Visiting Rhodes early or late in the season can offer a really good value holiday in the sun and is a great introduction to Greek Island life. We give you our one stop guide to getting the best from your time on one of the larger Greek islands.
After our long recuperation in Fethiye and our misguided week all inclusive in Marmaris, it was time for these two flashpackers to hit the road again and get travelling. Our original plan after Turkey was to resume our Eastern European tour around Hungary, Macedonia and the Balkan states. Instead, we decided to head out to the Greek Islands. We decided we were not really in the right frame of mind to do the major cities of Eastern Europe.
Greek Island Hopping for Adults
Greek Island hopping was something we had contemplated some years ago before we set off travelling full time. At the time we looked at the logistics and costs and it all seemed too expensive and difficult to pack in to a two week vacation. Now we were in an ideal place to try it again and given the easy ferry access from Marmaris we made Rhodes our first stop.
You can get to Rhodes from lots of resorts on the south coast of Turkey such as Marmaris, Fethiye or Bodrum. They are connected by high speed catamarans or Hydrofoils, so the costs will be higher than on regular ferries. We paid 39 Euros for the journey from Marmaris. Many visitors simply take a day trip from these resorts and the day trip fare is usually the same as a single journey. You could get a taste of Rhodes in a day, but there is plenty to keep you occupied during a longer stay.
Getting Around Rhodes and Tours
You will arrive at the central tourist post in Rhodes, which sits on the edge of the old city. From here you will need to take a taxi to your final destination or walk into the town centre to catch a bus to one of the other resorts on the Island such as Lindos, Faliraki or Pefkos. A taxi into Rhodes town or the bus station will cost you 5 Euros. If you want to get a taxi to Lindos, think nearer 50 Euros (the bus from Rhodes costs just 5).
Boats and buses can get your anywhere on Rhodes Island. There is a city bus service that will get you around the peninsula in the Old and New Town areas. To get to other towns, villages and beaches on the island buses all leave from the main bus stop located opposite the Tourist information Centre. The timetable (in the gallery below) shows the main routes and costs. The staff at the kiosk where you buy tickets are very helpful and will get you on the right bus to your destination.
If you don’t want to catch the bus there are lots of boats lined up along the harbour front that can take you from Rhodes to the other resorts by water. Most offer round trip day packages where you will pay anything from 15 to 30 Euros depending on the destination and time of the year. Prices will always be higher in July and August.
There are some other Islands nearby, Mandraki and Symi and day trips to these places are also on offer for around 25 Euros per person. There is a lot of competition on the harbour to get you on these trips so it would pay to haggle a little to get the best price.
There are two hop on hop off tours that circle Rhodes Old and New Towns, but for the 15 euro cost we thought his expensive given the distances are not that great. There is a cheaper alternative in the form of the tourist train that circles the town in a loop starting at the harbour. It’s not a hop on hop off service, but as a starter trip to orientate yourself it would be useful and of course the kids (and childish adults) will love it.
There are also car hire shops at every corner of the new town and you will pay anything from 25 – 30 Euros a day to hire a small compact car.
Diving in Rhodes
You don’t have to limit yourself to sitting on a boat while in Rhodes; the harbour also has a number of dive boats who will offer a single dive for 45 Euros or 70 for two dives. It’s not cheap and the dive sites will not make the world’s top 100 but visibility is said to be excellent (at around 35 Metres) with some good caves and wall dives. There is no promise of fantastic tropical fish (it is the Mediterranean after all), but many of the publicity images show octopus and the occasional turtle to titillate you.
Rhodes Old Town and Harbour
Rhodes is famous as one of the sites of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Colossus of Rhodes stood proudly on the harbour from 280 BC until its fall during the earthquake in 226BC. In the 1300’s The Knights Hospitaller wrested control of the island and built the Old City fortifications including the Knights of the Grand Master castle. They withstood invasion until the Ottoman Empire took control in the mid 1500’s. The Ottomans ruled until 1913 when the Italians took control which was to last until 1943 when the Germans briefly occupied the island before its return to Greek’s in 1947.
The harbour and Old Town of Rhodes hold the most charm from a tourist perspective. The harbour is alive with Yachts, tourist boats and speedboats. The harbour is accessed by water through a gateway guarded by a male and female deer symbolising the introduction of deer to the island by the Italians as pest control for snakes.
The island hosts a number of archaeological sites , the main attractions being; the Acropolis of Lindos and Rhodes , the Temple of Pythian Apollo and the ancient theatre and stadium, the Governor’s Palace, Palace of the Grand Masters and Kahal Shalom Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.
We found little or no information at the tourist office or at many of the sights to help the inquisitive tourist in this historical aspect of the island. I guess with their long history they are a little blase about the past. The more modern architecture is interesting too, dotted around the new town most of the government art deco building were built by Mussolini during the occupation and have a distinctly deco feel.
The old medieval town streets are mostly filled with tourist shops, cafe’s bars and restaurants. If you enter from the southern entrances you will find a quieter set of lanes to wander with more traditional homes and architecture. Also try and plan your visit on a day when the cruise ships are not in port. We visited once when two ships were docked and the streets were packed with the cruise guests making it difficult to get around.
There are nearly thirty beaches to choose from in Rhodes, most are gravel or pebble beaches on the western side, but more sandy coverings can be found on the east. The western beaches are also subject to high winds, great for sunbathing on a hot day to cool you off, and even better if you like to windsurf. There is a good guide to the beaches in Rhodes here.
Eating and Drinking in Rhodes
We had booked a bargain hotel with half board, so didn’t really need to eat out very often, only snacking during the day in between our hotel meals. We did get to sample our first gyro pita, similar to a Turkish kebab. You can grab these around town for two to three Euros. Pastries are on offer too along with some very good quality croissants in the Greek bakers. If you want to eat a meal in a restaurant you will pay six to eight Euros for a basic gyro or burger and chips meal or a basic Greek salad. Double that if you want to go for steak or a fish dish. Beer is around 2.50 Euro for a 500ml glass or 3 for an import bottle in some of the cheaper bars, but you can double that if you want to drink in the clubs or in the places in the old town or on the seafront with a view.
For the budget traveller we found a great street on the western side of the new town with cheap beer, cocktails and food. On our tourist map it was marked as N. Mandilara Street and it runs to the southern side of the Grand Mitsis hotel right into the town centre.
Moving on from Rhodes
Both Rhodes airports and sea ports allow you to continue your journey back to Turkey or onwards to other Greek islands. The Blue Star Santorini/Athens ferries leave from Akantia port on the south of the harbour which was our next destination.
Rhodes was a great start to our Greek journey, the people and staff of the island are really friendly and helpful to tourists and despite what many had told us, it was not too expensive if you look around for good value cafes and bars. Our favourite bar was Kojak’s situated overlooking the beach on the Western coast. The bar has a story all of its own which we will tell in a later post.