When I unexpectedly had a spare week free during my summer break I panicked. David had to work. What would I do? Where could I go? After some research I thought about doing some sort of fitness holiday. I immediately contacted my friend, Inga, and asked her if she was interested in a getaway to a Greek island. Needless to say, it did not take any persuasion. We did some more research and suddenly thought, “what are we doing signing up for pain and exhaustion for a week of our summer holiday break?”
Why not just go on a beautiful getaway to Rhodes, Greece? A Greek friend of David’s had highly recommended this Dodecanese island just a hop skip and a jump from the Turkish coastline.
So it was decided. We were going to leave our partners at home and live on a Greek island for a week.
Island life rocks! Sun, fun and relaxation. What more can a person want? Life goes slowly on most islands, Rhodes is no different. The first thing you need to get your head around is that you need to take everything in your stride. Do not stress about mishaps that may occur or what may seem like a lack of organisation. Laugh it all off, things will work themselves out.
Check out our trip to the Italian island of Sicily.
The People of Rhodes
The locals of Rhodes are incredibly friendly. They possess an openness and warmth that is sometimes hard to find these days. From the first day we started exploring this beautiful island, people stopped their cars to allow us to cross the road, despite there being a lack of a zebra crossing or pedestrian lights. Bus drivers waited for us if they saw us frantically running to catch the bus.
You quickly feel a sense of community. Of looking out for each other in Rhodes. The buses don’t always come very often so if there is a chance you might miss one, you run for your life to catch it. Little old ladies will run for the bus with you while screaming like the end of the world is coming. You may end up sitting on the steps of the crowded bus entrance so you don’t go flying through the window but it is all part of the experience. You need to listen carefully as the driver calls out the stops as there is no technology such as microphones or screens used here.
The day after the experience mentioned above we waited to catch a bus again. This time we were on time. As we boarded the bus my friend tried to ask if it was going to stop at our required stop. At first, the driver did not seem to understand English and then he noticed me standing in the same place as I was the night before. We had made a new best friend instantaneously. I quickly confirmed that we were on the correct bus. As we were alighting the bus the driver cheerily called out, “See you tonight!”. Unfortunately we were leaving this little slice of heaven that day.
Tipping is certainly not customary in Rhodes. So much so, that when we caught our first taxi to our Airbnb apartment and tried to tip our driver he gave the money back, and refused to accept it. Waiters were often surprised when we rounded our bill up to the nearest five euros, yet very appreciative.
Oh the Seafood!
Where to start? Cheap, delicious, and flavoursome are the first words that come to mind. Being an island, seafood is plentiful, fresh and exceptionally good value. I would recommend Alexis 4 Seasons restaurant if you are in the old town. A lovely little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and a cool respite from the summer heat. It offers traditional Greek food and a rooftop with fabulous views of the old town after sunset.
If you are day tripping down the south-east coast, or perhaps even staying in the area, then you definitely need to visit Stegna Kozas in the small seaside village of Stegna. The decor is a little quirky and the owner is known to walk around bare-foot but it offers outstanding seafood. Besides, the restaurant is literally built over the water so the views are worth the visit alone.
Ask if they have koloxtip, a special type of lobster found in the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately we lucked out the day we went and they didn’t have it. Our Greek friend also recommends the shrimp pasta (for two people), sea urchin and rosetia (fish) as second options. If this doesn’t take your fancy then pretty much anything on the menu is not only fresh but excellent value for money, with more than sufficiently sized portions. Bring the stretchy pants!
Something Sweet Perhaps?
If you have any room after all these delectable main meals you will definitely want some ice-cream. Da Vinci Gelato and Palladion were both recommended to us and they did not disappoint. Both are award-winning gelaterias and offer a multitude of familiar and original flavours. You should definitely get ice-cream in a cone at Da Vinci just because they have different flavours. I am not even a huge ice-cream fan but couldn’t help myself at these two stores.
