Rhodes has long enchanted travellers, and inhabitants and visitors over the centuries include philosophers, Olympic athletes, writers and filmmakers. Known as the Island of the Knights, it is steeped in history and beauty, from the medieval old town of Rhodes and the ancient city of Filerimos to the quintessentially Greek town of Lindos, with its pristine white houses flowing down to a picture perfect bay.
According to the Greek poet Pindar, Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, was formed by the union of the sun god Helios and Rhode, a nymph. It is historically famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of Helios designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, the old town of Rhodes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its Acropolis, mosaic-decorated palace, city walls and cobbled streets will take you back in time through past civilisations.
As well as ancient cities, castles and churches, Rhodes has many lush green forests and valleys. One of these, Petaloudes (‘Valley of the Butterflies’), gets its name from the large numbers of tiger moths that gather in the summer. Citrus fruit, grapes and olives are grown around the island, and the shores are attractively dotted with villages and beach resorts. Rhodes has stunning beaches and crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and diving, and a buzzing nightlife scene: but if you prefer to take it easy, simply dine on fresh seafood, drink ouzo and listen to traditional music as the sun sets over the sea.
The Dodecanese Islands have plenty to offer besides Rhodes. Kos, second to Rhodes in size and busyness, is home to Christian, Greek and Roman architecture and ruins, and beyond the best beaches in the Dodecanese, some charming mountain villages. Take the ferry to Symi and you’ll be greeted with the magnificent sight of the Italian architecture of its harbour town rising dramatically from the ocean. The wild Karpathos, meanwhile, is the stuff of legend; Prometheus and the Titans were said to be born on this island, which is geographically remote and has distinct cultural traditions and customs as a result.