Our trip to Greece in September had three stops: Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens. During our planning Athens and Santorini were givens, but we had a hard time adding a third location to our itinerary. There are SO many Greek islands to choose from and they all seem to have unique culture and history to explore. We looked at all kinds of Top 10 lists (like Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, and Frommers) and of course, relied on the great advice of my man Rick Steves. We listened to his Mediterranean podcast series, particularly the episode on Greek Islands. This island called Rhodes kept popping up in our research and was frequently cited for its medieval ruins and history. We wanted a different experience that we were going to get in Santorini (so we eliminated Mykonos from the running) and wanted a smaller place that could be done in 2.5 days (we eliminated the popular Crete for this reason, we didn’t think we would have enough time to see everything). We looked up flights and realized that Rhodes would fit easily into our itinerary and booked the tickets and then an apartment!
We arrived in Rhodes around 2pm after a long day of travel (I think we had 4 flights total to get there? Which is probably normal for traveling to one of the islands) This was our first time using AirBnB and we had a little trouble getting in contact with our host (I suppose I should have foreseen that not having phone service would mean..not being able to call the host as requested. I’m 0 for 2 on smooth international arrivals.) After scurrying around the Rhodes airport looking for a pay phone (which we could NOT figure out how to operate, apparently you need a calling card, not a credit card), talking to the customer service desk, being sold the greek equivalent of a tracphone, etc etc. we decided to just go get a taxi and ask our taxi driver to call our host and let him know we arrived. Luckily, the guy was super nice and was able to do that for us!
Rhodes is a little unique in that it was occupied during the Crusades, so there is a strong Medieval vibe. Old Town Rhodes is actually within the old medieval castle walls. Rhodes is very culturally diverse, since it has been a part of Greece, Italy and Turkey throughout its history. Our AirBnb was within the Old Town walls in an excellent location. Old Town itself can be a little touristy, but there were still great restaurants and bars, tons of shops and of course, the hisorical sites that we were interested in seeing. Our apartment was this one, and was located right by the main clock tower in Rhodes. After we found our host (this was also a little dicey since we had to be let out of the cab outside of the walls and navigate our way in. Our host said he could tell us from our large suitcases but we went past him and he had to chase us for a while through the crowd, haha.), we got settled and decided to wander around and find some quick food. We were getting a little hangry from our travels.
We ended up at one of the touristy places with pictures of the food hanging up, but it really was the best choice for the moment. We wanted food quick and were all a little frazzled from the long flights and confusion with trying to find our apartment. Debbie and I got Greek salads and the guys got pitas. And we all got some beers that were refreshing and calming.
After our food we just walked around and explored some more. There is a cruise ship port in Rhodes so the Old Town area would get pretty crowded from mid-morning to late afternoon. After we ate, the crowds were thinning and we checked out some shops, went down to the beach to see the water and port, walked by the castle and museum entrance, and walked up the Street of the Knights. We originally thought that we might spend some time at the Rhodes beach, but it is actually really small and rocky so Nick and Bob just took a quick dip and we kept walking.
We eventually headed back to our apartment and got showered and ready for dinner. There was a bar/convenience store type place RIGHT on the corner near our apartment so we grabbed a few beers to enjoy while everyone was getting ready. This was a great idea since four people getting ready in one bathroom was a bit more of an ordeal than just two. We got to enjoy these beers on our amazing patio (the pictures of the patio views are what sold this apartment for us) and look out on Old Town and the walls. After we were ready, we went on another walk and ended up exploring a little into New Town and grabbing a beer to enjoy the sunset with on our walk before making our way back inside the walls for dinner.
We decided to just check out a number of places nearby and their menus since the overall area was small and we heard a variety of recommendations. And we got pretty well lost doing this. Old Town has a lot of little roads and alleys, and yeah. Totally lost. It was like Venice Round 2 (except SLIGHTLY less angry). It also didn’t help that we were all running on little to no sleep and were starving. We eventually decided that we would go to Nireas, and asked a random passerby for directions. They thought we said “nearest restaurant” and (with good intentions) took us in the complete opposite direction to a different place, haha. We eventually made it to Nireas, which has a beautiful outdoor space and serves mainly Greek seafood. The ambiance here was great and we enjoyed the food, but in retrospect this was probably our least favorite meal in Rhodes. Which isn’t a dig against Nireas, but rather just goes to show how amazing the rest of our meals were.
All of our jetlag started to catch up with us here at dinner (we forgot how looonngg those European dinners can take, and all the sitting really did us in 🙂 ). I practically fell asleep at the table and we went to bed right when we got back.
Our first order of business for the day was to check out the Old Town castle before the cruise ship crowds. Old Town was pretty dead at this hour and we didn’t actually see any places that were serving breakfast. We were able to get a few frappes (a cold Greek coffee made from instant coffee. My coffee of choice for this trip) from a shop near our apartment and supplemented with some granola bars, then made our way to the castle.
The formal name of the castle is Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. The castle was built during Byzantine rule in the 7th century, but changed hands and purposes and was restored and rebuilt many, many times. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means that it has been deemed as being of special cultural or physical significance. Entrance to the castle is €6, it’s an additional €2 if you want to “walk the walls”. We got to the castle around 9:00am, and I’d say it took us about an hour and a half to feel like we had seen all that we wanted to see. The walls didn’t open until noon, so we decided to check out the nearby Archaeological Museum in the meantime.
The Archaeological Museum was enjoyable and only cost €6 as well, but it did end up being a lot of the same between the museum and the castle. If you are pressed for time, you can probably get away with only doing one, and I would recommend that the castle be that one. We got through it in about and hour and a half and then decided we would need some lunch before going on our walk.
