodes. 

Inside the Grand Master’s Palace © GNTO/P. Merakos

The Grand Master’s Palace features two prominent horseshoe-shaped towers centered around a spacious courtyard. It is adorned with marble tiles and showcases precious mosaics gathered from various archaeological sites. 

Following a restoration effort in the 20th century, the citadel is in good condition, giving the impression that time does indeed seem to crawl to a halt here. The fortress regularly receives visitors eager to experience the history etched into its very walls. 

Port of Mandraki

Port of Mandraki/Colossus of Rhodes © GNTO/P. Merakos

Legend has it, the Port of Mandraki is where the Colossus of Rhodes once towered over its surroundings, greeting seafarers of old with its titanic stature. Its legacy lives on in our collective psyche symbolized today by the imposing statues of the stags marking the harbor entrance.  

Nestled between the Old Town and the Nea Agora (New Market), the Port of Mandraki is now frequented by luxurious yachts and modest fishing boats alike. Visiting this ancient harbor allows you to take your time and wander through the charming shops housed in converted boats, each offering hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. 

The Acropolis of Lindos

The Acropolis of Lindos © GNTO/P. Merakos

Venturing 50 kilometers away from Rhodes town, you’ll find the famed Acropolis of Lindos perched majestically on a scenic cliff. 

Celebrated in Homeric verses, this ancient fortress maintained its ancient glory before and through the rule of Cleobulus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece. The Acropolis of Lindos stands on a cliff overlooking the sea, surrounded by tranquility and cobalt-blue waters. The Acropolis is home to the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia and the imposing Castle of the Knights of Rhodes, incorporating earlier Byzantine fortifications.

Wonders abound here; the ruins of the Byzantine church and the majestic trireme relief (Hellenistic warship carved onto rocks) on the Acropolis, among many others, will stir your imagination. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can test your mettle and ascend the winding steps to the Acropolis either by foot or by riding atop the famous donkeys of Lindos.  

Rhodes beaches: A guide to sun-soaked escapes

It is said that Rhodes was offered as a gift to Helios (Greek for Sun) by the almighty Zeus himself. Being the absolute dominion of the sun god, Rhodes is affectionately known as the “island of the sun.”

Here, blessed by the perpetual sunshine, visitors immerse themselves in clear azure waters that wash golden sandy beaches. With more than 40 beaches dotting the coastline, finding your own slice of paradise will be a breeze with no Herculean effort required. 

Anthony Quinn Bay

Anthony Quinn Bay © Shutterstock

Anthony Quinn Bay may possibly be Rhodes’ most well-known beach, no doubt owing its fame to the legendary Hollywood actor Anthony Quinn. The actor was apparently smitten by the small and pebbled beach when he was in the process of shooting the film Guns of Navarone. Perfect for snorkeling, the beach shimmers with exceptional clarity, especially when viewed from above.  

Agathi Beach

Agathi Beach is renowned as a beautiful beach that caters to all types of sun-seekers. Its golden stretch and breathtaking vistas are perfect for a tranquil and perfect day under the sun. For those with a penchant for adventure, taking a leisurely walk along the rocks will reward you with the sight of Feraklos Castle, perched 300 meters above sea level. Though time has definitely left its mark, the castle’s silhouette remains grand, most notably when illuminated at night.

Afandou Beach

Stretch out on the golden sands of Afandou Beach, soaking up the sun and the calming atmosphere. Located just a stone’s throw from the famed Anthony Quinn Bay, Afandou Beach boasts an exceptional perk: the renowned Afandou Golf Course, nestled right behind the coastline. Tee off for a challenging round and then return to the beach for a refreshing dip – the ultimate combo for an active vacation.

Prasonisi Beach

Prasonisi Beach © GNTO/P. Merakos

Prasonisi Beach’s allure lies in its twin pristine bays complemented by fine golden sands. Windsurfers and kitesurfers from all over the globe meet here regularly, lured by its perfect wind conditions. The clear, shallow waters also appeal to those looking for a relaxing dip in a serene setting.

Exploring the culinary treasures of Rhodes

As with everything else on the island, the culinary treasures of Rhodes are rooted in centuries of history and traditions. The tantalizing world of Rhodian cuisine is a delightful fusion of Greek, Ottoman, and Italian influences, ready to tempt your taste buds on a memorable culinary voyage. 

Rhodian cuisine in Rhodes town

While there are numerous restaurants you can opt to visit in Rhodes town, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more authentic dining experience than in the local tavernas. For those unfamiliar with the term, tavernas are traditional Greek eateries—often family-run—serving traditional dishes like Souvlaki, Moussaka, and fresh seafood. 

Additionally, these tavernas pride themselves in crafting their dishes with a uniquely local preparation method and natural ingredients reflecting the fertile land that favors cultivation. 

When in Rhodes, try Pitaroudia, fritters made with chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and other seasonings, usually served with Tzatziki. Other local specialties in Rhodes are often tied to festivities; for example, Kapamas, a dish of goat that’s been stuffed with rice, offal, onions, tomatoes, and herbs, is enjoyed during Easter. Meanwhile, Fanouropita is a cake that’s traditionally made to honor St. Fanourios on the Saint’s feast day in August.

Fresh seafood in Lindos

Lindos, famous for its Acropolis, is also well-known for its bounty of fresh seafood. Seaside tavernas are the norm here, with each and every one of them serving variations of grilled octopus, stuffed calamari, or shrimp saganaki. These classic dishes are prepared to perfection using the day’s catch, offering a taste of the Aegean directly to your plate.  

After having your fill of the sea’s generous bounty, you can opt to explore Lindo’s winding streets in search of local crafts and souvenirs. If you’re up for it, why not ascend the hilltop of the Acropolis and reward yourself with its dramatic cliff top view? You can also explore nearby beaches and villages for a less demanding cultural immersion, soaking up the charm of traditional life and hidden coves.

Lindos © GNTO/P. Merakos

Hidden gems of Rhodes

Naturally, your Rhodes itinerary should include all the major attractions the island has to offer, such as the Old Town, Port of Mandraki, and the Acropolis. However, Rhodes has more surprises in store for you.

If you can manage to explore the island from east to west (usually involving renting a car), you can opt to explore the island and uncover these hidden gems.

Kamiros

Situated some 30 kilometers from Rhodes town, Kamiros is an unearthed time capsule set in a verdant setting. The well-preserved remnants of this Hellenistic settlement allow you to easily picture what life must have been like for the ancient settlers millennia ago. 

The organized nature of Kamiros’ layout, including the presence of an ancient waterway system, which includes cisterns and aqueducts, demonstrates the rigor and ingenuity of the ancient Rhodians.   

While certain areas of the ruins are specifically reserved for researchers, a mere glance would be more than sufficient to conjure up images of the hustle and bustle that once animated this remarkable ancient city. 

Kallithea Springs

Kallithea Springs, a hidden gem famed for its healing thermal waters, awaits just nine kilometers from Rhodes town. 

This off-the-beaten-path wellness haven boasts an impressive Italian art deco style featuring two iconic rotundas that effectively capture the era’s elegance. Picture yourself in the shades of the flower-filled pergolas, admiring the beautiful pebble mosaic floors while cooling off by the pretty fountain adorned with a depiction of Eros, symbolizing love and rejuvenation.

Featured image © Shutterstock