Things to Do in Dodecanese
Hemmed in by a crescent of jagged rocks, golden sands, and crystalline waters, Tsambika Beach is one of Rhodes’ most beautiful beaches. A popular stop for boat cruises around the island, the beach is well-served by beach bars and food huts, but with no town nearby, the focus is firmly on the sun, sea, and sand.
Tsambika takes its name from the Monastery of the Virgin of Tsambika, perched on a 3,280-foot-tall (1,000 m) rock at the north end of the beach. The steep climb to the top, via 297 stone steps, affords spectacular views over Tsambika Bay. The south end of the beach is a designated nudist section.
Visit Tsambika Beach on a day cruise exploring Rhodes' east coast beach spots and scenery. To really leave your worries behind, consider choosing a tour that includes buffet lunch and round trip transportation, or a stop at Kalithea Spa.
Mandraki Harbour has been in use since ancient times and was formerly the military port of Rhodes; it was protected from attack by gigantic chains across its narrow mouth and later by the impregnable bulk of the Fort of St Nicholas, built in 1467 and still watching over the marina. Over the centuries the harbor was also a successful and rich trading port but these days its role in Rhodes life is entirely peaceful; a fetching clutch of billionaires’ super-yachts bob in the marina alongside traditional fishing boats and a multitude of tour boats, which depart every day in summer to visit islands off the coast of Rhodes – including Symi and Nisyros – as well as ferrying visitors to local beaches and on diving trips.
The harbor mouth, reputedly bridged by the Colossus of Rhodes in classical times, is now guarded by bronze statues of Elafos and Elafina – the deer that symbolize the island – atop slender stone columns; little remains of Mandraki’s commercial past except three corn mills lined up along the breakwater, where merchant ships once offloaded grain. Nowadays the quays are packed with late-night bars and cafés and floating restaurants have taken the place of cargo ships; a new addition to the Mandraki landscape is the Nea Agora (New Market), built in ornate style by the Italians in the 1930s.
Standing at 2,619 feet (798 meters), the pine-clad peak of Profitis Ilias is the second-highest mountain on Rhodes and offers wonderful views over the island's Aegean coastline. During their occupation of Greece in the late 1920s, the Italians built two resort hotels on the mountain for their top brass to enjoy weekends of hunting and partying. These were designed in an incongruous Swiss alpine-chalet style with sloping roofs and decorative wooden balconies and were abandoned after World War II; the Elafos Hotel reopened in 2006 after significant renovation and the Elafina is currently under restoration, while a traditional kafeneio (coffee and ouzo house) serves the walkers and bikers who traipse the forest tracks of Profitis Ilias.
Elsewhere amid the pine forests of Profitis Ilias are the ruins of the Villa de Vecchi, built for Mussolini as a luxury retirement home. Obviously these plans went awry and it has stood empty for years; recent rumor whispers that it may be turned into a tourist attraction in the same way that Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden near Salzburg, which brings in thousands of visitors per year. Around eight km (five miles) from Profitis Ilias is the village of Campochiaro, also built by the Italians, who shipped farming families over from the alpine north of Italy to work the land. Other pretty villages flanking Profitis Ilias include rustic Platania and Eleousa.
Waterpark Rhodes is the largest waterpark in Greece, covering more than 100,000 square meters. It offers a great selection of water slides for all ages, as well as traditional fair attractions, restaurants and snack bars. The park features five extreme slides: the Kamikaze, the Free Fall, the Turbo, the Space Bowl and the Twister. It also has several slides open to all ages, including the Boomerang, Rafting Slide, two Black Hole slides and the Crazy Cone Slide. Beyond the water slides, visitors can relax in the wave pool or enjoy funfair attractions like bumper cars and a giant wheel that stands 35 meters tall.
Each summer, thousands of colorful butterflies congregate in the humid Petaloudes Valley, earning it the nickname Valley of the Butterflies. It’s one of the island’s most remarkable natural attractions, where you’ll find several species of the winged beauties, as well as the only natural Oriental Sweetgum forest in Europe.
A minuscule cove wrapped in protective cliffs, St. Paul’s Bay is reputedly the spot where the Apostle Paul first set foot on Rhodes to preach to the locals in AD 51. It is one of three beaches local to the whitewashed sugar-cube houses of Lindos; this most charming of Rhodes’ east coast resorts is overlooked by an ancient acropolis and has an atmospheric tangle of steep medieval streets. The bay’s minuscule strip of sand and azure waters are almost completely enclosed by craggy cliffs and backed by bougainvillea; a tiny, whitewashed chapel sits at one corner of the cove and this romantic little place is one of the town’s favorite wedding venues. The crystal-blue Mediterranean Sea is warm enough to swim in until October and the bay is both shallow and protected from winds, making it perfect for children to splash around in. Sun-loungers and parasols are available for hire and there are showers and a tiny beach bar but space on this lovely beach is at a premium.
A “9D” cinema, the Throne of Helios brings Rhodes’ history to life in style through two short movies.Throne of Helios takes you from the Colossus of Rhodes to the present day by way of the Crusaders, whileThe Rhodes Race, a fun cartoon, follows afterwards. As well as surround sound and 3D, the experience features smells and motion.
