Top of Lindos Acropolis
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Rhodes, with an average of 300 sunny days per year and mild temperatures in the winter, has been a popular tourist attraction for centuries. Located 12 miles off the coast of Turkey, it's the largest of Greece's 12 Dodecanese islands. Rhodes sits in the Aegean Sea, and its beautiful blue green waters reflect a tropical paradise. The island features 35 beaches and many cultural and historical attractions.
The view from the sea is spectacular as you sail into the port of Rhodes. It's one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The ship disembarks its passengers just outside of Old Town, a maze of cobblestone streets, flanked by historic buildings dating from the 14th century.
Between the city's sturdy walls, magnificent palaces, fascinating museums and ornate mosques line the narrow, atmospheric passageways and carefully planned squares. Souvenir shops, restaurants and boutiques are plentiful in Old Town.
The main attraction here is the Palace of the Grand Masters, built in the 14th century by the Knights of St. John. The structure survived an earthquake but was destroyed by an explosion in 1856; it was later restored by the Italians in the 1930's. Now a museum, the palace contains priceless mosaics, sculptures and exhibitions of medieval and ancient Rhodes civilizations.
But it is not just Old Town that attracts visitors to this beautiful island. The New Town, located across Mandraki Harbor from Old Town, contains a large marketplace, the Nea Agora, which contains a food court, gift shops, cafes and bars. New Town also offers many luxury hotels and beautiful beaches that attract vacationers who enjoy paragliding, windsurfing, swimming and sunbathing. A casino also is available for those who want to try their luck at games of chance.
Cruise ships offer half-day tours that include Old Town sites and full-day tours that include jeep tours of the island and visits to the ancient city of Lindos with its cliffside acropolis, whitewashed houses and picturesque scenery. Guided tours and excursion boat tours are also available, but just walking around with a guidebook will be enough to enjoy this interesting and picturesque part of the world.
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Other Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Ports:
Athens (Piraeus) • Bari • Bodrum • Corfu • Crete (Heraklion) • Dubrovnik • Gythion • Haifa • Istanbul • Izmir • Jerusalem (Ashdod) • Katakolon (Olympia) • Kotor • Kusadasi • Limassol • Mykonos • Rhodes • Santorini • Split • Varna • Venice • Volos • Yalta • Zadar
Great choices include handmade lace, excellent leather goods, olive oil, jewelry, colorful pottery from Lindos and bowls carved from olive wood. Locally produced honey is also an excellent souvenir.
It's Greek, but English is widely spoken.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the euro. This island is the top tourist destination in the Dodecanese, and the proprietors certainly don't want you to run out of cash -- so you'll find plenty of banks, currency exchanges and ATM machines. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
Where You're Docked
Ships dock at the port located on the north tip of the island, about a 10-minute walk to town.
The port offers easy access to ATM's, Internet cafes and shops in town, but there's not much at the port itself. Taxis stop at the port for passengers who want to explore the New Town or other areas.
Rhodes' Old Town is easily explored on foot, but wear comfortable shoes. Taxis are also plentiful.
Watch Out For
Uneven pavements and cobblestones. Also beware of the heat, which can catch you unawares as you're browsing. Wear a hat, sunscreen and carry bottled water to avoid dehydration. When dining out, a service charge is included in the price of meals on the menu, but you can add an additional tip if you feel the service was exceptional. When visiting mosques, it is advisable to wear respectful attire: long pants or long skirts and head coverings. Also, taking photographs inside churches is considered disrespectful.
The Palace of the Grand Masters is the main tourist attraction in Old Town. Once a fortress, then home to a number of Grand Masters who oversaw the Knights of Rhodes, it's now a museum, containing mosaics and artifacts from medieval and ancient Rhodes. (Open Tuesday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
The Jewish Museum of Rhodes is located in the Kahal Shalom synagogue; both it and Rhodes' Jewish Quarter date to the first century A.D. The museum contains an interesting history of the Jewish population of Rhodes and artifacts of its prior civilization. (8 Simmiou Street; open Sunday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; open by appointment in the winter months)
The Byzantine Museum, originally a church in the 11th century, showcases frescos and art work dating from the 12th century. (Apelou Street; open November to May, Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and June to October, Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Mandraki Harbor is the meeting place of locals, and the link between Old and New Towns. Check out the yachts and excursion boats in the harbor. The Nea Agora (New Market) features gift shops, bars and cafes.
