A Greek classic
It’s not for nothing Rhodes is the most visited of all the Greek Islands. The biggest of the Dodecanese Islands, it comes with over 200 kilometres’ worth of coastline. As for where to start, Kolymbia – on the east coast – is spot on if you’re after a quiet break. The place keeps a pretty low profile, with a handful of hotels, tavernas and bars along its sand-and-shingle beach.
A pick ‘n’ mix of beaches
If you’re after something a bit more upbeat, venture further north to the island’s clubbing capital, Faliraki. The strip of bars and clubs here is almost as long as the beach. Head south along this stretch, meanwhile, and you get to Lindos, where whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and Medieval walls are the order of the day. Or make tracks for the island’s west coast and stop off in Trianda, a quiet, beachside village with a Byzantine monastery to its name.
On the subject of history, Rhodes is knee-deep in reminders of the past. The island’s star turn is Rhodes Town, a 10-minute drive from Trianda. If you’ve only got time to see one thing here, make it the Medieval citadel. Built by the famous Knights of St John, it’s one of the best-preserved in Europe.
Things to See and Do in Rhodes
One popular island
Rhodes’ bumper crop of beaches has helped it land the award for most visited Greek Island. Whatever you want from your beach, this place has got it covered. On the east coast, you’ll find sandy sweeps stretching all the way down the coast, including the two big names – bar-backed Faliraki Beach and family-favourite Lindos Beach. Over on the west coast things get a bit more rugged, with empty, pebbled bays and surfer-friendly waves.
The big beach
Lindos Beach is a clear winner in the popularity stakes. It’s a sandy bay with really calm water, so it’s a top spot for families. There are plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas up for grabs, and lining the sand you’ll find a handful of tavernas and cafés. There are watersports on offer here, although they’re pretty low-key – pedalos and canoes – and there are a couple of good snorkelling spots at each end of the beach.
The secret beach
If you prefer your beaches with a little more elbow room, Fourni Beach is your place. It’s a small-ish, pebbled beach near Monolithos on the southwest coast. It’s a real secluded spot – you won’t find beach bars, watersports or rows of sunbeds here, just a couple of in-the-know holidaymakers and a few locals on weekends. The sea can get a bit rough, which keeps the crowds away, but the waves are great for splashing around in.
Jewellery is a big deal on the island, and the capital’s old town is where you’ll find some of the best stores. While a lot of the gold and silver stuff is factory-made, if you head to Hippocrates Street you’ll find some traditional, handmade pieces that have ornate filigree work. Antique aficionados should check out the reproduction shop at the Ministry of Culture Museum, where you can pick up reproductions of ancient statues, friezes and vases.
Locally-made pottery and hand-embroidered linens are big business in Rhodes. You can buy things like vases and plates direct from factories – some even offer behind-the-scenes tours – and you can pick up hand-painted pieces from shops all over Rhodes Town. In Lindos, you can even shop on your way up to the Acropolis – the path is lined with local women selling lace and embroidery.
In Rhodes Town, you’ll find dozens of little shops hawking souvenirs and crafts at great prices. Try Socrates Street – it’s particularly good for leather belts and purses – and Orffeos Street. For more of the same in Faliraki, head to the Faliraki Square shopping centre. It’s an indoor number with shops selling everything from inflatables to olive oil products.
For a low-key evening, the higgledy-piggledy streets around Stavri Square in Lindos are your best bet. They’re packed with rooftop restaurants and traditional Greek tavernas. In Kolymbia, most of the evening entertainment revolves around the hotels, but there are a couple of seafood tavernas along Eucalyptus Street where you might catch a live music performance if you’re lucky.
Night owls are sorted in Rhodes. In Faliraki, the aptly named Bar and Club Streets are lined with, well, exactly that. Over in Rhodes Town, Bar Street is – unsurprisingly – the place to go for trendy watering holes. And in Lindos, you’ll find a couple of clubs in the village centre, as well as Amphitheatre, a massive open-air nightclub with views of the acropolis, on the outskirts of town.
A staple dish on many meze menus, pitaroudias are plump, moreish chickpea croquettes. They’re made with onion, tomato and mint, and are best served with a large dollop of tangy tzatziki – AKA yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip.
These stuffed vine leaves are finger food, Greek style. They’re usually filled with rice, herbs and either minced meat or vegetables. Tuck into them cold as a starter or snack, or order them hot and drizzled with avgolemono – a lemon and egg sauce – as a main.
Fresh fish is a massive part of the locals’ diets, especially in summer. One of the biggies is red mullet, or barbounia. It’s caught in the waters around Rhodes and its neighbouring island Symi, and is best served grilled, barbecued or fried with loads of garlic.
Rhodes produces some of the best wines in Greece thanks to its balmy climate. There are 2 main types – juicy Athiri grapes produce a sweet white wine, while Mandilaria grapes make a fruity red.
Brace yourself before sampling this potent firewater – it’s strong stuff. Made from local grapes, it’s distilled in the village of Siana using methods that date back centuries. It’s usually drunk as an apéritif, but if you’re feeling brave you can down a shot.