A culinary tour of Rhodes
Whether you visited Rhodes in antiquity, the Middle Ages or today, you’d be in for a culinary treat. This, after all, is an island that has always managed to combine its mild Mediterranean climate and geography (with influences from Asia, Africa and Europe) to its advantage.
From the delicate flavours of fresh fish and seafood to robust meat dishes (enhanced by the used of cumin, a spice used sparingly elsewhere in Greece) and outstanding fruit, vegetables and dairy products, the experience will remain with you every bit as much as the beaches or exploring Rhodes’ atmospheric Old Town.
Exploring the medieval old town of Rhodes
Cheeses, olive oil, vegetables, wild greens, berries, pulses, dried fruit, bulgur wheat (a staple of many Rhodian dishes) and a range of freshly-made pastas … all ingredients that aren’t just incredible in flavour but in variety too. Just as the pastries and sweets are brought to life with a drizzle of aromatic honey and sprinkling of chopped nuts.
Rhodes is an island where high-end cuisine sits comfortably alongside traditional tavernas, in the same way that its modern wineries have built on a viticulture legacy that can be traced to antiquity – with leading European varieties being grown alongside high-quality local grapes and no fewer than four Protected Designation of Origin wines.
Your culinary journey on Rhodes can include visiting wineries and local producers, or you could literally spread the experience over your holiday as you sample the meze-like dishes in tavernas.
You’ll find numerous modern wineries on Rhodes, producing wines that match the smoothness of the climate. The traditional grape varieties – white Athiri and red Mandilaria (known locally as Amorgiano) – are still going strong, as are Assyrtiko, Malagouzia and Mavrothiriko. But European varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon have also been successfully introduced. With vineyards split between lowland and mid-mountainous regions, it’s a chance to appreciate the island beyond its coastline. Athiri, the main grape of PDO Rhodes (one of four PDOs), is cultivated on the slopes of Mt Attavyros, while Mandilaria is produced in lower areas.
You won’t be allowed to leave Rhodes without sampling the honey. It’s drizzled on pies (both savoury and sweet), poured over yogurt and added to sesame seeds and nuts to produce melekounia bars, served at weddings and baptisms and eaten as an energising snack. You can visit Melissokomiki Dodecanisou (the Beekeeping Company of the Dodecanese), which has gathered a cooperative of around 70 beekeepers and stocks a wonderful variety of honey (thyme, pine, blossom…) as well as other beehive-derived products (royal jelly, wax and pollen and even shampoos and soaps). And there is an accompanying Bee Museum (the only one in Greece), where you can learn all about the island’s beekeeping tradition since antiquity.
The local dishes
Now’s the time to be introduced to Rhodes’ local cuisine. There are so many dishes that it’s hard to know where to start. Don’t leave without sampling lakani (goat, chickpeas and coarsely ground wheat known as chondros, spiced with cumin and baked overnight in a ceramic pot), pitaroudia (fried tomato balls with onion), cuttlefish risotto (cooked with cuttlefish ink), talagoutes (pancakes with honey, grated almonds and sesame seeds), giaprakia (coarsely ground mince wrapped in vine leaves), karavoli (snails fried in red sauce with onions and cumin). The list goes on. All washed down with a Rhodian wine, or perhaps a locally brewed beer.
There are organised tours, usually within the Medieval Town, that include food and wine-tasting and sampling local products.
From the airport
To Rhodes Medieval Town
- By car or taxi: 23km (37mins)
- By bus: Regular service to Old Town. The bus stop is located between the new and old terminals and tickets can be purchased from the bus driver.
Kounakis Wines (Embonas)
- By car or taxi: 38km (45mins)
Triantafyllou Estate winery (Paradisi)
- By car or taxi: 8km (12mins)
Melissokomiki Dodecanisou (Pastida)
- By car or taxi: 8km (9mins)
- A culinary tour of Rhodes can be enjoyed all year round, with each season giving a different atmosphere. But it does get crowded in the summer so it’s worth visiting in the quieter and cooler periods (May-June and September-October).
- Visiting vineyards is best in April-May (the weather allows for all sorts of outdoor activities, such as cooking classes and wine-tasting in the vineyards) or in September to witness grape pressing and bottling.
- Group or private tours usually last 3-5 hours depending on the number of stops.
- If you want to do all the experiences mentioned here, you will need to dedicate 2-3 days to the food and wine or Rhodes. Alternatively, you can turn your entire holiday into a culinary journey.
- A visit to a winery will last 2-3 hours, depending on the experiences you choose.
- A visit to the Melissokomiki Dodecanisou and Bee Museum lasts around 2 hours.
Plan your trip
Let’s all try to keep the magic of Greece’s villages, towns and cities alive for future generations.