Southern Rhodes is where the beauty of nature in Greece is unveiled in its true splendor. Sun-drenched bays line the coast; medieval villages retain their old color and houses hold on to their traditional decoration. Walk along ancient footpaths and discover the beauty of shady woods and golden fields, gentle valleys and hills, and magical landscapes that will soothe both your body and soul.
Lindos village is a picturesque settlement with cubic houses that sprawl down the hillside, under the Rhodes Acropolis. One of the most photographed scenes in Greece, Lindos’ whitewashed labyrinth of tiny alleyways was designed deliberately to confuse pirates. Today, the layout makes wandering about town a great adventure.
The Medieval City of Rhodes is another major island attraction. This is one of the largest medieval towns in Europe and comprises a mosaic of various cultural influences. Visitors can admire the intriguing medieval fortress-like buildings, old houses, gates, walls, bastions, minarets, fountains, narrow alleys and busy squares that will leave you feeling as if you’ve stepped back into the medieval era.
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is arguably the highlight in the Medieval City. Originally a Byzantine fortress built at the end of the 7th century, the Palace was later converted into a 14th century residence and headquarters of the Knights of the Order of Saint John. The building has since been converted into a museum.
Also explore Odos Ippoton, the cobblestone streets of the knights, which is one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe. This area is full of inns that were once patronized by medieval soldiers of the Order of the Knights.
While on Rhodes, it’s worth taking a detour to picturesque Symi, the little sister island of Rhodes. Pastel and beige homes dot Symi’s rocky shoreline crowning the more relaxed and less crowded atmosphere of the island. Symi town and the hillside Chorio village have quaint shops and cafes that compete for your attention among the already stunning scenery.
A popular tourist destination for its antiquities and thriving nightlife, Rhodes boasts miles of pristine coastline that makes it irresistible to sun loving tourists. Visitors can grab the opportunity of exploring the island’s diverse landscape, distinct culture, as well as learn about its unique history. Go to Rhodes and get a taste of all that this amazing island has in store for you.
1. Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is located at the end of the Avenue of the Knights, within the Medieval City of Rhodes. The magnificent Palace served as the governor’s residence, as well as the administrative center during medieval times.
Distinguished by its arched gate and spherical towers, the Palace was built during the 14th century by the Knights of Saint John on the foundations of the Temple of Helios, the Sun god, whose cult was widespread in Rhodes during antiquity.
Enormous in size, the palace has 158 rooms, although only 24 are open to visitors. The rooms feature antique furniture dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, exquisite multicolored marbles, fine oriental vases, sculptures and carpets.
On the first floor are the official rooms and private quarters of the Grand Master. The ground floor has auxiliary rooms. The most important rooms were the Grand Reception Hall, the impressive Ballroom, the Waiting Room, and the elegant Music Room with its Medusa Mosaic that is a must-see.
Of significance are the frescoes by renowned artists, as well as the floors paved in mosaics of Byzantine and ancient Roman art. The interior yard is also adorned with numerous statues from the Roman and Greek periods. The arrangement of the palace around a central courtyard with the apartments on the first floor and storerooms on the ground floor are evidence of Byzantine influences at work.
The Palace had very imposing dimensions and defensive fortifications. Its main entrance is on the southern façade and is flanked by 2 imposing towers. Its western façade is pierced by a gate, at whose front rises a tall, square tower. All these made the Palace so strong that it suffered little damage during the 1522 siege.
During their early years of occupation, the Turks used the Palace as a prison before leaving it to crumble. In 1856, the Palace was largely destroyed by explosives hidden inside the basement of the Church of Saint John. The Palace was restored at the beginning of the 20th century and today hosts an interesting museum inside with various exhibitions and performances taking place often in the palace rooms.
If you are pressed for time and you only have time for one museum visit while in Rhodes, save it for the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John. The museum features an Exhibition of Archaeological Excavations that displays finds from the Prehistoric to Hellenic times in a clear, informative and above all fascinating manner.
