Rhodes Island Greece - Attractions & Sightseeing
Rhodes is one of the Greek Dodecanese Islands located in the Aegean Sea 250 kilometres south east of the mainland port of Piraeus. It's the biggest and busiest island in the archipelago and its notorious holiday resort Faliraki has been the focus of much media attention due to the drunken excesses of young visitors (mostly the British variety). But there's so much more to Rhodes than the wild beach parties and Eurovision "Thong Contests" so highly publicised in the British press.
This is an island steeped in history with some fascinating ancient sites and a stunningly beautiful capital, Rhodes Town, which is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Hire a car to explore the hinterland behind infamous Faliraki and you'll find unspoilt mountain villages, isolated hill top monasteries and rich fertile plains.
The island is actually much closer to Asia Minor than mainland Greece - it's just south of the Turkish port of Marmaris which is an easy day trip by excursion boat. Its location at the crossroads between east and west has made the island a prime target for various invaders over the centuries. Rhodes bears many legacies and battle scars left by those who have sought to control it since the first settlers arrived here more than 3,000 years ago. The Romans, Turks and Italians have all made their mark here but it was the Order of the Knights of St John which had the greatest impact on the capital, Rhodes Town. Visit the old town today to marvel at its remarkably well preserved medieval citadel dominated by the magnificent Palace of the Grand Masters.
The Knights of St John were originally a holy order whose mission was to tend Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. They later became a military order and established a base on Rhodes after "buying" the island from the Genoese pirate Admiral Vignoli in 1306. They ruled here for more than 200 years before being ousted by the Turks.
A visit to the impressive fortress, which was the seat of 19 Grand Masters, has got to be on the top of your "must see" list. But beyond its walls you'll find a bustling modern town with one of the liveliest night scenes in Greece and a major sea port serving not only Athens, Crete and the Aegean islands but also Turkey, Cyprus and Israel.
One of the island's greatest claims to fame has tragically disappeared (and in fact may not ever have existed!). The Colossus of Rhodes was reputedly built astride the harbour of Mandraki in 305 BC. The bronze statue of the island's sun god Helios stood 32 metres high and took 12 years to build. It was toppled by an earthquake in 225 AD and lay undisturbed for more than 800 years in accordance with a pronouncement from the Oracle at Delphi (where the high priestess issued various utterances on behalf of the god Apollo). In 654 AD it was apparently carted off to Syria by more than 900 camels to be sold as scrap metal.
The east coast of the island is peppered with lovely beaches many of which remain uncrowded and relatively unspoilt compared with frantic Faliraki.
The island has an international airport at Paradisi 16 kilometres west of the town. There are regular Olympic Airways flights to and from Athens, plentiful cheap charter flights connecting the island with several UK airports and services to many European capitals.