We had passed Dinoris the day before and admired the menu, so we decided to head here (it’s right near the entrance to the Archaeological Museum). This might have been the best decision we made in Rhodes, our lunch at Dinoris was AMAZING. We were the only people there at first (pretty normal for these Americans) and our waiter took a lot of time to go over the menu with us and give us recommendations. When we decided to travel to Greece, I thought a lot about the traditional Greek foods but was pleasantly surprised with how much amazing seafood was available on the islands. I suppose that should have been intuitive since they are ISLANDS, but anyway.
After lunch, we went back to the castle to do our walk of the walls. This was a really fun activity! It was cool to see the castle and the city below from different angles. We had some great views! The walls were only open from 12:00 – 3:00 (and is actually closed during the winter), but I’d say it’s worth working around that limited window. Also heads up, you don’t exit the walls in the same place that you entered (by the castle entrance) so you could end up with a hefty walk back to your starting point. I’d say the whole walk was about 1.5-2 miles? But I’m pretty bad at estimating distances, so take that with a giant grain of salt 🙂 .
We started to head back to our apartment and hit up some shops on the way back. We found a great shop that had a really informative owner. I ended up getting some olive oil, honey (Rhodes is apparently known for honey and all of the varieties they had were produced on the island. There is also a bee museum near Pastida Village) and olives. They also had a large variety of ouzo and the owner showed us a unique-to-Rhodes type of ouzo, black ouzo. I am not a huge fan of the licoricey clear ouzo, but this kind had a delicious coffee taste. Bob made a great suggestion that this would be good in our morning frappes! We didn’t end up buying any here though and regretted it for the rest of the trip. When we asked for it in Santorini and Athens, we were met with blank stares so this is really only found in Rhodes. If you find some, buy it!
We decided to go to Marco Polo for dinner (which coincidentally, was the “nearest” restaurant that we were being led to the night before). Marco Polo had a great atmosphere (the roof terrace is really beautiful) and serves fresh seafood as well as more typically Greek foods like lamb, pistachios, etc. We had a really great time here and would absolutely recommend it. In fact, we kept saying between Dinoris and here, this was hands down our best eating day of the trip. Both of these places are must-do’s in Rhodes!
Debbie and I did a little more shopping after dinner while the guys headed to our favorite convenience store/bar for some beers. I ended up finding the coolest souvenier for my mom, a Rhodian “rose” necklace. Rodos means “rose” and this particular shop makes a really cool rose design as a symbol of Rhodes.
On our third day, we decided to rent a car and head to Lindos. Lindos is another major town on the islands of Rhodes and was one of three major cities on the island to unite (with Ialyssos and Kamiros) and found the city of Rhodes in 408 B.C. Lindos has an ancient Acropolis site, as well as the popular St. John’s Bay and Lindos Beach. Our plan was to tour the Acropolis and then have a beach day before heading back early (our flight to leave the next day was at 6 am). All of the car rental places were located in New Town, so we ventured out of our cozy castle walls in order to find one. On the way to the rental car we found some breakfast at Eurest, which I would compare to the American Starbucks. It’s a chain, but the food is generally decent and, most importantly, it was somewhat Greek and not a granola bar. And they had FRAPPES.
Cheese pie and Spanikopita.
After we scored a rental car, we started on our way to Lindos. As is expected, most car rental places only carry manuals, so my father-in-law offered to drive (to which my husband was eternally grateful). No more Italy Round 2 for this guy. We did have a minor mishap with stalling out while slowly drifting into a traffic circle…with oncoming traffic…and I was on the driver side…but otherwise, our trip was thankfully uneventful.
The drive took us about an hour, when we got to the Acropolis (around 10:00), the place was pretty swarmed with tour busses. We expected it to be somewhat crowded, but were still overwhelmed/surprised by the number and the already forming lines. If I were to do this again, I would certainly try to get up earlier and beat the crowds. We spent a lot of time in line, and “line” is along the side of a cliff, so not really a place you want to spend time in a bumping, closely quartered crowd. BUT! We eventually made it into the Acropolis and were rewarded with even more amazing views! The columns here were beautiful and the signs gave a lot of good information. We also got to see the beaches and St. John’s Bay from high above.
We started to make our way back down the hill (we took the “other” way down to avoid the ever-growing crowd) and spotted a few of the infamous Greek donkeys giving rides. At the beach, we found a couple chairs (which ran us €10/2 chairs) and sat down to relax. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the water, fanning ourselves in the loungers, having a few beers, and grabbing lunch from one of the beachfront restaurants.
We left there around 4:00pm and headed back to return our rental. After we dropped the car off, we headed to Tamam. Tamam is a highly rated Rhodes restaurant located in New Town. Almost every travel site, blog, travel book, etc. that I read in preparation for our trip mentioned Tamam, so this was a must-do. Tamam is a family-owned and run restaurant, described as “modern” Greek cuisine. This was another top meal for us in Rhodes (The food on this trip was so hard to rank! I feel like I’m gushing about every place that we’ve been to, but really. They were all so good.).
After dinner we went back to our apartment and pack, to get ready for our 4:00am wake up call for the next day :O
Rhodes isn’t a place that was on my personal list of Greek islands to visit, mostly because I hadn’t heard of it, but we were so thrilled with our time here. Rhodes is also very CHEAP, especially when compared to the other islands like Mykonos or Santorini. It really is a hidden gem and I think 2.5 days was the perfect amount of time to spend here. I’ve been singing its praises to everyone I know since we got back and really think it would make an amazing addition to anyone’s Greek itinerary!