It’s nearly impossible to say no to the Greek Islands. But why would you?
So, on this 30-day trip from Moscow to Turkey, it seemed inevitable that a few Greek islands would make their way onto the itinerary.
Read More: Crete Greece in 5 Perfect Days
It was just after 9:00pm when my short flight from Crete touched down on the island of Rhodes. I caught the local bus into town (a nice money saver at 3 euro versus 27 euro for a taxi) and twenty minutes later I arrived in Rhodes Town.
My hotel, Oktober Rooms, was a short walk from the bus station. The hotel turned out to be a great budget choice. Clean, modern rooms and an ideal central location for exploring the island.
The complicated history of Rhodes
The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes has known many civilizations throughout its turbulent history.
Inhabited since the end of the Neolithic period (4000 BC), the city of Rhodes prospered for centuries during its Golden Age. In 164 BC, Rhodes lost its independence and became a province of the Roman Empire. Over time, Rhodes developed into a renowned center of learning for arts and science.
During the Byzantine period, Rhodes evolved into an important military base and was sold to the Order of St John of Jerusalem. During the reign of the Knights of the Order of St John, the island’s fortifications were expanded and reinforced.
When the Arabs attacked in the 7th century, they occupied Rhodes for several decades. Then, in 1522, the Ottoman Turks captured the city. During their rule, Rhodes lost much of its international character.
By 1912, the Italians were in command and began transforming the city into much of what you see today.
One day in Rhodes
With just one full day to explore the island of Rhodes, I had two primary things on my to-do list:
1) Explore the old walled city of Rhodes
2) Visit the town of Lindos (reportedly the island’s most beautiful town)
I began my day with a walk along the marina toward the Old Town.
The ferry from Rhodes to Symi
The first order of business was buying a ferry ticket to Symi for the following day. Along the waterfront, endless counters offered ferry tickets and boating day trips. I finally found the one I needed, Dodecanese Seaways.
There are two ferry options to Symi each day. The first is a 9:30am departure that makes a stop on the southern end of Symi to visit the Panormitis Monastery before continuing on to town.
The second is a direct ferry to town departing at 8:30am. Unfortunately, the 9:30am (the one I hoped to book) was totally booked for the next day so I had to settle for the direct at 8:30am.
Exploring Old Town Rhodes
With that done, I wandered along the water until I came to the imposing entrance to the Old Town known as the Marine Gate.
This is my first visit to the Dodecanese Islands, so I was initially surprised by the Muslim influences in the Old Town of Rhodes until I read a little more about the island’s history of various conquerors.
The Arab and Ottoman periods resulted in the construction of a number of mosques that still stand within the Old Town walls.
The streets are very different from anything else I’ve seen in Greece. They actually remind me more of the Bascarsija neighborhood in Sarajevo. Not at all what I expected but still beautiful.
The Old Town is full of the usual tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. Yet I find myself easily drawn into its medieval feel as I wander along the Street of the Knights.
Palace of the Grand Masters
I work my way over to the town’s crown jewel, the Palace of the Grand Masters.
The most important monument from the period of the Knights’ rule, the palace was neglected by the Turks (who turned it into a prison) and nearly blown up along with the Church of St. John in 1856. The Italians began an enormous reconstruction project and today its Gothic architecture towers over the Old Town
The Clock Tower
For my final stop in the walled city, a birdseye view over the old town from the belfry of the clock tower. Built at the end of the 7th century, the clock tower sits on the ruins of the Byzantine tower connected with the Palace of the Grand Masters.
It was also virtually destroyed in the 1856 explosion but was lovingly restored to its original Baroque glory and now offers the best viewpoint in the city.
It’s the best spot to get a view of the city from above before I catch the bus to Lindos.
The Village of Lindos
Considered the most picturesque town on the island of Rhodes, Lindos owes its beauty to the strict regulations of the Archaeological Society which controls all development in the village. T
he traditional white stucco with bright blue trim is the classic Greek façade I’ve come to expect from the islands but haven’t seen yet on this trip.
A little over an hour after departing Rhodes Town, the bus rounded its final corner and my first view of Lindos was awe-inspiring. The whitewashed village is literally sandwiched between a stunning arc of sand below and the towering Acropolis of Lindos above.
I knew right away that I wanted to see both the beach and the Acropolis up close. From my current position that meant a lot of ground to cover.
The bus dropped me off at a road above the village so I followed the road down to start with the beach. Lindos actually has two beaches and they are both lovely (and both packed with tourists).
Time to take a walk up to the village.
For those not willing to do all the walking necessary to get around Lindos, not to worry. There are plenty of donkeys available to get you up those steep hills. A nice photo op, surely, but I chose to walk.
The village of Lindos, aside from the standard assortment of souvenir stands, is majestic in its architectural purity. It’s a gorgeous example of a Greek village straight out of central casting.
As I wandered its narrow arteries, I found signs pointing the way to the Acropolis and followed the path. Before long, the village was far below me and I entered the medieval walls of the Castle of the Knights.
The Acropolis of Lindos
The Acropolis of Lindos contains the ruins of Rhodes’ three Dorian towns including the especially impressive Sanctuary of Athena.
The views from the Acropolis are incredible from all sides. It’s easy to see why people consider Lindos the island’s most beautiful town.
By the time I make my way back down to the village it’s nearly 5pm. I arrive at the bus stop just in time to grab one of the last seats on the packed 5:30pm bus back to town.
Back in Rhodes town, I again passed through the gates to the Old Town to find dinner at a taverna before walking back to the hotel.
It was a terrific day exploring Rhodes and I have no doubt there are many more places to explore on this beautiful island. But, as usual, time is short.
I’d love to return to Rhodes someday to see more. But, for now, I am incredibly excited to continue on to island #2 in the Dodecanese tomorrow (in fact, getting there was the main reason for my stop on Rhodes!)
Next up, Symi!