Rhodes: the sun-kissed Crusader Isle
Rhodes is one of the most popular of Greek islands for beach holiday breaks. Located to the south of the Turkish coast, Rhodes is the 'Crusader Island', steeped in medieval history, lined with sandy beaches and blessed with some fabulous scenery.
Rhodes is the biggest of the Dodecanese group of islands and boasts well over 300 days of sunshine each year.
There is a huge choice of beaches on Rhodes with the east of the island an almost continuous stretch of sandy family beaches and calm shallow seas.
Rhodes beach resorts come in all shapes and sizes, with frantic Faliraki famed for its wild parties, Lindos for its natural beauty and Pefkos for its peace. Rhodes island oozes history, from its medieval forts to terracotta roofed churches.
At the crossroads of east and west, Rhodes has been conquered many times and former invaders have left their mark, from Ottoman minarets to Crusader castles, and nowhere more in evidence than in battlements of Rhodes Town, the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe, where history beats at every turn.
Rhodes holidays offers the visitor a plethora of leisure activities including water-sports such as windsurfing and scuba diving. Beaches in the north can get packed as many are backed by giant hotel complexes but quiet beach coves can always be found in smaller resorts and the sands get more deserted as visitors head south where the wilder beaches are famed by windsurfers.
Inland are unspoilt mountain villages, isolated hilltop monasteries and hillside rich in olive and citrus groves that help make Rhodes a great beach holiday destination.
The most popular, but not necessarily the best, of Rhodes' beaches are on the north and east coasts. The north coast resorts are strung between Rhodes Town and the airport; mostly narrow strips of sandy shingle backed by enormous hotel complexes. This is the main tourist holiday and conference hotel strip of Rhodes island.
On the east coast expect busy beaches backed by resort hotels. Every bay off the main highway has a busy holiday resort and they can vary from the notorious beach party playpen of vast Faliraki, to the upmarket kitsch hideaway of Therma Kalithea and to the bare beauty of Afandou.
Beaches tend to get quieter as you head south with the hugely popular Lindos and neighbouring Pefkos the exceptions. Beautiful sand beaches are tucked away in glorious bays at Kolymbia, Tsambika, Stegna and Agathi.
The south of the island is comparatively quiet as poorer roads, fewer facilities and the distance from the airport tends to keep numbers down. Plenty of hotels have sprung up in recent years to meet demand but empty, dune backed sands can still be found. Beaches may be rarer but Rhodes feels more authentically Greek here than in the package holiday north.
As you might expect on such a popular beach holiday destination Rhodes offers visitors a vast choice of holiday accommodation. Rhodes Town itself, both the island capital and the main port has some of the best and most luxurious hotels.
Those located in the medieval centre are full of character but very expensive while outside the outskirts, particularly heading inland has a good supply of cheap rooms and apartments. If you want luxury and have deep pockets then the restored Turkish and medieval buildings in the old town's 14th century citadel should be just the ticket. If you are on a budget then aim for the area between Sokratous and Omirou for small hotels and a cheap youth hostel.
Rhodes has a large number of corporate conference hotels strung along the north coast to Ixia. The Rodos Palace, set in 30 acres) is the biggest five-star hotel in Greece and the nearby Sheraton is a favourite for business executives.
Down the east coast to Faliraki are ranks of holiday hotels but most of them are block booked by tour companies and it will be hard find a spare bed in the high season. The rest of Rhodes however is littered with small hotels, apartments and villas and you should have no trouble finding a room if you are prepared to stay away from the coast and the big beach resorts. It is best to book in advance online especially in July or August when they can fill up fast. There is no camping site on Rhodes and casual camping is illegal.
This cool and shady spot offers some escape from the summer heat. Rodini Park is on the edge of Rhodes City, about 3km from the centre and is considered one of the oldest landscaped parks in the world and popular with the Roman. It lies in a green river valley and has a number of small lakes with bridges over them. There is a perfumed rose garden and a small zoo, although wild peacocks and deer run freely in the park. Woodland trails and rowing boat rides add to the attractions. The park is easily reached by car or bus or you can walk there. It can get quite busy in summer months.
The impregnable fortress at Monolithos is found on the rocky south-west coast near Apolakkia Bay perched on a 300ft rock. Built in 1480 by the Knights of St John it's a steep hike up a narrow path. Within the walls is the church of Agios Panteleimon. The village of Monolithos below is worth a visit in itself, a peaceful village with a few tavernas. The road leads to the Monolithos pebble and sand beach of Fourni which has some dramatic rock formations. Nearby are some 17th century caves carved into the rock by early Christians.
