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 Best Places to Visit in Rhodes

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Rhodes, Greece Travel Guide  
 
A cruise is a great way to sample  Rhodes, but only one-day in port will leave you wanting more time here.

 

 

 

 

 

   The Palace of the Grandmasters in Rhodes  from the water

While not considered one of the prettiest of the Greek Islands, Rhodes (Ródos) located just  7 miles off the coast of Turkey, offers attractive beaches, a dry but warm climate, as well as interesting archaeological and historical sights.   It offers a chance to explore the historic home of the Knights of St. John, who along with the  Knights Templar, played a key role in the Crusades and the history of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Rhodes is a good place to use as a base if you are interested in touring the remaining Dodecanese chain of Islands (Kos, Patmos and Kalymnos and 11 other islands). 

The entrance to the Harbor at Rhodes, the St. Nicholas Lighthouse and the Deer statue whre the Colossus once stood

This photo shows the entrance to the harbor at Rhodes.  The St. Nicholas lighthouse is in the background.  The  two, deer statues are thought to mark where the feet of the Colossus of Rhodes once stood.

Legend has it that the Colossus of Rhodes (an enormous statue honoring one of the Greek gods) spanned the ancient harbor of the town of Rhodes.  Note that the island and its main town have the same name of Ródos

The existence of the statue is not debated, as it was described by Pliny the Elder (1st Century AD) who witnessed its ruins. There is great debate, however, as to whether the statue of the Colossus was set in the harbor or on nearby cliffs.  The monument was created by Charles of Lindos (Rhodes) in the 3rd century BC and destroyed by a major earthquake 50 to 60 years later. The ruins of the statue were eventually sold off and there are no remnants or ruins to be seen.

 

In the early 1300s, the Knights of St. John (the Knights Hospitaller),  attacked Rhodes, which had become a base of operations for pirates focused on plundering Christian trade in the eastern Mediterranean and eastern Aegean Seas.   The Knights vanquished the pirates and established themselves as the rulers of the island. During their tenure, they constructed massive fortifications and a thousand bed hospital.  In addition, they developed a large fleet and transformed Rhodes into a formidable sea power.

It has been hypothesized by historians that the "shame" of being ousted from the Holy Lands by the Muslim forces of Saladin, led the Knights of St. John to use their fleet harass Muslim trade along the Levant (the coast from Egypt to Greece}.  The Knights used the spoils from their victories to fund and expand their hospital system. 

From the fourteenth through the 16th century, the Hospitallers continued to fortify Rhodes and the impressive walls guarding the present day harbor are an example of these efforts.  The plundering of Muslim shipping and the Hospitallers practice a capturing Muslims and using them as slaves to row their war galleys brought the attention of the Ottoman Empire and initiated a  century long battle between these two antagonists.

  

The Walls of the Fortress were thick and sturdy The Fortress  stands proudly over the harbor at Rhodes

The Knights of St. John and the Ottoman Turks contested Rhodes several times, always in extremely brutal combat.  The decisive battle was initiated in June of 1522 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the great grandson of the Mehmet the Conqueror who had captured Constantinople in 1453.  Suleiman and the Ottomans prevailed over the Knights of St. John in 1523 after a siege in which the town was bombarded for six-months. 

Curiously, Suleiman allowed the defeated Knights to surrender and depart with their lives.  It is an interesting historical footnote that one of the departing Knights was Jean de La Valette, who would become head of the order after the Knights relocated to Malta. As fate would have it, Suleiman turned his attention to Malta in 1565, where La Valette turned the tables on an Ottoman invasion force that had a significant numerical advantage and superior equipment.

Rhodes' unique historical affiliations with the Levant and Christian Europe provides the island a unique signature, as is true of many islands in the Dodecanese chain.  The City of Rhodes mixes the old with the new, although the tourism  has taken a definite toll on this historically important island.  Nevertheless, it is a great place to walk and bask in the centuries of history. 

If you are on a cruise, enter the city through a gate leading to the Central Square, which is adorned by a large fountains and surrounded by many gaily colored shops and restaurants. If you are looking of lace, tablecloths or various embroidered work, this is the place for you. 

