When we think of Rhodes, the first thing that comes to mind is its famous Colossus, a gigantic statue devoted to Helios. Its history remains mysterious, but its legendary presence is there in the air in this sun island, the largest in the Dodecanese, a stone’s throw from Turkey: without doubt, one of Greece’s most beautiful islands. The traces of its mythological past are tangible in its ancient archaeological ruins, legacies of the glories of Kamiros, Lindos and Ialyssos, Rhodes’ city states. In the splendid walls and other legacies of the long domination of the Knights of St John. The famous Knights’ Quarter, a medieval site of great beauty, is the most appealing part of the old town which Mandraki port separates off from the town.
Beyond the medieval citadel, one of the world’s best preserved, Rhodes reserves other wonders like Suleymaniye Mosque, an unmistakeable feature of the skyline. But there are also Rationalist era buildings, memories of the Italian period contrasting with its characteristic white houses overlooking the sea and inland villages. If you are wondering what to see in Greece, Rhodes is not to be missed for both its coastline and much more. Craggy rocks and breath-taking waters frame Rhodes’ beaches, long and sandy but also wild and sheltered, always perfect for snorkelling. The island boasts one of the archipelago’s most attractive natural patrimonies: its symbols include Butterfly Valley, a nature park brought to life, in July and August, with the beating of millions of wings fluttering past waterfalls and streams. Attracting the butterflies is the vanilla aroma released by the trunks of the trees growing in the valley.
Dreamy beaches, thousands of years old ruins, architectural treasures and night life, endlessly, at Faliraki: everything for a dream holiday is here in Greece.
We have selected the best 15 things you absolutely must see in Rhodes, perhaps aboard a splendid Costa Crociera ship.
Rhodes old town
Street of the Knights
The Knights Hospitaller of St John arrived in Rhodes in the year 1300 to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, imposing their sovereignty over the island and developing military capabilities to defend it from invasion. This religious order’s rule continued until the Turkish siege when the army of Suleiman the Magnificent obliged them to escape. This historic phase culminated in 1522 and is commemorated by breath-taking architecture concentrated along the Street of the Knights or, in Greek, Odos Ippoton, an incredible medieval microcosm in which time seems to have stood still.
Situated in the heart of the old town, this steeply paved street is flanked with restaurants offering shelter to pilgrims. Along it there are many imposing aristocratic buildings bearing the marks of the various nations - or rather languages - which made up the order, as well as its characteristic architectural style. The Street of the Knights stretches between the Hospital of the Knights - now Rhodes’ Archaeology Museum - and the Palace of the Grand Master. A unique place which transports visitors into another dimension.
Visiting Rhodes Archaeology Museum is not just a matter of admiring finds of great value but also exploring an architectural site of great value. The backdrop is Hospital of the Knights, both one of the Order’s most important buildings and the historic centre’s best preserved monuments. The palace is arranged around a central courtyard surrounded by a large loggia and dominated by a stone lion attacking its prey.
A monumental staircase gives access to the exhibition which encompasses various eras with finds from Rhodes’ archaeological sites, especially Kamiros and Ialyssos and other Dodecanese islands. The museum’s treasures comprise decorative vases, Classical and Hellenistic era sculptures, coins, mosaics and Knight Hospitaller emblems. The best known sculpture masterpiece is the sensual Rhodes Aphrodite, immortalised tying up her hair with one knee resting on the ground.
Palace of the Grand Master
In the busy centre of the Knights Quarter, the Palace of the Grand Master is one of Rhodes old town’s most emblematic buildings. Built in the 14th century by the Knights of St John in what was once the Byzantine citadel, it was the residence of the Grand Masters and the administrative seat of the monastic state of the Knights of Rhodes. Dominated by twin towers and horseshoe shaped, this fortified complex develops around a large courtyard decorated with marble tiles and conserves precious mosaics from various archaeological sites.
The fort’s is a troubled history, featuring sieges and earthquakes. In the Ottoman period it contained a prison and was destroyed by an accidental explosion in the mid-19th century. In the 1930s it was restored by the Italian state.
