Rhodes away from the beaches
The capital of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, Rhodes is also the largest in this chain and, along with Kos, probably the most well known. Due to the fact it's located far south in the Mediterranean Sea, receives over 300 days of sunshine, and is connected via direct flights from the UK within four hours, Rhodes is a very popular beach destination for holidaymakers looking for a relaxing time not far from home. Thomas Cook* provides countless beach holiday offers to Rhodes, making it more affordable than ever to get to this beloved Greek island.
Yet there is so much more to this island than sun and sand: if you dig deeper, you'll find an island steeped in history, culture, wildlife, and nature too, making Rhodes the perfect destination to combine a beach and cultural experience. Let's take a look at what else this eclectic island has to offer...
The Old Town
Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, a holiday in Rhodes* is not complete without a visit to the Old Town of Rhodes. The Medieval City and Castle of the Knights seep tradition and culture from every twist and turn of the narrow, cobbled streets. With over 200 streets, and some not even named, it's fun to merely wander and get lost, safe in the knowledge if you ask a local for directions to the main street of Sokratous, you'll soon find your way back.
If losing yourself inside the ancient city seems somewhat overwhelming, then why not take a stroll outside the castle walls around the moat? Much of the structure is still in place, with various gates to enter and exit from - or, for a bird's-eye view of the Old Town, it's possible to walk along the top of the walls. Whether from up above, down below or within its walls, the Old Town of Rhodes is a must visit.
St Paul's Bay & Lindos
After spending time soaking up the sun on the southeast side of the island at St Paul's Bay, be sure to walk the short distance from the beach to Lindos, famous for the Acropolis that sits on the headland.
The Acropolis of Lindos* is one of the most visited archeological sites in Greece, and offers a 365 degree view of the surrounding sea and distant Turkey, while the small town also offers the typical Greek whitewashed houses, narrow labyrinthine alleys - deliberately designed to confuse invading pirates - pebble-paved courtyards and colourful plant pots. You'll also find restaurants to suit every taste; romantic dinner for two or a quiet place for a drink.
The 15th-century church in the centre of Lindos Town is a popular site due to the frescoes adorning the walls - be sure to cover your legs and shoulders to respect the Orthodox religion if going inside; shawls are offered at the door.
Some 28 miles outside of the Old Town, and half way between Lindos and St Paul's Bay, you'll find yourself winding up into the mountains slightly inland. Keep going, and eventually you'll end up in the pine forest of Mount Prophet Elias. Park up beside one of the two wooden chalet style hotels and take a hike into the woods - all the while looking out for fox and deer - to the abandoned monastery of the Prophet Elias.
If you're feeling brave, continue on to the abandoned summer residence of the Italian General De Vecchi, Governor of Rhodes from 1936 to 1940. It was intended as a retirement home for the dictator Mussolini but as the Allies won World War II, it fell into disrepair. It is interesting however, to wander around the 'ruins in the woods' and let your imagination run riot; is that snap of a twig a soldier from the past come to haunt you, or just a Rhodian rabbit lolloping past?
Once you've explored, make your way back down and stop off at the small traditional café to refresh yourself with a shot of ouzo, or if feeling chilly (this is the mountains, after all), a mug of tea or coffee. Combine relaxing on the beach with a trip into the mountains and you'll have two completely different experiences on the island.
Did you know there is a natural butterfly sanctuary on the island? At the end of May each year, thousands of butterflies are attracted to this natural forest of Oriental Sweetgum trees (the only forest of its type in Europe), where they rest on the barks of the trees to conserve energy. The result is Butterfly Valley (Peta Loudhes), and a peaceful walk through the shaded valley with waterfalls and a small monastery located at the top of the valley makes for an exceptionally pleasant morning or afternoon.
Your final brush with nature on Rhodes should include a visit to Seven Springs (Eptà Pigès). Located around 19 miles from Rhodes Town*, this wooded area of springs, culminating in a manmade lake, offers an ideal habitat for eels, crabs, and tortoises, to name a few. There are two options for reaching this lake: the easy walking path, or the challenging, slightly claustrophobic narrow and dark 186m tunnel with a well shaft in the middle. You're rewarded at with the crystal clear waters that you can swim in, surrounded by pine forest, and even peacocks strutting around.
So you see, away from the beach, Rhodes can offer the visitor so much more. Be sure to explore these options when you book your next holiday, and do check out the latest deals on break to Rhodes with Thomas Cook, which departs from airports across the UK including Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, London, Birmingham and more. You can also see what the weather is like in Rhodes plus when we think is the best time to go for lovely hot and sunny conditions.
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