2. Profitis Ilias
Situated about 25km from Rhodes city, within the region of Salakos, Profitis Ilias is the third highest mountain on the island after Akramitis and Attaviros. Standing at an altitude of 700 meters, Profitis Ilias is inhabited by thousands of deer and is highly recommended for mountain-biking and trekking.
Profitis Ilias was named after the Prophet Elias who has a monastery dedicated to him on the mountain. The mountain was named after the Monastery of Prophet Elias by the Italians who had occupied the Dodecanese in 1912.
During the 1930s, the Italians began to rebuild the island, starting with Eleoussa, and at the mountain summit 2 beautiful hotels – Elafos in 1929 and Elafina in 1932. Set within a beautiful pine-wooded forest, the hotels were built in the Italian Western Tyrolean Chalet architectural style and renovated in 1950. The Italians built the hotels so as to enjoy weekends of hunting and merrymaking in the hills.
Initially, the hotels housed officers of the Italian army, and derive their names from the local deer species that live in the wild all over the island. For several years, the hotels remained closed. But Elafos became operational once again in 2006 and now offers 20 rooms and three suites. The modernized and renovated hotel has retained its original architectural elements. Elafina is to be renovated as well.
Go on a brief visit here to restore your body and soul. The café nearby is set inside an old stable and is open for coffee, tea and ouzo by the log fire. The walled-in monastery is small and displays little signs of life until the 20th of June on Saints’ Day.
The area surrounding the mountain is great for hiking, taking walks and exploring the local flora and fauna. From late May, and possibly later during a cool spring, nature lovers can enjoy the wild flowers that only grow at this altitude. Look out for the splendid white flowers that bloom on the banks overhanging the road during the months of April and May.
Opposite to the hotel is the de Vecchi mansion, the now abandoned former country house of the Italian governor presiding over the Dodecanese. North of this compound, one paths leads to the small Taxiarhis church at which you can enjoy breathtaking views.
3. Monolithos Castle
Monolithos Castle is a Venetian style castle that’s situated just outside the village of Monolithos, about 70km to the southwest of Rhodes town. The Castle rests on the summit of a sheer, rocky outcrop that rises to a height of 236 meters. It was built in 1480 on the foundation of an earlier castle under the orders of the Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John to protect the island from attacks.
Monolithos rests on a shockingly difficult natural terrain which made its construction even more challenging, when you take into account the steep ascent that had to be negotiated when transporting building material to the site.
During its time, the fort along with 3 others, including that of Lindos, was regarded as the most powerful of all the fortifications built on Rhodes, although today only its external walls remain. This is because from its location, the knights enjoyed a clear view over a strategically significant part of the Mediterranean Sea.
Hardly a fairytale castle, Monolithos is a real life impregnable fortress with thick walls threading around its top. From inception until the invasion by the Ottomans, the fort was attacked on numerous occasions although no one was able to conquer it, probably due to its rather difficult access route. Today, only a couple of sections of the fortress have survived, but have been well preserved.
Although largely in ruins, the castle today serves as great proof of the medieval history of Rhodes. Within the castle walls are 2 small medieval chapels. The first chapel is St. Panteleimon, a small stone building painted in glaring white with its interior walls lined by lovely frescoes. St. George is the second chapel which is in ruins. There are also many tanks here which were previously used to collect water for supplying the entire area.
Monolithos Castle is situated at the summit of a tall, craggy rock, dominating the view. It sits astride of Monoperta, a blunted needle of grey rock that rises precipitously to a height of 236 meters.
To access the castle you will need to trek up a mountainous terrain, climbing a narrow path with numerous steps surrounded by lush vegetation. Going up steps carved into the rock is no easy feat, but it’s worth the climb as you will rewarded by some of the most dramatic views on Rhodes once you get to the top.
Probably the most rewarding thing about attempting the steep climb to the top of the rock is the breathtaking view you can have from there. The panoramic view includes sights such as Akramytis Mountain, Fourni Beach and the settlement lying immediately below it, as well as Halki Island and a few other islets in the background.