If ice-cream is not your thing or you are looking for a little snack for morning or afternoon tea then you definitely need to try some of the Greek pastries. We were incredibly lucky to be staying across the road from Karavolias, a rather large bakery that offers everything your heart desires, from savoury to sweet. I was like a kid in a candy store. So much creamy goodness on display! Oh and they make a pretty good coffee as well.
If you are in the old town I would recommend ΦΟΥΡΝΑΡΙΚΑ. This is an authentic bakery that has a constant flow of local traffic buying one of their many cheese-y and/or spinach-y butter-y filo pastry parcels of goodness.
Given that Rhodes is an island it makes sense that there is a prevalent beach bar culture along the coast. Ronda doubles as a beach bar and restaurant. Although a little pretentious, it is clearly frequented by the beautiful people of Rhodes, it is not too over the top. The Mediterranean views and the cool, relaxed vibe are enough to compensate. You can also be entertained by the daring teenagers diving off the diving board into the warm Mediterranean. Prices are a little higher than other parts of the island but the quality of the food still makes it reasonable value.
Amalfi coast restaurant and beach bar was recommended to us by our Airbnb host. After going to Ronda we were a little sceptical that it could live up to the same standard. It may not have the same hipster, chill-out lounge atmosphere but the views are just as impressive and the service was friendly and efficient. The food was appetising and it was the perfect location to watch the sunset.
Wandering the Old Town
The Old Town of Rhodes, Rodos, is steeped in history and is easy to walk. It definitely deserves at least a day to explore the main sites. The number one rule is to get off the main streets, away from the hordes and hawkers. Throw out your map, it wasn’t much help to us anyway, and get lost in the tiny cobble-stoned alleyways. You feel like you have stepped back in time as you wind your way through serpentine alleyways that seem to lead to nowhere.
Whatever you do, do not follow the crowds of tour groups that are mostly cruise ship day-trippers. If you want to ensure that you stumble upon hidden gems and peaceful cafes and historical points of interest walk in the other direction to the tour groups.
So Much History!
There is so much history to explore in such a small area in this medieval old town. It is probably most well-known for the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, a medieval military order that looked after the sick and less fortunate. It was made up of religious orders from different parts of what we now know as Europe. The Avenue of the Knights is lined with the inns that were the living quarters of the knights, divided into seven different tongues or languages. The Grand Palace, where the Grand Master lived, lies at the end of the street.
Everyone from the Minoans to the Romans to the Ottomans to the Italians (and anyone else who tried to invade parts of Europe throughout history), left their mark on Rhodes. For this reason, the Old Town also consists of a Jewish and Turkish quarter. By getting lost amongst the labyrinthine streets you will find all sorts of remains from various inhabitants over thousands of years.
São Miguel, Azores, is a Portuguese island we visited in the winter and provided a very different island experience to Rhodes.
Day Trip To Lindos
A day trip to Lindos is a must. This gorgeous ancient Greek fishing village, that was once a major trading centre, possesses clifftop ruins and stunning ocean views. Its history dates as far back as 10 B.C.! The steep winding streets are lined with cute white-washed houses draped in beautiful bright pink bougainvillaea.
The highlight above the town is of course the citadel that was once fortified by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Knights of St John and the Ottomans. The castle dates back to 6 B.C. and at the time of writing costs €12 to enter. Once inside, wander amongst the relics of thousands of years of history.
It is advisable to visit outside of the hours of 10:00 – 16:00 to avoid the busloads of tourists. However, it is quite easy to escape the crowds by exploring the alleyways that deviate from the main streets filled with souvenir paraphernalia. Get lost and slowly make your way upwards to find an alternate route up to the citadel (avoid the one at the entrance to the town). As you ascend you will stumble across delightful cafes with some of the most magnificent views of the picturesque Mediterranean Sea.
