Rhodes, the largest island on the Dodecanese complex, is known for its beach resorts, ancient ruins and remnants of its occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. It is also known for its breathtaking beauty, exuberant nightlife, and its welcoming locals, making it one of the top Greek island destinations, no visitor of Greece should overlook. As if you need any more persuasion, here are our suggested things to do in Rhodes that will help even the most demanding of travelers realize that visiting Rhodes is an obvious must.
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1. Explore the charming old town of Rhodes
Rhodes and specifically the Medieval City of Rhodes, built by the Christian military order Knights Hospitaler is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and we have every right to brag about it!
Famously one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, the Medieval City of Rhodes offers insight into the glorious past of the popular island, gathering an impressive number of significant landmarks and monuments one can admire, such as the Collachium, built by the Knights Hospitalers, the Grand Masters' Palace, St. John's Cathedral, St. Mary's church, several other Byzantine churches that were turned into mosques after 1523 and various city ramparts.
It is located inside a 4 km-long wall, due to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem transforming Rhodes Town into a fort. All sides of the townalready are equally dense with monuments, with the south-southeast area having the Court of Commerce, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Hospice of St. Catherine, among others.
What’s more, the development of the island resulted in Islamic elements being introduced to the town, such as mosques and traditional baths, with most churches being transformed into Islamic mosques, like the Mosque of Soliman, the Kavakli Mestchiti, and the Abdul Djelil Djami.
The prime condition of Rhodes’ Medieval City can be attributed to the constant maintenance and remodeling that transpired between the 14th and 16th centuries under the Grand Masters.
As you’ve probably gathered, the impressive Byzantine architecture and the old-time charm that is prominent throughout the city make the Medieval Town an obvious must-visit, which is booking a Medieval Rhodes and the Jewish Quarter walking tour is one of the wisest choices you can make during your stay on the island. We promise the incredible setting of Rhodes’ Old Town will leave you in awe!
2. Discover the rich heritage of Rhodes
Impressively, the vast history of Rhodes is not limited to its Medieval Town as the island has been at the center of people’s attention since antiquity with numerous tales of Greek mythology referring to it.
With the salt still in your hear, it’s time to discover the historic side of Rhodes, a dominating aspect of the island that makes it stand out from other summer destinations around the world and excites history buffs to no end.
It has been proved that Rhodes has been inhabited since the Stone Age -that’s pretty far back, right?- and therefore the thousands of years that have since have passed, have left their mark on the island, making it wonderfully diverse in terms of architecture and style, among others.
At the beginning of the 4th century AD, following the division of the Roman State, Rhodes became a part of the Eastern Empire. An earthquake in 515 AD brought the city of Rhodes to the ground before emperor Anastasios came to the rescue and rebuilt it.
However, in 653 AD, Arab invaders plundered the town and destroyed its many significant monuments; and the hardships were far from over. Another attack in 807 AD, this time from Seljuks of Haroun al Raschid, destroyed the island, with Rhodes taking around 2 centuries to find its old glory.
Subsequently, in the 11th century, Rhodes regained its commercial power with the help of the Crusaders, which Rhodes furnished with ships and mercenaries. In 1261, the Crusaders were beaten by the Byzantine emperors, who took over Rhodes and in 1309 AD sold it to the Knights of St. John.
The time period during which the Knight of St.John had Rhodes under their rule is probably the most significant time in the history of the island, with their mark still evident at every turn. Forts, impenetrable walls, castles, churches and the distinctive architectural style of this time can be found everywhere you turn your head.
The Crusaders’ stay in Rhodes lasted until 1522 when the island came to Suleiman the Magnificent. The Turks remained on the island until 1912 when it was taken over by the Italians. After the end of the Second World War, Rhodes, along with the other islands of the Dodecanese, finally found its way back home and became part of Greece.
We know it sounds intimidating, but a visit to the most notable monuments of Rhodes will help you compose a much clearer picture of the island’s history and heritage and will reveal to you how the influences of the past civilization are easy to spot throughout the island.
Start with the Acropolis of Rhodes, the most monumental site of the island that stands on the hill that the locals now call ‘Monte Smith’. There, in the middle of a luscious green park, you can find the Hellenistic stadium, built in the 3rd century BC, where the athletic contests of the Alioi Games took place during antiquity in honor of the god ‘Helios’ - the god of the sun.