The Castle fits its name “Monolithos” which translates to “lonely rock”, as the secluded cliff top makes for a tranquil spot for watching the sunset or enjoying a coffee with great views from the Castle Café. This idyllic location also makes it a perfect base for basking in the bounties of nature. Close by is the traditional village of Monolithos which has some tavernas in which you can have lunch or dinner.
4. Museum of Apiculture and Natural History of Greece
The Greek island of Rhodes is famous for its delicious local honey with pots of the unique thyme-infused honey being sold in souvenir stores across the island. Rhodes’ honey is particularly famous for its high levels of antioxidants. Moreover, the people of Rhodes have a passion and love for beekeeping, so much so that they created their very own Bee Museum!
The Museum of Apiculture and Natural History of Greece is situated in Pastida village and offers visitors the opportunity of living a unique experience of seeing the wonderful world of bees. You can also learn the history and tradition of beekeeping on the island of Rhodes. The Museum receives over 7,000 visitors a year and makes for a fun day out.
Among the most important of its kind in the world, the Museum of Apiculture and Natural History of Greece offers insights into the amazing world of bees through transparent hives that enable you to observe closely the daily life of the insects, as well as their social behavior and admirable ways of interacting.
The exceptional Museum houses different exhibits relating to beekeeping from the olden days, going back 200 years to the present day. There is also a presentation of both modern and old beekeeping methods. Here visitors will learn how to handle beehives, produce wax, pollen, propolis and royal jelly, as well as watch a demonstration on the extraction of honey.
Different types of honey are presented as well as the special features of Rhodian and Greek honey. There is also information about the architecture of hives. Transparent beehives are available for observation purposes in which you can safely study how bees live and work in their houses.
There is information on the lives of bees and their products, as well as a collection of tools used by beekeepers. You will receive knowledge about the biology of the insect, how it uses pollen and makes royal jelly, honey and wax. Visitors will then learn how the native flora of Rhodes assists in the creation of some of the highest quality honey in the world.
Outside are a bee garden and a refreshment area for guests. Take a stroll around the bee garden that’s filled with local flowers, plants and herbs from which the bees collect nectar. You can sample the different varieties of honey produced seasonally throughout the year. Visitors can also purchase natural bee products and beekeeping equipment, including honeycombs and honey-based cosmetics.
The unique Museum was established out of the concern of individuals for the precious bee and the benefits it offers to human beings. The ultimate goal of the Museum is to inform visitors about the nature, products and life of bees. Upon leaving the Museum, you will know everything about bees, their products and their crucial role in the ecosystem.
5. Anthony Quinn Bay
Formerly known as “Ormos Vagion”, Anthony Quinn Bay is situated on the eastern coast of Rhodes, about half a mile from Faliraki beach.
A beautiful and secluded cove with crystal clear emerald green waters and beautiful pine trees, the Bay is named after the American actor who in 1959 filmed The Guns of Navarone while in Rhodes. Having fallen in love with Rhodes, Quinn purchased some property on the island and was thereafter given the Bay as a present to say thanks for putting the island on the map. Although this gift was revoked in the 1990s, the Bay has since retained its name.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Rhodes, Anthony Quinn Bay is a small yet charming cove set within a unique landscape of stunning flora. This makes for an ideal place to enjoy the sun while perched on natural stones surrounded by lush vegetation. The natural stone surfaces are great for reclining underneath the sun, with pine trees that reach down to the water’s edge.
The water derives its deep emerald color from the green vegetation surrounding the beach. The waters are edged by reddish rocks on a narrow beach made of pebbles, rocks and sand. Because the beach comprises of pebbles you will need to rent a lounge chair for your comfort. The best lounging spot is on the rock right in the center of the beach which only has room for a couple of sun beds.