Contrasting with the old town is Nea Agorà, the new town. Modern Rhodes is a sequence of buildings overlooking the sea: their size and rigorous lines echo the period of Italian rule on the island. The first thing visitors notice, here, is its very lively atmosphere: the beating heart of Nea Agorà is its New Market, once the fish market and now a lively bazaar packed with shops and restaurants. Shaded by domes and terraces, its pedestrian only streets are the right place to buy a souvenir and also to try one of the site’s tasty delicacies.
Architecturally speaking, some of Nea Agorà’s most representative buildings are its town hall, post offices and the Cathedral of the Annunciation with its square belltower. Here, too, the Knights of Rhodes left traces of their presence with the sarcophagi of the Grand Masters resting in the cathedral cloister. The Governor’s Palace also never leaves visitors indifferent, with its blend of Venetian Gothic and Moorish style, an unexpected encounter which enlivens a seafront promenade stroll.
Between the old town and Nea Agorà is Mandraki port packed with yachts and sailboats. Legend has it that the famous Rhodes Colossus - one of the seven wonders of the ancient world - was once here at the port’s entrance, near its entrance columns. Over 30 metres tall, the statue dominates the port, welcoming boats as they pass under its legs, a portentous vision, especially when an earthquake brought it tumbling down, according to the legend.
Today the columns host two deer statues, the town’s symbol. As well as being beautiful the historic port is definitely also a great place for strolls through the town. The medieval walls and characteristic fishing boats share the backdrop with more luxurious boats. Some boats have been converted into floating shops selling souvenirs. A walk can continue to the windmills on the quay and as far as the old lighthouse. Following your nose to a welcoming tavern, you can try out traditional dishes in the open air. There are also plenty of places for a cocktail with a view of the port and the sunset.
Rhodes is also famous for its panoramas and iconic views: its undisputed symbols include the columns of an Apollo Temple, object of an infinite number of reproductions. If you want to get a close-up view the best way is a tour of Mount Smith. Agios Stefanos was rechristened thus in honour of the English admiral who watched over Napoleon’s fleet from here. Just two kilometres from the town, the hill is easy to get to by bus, taxi or rented scooter.
A healthier alternative, sun permitting, is a pleasant half an hour walk following a well-marked route. Once at the peak the views of Rhodes from above are spectacular and take in the islands around it, with a unique panorama. Mount Smith is also the site of the ruins of the ancient acropolis of Rhodes with the remains of its theatre, stadium and majestic temple devoted to Apollo with its three wonderfully conserved surviving columns.
From Filerimos hill the views range over immense plains stretching out into the sea, the splendid bay of Ialyssos and Mount Atavyros, Rhodes highest. It is the perfect place for a sensation of boundless peace: the site’s name means ‘friend of the desert’, echoing the solitude of the hermits who once lived inside its caves, and it is easy to see why. A place of meditation and great silence where, at the time of the knights, Filerimos Monastery was built and encircled with cypresses and Aleppo pines featuring a splendid medieval cloister.
Built on a paleo-Christian church, it is replete with history and art such as the wall paintings decorating St George’s semi-underground vault. Filerimos Monastery is also an interesting destination for those who love a walk with its nature footpaths and paved stone avenues. Reaching this oasis of peace is a 15 kilometre walk from Rhodes in the direction of Ialyssos, famous for its long sandy beach. And also for its important archaeological site. Together with Lindos and Kamiros, Ialyssos was one of Rhodes’ three legendary city states. Legend has it that it was founded by Ialysus, grandson of Helios. His brothers founded the other two towns.
Anthony Quinn Bay
There are places in Rhodes which are a must and one of these is Anthony Quinn Bay. It is a very popular destination - including with sailors - and finding a space here can be quite a task. Arriving early in the morning or at sunset is ideal for the wildest views.
