How to reach it
Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese, well-known for its rich historical past and wonderful beaches. The International Airport of Rhodes is “Diagoras” and it is one of the busiest airports in Greece. It receives daily national flights from Athens, Thessaloniki and other locations, while in summer it receives many flights from most European Countries too. The flight from Athens to Rhodes takes estimated around 50 minutes.
You can easily reach Rhodes by ferry from Piraeus port, as there are available routes approximately 4 to 5 times per week. Unfortunately the trip lasts from 16 to 18 hours because the ferries usually stop in many islands of the Cyclades as well before arriving in Rhodes. Rhodes is also connected by ferry with Kos, Patmos, Leros, Simi and more. There are also some ferry routes that link Rhodes with Heraklion and Karpathos.
Coordinates: 36°24′N 28°13′E
Capital: Rhodes City
Area: 1400 km2
Peak: Attavyros 1215 m
Main Port: Rhodes Central Port
Airport: Rhodes RHO
The name of the island comes from the ancient Greek work Rhódon that literary means Rose, sometimes it is still called the island of roses. The first traces of life in Rhodes get lost in myths and legends. The first inhabitants were called Heliades, children of the protective god Helios and Clymene the Oceanid, and the Telchines, a strange kind of people who supposedly resembled demons. The tradition talks about skilled sailors and skilled craftsmen who taught the ancient Rhodians how to forge and process stone.
According to this myth, after Zeus’s victory against the Giants, he decided to divide the earth among the Olympian gods, giving to each God earth unless of Helios.
By the myth, he was absent and “No one remembered to include him in the draw”! When he came back he asked his share, but Zeus told him that he was too late because the rest of the gods would not agree. Helios was disappointed but asked Zeus and the other gods to promise that the first land that was to rise out of the sea it would be his own one.
As he spoke, a beautiful island slowly emerged from the bottom of the blue sea, Rhodes. Helios bathed Rhodes with his own radiance and made it the most beautiful island in the Aegean Sea. Rhodes had several other names, such as Ophiousa (because a lot of snakes lived there), Asteria (cause of many falling stars), Makaria (for its arresting beauty) and Atavyria (in honor of the highest mountain, Atavyros).
Another name used instead of Rhodes was Telchina, because its first inhabitants where said to be the Telchines , gifted metal workers who lived on the island in the Prehistoric Age. The first known ‘human’ inhabitants were the Carians, a tribe from Asia Minor. Later the island has been occupied by the Phoenicians, great merchants who made Rhodes an important commercial centre. Their leader was Cadmus, who introduced the first alphabet and founded the first Phoenician colony. The great civilization of the Minoans from Crete settled also on Rhodes. Those Minoans occupied peacefully the island for many centuries, until the tribe of the Achaeans from the Greek mainland came. Around 1400 BC, the Achaeans founded a powerful state that very soon extended its influence. Centuries later, the Dorians came to Rhodes and developed really important cities as Lindos, Ialysos and Kamiros. Those three cities finally grew immensely in power and wealth. The strategic position of Rhodes gave to the island fame and wealth. The Rhodian ships sailed everywhere in the Mediterranean, bringing riches and glory back to motherland. Between 1000 and 600 BC, the cities of Kamiros, Ialysos, and Lindos, colonised many areas along the west coast of Asia Minor, Sicily, France and Spain.
Initially, those three cities were independent one from the other one, but later decided to unite with the other Doric cities of Kos, Knidos and Halicarnassus, to form a federation of six cities, the was called the Doric Hexapolis.
In the 5th century BC, Rhodes suffered many changes as a result of warfare. For a short period has been dominated by the Persians. When the Greeks defeated the Persians, Rhodes became a member of the Delian League under the leadership of Athens.
During the Peloponnesian War the Rhodians decided to found a new city and they unified the three largest cities on the island. They were very aware of the meaning of the motto “power in unity”. The new city was called Rhodes, after the island itself. Its foundation in 408 BC constitutes a landmark in the history of the island.
The new city came under the influence of the two great Greek powers of that era, Athens and Sparta. The Rhodians lost no time in siding with the Macedonians. Later, during the siege of Tyre, they helped Alexander the Great to conquer it.
When Alexander’s empire fell in to pieces, Rhodes developed close trade and political relations with the Ptolemeus Dynasty of Egypt. This was the main reason for Antigonus, King of Syria to try to capture the town of Rhodes. The Rhodians, protected by their mighty walls, managed to resist and Demetrius failed to conquer the island, marking the beginning of a new era for Rhodes, during which trade and marine activities reached their peak. The Rhodians, established the ‘International Marine Law of the Rhodians’, a code of law that still today is one of the most important ancient legal documents in the world.
Rome started having affairs in Greece and in the Eastern Mediterranean from the end of the 3rd Century BC. The Rhodians maintained a friendly stance towards the Romans. However, the Romans wanted to restrict the power of Rhodes, so they found a pretext to declare Delos a free port and limited the Rhodian commerce. Rhodes was compelled to sign a treaty obliging it to have the same friends and enemies as Rome. The agreement was a disaster for Rhodes and after the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Rhodians refused to aid Cassius against his enemies, so he attacked and conquered the island in 42 BC taking away more than 3,000 works of art.
