The largest of the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes is a misunderstood slice of the Aegean. On the one hand, it’s one of the most touristic islands in Greece, and a favoured haunt for package tours and bachelor parties, which has given it a more mainstream reputation for pulsating nightlife and clubbing. But it’s also one of the most important historical islands, with a wealth of museums, monuments, and ruins that will make any history buff’s head turn wildly in excitement. The heart of the island is undoubtedly its walled Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a pristine example of the Gothic period, and visitors here can amble through the cobblestoned streets of the Jewish Quarter. In the neighbouring New Town (still at least 500 years old), the Gothic gives way to Ottoman mosques, public baths, and libraries.
In addition to an abundance of cultural activity, Rhodes has glorious nature, including beautiful beaches, the country’s largest butterfly reserve, and hiking trails through natural springs. It’s an island with something for everyone in the family. “What makes Rhodes truly special is its dynamic character — offering relaxation, a vibrant party scene, serene beaches with crystal-clear waters, and windier beaches for thrilling sea sports,” says Panos Constantinidis, CEO of Swot Hospitality Management Company. “Visitors should not miss … the Old Town, Jewish Museum, and Bee Museum to fully appreciate the island’s rich history and culture.”
Here’s all you need to know about Rhodes, Greece
- Set on the island’s eastern coast, the Acropolis of Lindos is a piece of layered history. Originally a fourth-century temple to the goddess Athena, today you can walk around the ruins while enjoying stunning views across Lindos and the sea.
- Melenos Art Boutique Hotel is the island’s most luxurious property, with 12 suites plus a rooftop restaurant and bar with beautiful views of the coastline.
- Located in an old house with wooden beamed ceilings and a fireplace, Paraga Restaurant at Apollona village offers a taste of local cuisine.
- The Valley of Butterflies is a serene park with streams, ponds, paved paths, and a stunning display of butterflies.
- Rhodes’ Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the historic Jewish Quarter.
Best hotels and resorts
Lindian Village Beach Resort Rhodes, Curio Collection by Hilton
“The Lindian Village, Curio Collection by Hilton stands out with its beachfront location and five theme restaurants,” says Constantinidis. Bungalows and rooms are built around lush vegetation and tranquil waterways, plus the hotel boasts its own private beach as well as a glittering pool.
Allegory Boutique Hotel
Located within the Old Town and a member of the Yades Greek Historic Hotels, the Allegory Boutique Hotel is a sumptuous collection of five guest rooms built within a lovingly restored medieval building. Details include original Benaki Museum wall hangings, and bathrooms are stocked with Korres products.
Trinity Boutique Hotel
Another Old Town property, Trinity Boutique Hotel is a former Knights of St. John’s building that now features six guest rooms nestled around a private courtyard, where breakfast is served daily under pink bougainvillea. Each room features a balcony, and the decor is chic.
Lindos Blu Luxury Hotel & Suites
This adults-only hotel is located on the island’s east coast, a stone’s throw from the Lindos Acropolis. The vibe here is sexy, with an infinity pool, pillow menu, and extensive cocktail list. Be sure to book a room with a view over the endless blue of Vlicha Beach.
Melenos Art Boutique Hotel
The island’s most luxurious property, Melenos Art Boutique Hotel is a collection of 12 suites. Thoughtful details that draw on the island’s craft history can be found throughout, from the pebbled mosaic floors to the high, wooden ceilings. There’s also a rooftop restaurant and bar with stunning views of the coastline.
Best things to do
Tour the Jewish Quarter
Rhodes used to have a sizable Jewish population; the majority were Sephardic Jews, originally from Spain, who spoke Ladino. Tragically, the majority of its residents were murdered during World War II, and today, there are only about two dozen Jews left from 4,000 in the 1930s. South African-born Ladino poet Isaac Habib organises two-hour historical walking tours through the quarter, which can be booked through the Jewish Museum.
Browse books at the Muslim Library of Hafiz Ahmed Agha
Located in the bustling old city, the Muslim Library, originally built in 1793, houses more than 2,000 books in Persian, Arabic, and Turkish. Spend an hour browsing the rare illustrated copies of religious texts dating back to the 15th century, as well as the complete Ottoman historical tomes.