Elli Beach, at the northern tip of Rhodes town, is a beautiful beach with clean, crystal blue waters. It is often crowded but worth the trip for beach lovers. You'll find beach umbrellas, canteens and beach lounges.
Shopping opportunities abound. For the best deals -- and the most fun -- head for Sokratous, which runs parallel to the Street of the Knights in Old Town. Shops there sell rugs, ceramics, jewelry and leather goods. For more shopping, head to the Nea Agora, which features gift shops galore.
Been There, Done That
Lindos, once the most important town on the island, is a national historic monument. Its acropolis sits some 116 meters above sea level on a cliff overlooking the sea. Below is a sandy (albeit crowded) crescent-shaped beach that's bordered by alfresco restaurants, and beautiful 17th-century whitewashed houses are scattered haphazardly up the hillside. While there, it's worth taking a look at the lovely 18th-century frescoes in the Agia Panagia church, which dates from the 15th century. You can also walk up the steep steps to the acropolis -- you can hire a donkey to take you part of the way, and it's worth the effort for one of the best views in Greece and the chance to explore the tiny Temple of Athena, which dates from the fourth century B.C. Lindos is about 55 kilometers from Rhodes and is reachable by bus or taxi.
Kallithea Springs, situated in the district of Kallithea, nine kilometers from the city of Rhodes, is one of the most romantic and charming spots on the island. The springs at Kallithea were known in Ancient Greece for their curative properties. After years of neglect, Kallithea Springs was restored in 2007. The remarkable architecture, magnificent mosaics, picturesque bay with crystal clear waters for swimming and a lively restaurant make for a memorable visit.
Ialysos was one of three famous ancient cities in Rhodes. It is home of the ruins of the ancient Greek temple of Athena. During the Byzantine era, the hill was used as a natural fortress. A monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built there in the 13th century. The view from the hill of Philerimo in Ialysos overlooking Rhodes is worth the visit. Visitors will see the ruins of the ancient acropolis and the restored monastery.
Rhodes is filled with charming Greek tavernas, both in the Old Town and New Town. You can sit at outside tables and enjoy the extraordinary cuisine of the region. Bread, olives and olive oil, dishes made with cereals, vegetables, dried fruit, fish, chicken and seafood are staples of the area. Try pourgouri, small balls made of veal, onions, tomatoes and olive oil. Small plates with appetizers such as olives, hummus and grape leaves are often served at restaurants in the area.
Dinoris is one of the best lunch spots. It serves delicious fish dishes at outside tables; swordfish and grilled prawns are excellent choices. For dessert, try the baklava. You can choose from a la carte or set menus and enjoy free Wi-Fi with your leisurely meal. (Mouseou Square 14a, Old Town; open daily, noon to midnight)
Mavrikos is the best fish restaurant in Lindos. It is located on the Main Square and highly recommended by the locals. Snapper is the specialty there, and the oven-baked lamb and steamed eggplant are also tasty menu selections. (open daily, noon to midnight)
Staying in Touch
Free Internet is available at several restaurants if you order something to eat or drink; just look for signs. The hotels on the beach also have business centers with computers.
Best for First-Timers: Most ships offer a three- to four-hour City Tour, offering a bus tour around the new parts of Rhodes and a guided walking tour of the Old Town. The tour usually concludes with a cooking demonstration and sampling at a Greek tavern.
Best for Scenery: Excursions to Lindos take four to five hours, including about two hours driving there and back -- though the trip does show you the island's stunning northeast coast. On arrival, you'll typically get a (steep!) walking tour up to the acropolis and castle, followed by free time to cool off with a swim and lunch.
Best for Active Travelers: Full-day jeep tours are also offered by cruise lines. The Rhodes Land Rover Safari tour allows participants to drive their jeep with an escort through small villages, forests and hills and over mountains and streams on the south and west coasts. A picnic lunch, prepared by a local restaurant, is available for an additional charge.
For More Information
On the Web: Greek National Tourism Organization
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Greece Ports
IndependentTraveler.com: Europe Travel Guide
--Updated by Phyllis Steinberg, Cruise Critic contributor