Rhodes, had a strategical position near the Holy Land, the history says the islanders accepted the new religion, the Christianism that was the new religion at Lindos already in 58 AD and converted many of the inhabitants. When the Roman Empire has been divided in two, Rhodes was often overrun and destroyed by enemies such as the Persians and the Saracens. Rhodes did not have any direct communication with Western Europe until the 11th Century, when In 1082, the Venetians where given the right to set up a trading station in the port. A century later, Richard the Lionheart and King Phillip of France arrived with a fleet to enlist mercenaries for their crusade. The crusaders conquered Constantinople in 1204, and a rich landowner named Leo Gavallas, from the former capital of the Empire, declared himself Despot of Rhodes.
The Byzantine emperors captured their capital back from the Crusaders in 1261, and Rhodes returned under the control of the Genoese admirals whose fleet remained in its harbour. In 1306, one of those admirals, Vignolo Vignoli, sold Rhodes, Kos and Leros to the Knights of St John in Jerusalem, who by force had gained full control of the island by 1309.
The Knights Period
When the Knights occupied Rhodes, the island became the most powerful city in Eastern Mediterranean. They left imposing many important buildings in Rhodes, and gave the city the particular character it retains to this day, with its impregnable walls, gates, churches, hospitals, Inns and palaces.
During the occupation of the Knights, Rhodes acquired considerable power and economic importance. It was transformed into a bastion of the West, and an important port of call in trade between Europe and the East. Rhodes was the paradise for merchants because of the variety of things and materials that they could find there. During the Knights period, rich Italians such as Florentine businessman and banking houses established branches on Rhodes Island giving it more power. The Knights remained in Rhodes until 1522, when the last of the Grand Masters, Villiers de l’Isle Adam, surrendered the island to Suleiman the Magnificent.
Turkish and Italian Occupation
The Turkish occupation of Rhodes was the darkest period in its history, as it was for the entire Greece. The island was under the control of Kapudan Pasha. The city itself was capital of the Aegean Region and was the headquarter of the General Administrator.
The Greek inhabitants of the city were forced to leave the walled Town and settle outside it, forming new suburbs which they called ‘marasia‘. The Turks never managed to totally dominate the island, and the Turkish part of population was always a small minority. During those dark days of foreign occupation, only Lindos were able to flourish thanks to their stock and production in foodstuffs, clothing, household utensils, silverware, and perfumes. Turkish occupation of the Dodecanese ended in 1912 when the Italians, helped by the local Greeks, occupied the island. At beginning they treated the local residents well, but the raise of Fascism led to more expansionist policies, and Italy denied Rhodes the right to self-determination. It was the beginning of armed resistance. After the defeat of the Axis powers, Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands came under British military administration until 1948, when the Greek flag was finally raised over the Governor’s Palace.
The 1957 was the year of the big change, a new city plan was approved by a Decree and in 1960 the entire medieval town was designated as a protected monument by the Ministry of Culture. In 1961 and 1963 new Decrees were issued concerning the new city plan. In 1988, the old town of Rhodes was designated as a World Heritage City by UNESCO.
Where to Sleep
Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese Islands and is a place where lovers of ancient history and of modern beach holidays can find both. Culture lovers will enjoy spending time in Rhodes old town, where they can explore ancient Minoan and Neolithic history, night life lovers can enjoy party towns, such as Faliraki. Although much of Rhodes has been developed to cater for the tourist industry, there are unspoilt towns across the island which are slowly developing into quiet resorts. Both Kiotari and Pefkos are quiet resorts that are ideal for couples that do not like crowds or that are wanting to enjoy a romantic holiday. A lovely town is Lindos: a town that is home to sprawling golden sands and inviting turquoise seas. You will find traditional Greek tavernas in all resorts, serving up Pitaroudia, a typical island’s dish. Rhodes is also home to some of the best wine producers in Greece and tourists definitely enjoy a glass or two during candle-lit dinners near the sea. Lindos is, arguably, the most beautiful town on Rhodes. Its cobbled streets are lined with white washed houses, large flower pots, olive trees and quaint churches, that make the perfect backdrop to your holiday snap, think Mamma Mia and you are almost there. There are two main beaches, for those that like sun, sea and sand, with Pallas beach to the North and St Paul’s Bay to the South. St Paul’s is a great spot for snorkelling or fans of the sea can take a glass bottomed boat trip to see what tropical fish they can spot.
Properties Travellers Love
Mitsis Village Rhodes
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Porto Angeli Beach Resort
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Esperides Beach Resort
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Akti Imperial Resort & Spa
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Esperos Mare Rhodes
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Princess Andriana Resort
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Bello Blue Luxury Villas
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Things to see/do
Rhodes is one of the most beautiful and popular islands in Greece. It offers medieval sightseeing, amazing views, and clean beaches with gold sand that are famous all over the world, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The Old Town of Rhodes, with the Palace of Grand Master, the Street of the Knights, the old port of Mandraki and Hippocrates Square, is the most important place to visit on the island. A drive around will bring you to many other sights, such as the Acropolis of Lindos, the Monastery of Filerimos, the Springs of Kallithea and various castles spread on the island. Apart from this sightseeing, Rhodes has many beaches worth to visit, such as Tsambika, Ladiko, Kallithea, Saint Paul’s Bay, and others. The beaches of Rhodes are organized and many of them have water sports centers with fun games. Very popular in Rhodes is windsurfing and kite surfing. The best windsurfing spot is Prassonissi, on the southern side of the island, but Theologos, Ixia and other beaches close to Rhodes Town are also nice for this sports. Many diving centers have also opened over the last years in Rhodes island, offering courses and organizing diving trips to close islands and old wrecks. Another activity in Rhodes is hiking in the inland. The countryside of the island is crossed by old footsteps leading to green valleys, mountainous villages, Medieval castles, and secluded beaches to swim.