Rhodes Island

Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese group, with a surface of 1 438 sq. kilometers and a population of about 120.000 people. The island is mainly mountainous and its highest peak, Mount Ataviros, reaches 1.215 meters. Rhodes is not an ordinary holiday resort, but a cosmopolitan place of international reputation. Indeed, this relatively limited space offers innumerable natural beauties and is fairly considered as a tourist’s paradise. Holidays in Rhodes are not restricted, as the sunny period lasts much longer in comparison to other European destinations. Rhodes island has the pleasure to enjoy more than 300 sunny days a year.

Periods and dates of great importance for Rhodes island:
8th Century B.C. until 515 A.D. Ancient Greek and Greco-Roman period
515 A.D. until 1309 A.D.: Byzantine period
1309 A.D. until 1522 A.D.: Rhodes under the Knights of St. John
1522 A.D. until 1912 A.D.: Turkish occupation
1912 A.D. until 1945 A.D.: Italian occupation
7th of March 1947: Reunion of Rhodes and the rest of the Dodecanese Islands with Greece

Nowadays it is an amalgam of medieval and modern aspects, which impresses and fascinates visitors. Its medieval part, fortified behind an impressive wall, merges harmoniously with the refined, cosmopolitan air of a modern resort with luxurious hotels, large avenues with rows of trees and rich commercial stores.

In present days, Rhodes attracts more tourists than most Greek islands and is a crossroads for people of the whole world who come to enjoy its natural beauty and the historical memories which permeate its atmosphere and seam to emanate from its soil.

Maro Vambounaki wrote: “I talk of Rhodes as if it were a living person, because it is a living person: a person you can look at, and whose gaze follows you everywhere, like one of those amazing icons. You can talk to it, and it will caress you with breezes from Monte Smith, it will tell you tales and hypnotize you with blazing sunsets and the purple, seeping reflections of distant Asia. It is an ancient person and a young person; here, at this crossroads in the Mediterranean, time becomes confused, epochs lose their way and exchange masks in a tyrannical but alluring, fancy dress ball.”

North of Rhodes Island

Rhodes Town
The history of the town of Rhodes starts in the year 408 B.C., 2.400 years ago. The three ancient city-states of the island, Kamiros, Lindos and Ialyssos, united and concentrated their power into creating
one new settlement, a new city-state which was constructed on the northern part of the island. The foundation of Rhodes – Town was an important landmark for the history of the island. Within a few decades, Rhodes became one of the most beautiful, prosperous and powerful cities in history, thanks to its strategic geographical position and its navy.

The New Town
On entering Mandraki Harbour (yacht harbour), the most picturesque of the three ports of the city, visitors are welcomed by two bronze deers on pillars. They were placed where the famous Colossus of Rhodes used to probably stand and have become the modern emblem of Rhodes. Nearby, on the seawall are located the light house of St. Nicholas and the three old windmills. Numerous monumental buildings surround Mandraki Harbour and add to its majestic environment, among others the New Market (Nea Agora), a polygonal building with inner courtyard, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Evangelismos (Annunciation) Church, the Central Post Office, the Town Hall, the Theater and the Governer’s House (building from the Italian period now used as Prefecture). All of these impressive buildings stand along the harbour. Next to the Theater one can admire the Murad Reis Mosque and its graceful minaret. At the northern end of the town (the tip of the island) stands the Institute of Marine Biology (Aquarium).

The Old City
The Knights of St. John settled in Rhodes on 1309 A.D. The Order of the Knights was founded in the 11th century A.D. in Jerusalem and initially had religious purposes, but along with the Crusades they soon acquired a military character.

The highlight of a city tour would be to visit the Old City of Rhodes, a real medieval city built by the Knights. It’s a walled town of approximately 4 km which is still inhabited today, and one of the few remaining well – preserved cities of the past. It is a maze of cobbled streets with medieval arches filled with shops selling folk art. The ramparts are unquestionably the finest remaining examples of fortification of the medieval times. The numerous places of interest include the Palace of the Grand Masters, the famous Street of the Knights, the Archaeological Museum (housed in the medieval building of the Hospital of the Knights), the Art Gallery, the Byzantine churches and the minarets.

The Ancient City
The Monte Smith is the highest point of the town. The hill is named after the English admiral Sir Sidney Smith, who used the hill as a lookout post during the war with the Turks and therefore it offers a great view on the seaand on the Turkish coast opposite.
On this hill is situated the ancient Acropolis, which includes the Stadium which dates back to the 2nd century B.C., the small ancient Theater next to it and the the Temple of Pythian Apollo on the highest level. By collecting the scattered remains found on this site the Italians (who occupied Rhodes in the 20th century) managed to rebuild a part of the temple.