This paradise is 4 kilometres from Faliraki, on Rhodes’ east coast and is also known as Ladiko Beach. Its tourist name has Hollywood associations with famous American actor Anthony Quinn having filmed a few scenes of a film here. Having fallen in love with the place, he decided to make it his. You can see why, with a snorkelling session in this magnificent scenario being truly enchanting.
After soaking up the sun at Anthony Quinn Bay, why not head off to Faliraki for a little night life? 15 kilometres from Rhodes, this site is now synonymous with fun, thanks to its abundance of bars, pubs and nightclubs. The party never ends here and you can eat and shop here well into the evening. Its night life is not Faliraki's only attraction, however. Rhodes’ Las Vegas boasts one of the largest water parks in Europe, a destination for young people and families with kamikaze slides and wave pools.
There is a huge range of activities to choose from, ranging from horse riding to bungee jumping. In addition to a large well equipped coast, ideal for water sports, Faliraki is surrounded by some of the island’s most beautiful beaches: just a little south of Anthony Quinn Bay, for example, is the very beautiful Traganou beach.
One of the most thrilling things to do in Rhodes is to visit Lindos Acropolis, about fifty kilometres away. Extolled by Homer, this ancient city achieved its greatest splendour in the 6th century during the rule of Cleobulus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Lindos Acropolis is perched on a crag above the sea, suffused with peace and quiet and cobalt blue seas. Its fortress encompasses the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia and Lindos castle built by the Knights of Rhodes.
There are wonders everywhere here, including the ruins of a Byzantine church and a splendid Greek ship sculpted into the rocks. The panorama is truly unique, encompassing the bay and its mini port, a stretch of white houses and enchanting Lindos beach. And to get to the acropolis you can also opt for a very unusual means of transport, the famous Lindos donkeys.
Town of Lindos
Dominated by its fortifications, Lindos town is worth a visit as well as its archaeological sites. Its characteristic village is, in fact, rightfully considered to be one of Rhodes’ most attractive. Its centre is crowded with white houses in characteristic cubic form linked by steep alleyways. Its unmistakeable architectural style combines well with its characteristic shops and panoramic restaurants with seaview terraces - sunsets here are enchanting.
In the centre of Lindos is Panagia Orthodox Church with its many frescoes and icons. St Paul’s bay - also known as Lindos beach and Agios Pavlos - is also not to be missed, it is truly picture postcard beautiful. Legend has it that St Paul landed here with the idea of evangelising the island’s people. What is certain is that it is one of Rhodes’ most beautiful beaches encompassed by a picturesque little port and a splendid natural swimming pool with nuances of breath-taking blue.
One of the island’s oldest city states, Kamiros has a glorious past which survives in its archaeological site, one of Greece’s most important. This important site is thirty kilometres from Rhodes in a verdant natural setting. Visiting Kamiros means exploring the vestiges of a great city populated with temples, houses and majestic public buildings. The ruins of the Stoà and the Temple of Athena Kameiras take pride of place on the hill.
The Hellenist era settlement is extremely well preserved and built on an older Doric city on three levels. Understanding the secrets of these ruins is the preserve of scholars, but a glance is all it takes to imagine the life there must once have been here. This is where the funerary stele of Crito and Timarista (5th century BC) kept at the Rhodes Archaeology Museum were found.
Set sail for Rhodes with Costa Cruises
Rhodes’ attractions are certainly not exclusively a matter of beaches and classicism: this Greek island is truly unique. Its old town, with its medieval buildings, is a microcosm which leaves its mark on all visitors. Without missing out on that characteristic Greek picture postcard beauty: hibiscus, bougainvillea and white houses with sky coloured windows which seem to dialogue with the sea.
Just a short distance from the Turkish coast, Rhodes is a breath-taking encounter with nature and legend, starting with its name, given it by the nymph who married Helios. Rhodes, as we know, has a thousand names: island of the sun, butterflies and roses and many others of various ages. It is a paradise island, with something of the Garden of Eden about it, a remote place where you lose your sense of time. One of the many ways of visiting it is on a Costa Cruises cruise, with the sea at your feet always and a great many trips on the agenda to the island’s many beautiful places.