Rhodes - Palace of the Grandmasters

  • The most impressive site in the town of Rhodes is the Palace of the Grandmasters.  Although the original building was largely destroyed by an accidental gunpowder explosion during the Turkish rule, it has been completely restored.   
    • At its peak in the 14th Century, the sizable hospital was known as the "Palais des Malades" and could provide aid to over one thousand patients.  Legend holds that each bed had linen sheets and all plates used for feeding the patients were made of silver. 
    • The Italians had seized Rhodes from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 and ruled the island until 1943. In the 1930s, the building was restored and revitalized by Mussolini who thought it would make him a lovely palace. 
    • The central hospice area was  a cavernous, dark room with even darker small cells for the patients on the sides of the large hall. These "healing rooms" quickly induce claustrophobia and it seems as if the summer  heat would have made the location unbearable for recuperation.
    • The museum at the Palace has a modest collection of antiquities, featuring the carved heads of various gods and goddesses and plenty of amphorae (jugs) used for carrying water, wine and oil.

    

The interior of the Palace of the Grandmasters in Rhodes, GreeceThe interior courtyard of the Palace of the Grandmaster in Rhodes, Greece.

 

 

Lindos

The ruins at Lindos attract the attention of most tourists who visit the island. You will need to rent a car or join a tour to visit Lindos as it is approximately 30 miles from the town of Rhodes. 

In order to access the ruins, park in the marked lot just outside of Lindos, walk through the small village and up the hill.  Along the way, you will pass interesting shops filled with fine linens, crewel and embroideries. The path up the hill is filled with local merchants displaying and selling their home made lace tablecloths (as well as beach towels made in China). 

The ruins are a very popular  and can be quite crowded in high season.  The sun is relentless in the summer, so visit as early in the morning as possible.  Not only will you avoid the heat, but also miss the battalions of tour buses headed to this scenic and interesting location.

    Ruins of the ancient temple at Lindos
    The ruins of the Ancient Temple at Lindos on Rhodes.

The original Temple (Sanctuary) of Athena Lindia at the top of the hill at Lindos was originally constructed in the 8th or 9th century B.C. (although local guides will tell you 1500 B.C.) and destroyed by fire 500 years later.  The Temple now gracing the top of the hill (called the Acropolis at Lindos by many) was built in the 4th century B.C.

The Temple of Athena Lindia at Lindos is quite spectacular

The Temple of Athena Lindia in Lindos, Rhodes

There are several distinct sections to the Acropolis at Lindos, but the Temple of Athena and the beautiful view of St. Paul's Harbor are highlights of any visit. The name St. Paul's Harbor is based on the legend that St. Paul's boat landed here during the Apostle's visit to Rhodes. 

As mentioned previously, there is much to do and see at Lindos and you should consider a guided tour of the area to understand the importance of this site.  For more information on visiting Lindos see this official site.

 

 

Other Interesting historical sites

Finally, there are two other archaeological sites of interest.  If you have the time, see the Acropolis at Rhodes  (the city) and Kamiros (on the west coast road), a city which was abandoned over two thousand years ago and rediscovered only in the 20th century.

Additional Resources

See the website of the Rhodes Hotel Association for a website that has a good accounting of the attractions in Rhodes, as well as information on tour operators, hotels and dining in this island paradise.

The official tourism website for Greece is Visit Greece.  It covers many of the attractions we think are the best places to visit in Rhodes, and others that did not make our list.

For country facts on Greece, as well as travel information related to visas, driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other travel-related information, see this page on Greece Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State Department.  Regardless of your home country, we think you will find the information provided to be useful when planning a trip to Greece. If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling the web.


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Another interior scene from the Palace of the Grandmasters The Palace of the Grandmasters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lindos and its temple are a working archaeological site The Acropolis at Lindos

 

The Palace of the Governor at Lindos The remains of the Governor's Palace at Lindos, which was fortified by the Knights of St. John (the Hospitallers) in the 14th century.

St. Paul's Harbor  is exceptionally scenic St. Paul's Harbor viewed from the Acropolis at Lindos

 

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