Right by the stadium lies the still active Roman Odeon where people enjoy high-class performances to this day. What’s more, the remains of the temple of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus can be found at the northernmost point of the hill, while perched on the very top the hill is dominated by the temple of Pythion Apollo, the patron deity of the city, making for the perfect spot for watching a magnificent sunset.
After the ancient site, head to the Archaeological Museum in Rhodes Town. Located in the Medieval town of the island, the museum is housed in the monumental building that used to host the hospital of the Knights of Saint John.
Of course, the wonderful setting only adds to the appeal of the museum that contains various collections of archaeological artifacts from all over Rhodes and the neighboring islands, including the Statue of the Crouching Aphrodite, the Pyxis of the Fikellura type and the Head of Helios.
If after conquering the two most historically significant spots, you’re still willing to invest even more time exploring the island's turbulent past, then ancient Ialysos, ancient Kamiros, Elaphos and the castles of Monolithos, Kritinia, and Feraklos are some of the most monumental archaeological sites of Rhodes that will connect the dots on the island’s that evolution between the time it was first inhabited and today.
Alternatively, join a walking tour around the Medieval Town and the Jewish Quarter of Rhodes to have a licensed guide talk you through the most important points of its long-lasting history!
3. Visit the top sights of Rhodes island
Regardless of the countless mythological tales, such as this one, that have survived to this day, there are a number of monuments that contribute as evidence to the thousand-year-old history of Rhodes and every visitor of the island should visit. In fact, there is probably not a single stone you won’t find a story underneath.
The Acropolis of Rhodes, the Acropolis of Lindos, ancient Ialysos, ancient Kamiros, the Archaeological Museum in Rhodes Town, Elaphos and the castles of Monolithos, Kritinia, and Feraklos are some of the top archaeological sites in Rhodes that will reveal to the island’s the evolution of the island from the ancient times to today, highlighting the most notable moments of its glorious past!
4. Walk around nature
The Valley of the Butterflies in Rhodes - credits: T.R. Originals/Shutterstock.com
In order to feel better after the generous helpings of local food, rejoice in a long walk around Rhodes’ lush nature and striking landscapes. Due to its unique geographic position, climate and diverse landscape, there is no part of the island that won’t strike you with wonder. There are a lot of scenic villages in all parts of the island, as well as astonishing parts where you can walk around, lounge with a cup of coffee or even indulge in a picnic. Between so many of Rhodes’ beauties, such as the castles, the beautiful settlements, and the dazzling beaches, my suggestion for the day would be the very popular and praised ‘Valley of the Butterflies’, which stands out for its exceptional natural beauty and of course its winged ‘inhabitants’. Located near the village of Theologos, on the northwest side of Rhodes, the ‘Valley of the Butterflies’ is one of the rare natural habitats of Europe. The area is the summer refuge of the Rhodes butterfly called the ‘Quadripunctaria’ butterfly. This impressive valley sustains the ideal climatic conditions for the breeding of this butterfly species, with lush vegetation all throughout and abundant running water. The Pelican River, which flows through the valley, creates striking natural formations that highlight the beauty of the landscape: ponds, streams, small waterfalls. Additionally, within the valley grows a rare kind of tree that attracts butterflies, as a substance in its bark that acts as a magnet for them.
