The most popular Greek Island
Rhodes’ tourism figures speak for themselves. Attracting more than 270,000 British holidaymakers every year, the island is the most visited in Greece.
Most people are drawn to Rhodes by the beaches. The island’s east coast is a ribbon of virtually uninterrupted sand, and it’s where you’ll find all the main holiday resorts. There’s Lindos, which is watched over by the ruins of an acropolis, and Faliraki, the legendary hangout of the 18 to 30s crowd. Then you’ve got the sleepy Blue Flag beach at Pefkos, and the quiet coves in Kalithea and Kolymbia, where sunbathers go to get away from the trappings of tourism.
You can’t talk about Rhodes without mentioning its history. The ancient ruins here date back to the time of the Trojan War, terracotta-topped churches remember the Byzantine glory years, and Ottoman minarets recall the time the island spent under Turkish rule. Then there’s Rhodes Town, which catalogues the comings and goings of knights over two centuries. The harbour area here was once dominated by one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the great colossus.
Rhodes’ interior is a montage of traditional villages and chalky mountains. Apolakkia, in the west, for instance, serves up scenery in big portions. The hamlet is home to whitewashed villas, old windmills, a monastery, and a shaded lake that’s ideal for swimming.
Things to See and Do in Rhodes
Rhodes is the proud parent of a big family of beaches. The best-known stretches of sand slither down the island’s east coast, monopolising more than 80 kilometres of seaside. Resorts like Faliraki and Kolymbia occupy the northern part of this coast, while Lindos appears around half-way down.
The big beach
Faliraki Beach is big in size and reputation. It’s 5 kilometres long and it’s got the complete collection of facilities, from conveniences like toilets and showers to best-practice facilities like watesports and sand-side restaurants.
The secret beach
About halfway between Kalithea and Lindos, Tsambika Beach flies below the radar of most tourists. It’s a natural beauty, with no hotels or souvenir shops nearby. It’s named after the monastery that overlooks the sand, which is dedicated to the Virgin of Tsambika. There are a few sunloungers on the sand and a restaurant by the beach, which serves just-caught seafood.
You can accessorise to the nines in Rhodes thanks to the number of jewellery shops. Head to Hippocrates Street in the capital’s old town to pick up delicate filigree or make your way to Sokratous Street to eye up the designer pieces. There are a couple of jewellers on the main street in Pefkos, too.
Rhodian wine is award-winning. To get the best price for a bottle, cut out the middle man and head to one of the island’s wineries. Cair is 2 kilometres outside of Rhodes Town and Emery is in the village of Embonas. Visit during the week and you can tour the cellars before you buy. The Emery winery also has a distillery on Kolokotroni Street in Rhodes Town
If you’ve got a pocket full of change, head to Rhodes Town. The Street of the Knights and Socrates Street in the walled old town are bumper-to-bumper with souvenir shops. You can pick up everything from jars of honey to Medieval-themed toys. The etch-a-sketch streets of Lindos are home to a handful of gift shops, too. If you’re staying in Kalithea there’s a token amount of gift shops in the pedestrian area, which runs parallel to the main road, Rodou Falirakiou.
Traditional restaurants come thick and fast in Rhodes Town, and live bouzouki music often provides the soundtrack to dining. You’ll find some of the best around Georgiou Leontos Street. If you’d prefer to pass your nights on a rooftop terrace in view of the acropolis, head to one of the restaurants in Lindos’ main square. In Kolymbia and Kalithea, evening entertainment tends to be taken care of in the hotels. Do the rounds of the reception notice boards to find out what’s on.
Faliraki earned its nightlife stripes a long time ago and today it’s known as one of Europe’s biggest party towns. Bar Street and Club Street are criss-crossed with late night bars and clubs. Rhodes Town is no shrinking violet either. It’s got a casino near Ellie Beach and plenty of karaoke and music joints along Bar Street. Pefkos isn’t exactly a night owl, but it’s got a small collection of cocktail bars and live music places on its main road.
Most traditional Rhodian restaurants feature pitaroudia on their meze menus. The dish is made by frying a mixture of chickpeas, potatoes, onions and fresh mint. Get it while it’s hot and dunk forkfuls into a saucer of cool tzatziki – the dip will melt and smother the fritter with extra flavour.
Kapamas is the Rhodian equivalent of beef and Yorkshire puddings. It’s served on a Sunday and it’s made by stuffing a cut of goat with rice, onions, tomatoes and spices, before baking for a couple of hours in the oven. Look out for it on restaurant specials boards.
Despite what the menus tell you in Greek restaurants, stuffed vine leaves are not traditionally eaten as appetisers. In fact, head to any traditional ouzerie and you’ll find locals ordering them as ad hoc accompaniments to a stiff shot of ouzo. They’re filled with rice, herbs and sometimes tomatoes.
A moment on the lips is worth a lifetime on the hips for this indulgent Rhodian dessert. The fluffy pancakes in this dish come swimming in a sticky honey and cinnamon sauce. The whole thing is given a touch of crunch with chopped walnuts and sesame seeds.
Around 7,500 acres of land are dedicated to wine production in Rhodes. The best-known wineries are Cair and Emery, and the grapes used include an aromatic green variety called Athiri and a red grape called Mandearia.
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Whitewashed houses, ambling donkeys and car-free cobbled streets are the order of the day at Lindos, on the east coast of Rhodes. This pretty village has a preservation order on it which means nothing can disturb its authentic old-school Greekness. It welcomes lively nights, though, so you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants here.
One of the best things about east-coast Kolymbia, midway between lively Faliraki and ancient Lindos, is that it’s managed to remain a secret for so long. Even in the height of summer, there’s space to spread out along the Blue Flag beach. Leading away from the seafront is Eucalyptus Road, the main thoroughfare, where a handful of cafés, bars and restaurants stay open after sundown.
Set on the east coast of Rhodes, the teeny resort of Pefkos takes its name from the pine trees fringing the lovely sandy beach. It’s a former fishing village that hasn’t lost its old-world charm – as you’ll see from the welcoming bars and restaurants along its 2 main streets. The appeal here is the slow tempo, but livelier Lindos is close by and heritage-packed Rhodes Town is just up the coast, too.
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