This archaeological museum showcases priceless objects excavated during digs on the island of Rhodes. Housed in an imposing medieval hospital built by the Knights of St. John, the collection encompasses everything from ceramics and marble statues to mosaics and funeral urns.
One of Rhodes’ most tranquil spots, the Seven Springs (Epta Piges) comprises seven natural springs that feed into a small man-made lake, built by the island’s Italian occupants to provide water to the nearby villages. The springs offer a welcome relief from the Mediterranean heat, as well as a habitat for a surprising variety of wildlife.
Since opening its doors in 1936, the Aquarium of Rhodes has evolved into a miniature Mediterranean, amassing a vast variety of native fish and sea creatures housed in some 40 climate-controlled tanks. Octopuses, crabs, sea turtles, and Mediterranean monk seals are among the eclectic inhabitants of this popular family attraction.
More Things to Do in Dodecanese
Hailed as one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval streets, Street of the Knights (Odos Ippoton) stretches from the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes to the port. The lane was once home to the Knights of St. John, who lived in streetside inns.
An important site in ancient Greece, the Acropolis of Lindos is one of the most important historical monuments on the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese Islands. Parts of the site were built more than 2,500 years ago, and this remarkably well-preserved ruin draws tourists from all over the world.
Dating back to 1577, Kahal Shalom Synagogue is among the oldest synagogues in Greece. A museum in the former women’s prayer gallery documents the history and legacy of the Rhodes’ Jewish community, from ancient settlements to the mass deportations to Auschwitz in 1944.
The beautifully preserved walled old town, the historic core of Rhodes, is the oldest continuously inhabited medieval city in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The medieval center is still encircled by its original fourteenth century fortification walls, which took more than 200 years to construct.
Claiming the title of Rhodes’ longest stretch of sand is sun-soaked Afandou Beach, which stretches for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) along the northeast coast. One of the island’s most popular beaches, the Blue Flag–awarded Afandou features a sand-and-pebble beach, calm shallow waters, and shaded alcoves lined with palm trees.
Keeping watch over the northeastern tip of the island, the remains of the ancient Acropolis of Rhodes dominate the Dodecanese capital's skyline from atop Monte Smith hill. Highlights of the active archaeological complex include the exquisitely restored and partially reconstructed Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Pythian Apollo.
The volcanic island of Nisyros (Nisiros) lies north of Rhodes, a craggy, mountainous and fertile speck in the Aegean Sea. It forms part of the Dodecanese Islands along with Kos and Tilos, and is an unspoiled treasure that has so far dodged the onslaught of mass tourism.
The volcano that forms the greater part of Nisyros last erupted in 1888 but it is one of the most active in the region. Of the island’s six craters, Polivotis is the biggest, measuring 260 m (853 ft) across and reaching a depth of 30 meters (98.5 feet); it steams gently as gases bubble up from underground. Thanks to all this volcanic activity, thermal springs disgorge their sulfurous waters into the sea at several points around Nisyros; visitors flock to the spa at Loutra on the north coast to take advantage of their healing properties, while other hot springs are found at Thermiani and Avlaki.
Nisyros’s main town of Mandraki is tucked into hills on the northwest tip of the island, a charming waterfront sprawl of squat, white-washed houses and taverna-lined piazzas. Inland Byzantine chapels such as the Church of the Panaghia Faneromeni are scattered across the landscape, accessible by way-marked cycling and hiking trails, but the most startling of the island’s cultural remains is the Paliaokastro, high on a hilltop overlooking Mandraki. Dating from the fourth century BC, this was once a mighty acropolis and fort but now little survives except for fragments of the walls constructed out of volcanic basalt, although two towers have been recently remodeled out of rock surrounding the site.
Overlooking the Aegean Sea and the neighboring island of Halki, the crumbling stone shell of Kritinia Castle crowns a 430-foot (131-meter) hill above the village of Kritinia. Originally built in the 15th century by the Knights of St. John, the castle features a ruined chapel and the coats of arms of Grand Masters.
Anthony Quinn Bay, named after the actor who filmed The Guns of Navarone on Rhodes in 1961, is one of the most popular spots on the island for sun seekers. The picturesque pebble beach features shallow emerald green water—perfect for swimming—framed by dramatic coastal rocks that form underwater reefs teeming with fish.
Hailed as one of Greece’s prettiest islands, Symi is characterized by pastel-colored town houses and a quaint harbor full of wooden fishing boats. Restaurants serving fresh seafood and Greek delicacies line the seafront, while the heavily forested inland offers an abundance of walking and cycling trails.
Though originally constructed in the 14th century by the Knights of St. John, the current Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is a Mussolini-era reconstruction built after the original was destroyed by a 19th-century explosion. The lavish palace now serves as a museum displaying furniture, statues, and ancient mosaics.
Perched atop a tall sheer rock face overlooking the Mediterranean, Monolithos Castle (Kástro Monolíthou) was built by the Knights of Saint John in 1480 to guard the shores from invasion and is renowned as one of the island's most impenetrable fortresses. Today the castle lies in ruins, overlooking the distant shores of mainland Greece.
The ancient city of Kamiros stretches along the northwest coast of Rhodes. Once among the most prominent cities in the Dodecanese Islands, it thrived off local figs, wine, and oil production. The Hellenistic ruins of Kamiros, including the remains of the agora, temple, and reservoir, were rediscovered in 1929.
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