The Colossus of Rhodes

The name of the Colossus is familiar to everyone. Its history begins with the siege of Demetrius Poliorketes, successor of Alexander the Great, in 305 B.C. With the money they gained from the sale of Demetrius’ siege machinery, which he had left behind when he withdrew, the Rhodians decided to express their pride of their great victory by building a triumphal statue showing their favorite god, Helios. The task was assigned to the sculptor Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos himself, and twelve years (from 304 to 292 B.C.) were needed to finish it.

The Colossus was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a masterpiece of art and engineering, but we lack reliable information about its appearance and its location. An inscription found near the Palace of the Grand Masters allows us to estimate its height to about 31 meters. Most people imagine its appearance according to the lines portrayed (from imagination) by the French traveler Rottiers in 1826.
It is said that Chares cast bronze limbs of the statue on the spot, one at a time, using huge heaps of earth, and moving upwards from level to level, rather as one would build a house.

The old myth on which Rottiers based his drawing, that the statue stood across the entrance of the harbour and that incoming ships sailed between its legs, must, reluctantly, be abandoned. Today we can be sure that it stood on land (the way it was constructed suggests that) and that the most likely place it may have stood was the courtyard of the Temple of Helios, which was situated close to the current Grand Masters’ Palace.

However, the statue was only a nine-day wonder, or, to be more accurate, a 66-year wonder. A violent earthquake in 226 B.C. broke its knees and sent it to the ground.

The Rhodians, afraid of some curse, did not dare replace it, and it rested where it had fallen for many centuries. At last, in 653 B.C. Arab pirates under Moabiah who were raiding in the area carried the bronze parts to the mainland opposite and sold it to a Jewish merchant. It is said that 900 camels were needed to transport it. The story was so closely linked to the name of Rhodes that for centuries afterwards both Greeks and Europeans referred to the people of Rhodes as “Colossians”.

West Coast of Rhodes Island

Filerimos is situated on a hill (267m high) covered by a dense pine forest, near the village of Trianta on the west coast, and was in ancient times the acropolis of the city Ialyssos. The precise location of Ialyssos itself in Archaic and Classical times is unknown; however the “city” probably consisted of rural settlements sharing common organization and a common acropolis.
Ialyssos was one of the three famous ancient cities of Rhodes island which created Rhodes Town in 408 B.C. In the surrounding area relics of occupation have been found going back to the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. and there are also settlements and cemeteries dating from the Mycenaean-Minoan period.

The view from Filerimos is amazing. The hill took its name from a monk who came from Jerusalem in the 13th century bringing with him an icon of the Blessed Virgin painted by the Apostle Luke. The small church he built later became a basilica and in the 14th century the St-John Knights founded a large monastery with bell tower which can still be seen today. There are also remains of a Greek temple and of the first Christian basilica.

In the 20th century, during Italian occupation, the monastery and the church were renovated and partly rebuilt and supplied with a beautiful “Way of the Cross” which leads to the end of the hill where a big cross overlooks the coast.

Petaloudes Valley (Valley of the Butterflies)

In the peaceful, humid and green environment of the valley, life follows its own rhythm. After watching for a while, one could note that nothing really exciting happens in this part of land. However, there are certain things that should attract your attention: the yellowish-brown motionless veil on the rocks and on the trunk of the trees.
“Petaloudes”: The name means “butterflies”. This is one of the island’s most known areas of natural beauty. The narrow valley, about 1 km long, with a stream flowing down its center and flush with trees and undergrowth, harbors clouds of a special kind of butterfly that can be seen between June and September. All butterflies which belong to the species Panaxia Quadripunctaria are nocturnal, and therefore they rest and sleep during the day. They develop in biotopes far away from the valley, but choose the latter for their mating, because of its humidity and its vegetation. In this way they are forced to migrate twice a year and often have to make long, tiring and energy demanding trips.

During a visit at this natural museum of the Valley of the Butterflies, you have every right to enjoy the charm of a unique environment while you participate to the “mystery” of the nocturnal butterflies, but at the same time it is the visitor’s duty to protect these vulnerable creatures which for the last few years have been diminishing to an alarming extend. Please avoid making noise and waking up the
butterflies in order to make them fly. With your help and sensitivity the “Petaloudes” of Rhodes will be able to survive in the future.