Take a boat tour
Catch a glass-bottomed boat from the Mandraki Harbor in Rhodes Town, or better yet, spring for a private boat that will take you to the glittering island of Symi. Day-long tours include food and drink, and have plenty of time for diving and swimming through turquoise waters.
The wind-battered southwest coast of Rhodes has some of the best windsurfing in the Dodecanese. It’s not a secret — surfers come from all over the world to fly across the waves — but even if you’ve never windsurfed before, you can start with a class for beginners.
Head to the Valley of the Butterflies, a gorgeous forest full of streams and trodden paths, where tiger moths mature in July and August. Outside of this period, the park is empty (of both hikers and butterflies).
“Niku Restaurant at the Lindian Village offers a luxurious dining experience, and it’s one of my favourite restaurants on Rhodes,” says Constantinidis. The food is a Peruvian-Japanese fusion but with plenty of local Greek ingredients thrown in the mix. Niku also boasts an excellent wine and cocktail list (the pisco sours are particularly good).
For a taste of local cuisine, Paraga Restaurant at Apollona Village is a must-visit. It highlights the richness of Rhodian ingredients like extra virgin oil, local honey, and fresh tomatoes — don’t miss the trahana, a traditional soup made from soured milk curds. The restaurant is located in an old house, and features wooden beamed ceilings and a fireplace.
When it comes to seafood, Avantis in Afantou and the Fish Restaurant at Plimiri Beach serve up delightful dishes. Their speciality is lobster, but whatever happens to be the catch of the day is a good bet.
Old Town Corner Bakery
The best takeaway breakfast can be found at Old Town Corner Bakery, which doles out delicious savoury pies, buttery croissants, and drip coffees. It also offers freshly pressed juices for a healthy treat.
Taverna Platanos Lachania
Under the shade of giant green platanos trees, tuck into Greek tavern classics like pastitsio and zucchini fritters at Taverna Platanos Lachania, located on the island’s western tip. For dessert, don’t miss the honey-soaked baklava and sweet, thick Greek coffee.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Rhodes is during its shoulder season — between April and June, and September to October. Summer can be overly touristy, which means crowded beaches, landmarks, and restaurants, plus exorbitant prices. July and August are also increasingly hot; in 2023, wildfires swept through the island and visitors were forced to evacuate. In springtime and fall, you can expect mild weather that still allows for plenty of seaside activity. Orthodox Easter is a particularly atmospheric time, with candlelit midnight mass in churches and plenty of revery in the streets.
How to get there
The fastest way to reach Rhodes is by plane. The island has one international airport (Diagoras) located on the western side; there are year-round daily flights from Athens (about one hour) and Thessaloniki, plus other European cities. Rhodes is the Dodecanese island group’s main port, and there are plenty of ferry options for those who prefer a longer, more scenic journey. Ferries from Athens take between 13 and 24 hours; the island is well-serviced to Crete, the Cyclades, and the rest of the Dodecanese islands. It’s worth springing for a cabin for the overnight ferry trips.
Areas to visit
The heart of the island is undoubtedly the walled Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a pristine example of the Gothic period. Here, visitors can amble through the atmospheric cobblestoned streets of the Jewish quarter.
Rhodes’ second-largest city is Lindos, perhaps the most beautiful on the island. Built more than 4,000 years ago, Lindos was constructed around the plateau-perched Acropolis, which still casts an imposing presence over the town. A jumble of Cycladic-style homes and bougainvillea-laden streets crisscross the base of the Acropolis.
The least touristic part of Rhodes is its remote western coast; battered by the wind and elements, it’s the preferred spot of windsurfers and other extreme sport aficionados. But that means the beaches are less crowded, too. The west coast is also home to a network of hiking trails and the island’s small but interesting wine region.
How to get around
Unless you’re staying put in the Old Town, your best option for transportation around the island is a rental car, which offers a degree of freedom and spontaneity that the bus schedule won’t permit — car rentals can be organised at the port or airport upon arrival. Public transportation is run by the KTEL, which organises the bus service around the island (the schedule changes based on the season). Taxis are plentiful in the main town but can be expensive.
(Feature Image credit: Free artist / Getty Images)
This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com