In the marvelously green premises of the ‘Valley of the Butterflies’ lies also the Natural History Museum and the Kalopetra Monastery that offers an astonishing panoramic view of the island. Make sure to pay a visit to both attractions as they are fascinating, each in their own way. The Natural History Museum of Rhodes is housed in an old Italian building that dates back to 1930 and has been recently renovated. You can enter the museum with no additional cost other than the ticket you paid to enter the valley. Inside the museum, you can find an exhibition regarding the enthralling life circle of butterflies, scientific information about the valley life, as well as live butterfly exhibits preserved in the garden conservatory. You can also find a small library where you can find volumes in regard to the flora and fauna of Rhodes. The Kalopetra Monastery, on the other hand, may have nothing to do with the natural history of the region, but it is important for its religious heritage.Τhe Kalopetra Monastery is dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Built on a pine-covered mountainous area on the hillside of Lefkopoda, it functioned as a cobblestone monastery, which was in great prosperity until the early 20th century. Its economic prosperity was based on the cultivation of the land, but also on the exploitation of oil from the olive trees that abounded in the area. At the same time, the watermill in the adjoining valley provided the required annual flour harvest, while beekeeping and sericulture appeared to be equally developed. The monastery had existed since 1489. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1779 and rebuilt by Alexandros Ypsilantis, ruler of Moldova in 1782, when he was exiled to the island with his two sons, Demetrius and Constantine. Legend has it that on their journey to the island, Alexandros Ypsilantis and his sons encountered a great storm and risked drowning. Ypsilantis prayed to Virgin Mary and promised her that if they were saved, he would build a monastery in her name. That’s when in the dark, they saw a light, followed it, and reached the beach safely. The image of Alexander Ypsilantis that since decorated the church is today kept for security reasons in the vestibule of the parish church of Agios Spyridon in the village of Theologos, as the Kalopetra Monastery was left inactive since the early 20th century. Within the monastery remain some ecclesiastical books printed in Venice in 1754, a Holy Gospel printed in 1745 and a silver Chalice in 1873.
If a walk is not of interest to you but exploring the natural beauty and the charming landscapes of the island is, then a Jeep Safari around Rhodes is the perfect solution as you can travel in comfort and style through the most noteworthy regions of the island! Not to mention the cool points you'll earn!
5. Wander around Rhodes' Villages
When gazing at the eastern part of Rhodes, you will see the woods, when gazing at the southern part you’ll see a comparatively bland, flat land that has given up the tall trees for bushes, and lastly, when gazing at its western part you will come across some of its most picturesque mountain villages. One of them is the famous Lindos, which we give you the opportunity to explore by embarking on a Lindos village tour with a luxury motor yacht.
There is a variety of beautiful places visitors should visit to truly appreciate the rich nature of the island, such as the world-renowned Valley of Butterflies, famous throughout the world, the Seven Springs, which offers the best getaway from the summer heat, the Tsampika Monastery, with its extraordinary views out to the rest of the island and the Aegean Sea, Prasonisi, the Marine Aquarium, the Profitis Ilias and Akramitis mountain, ideal for hiking ort walking paths.
To top it all off, similar to most of Greece, Rhodes has a pleasant, mild climate that is not prone to extreme heat or cold and can be defined as subtropical. Refreshing western winds mitigate summer heat, with winter being almost always mild; about 300 days a year the sun prevails on the island, while light, cool northwestern breeze makes the climate pleasant even in July and August.
6. Taste the delectable cuisine of Rhodes
Credits: Aleksandar Mijatovic/Shutterstock.com
I’m sure it comes as absolutely no surprise that Rhodes offers a world of culinary bliss. Rhodian cuisine hides gastronomic treasures, with traditional Rhodian recipes coming from the depths of the island’s long history.
Most of the traditional dishes are based on olive oil, wine, cereals, and legumes as well as local livestock products, with traditional desserts heavenly featuring Rhodian honey, sesame seeds, and almonds. A distinctive element of Rhodian cuisine is the heavy use of cumin, which funnily enough the local call ‘lingering smell’, and is usually added in meat fillings, stuffed vegetables, sauces, bread doughs, or even in cookies and rusks!
Cereals also play a major role in the diet of the inhabitants of Rhodes, while pasta dishes such as ‘Archangel's Koulouria’, ‘Machi’, ‘Loukoumi’, and ‘Strifts’, among others, are the star of the table, especially during weddings and other celebratory feasts.
In Rhodes, all pasta is made using wholemeal flour, it is egg-free, and it is usually cooked with, lamb, pork or chicken. In fact, the famous dessert of ‘Matsalo’ is made from the ‘Machi’ pasta by adding milk, sugar, and cinnamon in the saucepan; the perfect dessert for all rice pudding lovers!
The ancient Greek dish of ‘trahana’, which is a fermented mixture of grain and yogurt or fermented milk, made throughout Greece follows the same recipe in Rhodes and is mainly cooked with goat in the clay oven like the traditional dish of ‘chuka’ or in the pan like ‘lacan’ in the Rhodian village of Laerma.