Whatever you do, do not take a donkey up to the castle, especially if you are not a child. These poor animals do not always have constant access to food and water in the heat of summer. There is also the poor guy who has to clean up after them to help keep the paths clean. Yes, the hike up can be taxing in the middle of summer with the heat of the midday sun beating down on you, that’s when you stop at one of the cafes and enjoy the magnificent views. Suck it up and think about the poor animals having to lug you around.
Where do I start with the beaches? Coming from Australia it is hard for me to be impressed by European beaches but Rhodes certainly passed the test. The water is super clean and an aqua blue colour so bright that it seems like someone oversaturated it. Many of the beaches are pebble beaches so it would be advisable to take some water shoes so you don’t look like the rookie tourist hobbling from one foot to the other as you make your way in and out of the water.
Stegna beach is small but spectacular. Surrounded by modest, rocky hills dotted with green shrubbery that meet the part sandy, part pebble beach and the warm clear blue water of the Mediterranean. Tsambika and Afandou beach are nice but big and crowded. Kallithea is also meant to be a lovely beach.
Anthony Quinn Bay is gorgeous and was possibly our favourite beach. Named after the American-Mexican actor who loved Rhodes so much that after filming in Rhodes he wanted to buy a bay there, as you do. After being promised the land it was later annulled by the Greek government. This enclosed rocky bay is popular but a little more off the beaten track. The warm crystal clear waters invite you back in again and again.
Most beaches have sunbeds to rent. As already mentioned many of them are pebble beaches so a sunbed is worth the money, particularly if you are planning to stay for a while. Renting a sunbed costs €5 for the day so a pretty good bargain for a little comfort.
When To Go
As with most Greek islands, the weather in Rhodes is pleasant all year round with plenty of sunshine. The average monthly temperatures are 13°C in January and 28°C in July. We went in the midst of summer and enjoyed temperatures around 30°C each day.
When visiting attractions go early in the morning or late in the afternoon in order to avoid the boatloads of tourists. The old town on a Sunday is deserted because there are not any ships docking. This may mean not everything is open but it also means that you experience more of a local feel that is not as frenzied. Our very friendly taxi driver who took us to the airport suggested that Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday are the best days to be a tourist as there are less flights landing and fewer cruise ships docking.
How To Get Around
The bus is the best way to get into the old town in Rhodes since parking is limited. Bus tickets can be bought on the bus or in a mini market near the bus stop. Buses do not come on time so relax, don’t expect timetables to be accurate, they are a suggestion only. You may need to flag down the bus to get it to stop.
If you want to travel around Rhodes then renting a car is your best option. We rented one for a day to go down to Lindos and the eastern side of the island. We found prices to be pretty consistent amongst the plethora of car rental establishments.
Taxis are also reasonably priced and a quick and easy way to get to and from the airport. There is a bus but it is not as frequent or as comfortable, buses are on the older side.
Where To Stay
We chose to stay on the west side of the island. It was quieter and away from the resorts and felt more local. Rodos, the old town, was a short bus ride away. We stayed at an Airbnb owned by a lovely lady named Sevi. She was incredibly helpful in giving us recommendations and checked up on us to see if we needed anything throughout our stay. Her apartment was clean, well equipped and spacious and a short walk to the beach. It was on the main road but we were not bothered by excessive noise. We could not recommend Sevi’s apartment enough.
It has taken me a while to complete this post. Almost a year on and I have finally finished it. In these uncertain times it has been fantastic to reminisce about our wonderfully relaxing time in Rhodes. I would recommend it for a girls trip away, a romantic holiday or a family trip. This beautiful Greek island has so much to offer. Tourism is a major income for it so get out there and start booking as Greece starts to open its borders.
All opinions in this post are our own. We were not paid for mentioning any links contained within the post. A special thanks to Inga for joining me on this trip and to Alex and Danai for all of their outstanding recommendations.
Rhodes is only the second Greek Island I have visited, Santorini being the other one. Let us know which Greek Islands you would recommend in the comments below.
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