While not considered one of the prettiest of
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).
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
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 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
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
- 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
- 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 courtyard of the Palace of the Grandmaster in Rhodes, Greece.
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Destination Guide Index
or Googling the web.