From Marmaris it’s just a short ferry crossing to Rhodes, another place that was on our bucket list. So it was easy to add a week there to our Turkey trip.
We’d booked to stay four nights in Rhodes Town, giving us three days to explore. We spent the first day in the medieval city, which was for some 200 years controlled by the Knights of the Order of St John. We strolled down the Street of the Knights, where there were different inns for each langue; they were grouped according to the country they came from, and the language they spoke, but all owed allegiance to the Grand Master. We visited the Palace of the Grand Masters, though this has been controversially restored – or rebuilt, some would say.
We enjoyed strolling round the narrow streets of the old city, with their many arches supporting the buildings. It was however crowded with tourists, and many streets were full of cafés and souvenir shops – it was good to find quieter areas away from the constant hassle. (The only problem here is that you assume it’s pedestrianised, and then a car suddenly appears, and you have to flatten yourself against the wall to allow it to get past.) We walked round the dry moat, and admired some of the gates in the extensive city walls. In the early evening the sunlight on the stone buildings was attractive. We climbed up the clock tower, and got some good views.
Next day we focused on the new town, where our hotel was situated. We walked round the northern tip of the island; there were rows and rows of loungers on the beach, but the sand was not appealing and we were not tempted. We saw the Italian forum and the Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation with some impressive 20th century frescoes. We walked along the jetty to the St Nicholas Fort, passing the three windmills to get the classic view of Mandraki Harbour. Then it was back into the old town to visit the archaeological museum.
As we’d exhausted the delights of Rhodes Town, we decided to do a day trip to Symi, a nearby island. The boats make two stops. First for us was Panormitis Monastery, at the southern tip of the island. There was nothing much of interest for us except the ornate bell tower. So we were glad it was our first stop, otherwise it would have been a real anti-climax.
Because the other stop – at Gialos, the main port of Symi – was wonderful. The harbour is so picturesque, with pastel coloured houses on the hillsides all around. We walked up the stone steps (350+!) that lead to the castle, and up another path to a church on the other side of the harbour. Amazing views – we could not stop taking photos.
On to Lindos
Next day we picked up a rental car, and set off to explore the rest of Rhodes island. We drove across the island, stopping en route to visit the Filerimos Monastery. After reaching the east coast, we drove south and then up to the Tsampika Monastery. Even from the top car park, you have to walk up 300 steps to the monastery, which is tiny, just a small chapel, but with great views. Afterwards we relaxed on Tsampika Beach below.
Then it was on to Lindos, where we’d booked accommodation for the next two nights. This was on a hill, with a great view of the Acropolis on the hill opposite. To get there you had to walk down a steep path into the village, and then up again – but the village itself was very picturesque (all whitewashed houses) and lively in the evenings, with restaurants mainly on roof terraces.
Next morning we were able to get to the Acropolis early, before the tour parties arrived. We also walked to St Paul’s Bay nearby – more great views! In the afternoon we did a loop westwards into the interior. We stopped first at Tharri Monastery, where there are good frescoes in the church, but photos are not allowed. On to Asklipiou, where we looked in the church (more frescoes!) and walked up to the castle ruins. Stopped at a beach on the way back, though it was not great – shingle rather than sand.
South and west
On Monday we drove round the south of the island, but found little of interest. We detoured down to Prasonisi Beach, the most southerly point. There is a sandspit which is apparently covered by the sea in the winter: this makes an interesting view, but could explain the tons of rubbish littering the beach! Later we looked at two other beaches, but they were both frankly horrible and we were not tempted to stay. We did however visit two ruined castles, both picturesquely situated and giving us great views of the west coast.
Ian had struggled to find suitable accommodation on the west coast; we prefer to be in the centre of towns, but there are none on the island apart from Rhodes Town and Lindos. He’d settled for a hotel which we thought was in a village, but it turned out to be in the middle of nowhere, so we had to drive out to get dinner. That night we ate in the village taverna, where the food was good, cheap and plentiful. There was too much even for Ian, but he had seven cats to help him out with the fish.
Tuesday was our last full day on Rhodes. As if to prepare us for home, the weather – hot and sunny until then – went pear-shaped. There was a thunderstorm in the night, and more rain at breakfast. After that it was fine but cloudy, with gale-force winds. We went first to the ruins of Ancient Kamiros, one of the major archaeological sites on Rhodes. The site is unusual, as it comprises mainly houses rather than public buildings, but the wind was so strong, it was difficult to move around.
Next we drove up into the hills – a steep, winding and frankly scary road. Eventually we reached the village of Profitis Ilias. The plan was to do a walk from there, but the wind was so strong, we had to give up. However, we looked at Mussolini’s villa, now derelict and vandalised. Our final stop was at the so-called Valley of the Butterflies (actually, they are moths, and there are very few of them). It is a pleasant walk through a landscaped valley, and on that day it was the ideal place, as we were sheltered from the awful wind.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a wine-tasting place. We sampled five varieties, and liked them all, but decided we could really squeeze only one bottle in our case!