Embonas is the centre of the Rhodes wine growing region and a favourite target of coach parties. Tavernas and tourist shops have grown to meet the demand of an almost endless stream of summer visitors here to see the attractive vineyards by day and to enjoy Greek Nights as well. The Emery grape produces Rhodes' best wine and there are complimentary tastings for visitors. The red is thought better than the white.
Butterfly Valley is near Petaloudes and about 5km inland from Tholos. The butterflies here are actually Jersey tiger moths, Euplagia quadripunctaria, but the bright red wings make them look like butterflies. They come here by their thousands to rest before mating and are a well camouflaged except in flight when they display deep red overwings. Visitors are asked not to disturb them as they follow a waymarked trail through the woods and wooden bridges that cross the River Pelekanas.
Afandou Golf Course
You can enjoy a round of golf at this 18-hole, par-73, golf course links that follows the coast at Afandou. This championship-level course opened in 1973 and admission fees are nominal. It has the usual facilities including pro shop, changing rooms, showers and a small snack bar. Specially selected grasses keep fairways and greens in condition throughout the year. Afandou Golf Club is located at Afandou Bay, about 20km from Rhodes Town and is well signposted off the main highway.
Rhodes is located close to the Turkish coast and enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate, with long hot summers and mild, temperate winters. Rhodes has the longest holiday season of all the Greek Islands, running from early April to mid-November, and gets well over 300 days of sunshine a year.
Spring on Rhodes sees warm days with up to nine hours of sunshine and temperatures rising to 21°C in May. In June temperatures climb to 25°C, reaching 28°C in August with at least 12 hours of daily holiday sun. High temperatures are tempered by the cooling sea breezes.
Warm holiday weather continues in early Autumn with temperatures of 20°C to 24°C. Late autumn storms can usher in the winters which stay mild at an average 11°C in January, which is the wettest month on Rhodes.
The Diagoras International Airport is near north coast Kremasti, about 16km from Rhodes Town. International charters and regular domestic flights bring in more than 3 million visitors annually. Rhodes Airport has one terminal with 13 check-in desks and opens round the clock. Rhodes airport is still notoriously chaotic so expect long queues and organized chaos. There is short term and long term parking opposite the terminal. There are 30 daily buses to Rhodes and the journey takes about 40 minutes. There are plenty of taxis and car hire companies have offices here. The airport is on a dual carriageway along the coast and clearly signposted.
Rhodes Ferry Port is at the north-eastern end of the old town. Regular ferries run to Piraeus (Athens) but it takes about 16 hours as it calls in at Astypalea, Kalymnos, Kos, Nisyros and Tilos. Blue Star operates ferries to Syros, Patmos, Leros and Kos. Hellenic Seaways has routes to Paros and Kos both ways while ANEK Lines head for Milos, Santorini, Crete and Karpathos. The Dodecanese island are linked by a fast catamaran service to Kos, Kalymnos, Leros and Patmos. Agoudimos operate a service to Alexandroupolis, Chios, Kalymnos, Kos, Lesvos, Thessaloniki and Vathi. There are regular trips to Mamaris, Turkey and many daily boat trips around the island but mainly to Lindos. There are daily excursions to Symi, calling in at Panormitis Monastery.
Road links on Rhodes are relatively good in the north, less so in the south. Crowded buses serve the east and west coast cheaply and regularly but not many go south of Lindos. A main road runs south from Rhodes following the coast past Faliraki. There's a good public bus service in Rhodes linking the north coast resorts. East cost buses leave from the East Side Bus Station on Plateia Rimini while the West Side Bus Station is at Averov. There are few bus services south of Lindos. Rhodes Town has plenty of taxis. The biggest of the many taxi stands is on the harbour front at Plateia Rimini. Taxis on Rhodes are dark blue with white roofs and tourist information offices have a list of charges.
Ialysos is one of the three ancient cities of the holiday island of Rhodes. Ancient Ialyssos is located at the summit of a fortified hill at Filerimos about 15 km away from the city of Rhodes.
A favourite day trip destination for the island of Rhodes' coach tour operators the jaw dropping Monolithos castle is perched on the summit of a sheer 236 metre high rock outcrop.
The butterfly valley of Rhodes is located on the west of the island about five kilometres south of the village of Theologos and this is one of the most attractive destinations on the island.
Rhodes has been dubbed the Crusader Island thanks to its extraordinary wealth of medieval forts and monuments but nowhere is more impressive than the Old City area of Rhodes itself.