The miniature Bay is nestled between 2 cliffs and boasts a picturesque beach with gorgeous underwater scenery that makes the Bay one of the best spots in Rhodes for snorkeling. The water is not too deep and very well suited for snorkeling, because the cliffs, reef and the underwater world are easily visible in the crystal clear waters.
Sun beds and umbrellas are available so bring a picnic and spend the entire day. On top of the rocks is a canteen where you can go for midday refreshment. Close by is the small village of Ladiko which has a restaurant, minimarket and hotel.
A unique nature reserve, Petaloudes is the world-famous valley of the butterflies on Rhodes Island. The valley is ideal for travelers who wish to indulge in the beauties of nature or examine the lifecycle of butterflies as part of their summer vacation. Petaloudes is situated in the northern part of the island, about 26km from the town of Rhodes.
In addition to its aesthetic value, Petaloudes is also the site of the only natural forest of Oriental Sweet Gum trees in Europe, as well as a resting point for the Jersey tiger, a nocturnal moth.
Visitors can enjoy a peaceful stroll through this shaded, green valley with beautiful waterfalls and a small river. During your walk you will be constantly surrounded by butterflies that camouflage themselves against the tree trunks. You can walk up towards the monastery situated at the top, or take a rest on one of the wooden benches along the way.
Go here to witness this spectacular phenomenon that only rarely occurs in nature. Big numbers of butterflies congregate within the small valley during the final stage of their life cycle. Each year, at the end of the wet season in late May, thousands of butterflies cover the entire landscape, attracted by the scent of the Oriental Sweet Gum trees.
These are in fact adult insects following the waterways and migrating here to reproduce because of the area’s high humidity. The females will then leave for other suitable locations during early fall to lay their eggs.
Once here, you will need to maintain a low voice as the butterflies are resting. Unable to eat during this last phase in their lifecycle, the moths instead rest so as to conserve their energy. Any loud noises would force them to fly away, thereby consuming their valuable energy.
Visitors can observe the moths as they sleep, camouflaged well in yellow and black. While in flight, they flash their cherry-red over-wings. If you remain still and quiet, the moths may even land on your arm, which makes for a great photo!
Complete your visit to Petaloudes with a tour of the Museum of Natural History. The valley of the butterflies hosts a museum that is housed inside a nicely restored Italian house from the 1930s. Here visitors will find comprehensive information on the flora and fauna of the reserve.
The most interesting section in the museum is the hatchery in which several butterflies reproduce within a protected area in stable climatic conditions and an ideal environment.
After your visit to the valley of butterflies, you can continue exploring the region. There are a number of beautiful villages surrounding the valley in which you can take a break following your morning tour and enjoy a taste of the more traditional way of life with the locals.
Psinthos village has some of the best tavernas. Psinthos is a small classic Greek village with aged plane trees and flowing waters which reveals the beauty of the Rhodes countryside. Inside the village square is a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
In September each year, a typical rural festival is held in Psinthos and accompanied by good food, music and dance. During the festival, be sure to sample the wonderful grills and appetizers, pita bread and fruit, as well as homemade dishes such as stuffed tomatoes and peppers, aubergine salad, youvetsi which is meat stewed with pasta and dolmadakia which is stuffed vine leaves.
From Psinthos, take the small winding road that leads north to Maritsa which is simply buzzing with life. Ouzeris and tavernas along the high street serve tasty mezedes, as well as finely cooked meats. For a couple of Euros you can choose from half a dozen or so delicious dishes that change on a daily basis.
Founded during the 10th century BC by the Dorians, the ancient town of Lindos is situated about 45km south of Rhodes city. During the 8th century, Lindos was already a major trading center because of its strategic location between the Middle East and mainland Greece. It however began its decline during the 5th century after the city of Rhodes was founded.
Situated in the center of the island, Lindos is a lovely village which has managed to preserve its quaintness thanks to government decrees that have limited building, while requiring that restoration work done is in keeping with the current atmosphere of the village.
