Sun, sand . . . and the rest is history. Nowhere is that more true than on Rhodes, where ruins and beaches lure visitors out of Rhodes city. For the best beaches, head to the island's east coast. Visitors also flock to archaeological sites identical to the three original Dorian city-states, all nearly 3,000 years old: Lindos, Kamiros, and Ialisos. Of these, Lindos was and is preeminent; it is by far the top tourist destination outside of Old Town.
A tour around the island provides you with a chance to view the wonderful variations of Rhodes's scenery. The sights described below, with the exception of Ialisos and Kamiros, are not of significant historical or cultural importance, but if you're tired of lying on the beach, they provide a pleasant diversion. The route outlined below traces the island counterclockwise from Rhodes city, with a number of suggested sorties to the interior. Even a cursory glance at a map of Rhodes will explain the many zigs and zags in this itinerary. Keep in mind that not all roads are equal; all-terrain vehicles are required for some of the detours suggested below.
Ialisos (Ialyssos) was the staging ground for the four major powers that were to control the island. The ancient ruins and monastery on Mount Filerimos reflect the presence of two of these groups. The Dorians ousted the Phoenicians from Rhodes in the 10th century B.C. (An oracle had predicted that white ravens and fish swimming in wine would be the final signs before the Phoenicians were annihilated. The Dorians, quick to spot opportunity, painted enough birds and threw enough fish into wine jugs that the Phoenicians left without raising their arms.) Most of the Dorians left Ialisos for other parts of the island; many settled in the new city of Rhodes. During the 3rd to 2nd centuries B.C., the Dorians constructed a temple to Athena and Zeus Polios, whose ruins are still visible, below the monastery. Walking south of the site will lead you to a well-preserved 4th-century-B.C. fountain.
When the Knights of St. John invaded the island, they, too, started from Ialisos, a minor town in Byzantine times. They built a small, subterranean chapel decorated with frescoes of Jesus and heroic knights. Their whitewashed church is built right into the hillside above the Doric temple. Over it, the medieval Italians constructed the Monastery of Filerimos, which remains a lovely spot to visit (and with a most impressive cross at the top). Finally, Suleiman the Magnificent moved into Ialisos (1522) with his army of 100,000 and used it as a base for his takeover of the island.
In summer, the site of Ialisos is open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 7pm; hours are irregular the rest of the year. Proper dress is required. Admission is 3€. Ancient Ialisos is 6km (3 1/2 miles) inland from Trianda, on the island's northwest coast; buses leave from Rhodes frequently for the 14km (8 1/2-mile) ride.
Petaloudes is a popular attraction because of the millions of black-and-white-striped "butterflies" (actually a species of moth) that overtake this verdant valley in July and August. When resting quietly on plants or leaves, the moths are well camouflaged. Only the wailing of infants and the Greek rock blaring from portable radios disturbs them. Then the sky is filled with a flurry of red, the moths' underbellies exposed as they try to hide from the summer crush. The setting, with its many ponds, bamboo bridges, and rock displays, is admittedly a bit too precious; and, the fact is, you cannot always be guaranteed of seeing the moths in flight. But it's worth at least a try. Petaloudes is 25km (16 miles) south of Rhodes and inland; it can be reached by bus but is most easily seen on a guided tour. It's open daily from 8:30am to 6:30pm; admission is 5€ from mid-June to late September, and 3€ the rest of the year.
The ruins at Kamiros are much more extensive than those at Ialisos, perhaps because this city remained an important outpost after the new Rhodes was completed in 408 B.C. The site is divided into two segments: the upper porch and the lower valley. The porch served as a place of religious practice and provided the height needed for the city's water supply. Climb to the top and you'll see two aqueducts, which assured the Dorians of a year-round supply of water. The small valley contains ruins of homes and streets, as well as the foundations of a large temple. The site is well enough preserved to visualize what life in this ancient Doric city was like more than 2,000 years ago. Think about wearing a swimsuit under your clothes: Across from the site is a good stretch of beach, where there are some rooms to let, a few tavernas, and the bus stop. The site is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 3pm. Admission is 4€. Kamiros is 34km (21 miles) southwest of Rhodes city, with regular bus service.
Driving south along the western coast from Kamiros for about a mile, you'll come to the late-15th-century knights castle of Kastellos (Kritinias Castle), dominating the sea below. From here, heading south and then cutting up to the northeast, make your way inland to Embonas, the wine capital of the island and home to several tavernas famed for their fresh meat barbecues. This village is on the tour-group circuit, and numerous tavernas offer feasts accompanied by live music and folklore performances. If you then circle the island's highest mountain, Attaviros (1,196m/3,923 ft.), you come to the village of Ayios Issidoros, where devoted trekkers can ask directions to the summit. (It's a 5-hr., round-trip hike from Ayios Issidoros to the top of Mount Attaviros.) Otherwise, proceed to the picturesque village of Siana, nestled on the mountainside. From here, head to Monolithos, with its spectacularly sited crusader castle perched on the pinnacle of a coastal mountain.
If you now decide to head for the eastern coast, you retrace your path back through Siana and Ayios Issidoros and then proceed on to Laerma, where you might consider taking a 5km (3-mile) seasonal road to Tharri Monastery, the oldest functioning monastery on the island, with beautiful though weather-damaged frescoes. From Laerma, it's another 10km (6 miles) to Lardos and the eastern coastal road, where you can either head straight to Lindos or take another detour to Asklipio, with its ruined castle and impressive Byzantine church. The church has a mosaic-pebbled floor and gorgeous cartoon-style frescoes, which depict the 7 days of Creation (check out the octopus) and the life of Jesus.
