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The island

According to Greek Mythology, Rhodes emerged from sea and was offered as a gift by Zeus to Helios, the god of light. Helios was so fascinated by the beauty of the island that flooded it with his rays. Since then Rhodes has been Helios’ most radiant and bright island.

Rhodes is the biggest island of the Dodecanese and the fourth biggest in Greece. It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, very close to the Asia Minor coast. It has an area of about 1.400 square kilometers, an elliptic shape with 78 km biggest length, 38 km biggest width, and 220 km of coasts.

Rhodes is mainly mountainous with small plains, green valleys and plateaus. Most mountains are covered with forests and form verdurous and fertile valleys with lots of water. The highest mountain of Rhodes is Attabiros (1.215 m). Among the most representative flora species are conifer trees, plane trees, oak trees, thymes, caper and various kinds of wild flowers. In the island forest lives, since the prehistoric times, a rare species of deer called platoni, which is now a protected species.

The climate of Rhodes is Mediterranean, with mild winters and cool summers, thanks to the northeastern winds during the summer months, and a lot of sunny days – about 300 days per year. The sunlight and the mild climate make the island ideal for growing vines that produce the aromatic Rhodian wine.

The excellent climate, the fertile soil and its geographic position are the main factors that Rhodes has been so densely populated since antiquity. The population of the island today is about 120.000 people, who mainly work in the tourist sector, offering high quality services to approximately 1.200.000 tourists the island hosts every year.

The turbulent history of Rhodes is due to the island’s important geographic position and is closely bound with sea. Rhodes has been inhabited since the Stone Age, while at the prehistoric era it was inhabited by Phoenicians, Cretans and Dorians, who established the three ancient and famous cities, namely Lindos, Kameiros and Ialisos.

The unification of the three cities in 408 B.C. and the establishment of the new city of Rhodes, according to the plans of the important city planner Hippodamus from Militus, contributed to the island’s development to an important political, commercial and cultural center.

During the period the successors of Alexander the Great ruled, the city was besieged by Demetrius the Besieger (305 B.C.) who did not manage to conquer it. To commemorate their victory, the Rhodians sold the arms the besieger left behind and made Colossus, a huge statue of god Helios, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Colossus was constructed in 292 B.C. by Haris, a Lindian copper sculptor, and it is believed that it was placed at the entrance of the city harbor. The statue was broken down in 227 B.C. from an earthquake and was never constructed again.

Rhodes then became an ally with the Romans. The island was conquered In 620 A.D. by the Persians, in 653 by the Saracens, in 807 by the Caliph of Baghdad and in 1097 by the Crusaders. 

In 1309 the island, together with Leros and Cos, was sold to the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. During the period of the Knights’ rule, Rhodes became a major military, financial and commercial power in the region. The Medieval Town was then renovated, and has been alive till today, together with all important castles, fortifications of the city as well as lots of monasteries and churches.

In 1522 Rhodes surrendered to the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and for about four centuries (1522-1912) the island was under the Ottoman occupation. In 1912 the possession of Rhodes, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese, was transferred to the Italians. During the period of Italian occupation, the old town was renovated, while many important buildings were built in the new town, which are still used and add to the town’s splendor and magnificence. Finally, in March 1948, Rhodes, and the other islands of the Dodecanese, officially joined Greece.

Today Rhodes is one of the most cosmopolitan islands worldwide and offers visitors lots of alternatives for holidays throughout the year. The natural beauty of the island, the monuments from the long and turbulent history of the island, the long sandy beaches, as well as the warm hospitality of the local people, in combination with the excellent tourist facilities, fascinate the visitors.

The Old Town, with about 6.000 residents, is the biggest inhabitant medieval town in Europe, and has been officially recognized as a Monument of World Cultural Inheritance by UNESCO.

When you walk in the Old Town, surrounded by the knight walls with the bastions, the battlements with the towers, the magnificent buildings with the coats of arms dating from 15th century, the fine relief decorations and the oblique tipped windows, the narrow stone covered streets with the arches, you have the impression that time has stopped at some historic period.

The Street of Knights is one of the most important points in the medieval town, where the dwellings of the Knights, of the various Orders, are located, and end up at the Great Magistrate’s Palace, the biggest and finest building of the medieval town, a real fortress with emplacements, towers, battlements and heavily armored gates.

Important modern services are hosted in the renovated medieval buildings. The first Hospital of the Knights, built in 1440, is today’s library of the Archaeological Institute of Rhodes, while the “new” Hospital accommodates the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. The Art Gallery, the Folklore Museum and the Jewelry Collection are also accommodated in medieval buildings.

The new town also asserts the visitors’ attention with the harbor of Mandraki with the characteristic windmills and the deer at its entrance, the seaside with the magnificent buildings from the Italian rule that today accommodate various public services, the historic Hotel of the Roses, the new Modern Greek Art Museum at “100 Palm Trees” square, the Aquarium, the ancient Acropolis, the temple of Apollo and the ancient stadium on Monte Smith hill, as well as the many shops that offer unforgettable moments of entertainment.

Lindos, built under an impressive Acropolis with the Dorian Temple of Athina, has kept its traditional character with the narrow stone covered streets, the white houses with the flat roofs and the traditional “captains’ houses” with the impressive entrances and the pebbled, full of flowers, yards.

Along the eastern coastline of the island we find some the nicest beaches: Callithea, with the stone fonts and the spa, cosmopolitan Faliraki, Afandou with the golf course, Tsambika with the fine sand. At the most southern end of the island, there is a 2 km long sandy peninsula that joins the island with a small rock island called Prasonisi, which is a surfers’ paradise.

In the island’s interior the visitors can go to the impressive “Butterflies’ Valley”, while close to the eastern coast they can enjoy the fine landscape at “Seven Springs” valley where the water from seven springs fills an artificial lake. The mountain Prophet Elias is considered as an ancient residence for the deer of Rhodes, and at the foothill there is the “Nymph” spring. On the west side of the island the visitors will be able to see the ruined city of ancient Cameiros and to enjoy the view from the castles at Monolithos and Kritinia.

Whatever the mood and the plans of the visitors, Rhodes is a place that can live up to their expectations.