Get your bucket ready because we’re about to fill it with some of the best experiences when visiting Rhodes – and sand’s just a small part of it.
And best of all, the experiences we’re proposing are enjoyed most away from the bustle and heat of the peak summer months. Prepare to see the largest of the Dodecanese islands in a whole new light.
Time travel in the medieval Old Town
Of course it’s top of the list. There’s something otherworldly about the Old Town of Rhodes. Not just because it feels like a film set for jousting knights but because it’s just as alive today as it was in the Middle Ages. Imagine yourself on the Street of the Knights. At the one end is the Palace of the Grand Master and, at the other, the Hospital of the Knights (co-housed with the Archaeological Museum).
And all along the cobblestoned way are Inns where knights once drank, prayed and plotted. The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take your time to explore the little alleyways and the Ottoman and Jewish quarters. And when you’re done, find yourself a restaurant that does modern Greek food with a high-end twist – just so your travel clock gets the full experience.
Awe-struck in Lindos and St Paul’s Bay
The first thing you should do when you get to Lindos is head into the archaeological site, past the Venetian fortifications and up to the hilltop acropolis dedicated to Athina Lindias. Not just to admire the history, but to take a look around you. Wow! Ahead of you is the Aegean Sea, and down behind you Lindos town (with its labyrinth of shops, bars, tavernas and hotels you’ll soon be exploring). And there, down to your right, is St Paul’s Bay, an almost completely enclosed bay that you'll adore swimming in. Or maybe it's where you’ll head for an evening drink. Think about it, you’re standing by a 300 BC temple and you’ve just chosen your spot for sunset cocktails!
The Valley of the Butterflies and Rodini Park
From June to September each year, a little winged miracle of nature takes place on Rhodes. Millions of vibrantly coloured Panaxia species butterflies flutter in to feed on the sap of the Zitia tree and lay their eggs. And so we have the aptly named Valley of the Butterflies where we can admire them. But please tread carefully and help preserve these delicate little creatures. And while we’re on the subject of natural escapes, near the Old Town is Rodini Valley Park, which has a handful of gentle hiking paths, ponds, plane trees, and other greenery. It’s a great place for a picnic.
Village-hopping (and more castle views)
If you really want to hear the authentic heartbeat of Rhodes you have to head inland… to the villages. You could spend a day village hopping. There’s Embonas, on the slopes of Mt Attavyros to the west, which is a grape-growing country (more on that later). If you’re here at the right time of year, you’ll see raisins drying in the sun. And there’s dainty Monolithos, with its stone houses and a medieval castle up on a hill (the view’s amazing, especially at sunset).
To the south, there’s Vati (with panoramic views of surrounding villages, a lovely square for coffee and hiking trails which lead from here) and Lachania (with its light blue doors and windows, carved stone gates and tile-roofs). To finish off, head down to Charaki for seafront dinner under the stars with the castle illuminated in the background. Heavenly!
An unexpected wine-making tradition
After seeing the vineyards on the foothills of Mt Attavyros, you’ll be interested to know that wine-making on Rhodes goes back to the 7th century BC. There are numerous wineries you can visit, offering wine tasting experiences where you’ll learn about the indigenous Athiri and Muscat white grapes and the red Mandilaria and Amorgiano. Two of Rhodes’ more celebrated labels have Protected Origin of Designation status. So if you can coincide your visit with the late-summer grape harvest, so much the better.
Sweet, golden honey and other irresistible delicacies
Rhodians use food as an expression of their generosity. After all, all that greenery produces an abundance of great local produce – especially the Mediterranean staples of olive oil and tomatoes, as well as other vegetables and many types of wheat, wild herbs and greens. You have to try pitaroudia (delicate little chickpea fritters), stuffed vine leaves and slow-cooked meats with bulgur wheat. And then there’s the honey, which has inspired range delicacies, like melekounia (sesame-and-honey bars) and nougat. So it's worth making a beeline for the Bee Museum of Rhodes. It’s the only one in Greece and one of the biggest in the world.
A boat trip to must-dive beaches
Time to splash out. If there’s a gift you should give yourself, take yourself to the beautiful port of Mandraki, by the Old Town, or the excellent Rhodes Marina just down the coast, and hire a boat with a skipper for the day. All the way down the coast to Lindos are fantastic beaches and swimming spots.
Starting with the long stretch of sand and fine pebbles at Kallithea Beach (with a shore trip to the Kallithea Springs, where you’ll love the art deco feel and the pebble mosaics). On to the green-and-blue-watered Anthony Quinn Beach (so-called because the American actor fell in love with the bay during the filming of The Guns of Navarone). And, finally, to the long stretches of pure fine sand of Tsambika and Agathi.
The Green Island that sometimes isn’t an island
Lastly, we’re sending you to the southernmost tip of Rhodes, to Prasonisi. The Green Island (as its name translates) is a strange creation of nature. By winter it’s an island and by summer a peninsula, connected by two fringes of sand. Either way, it’s a wind- and kite-surfers heaven. But don’t worry if you’re not a surfer. There are two sides to this beach. Something for everyone… just like Rhodes itself.
Holidays on Rhodes island
If there’s one feeling you’re left with when you visit Rhodes in the quieter months either side of peak summer, it’s that this is when all the medieval magic and history, and all those tastes, escapes and authentic villages that are everywhere on the island shine brightest of all.