Thirty kilometres west of the city of Rhodes is situated Ancient Kamiros, one of the island’s three most powerful cities of ancient times. It was built around the 7th century B.C. and rediscovered in 1929.
Today, after nearly 3000 years, the remains of a very rich and advanced civilization can still be seen.
It was built according to the system of Hippodamus in three levels, including the acropolis over the hill, the settlement on a second level and a bit lower the Hellenistic temple, the Doric fountain, the market and the square.
This remarkable system from Hellenistic times includes wells, underground tanks and irrigative tubes made of clay.

East Coast of Rhodes Island

According to Homer, in the “Iliad”, Lindos was built by the Dorians along with Kamiros and Ialyssos, probably in the 12th century B.C. The island of Rhodes sent nine ships to the Trojan War, and these were most likely all from Lindos. This would seem to indicate that at that time Lindos was the strongest of the Rhodian cities. Even as early as the 7th century B.C. there are reports of Lindian colonies and of the Lindian fleet that cornered a large part of the trade and shipping of the Mediterranean. The Lindians were first to draw up a code of maritime law, later known as the “Rhodian Law”. It became the basis for Roman maritime law and even today forms the backbone of the law of the sea.

The city reached the height of its power in the 6th century B.C. especially under the reign of Cleovoulos, who ruled for more than 40 years. Cleovoulos was considered as one of the Seven Sages of Antiquity, being the first person to have the idea that public works could be financed by collecting money from the citizens.

The Acropolis and the area which surrounds it were excavated between 1902 and 1912. The acropolis itself is an approximately triangular rock, 116 meters high, which is wider and lower to the North and rises through four step-like levels to the South. At the top, on the fourth level, is situated the restored Temple of Lindian Athena. The Lindians were very proud of the fact that goddess Athena was worshipped in Lindos before she was even worshipped in Athens, so they named her “Athena Lindia” and that is how she is found in the scripts.

To visit the acropolis today one passes through the narrow pebbled streets of the medieval village with the old houses and walks up the large steps to the area of the ancient sanctuary.

These days, Lindos counts approximately 1 000 inhabitants and is probably the most famous village in Greece, at least among foreigners. Like the Medieval City of Rhodes, it has been declared a monument for preservation, and thus has been able to safeguard most of its traditional color. It is the most popular spot for outings on the island; it sees every day an influx of thousands of foreign tourists and locals who come to admire the village and the acropolis and to swim on its marvelous beaches.

The village today contains many houses dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, which are known as the Captains’ Houses. Their architecture and decoration are unique in the Greek world.

Epta Piges (7 Springs)
On the way from Kolymbia to Archipolis is located one of the most romantic places in Rhodes: Epta Piges, which means Seven Springs. It is an example of the unique beauty of the interior regions of the island. It is a cool, shaded area, which is surrounded by woodland. The attractive green gorge has seven bubbling springs and flowing rivers, which never dry out, not even in the summer. These rivers form a lake, built by the Italians. This water was used to irrigate the Kolymbia plain.

You will find ducks and peacocks there, which enjoy the peaceful nature, and a nice taverna situated in the shadow of plane and pine trees, with refreshing drinks and delicious food. And you shouldn’t miss the exciting experience of a walk through the dark tunnel, which leads to the small lake, along stones and ankle high water. But it is not for those with claustrophobia.

When you leave Rhodes Town and drive on the east coast towards the well-known seaside resort Faliraki, you will find on the left hand side the medicinal thermal baths of Kallithea, which have been built by the Italians in the beginning of the 20th century for the Italian aristocracy. They are not functioning anymore, their springs have dried up, but in the 20s and 30s their water was very famous for healing stomach and intestine diseases.
The thermal buildings and equipment have been beautifully restored recently. Their interesting architecture, the lovely small beach and the numerous palm trees make this place one of the most magic and impressive places in Rhodes.

It is worth spending some time in Kallithea, visiting the buildings and watching the exhibition of old photographs, having a swim and a drink on the beach.

South of Rhodes Island

Prassonissi is the most southerly point on the island, where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean Sea. It consists of a belt of fine sand and a peninsula. You can cross the long and wide sandy beach with sea on both sides in order to reach the peninsula and its lighthouse by foot or with a jeep.

But some months of the year the beach is nearly totally covered by the sea. It is a very popular spot for wind and kite surfers. One particularity makes it the most impressive beach on the island: you will see waves to the right and calm sea and shelter from the wind to the left! You will find there nice restaurants where you can enjoy a Greek lunch.