What’s more bulgur replaces rice in almost all Rhodian recipes; in the stuffed vegetables, in soups, in meat fillings, adding nutritional value to all local recipes. Of course, one cannot overlook the importance of legumes in the diet of Rhodes’ locals. Rhodes’ ‘lopia Katavias’, a traditional PDO bean variety, are small-grain beans with delicate peels that boil very quickly.
‘Lopia Katavas’ is the main ingredient of the cult-classic ‘lopada’ soup, which is cooked in a clay pot in the oven, usually accompanied with goat and tomatoes, and has an unforgettable taste every person who has the luck to taste raves about. Following the same technique, if you put chickpeas in a clay pot along with plenty of tomato paste, onion, garlic, olive oil, and optionally goat meat, and you cook it in the oven for several hours, you get the traditional dish of ‘chuka’.
One of the tastiest local recipes is the one of ‘Rifiki’ that consists of a baby goat stuffed with wheat or rice, liver, onions, tomatoes, and spices. Something similar is Rhodes’ Easter dish of ‘pashatis’, which consists of stuffed lamb roasted in the oven. These are only some of the trademark dishes of Rhodes.
There are so many more recipes to discover and taste for yourself during your stay on the island, in regard to appetizers, main courses, and desserts, that it would be pointless to even try to include all of them here.
If you’re interested in getting to know the local gastronomy, maybe a cooking lesson in Rhodes is exactly what you’re looking for; one thing is for sure; Rhodian cuisine is bound to rock your world and make you reconsider your devotion to any other cuisine around the world - consider yourself warned.
7. Visit the sandy beaches of Rhodes
Lindos beach - credits: cge2010/Shutterstock.com
Sandy beaches as far as the eye can reach, secluded bays with crystal clear waters, and exhilarating water sports; Rhodes offers its visitors some of the most magnificent beaches in Greece and invites you for endless summer dives!
With 24 of its organized shores winning the Blue Flag this year, the Island of the Knights has viable beach options for both families and daring solo travelers; just make your research and you will undoubtedly find the one that better fits your need; what better way to enjoy a taste of genuine Greek summer?
Rhodes' most famous beaches are located on the east coast of the island, with most -but not all- of them being organized with sunbeds and umbrellas.
- ‘Elli’ has been described as one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean and hosts a large number of visitors every year. It is the most lively and secular beach in Rhodes town and is organized, with umbrellas, sun loungers, while also having a trendy beach bar on its shore.
- ‘Afandou’ beach has a more family-friendly profile. Located right outside the homonymous village, at the eastern part of the island, its long length makes it extremely versatile; lie on its pebbly shore and enjoy a Rhodian sunset submerged in the refreshing waters of the beach, take your towel and seclude yourself away from the rest of the swimmers, or enjoy a sport, like beach volleyball and beach soccer.
- Additionally, ‘Ladiko’ beach is one of the most picturesque beaches of the island. It is a quiet creek, surrounded by rocks, leading to turquoise waters. The beach is organized with sun loungers and umbrellas and its fine sand is ideal for young swimmers.
- ‘Anthony Quinn’ beach became famous from the filming of the movie ‘The Canons of Navarone’; it was dearly beloved by the protagonist and famous actor Anthony Quinn and eventually got his name. Anthony Quinn beach is ideal for underwater diving because of its underwater morphology and attracts many boats as it has a small jetty where they can be easily docked. It is surrounded by rocks, giving a pool-like aesthetic to its crystal clear waters.
- One of the must-see destination when visiting Rhodes is the famous fountains of 'Kallithea', which have set the stage for some of the most famous Greek films and continue to fascinate locals and tourists alike. The small successive beaches of the area are surrounded by pine and palm trees, while here, one can find the hot springs of Kallithea as well.
- To the north of the island, the 8km-long beach of ‘Ixia’ is particularly popular among surf enthusiasts. The strong winds that blow in the region during summertime, known as ‘meltemia’, create the ideal conditions for all kinds of water sports. It is often argued that Ixia is the coolest beach on the island.
- ‘Ialyssos’ is another popular beach, a bit too popular during the high-season months, as it stretches along Heraklides Avenue, where some of the largest hotel units on the island operate. It is also a beach that favors surfing and its waters deepen.