Nestled at the base of a steep rock and surrounded beautifully by the sea is the traditional settlement of Lindos village. At the top of this same steep rock stands its centuries-old Acropolis that proudly overlooks the archipelagos. Lindos’ Acropolis was a natural watchtower built facing the open sea, and which today bears silent witness to the past of Lindos as a strong naval force during ancient times.
The winding streets of Lindos village, a well-preserved settlement, offer a nice backdrop for a rejuvenating evening walk. During your walk, you can admire the picture-perfect residences of medieval captains built around pebbled courtyards with emblems dotting the heavy wooden doorways.
Adorning the streets are arched entrances that add a cosmopolitan touch to the settlement. Visitors can admire the stunning interiors with impressive ceilings and pebbled courtyards. Don’t miss out on a visit to the church of the Virgin Mary of Lindos which features an abundance of frescoes from the fifteenth century.
Begin your tour of the magnificent Acropolis of Lindos through its ancient old gate. The first level houses more recent buildings built on the foundations of an older Byzantine fortification. To the south, on the second level, visitors can marvel at the remains of the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia which dates back to 300 BC, and which was built on the site of an earlier temple.
Go up the monumental staircase to the sanctuary’s upper level which comprises buildings dating from the 4th century BC. From this location, the sweeping views of the Aegean will take your breath away. Also within the main archaeological site of Lindos visitors can marvel at the ancient theatre that is situated beneath the Temple of Athena.
The Acropolis is surrounded by well-preserved walls which house the ruins of ancient buildings dating back to the era of the Knights and the Byzantine era. These include the chapel of Ayios Ioannis with its Byzantine influences, the castle for the Knights of Saint John, the Propylea and the large Hellenistic arcade.
8. Medieval City of Rhodes
At the heart of Rhodes in its medieval city, a mysterious and haunting air wafts through the streets, brought back to life over the centuries. The famous Order of the Knights of Saint John left an indelible mark on the island. Walking around the ever lively town, you can almost hear the hoof-beats of horses and history’s whispering voices.
But do not be misled by the term “medieval” into thinking that what you will find here is a ruined or deserted city. One of the rare survivors of the medieval world, this town has never been abandoned or deserted, and instead stands unscathed in all its vibrant beauty.
Instead, as you approach the walls of the Medieval City of Rhodes, you will be entering Europe’s oldest inhabited medieval town. A bustling neighborhood of about 6,000 people living and working in the same buildings as the Knights of Saint John did 6 centuries back, the sight is quite a thrill to behold.
Scattered throughout this old town of Rhodes are cafes, shops, mosques, oriental motifs, medieval buildings, traditional fountains, as well as Gothic and Byzantine churches, all of which blend together to form a picturesque and unique whole. To stroll around the medieval town is to experience history as the well restored fortress has managed to maintain its atmosphere of the past.
Here, visitors can enjoy one of the most interesting walks on the island. About two hundred streets and lanes simply have no name. That said getting lost within the Medieval City of Rhodes is not a defeat but an opportunity. And should you feel the need to find your bearings, simply ask for Sokratous Street, which is the closest that this Medieval City has come to having a main thoroughfare.
The medieval town is defined and surrounded by huge walls that protected it in former times and which have been preserved since in excellent condition. The walls are about 5 km long in total and the fortress is completed by moats, towers and other defensive constructions. The town features 7 gates, the most important being the Gate d’Amboise, along with the Sea Gate.
The town took on the form we see today during the period of domination by the Knights of the Order of Saint John. This period lasted from the start of the 14th century until 1522 when the Ottoman Turks conquered Rhodes.
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is the most important monument in the medieval city, while Odos Ippoton is its most important street.
Other highlights include the Knight’s Hospital which is situated close to the entrance of Odos Ippoton and which was the most important building of the period. Today, this building houses the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. On this same street is found the Church of the Holy Trinity which dates from the 15th century.
