Things to Do in Dodecanese
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.
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.
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.
Hemmed in by a crescent of jagged rocks, Tsambika Beach is an idyllic stretch of golden sand and crystalline water that is considered one of Rhodes’ most beautiful beaches. A popular stop for boat cruises around the island, the beach is well-served by beach bars and eateries—but with no town nearby, the focus is firmly on the sun and sea.
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 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.
With almost 25 acres (10 hectares of water slides, swimming pools, and a lazy river, Waterpark Rhodes is the largest of its kind in Greece and an ideal spot for family-friendly fun. Shoot down the extreme water slides or gently bob in the wave pool—there’s something for everyone from thrill-seekers to tiny tots at his vast water park.
A minuscule cove protected by cliffs, St. Paul’s Bay is reputedly the spot where the Apostle Paul first set foot on Rhodes in AD 51. One of three beaches in Lindos, the water here stays warm as late as October, and the bay is both shallow and protected from winds, which makes it ideal for swimming.
Standing at 2,619 feet (798 meters, the pine-clad peak of Profitis Ilias is one of the highest on Rhodes and offers sweeping views over the island's Aegean coastline. Head to the top to admire the scenery and explore the hiking trails, drink from the Koskinsiti spring, and visit the Monastery of Fountoukli’s historic St. Nikolaos Chapel.
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.
More Things to Do in Dodecanese
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The volcanic island of Nisyros (Nisiros, a craggy and fertile speck in the Aegean Sea, lies north of Rhodes and is part of the Dodecanese Islands, along with Kos and Tilos. An unspoiled treasure that has avoided the onslaught of mass tourism, Nisyros offers hot springs, fishing towns, Byzantine chapels, and ancient ruins to explore.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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