- Going deeper into the southern part of the island, you will find ‘Kiotari’, a long, organized beach with fine sand. Enjoy the sea and water sports and choose for your meal one of the traditional tavernas you will find along the seafront.
- Unless you live under a rock, you’ve already heard about ‘faliraki’ beach. Four kilometers long, one of the most organized beaches of the island, with water sports and bungee jumping facilities, umbrellas, sun loungers, beach bars, restaurants, cafes, and water parks, is fourteen kilometers southeast of the city of Rhodes.
- A beach that should definitely be on your itinerary for Rhodes, is ‘prasonisi’, on the southernmost tip of the island. It is essentially a rocky island, connected to the rest of Rhodes island by a narrow 1 km-long strip of sand. The two beaches formed by the winds merge and cover the land, creating an image of unique beauty. The area is considered a paradise for surfing enthusiasts, as strong winds blow there especially in July and August. Beneath the beautiful settlement of ‘Lindos’ are two beaches with quiet, crystal clear waters, sheltered by the picturesque bay. Swim in the organized beaches, admiring above you the white settlement and the castle, which dominates the hill.
- Last but surely not least, one of the most beloved beaches on the island is the beach of ‘tsambika’. It is located in the southeast of the city of Rhodes, under the rock that houses the famous monastery of Panagia Tsambika. In this golden sandy beach with crystal clear waters, you will enjoy family dives as well as water sports. It is organized with umbrellas and sun loungers and has canteens that are sure to come in handy when hunger strikes.
8. Rhodes nightlife: Party all night!
Candid shot of the Greek nightlife - credits: Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock.com
Rhodes has gained a reputation for its wild nightlife, and in this case, the rumors are trumors. Yes, the nightlife of Rhodes can get pretty wild and intense, however only if you want it to, as there a number of places you can go for a much more toned-down outing, such a relaxing drink along the coast.
So, after a long walk in nature, what better way to put an end to this full and adventurous day than with a delicious cocktail in hand?
Located in Rhodes’ Medieval City, the atmospheric Auvergne is the best place for unwinding and enjoying a drink, while its gorgeous backyard is often the host of live gigs that entertain its guests and makes the Old Town come to life!
Another location with a great courtyard is Sissitio, an alternative and diverse multiuse establishment that caters to all tastes and needs and is bound to please even the most demanding of guests. Grab one of its specially-made cocktails and your night is guaranteed to have a flying start.
Departing from the old town, Union is one of the best cocktail bars of Rhodes with yummy and creative alcoholic concoctions that, along with the upbeat music the bar offers, will make your night a night to remember. If you plan on visiting Union, keep in mind that the owners like to spice things up by organizing special nights that will be a pity to miss if given the chance!
If you’re a fan of rock, don’t worry, Rhodes will not disappoint you. Captain Hook serves a broad range of whiskey and bourbon that is accompanied by 70 's rock music, metal music, and other great classics, and an unmatched vibe that will make you fall in love in the place before having the first sip of your drink. And if you’re intimidated by the amount of choice you have in regard to picking a drink, don’t be, as the staff is always there to help you!
Of course, one must not forget about The Last Butler, Rhodes' cult-classic cocktail bar that offers its guest a time travel to a past era with the help of jazz music. And the music is not its most impressive element, as the cellar is noble to say the list, with over 400 labels on its shelves!
If a relaxing drink is not your scene and you’ve come to Rhodes determined to let your hair down and party as hard as you can, then the region of Faliraki will be right up your street. Often referred to as the ‘Ibiza of Greece’ the image of Faliraki is probably what you have in mind when thinking of the wild nightlife scene of the island, as its crazy ways have made the front page on various papers around the world.
A walk along the coast of Faliraki will give you plenty of choice for dancing and drinking, my top picks however include the Bedrock, which is a club inspired by the Flintstones, the beloved cartoon characters, with its interior decor resembling a prehistoric cave; a tacky yet funny touch you can’t help but appreciate. The club serves also as a karaoke bar and remains open until the early morning hours.
So there you have it, a list of amazing things to do in Rhodes, ready for your next holidays. Truly diverse, delicious and beautiful, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Being easily accessible either by ferry or by plane adds to the allure of the island making it the perfect Greek island destination for both locals and foreigners. Here's to a brilliant summer ahead full of Rhodian beauty!