As you enter via the Eleftherias Gate, you will come across the ancient temple of Aphrodite that dates from the 3rd century AD. Follow the stone-paved streets to the 15th century Lodging of the Knights of Auvergne; the Arms Depot; the Byzantine Museum; the Museum of Decorative Arts and many more buildings that are well worth a peek.
It is impossible to suggest just one route to take within the Medieval City of Rhodes. The visitor simply has to explore every inch of it! This is because in every corner of the old town lies a hidden cultural treasure.
The feeling you get while exploring Rhodes’ medieval streets is not easy to put into words. Hardly any of the five senses will not be aroused by the feel of this old town of Rhodes. So powerful is the surge of imagination, while the soul is left with little to desire still. So mighty is the spell of this place, an eternal setting for a never ending drama going back thousands of years.
9. Odos Ippoton
One of the most delightful medieval relics in the world, Odos Ippoton is a long, cobble-paved street built over an ancient pathway that led in a straight line from the waterside port of Rhodes town to its Acropolis high above. Many today regard the ancient cobblestoned artery as one of the best preserved medieval walkways in Europe.
The most famous street in Rhodes and one of the most important city landmarks, Odos Ippoton is characterized by numerous taverns and inns on both sides of the street. The buildings you see here were built during the 14th century in the Gothic style. Today, Odos Ippoton serves as an open-air museum, and is crowned by the dramatic Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Rhodes.
During the 16th century, this historic Avenue of the Knights became the address for majority of the inns of each nation that houses the Knights belonging to the Order of Saint John. Lining this avenue are the Inns of the Tongues, which were the Knights’ meeting and dining houses.
This was the street on which the knights lived and held their meetings, and the inns served as eating clubs as well as temporary residences for visiting dignitaries. It was the place to stopover and get together.
These houses were divided by tongue or language in accordance with their origins and denoted by stone-carved coats of arms. The flags and coasts of arms displayed on the buildings showed which inn hosted which country’s Knights. The facades of the inns today still reflect the different architectural details of their respective countries.
Visitors can enjoy a stroll along the cobblestoned thoroughfare which is certain to evoke the atmosphere of medieval Rhodes with its narrow walkway that’s cocooned by a wall of honey-colored stone buildings and monumental archways.
As you approach the port of Symi, you can’t help but get the overwhelming feeling that you are entering a perfectly painted image of a scenic traditional Greek village. As a rule, visitors to Symi will remain agape, unable to take their eyes off the spectacular sight before them. Symi is part of the Dodecanese chain of islands, that’s located about 41km to the north-northwest of Rhodes Island.
Rising on both sides of the steep fjord are tiers of pretty houses, some in pastel yellow, and others in white. Virtually all the houses display neo-Classical influences that point to the island’s history as one of the most prosperous in Greece just 100 years ago. Practically no modern concrete construction has taken place among the fine old houses of Symi, which has enabled the island’s spirit to remain intact.
Chorio is Symi’s oldest inhabited area which is characterized by numerous narrow lanes and picturesque houses predating the Neo-Classical period. While in Old Chorio, be sure to visit its museum which houses many interesting artifacts. The Old Pharmacy is also worth a look for its fascinating collection of French medicine jars and other paraphernalia. Visitors can visit St. John’s Church and admire its restored pebble courtyard.
Thereafter, take the 350 steps up to Chorio where you can admire interesting 19th century mansions that line the way. Once at the top, you can enjoy spectacular views over the harbor and marvel at the breathtaking sight.
There are many old monasteries and churches to be admired around Symi Island. The most famous monastery on the island is the Monastery of the Archangel Michael at Panormitis. Built on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo, the Monastery contains marvelous icons of the Archangel, along with two interesting museum sections.
The Monastery itself consists of a spectacular building within an even more spectacular setting at the end of a massive bay. Because Archangel Michael is the patron saint of seafarers, the Monastery was a popular place of pilgrimage for Greek sailors. Another monastery worth visiting is the Sotiris Megalos monastery, which is very picturesque and offers spectacular island views.