Closer to Turkey’s south coast than Greece, Rhodes straddles the mild Aegean and Mediterranean seas, with sweeping sandy beaches to the east and ruggedly beautiful cliffs and coves to the west. And although the island’s a top spot for kitesurfing, you’d also be forgiven for turning this into a spectator sport and reclining at one of the fantastic beachside bars and restaurants instead.
Scattered with hilltop citadels, glorious stone castles and fortified town walls, stumbling upon Rhodes’ ancient sites creates an enchanting sense of discovery. Rhodes has some of the biggest and best Crusader castles in the Mediterranean. Some are ruins but others have been restored to their former glory, such as the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. This cartoon-like castle in the heart of medieval Old Town is a legacy of the crusading Knights of St John, who were based on Rhodes from 1309-1522. Visit the two museums inside to really help to bring the past to life.
The Greek Islands are known for their gorgeous stretches of sand lapped by the turquoise sea, and Rhodes is no different. Lots of people head to the east coast’s big beaches, especially lively resort towns like Faliraki, where package holidays in Rhodes are popular. If you’re looking for more peace and quiet, the pebble-and-sand expanse of Afándou Bay is the least developed large beach on the east, with just a few showers and clusters of inexpensive sunbeds. Stegná and Haráki have also kept their authentic charm. Among the prettiest is Líndhos’ crescent-shaped beach. It basks below a steep hill speckled with classic whitewashed Greek houses, and an ancient acropolis towering above.
Feel the adrenaline rush as you soar over high waves, carried by a powerful coastal wind. The waters of Prassoníssi, at Rhodes’ southern cape, is among Europe’s top windsurfing spots - and one of the best things to do in Rhodes. The peninsula of Prassoníssi is where two seas meet; pros can head to the choppy Aegean side on the west, while the calmer Mediterranean, on the east, is ideal for beginners. There are schools for new starters and the season runs from May to mid-October.
A hike is one of the more overlooked things to do in Rhodes, but it’s filled with rewards, thanks to the island’s diverse natural beauty of hills, forests, wildflower meadows and cliff tops with ocean views. In summer, it’s also a great way to escape the crowds. One route that combines the mountains and sea is the hike from Salakos, a village at the foot of Profitis Ilias (The Mountain of Prophet Elijah), in the north-west. It takes about 4 hours to loop from the village to the peak and down again, passing among cypress trees, with a gorgeous ocean view at the 798m summit.
Stand still for long enough in Petaloudes and a butterfly might just land on you. This small valley at the island’s north-west translates as the Valley of the Butterflies, thanks to the type of Jersey Tiger Moth that congregate here in their droves. Attracted by the aroma from the valley’s Oriental Sweet gum trees, they settle lightly on the trees and rocks, usually between June 10th and September 20th. And if you’re here outside of butterfly season, the shaded, green valley with its little river and waterfalls makes for a peaceful walk.