Monolithos castle on Rhodes
The impregnable Crusader castle of Rhodes.
The Greek holiday island of Rhodes is famous for its Crusader castles but few are more impressive than the impregnable fortress of Monolithos on the south-west coast. A favourite day trip destination for the island's coach tour operators Monolithos castle is perched on the summit of a sheer 236 metre high rock outcrop overlooking the Aegean.
The castle was built around 1480 by the Knights of St John and it is certainly an impressive sight. The logistics of erecting such a structure at the top of this enormous rock is breathtaking in itself and it evokes its name Monolithos (Lonely Rock) perfectlyl.
This fortress, along with others, such as those of Rodos and Lindos, was of great importance as it gave the knights a clear command over strategically vital Mediterranean sea routes.
The fortress at Monolithos came under attack many times but none were ever able to conquer the inhabitants and invaders found it impossible to scale the steep slopes.
Unfortunately, time has taken its toll and today, only a few parts of the fort buildings survive, although those that remain are very well preserved.
Inside the massive castle walls are two small medieval chapels. The one dedicated to Agios Panteleimon is a small, whitewashed building of stone that has walls lined with very fine frescoes in remarkably good shape. The other chapel of Agios Giorgios is just a ruin.
Access is from the village of Monolithos which lies about three kilometres from the fortress. The village is just a small hamlet of houses with a couple of tavernas built in a hillside amphitheatre.
Castle visitors must leave their vehicles in a small car park at the bottom of the rock and make their way up the stone steps allowing for a 15 minute walk to the summit. They will often stop, not only to rest but also to enjoy the views and the fragrance of the wild herbs along the way.
The steep climb to the top is worth it for the delightful vistas alone with views of the mountain of Akramytis to the north, the beach at Fourni to the east and the island of Halki in the distance.
The area around Monolithos Castle is also worth exploring. A road from the village at Monolithos village leads to a small beach at Fourni. The pebble and sand beach is in a peaceful setting with a beach cantina that opens in the summer and it makes an ideal family day out.
Bizarre wind sculpted rocks formations line the back of the beach and one huge rock looks precariously balanced as though it might topple over at any moment.
Nearby are some caves that have been carved into the rock by early Christians, but they are not easy to find and the steps leading down to the caves can be precipitous.