The beaches south of Lindos, from Lardos Bay to Plimmiri (26km/16 miles in all), are among the best on Rhodes, especially the stretch between Lahania and Plimmiri. At the southernmost tip of the island, for those who seek off-the-beaten-track places, is Prasonisi (Green Island), connected to the main island by a narrow sandy isthmus, with waves and world-class windsurfing on one side and calm waters on the other.
Heading north from Lindos to Faliraki, there are a number of sandy, sheltered beaches with relatively little development. Faliraki beach is the island's most developed beach resort, offering every possible vacation distraction imaginable -- from bungee jumping to laser clay shooting. For families with kids in tow, there is a Water Park and a sort of Disneyland-type amusement park, the Magic Castle. The southern end of the beach is less crowded and frequented by nude bathers.
An Unexpected Delight -- Surely one of the pleasures of traveling is to come across a place that you never expected to find. Just such a place is the Kallithea Springs north of Faliraki (and about 10km/6 miles from Rhodes city). The thermal waters of Kallithea had been praised for their therapeutic qualities by Hippocrates and had attracted visitors through the Middle Ages. But by the 20th century the place had been forgotten and abandoned until in the 1920s, the Italians restored the site as a classic curative spa, erecting an exotic complex of buildings in what is best described in an Arabic/Art Deco style. After World War II the place was once again abandoned until in the late 1990s work began on a complete restoration of the site and its structures. This is what one sees today and possibly by the time this guide is in use, people will even be able to at least drink the water. Meanwhile, there is a small bay here where people come to swim and snorkel or just sit in the cafe and contemplate the history of such an unexpected place. Not a major destination, but well worth an afternoon's excursion -- easily reached by frequent public buses.
Lindos is without question the most picturesque town on the island of Rhodes. Because Lindos has been designated a historic settlement, the Archaeological Society controls development in the village, and the traditional white-stucco homes, shops, and restaurants form the most unified, classically Greek expression in the Dodecanese. Be warned, however, that Lindos is often deluged with tourists, and your first visit may be unforgettable for the wrong reasons. Avoid it from mid-July to August, if possible.
Frequent public buses leave Plateia Rimini for a fare of 8€; a taxi will cost 40€ one-way. There are two entrances to the town. The first and northernmost leads down a steep hill to the bus stop and taxi stand, and then veers downhill again to the beach. (However, if you're driving, park in the lot above the town.) At this square, from April through October daily from 9am to 10pm, you'll find the Tourist Information Kiosk (tel. 22440/31-900; fax 22410/31-288). Here, too, is the commercial heart of the village, with the acropolis looming above. The rural medical clinic (tel. 22410/31-224), post office, and telephone office (OTE) are nearby. The second road into town leads beyond it and into the upper village, blessedly removed from the hordes. This is the better route for people more aesthetically minded. Follow signs to the acropolis. You'll pass a stand where, for 8€, you can ride a donkey (also known as a "Lindian taxi") all the way to the top. If you walk, the sides of the walkway are strewn with embroidery and lace for sale, which may or may not be the handiwork of local women. Embroidery from Rhodes was highly coveted in the ancient world. In fact, it is claimed that Alexander the Great wore a grand Rhodian robe into battle at Gaugemila; and, in Renaissance Europe, French ladies used to yearn for a bit of Lindos lace. Much of what is for sale in Lindos today, however, is from Asia.
Before you start the final ascent to the acropolis, be sure to inspect the famous relief carving of a trireme, or three-banked ship, dating from the 2nd century B.C. At the top, from the fortress ramparts, are glorious views of medieval Lindos below, where most homes date from the 15th century. To the south you can see the lovely beach at St. Paul's Bay -- legend claims St. Paul put ashore here -- along with Rhodes's less developed eastern coastline. Across to the southwest rises Mount Krana, where caves, dug out to serve as ancient tombs, are thought to have sheltered cults to Athena well into the Christian period.
The acropolis (tel. 22410/27-674) is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8am to 7pm, Monday from 12:30 to 7pm. Admission is 6€ for adults and 3€ for students and children. This is one of three original Dorian acropolises in Rhodes. Within the much-later medieval walls stand the remains of the Sanctuary of Athena Lindos, with its large Doric portico from the 4th century B.C. St. John's Knights refortified the acropolis with turreted walls and built a church to St. John inside. Today, stones and columns are strewn everywhere as the site undergoes extensive restoration.
On your descent, as you explore the labyrinthine lanes of medieval Lindos, you will come to the exquisite late-14th- or early-15th-century Byzantine Church of the Panagia. Still the local parish church (admission 2€), its more than 200 iconic frescoes cover every inch of the walls and arched ceilings. Dating from the 18th century, all of the frescoes have been painstakingly restored at considerable expense and with stunning results. Be sure to spend some time here; many of these icons are sequentially narrative, depicting the Creation, the Nativity, the Christian Passover, and the Last Judgment. And, after you've given yourself a stiff neck from looking up, look down at the extraordinary floor, made of sea pebbles.
Adjoining the Church of the Panagia is the Church Museum (tel. 22440/32-020), open April through October daily from 9am to 3pm; admission is 2€. The historical and architectural exhibits and collected ecclesiastical items, including frescoes, icons, texts, chalices, and liturgical embroidery, comprise a collection. Frankly, most people prefer to spend their time looking elsewhere around the village.
Then, of course, there's the inviting beach below, lined with cafes and tavernas.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.