Greece - Flag Rhodes Lindos Acropolis of Rhodes

I’m finally in Greece!

Although it seems strange to admit now that there was a time before I had been to or even cared about Italy, as a child, I dreamed of going to Greece. In the fifth grade, we studied Greek mythology and history as part of our ancient history class, and I was totally into it and got an A. I loved Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts (and still do), and I imagined a sparkling blue and white paradise where the sun penetrates everything and excellent food grows on trees. Almost twenty-five years later, I discovered that it was all true. Living in Italy, I can get to any of Greece’s islands pretty easily, but didn’t have enough time to go to more than one. I wanted serious ruins, plenty of beach, interesting diving, and legitimate nightlife. So I put my thinking cap on and did some research, and settled on Rhodes.Rhodes is the best of Greece all in one, manageable place. You can crisscross the country by plane and ferry if you want to – looking for the history of Athens, or the white and blue houses of Santorini, or the beaches of Mykonos, or the diving of Milos – or you can find all those treats conveniently packed into one island that also boasts the largest, active Medieval town center in Europe. Not to mention a major international airport, with loads of direct flights from London, Rome, Paris, Barcelona and others. If you’ve always wanted to go to Greece but didn’t know which island to start with (like me), this is it. 

Greece - Athens

Flying over Athens.

First things first: you’re going to need a car. That’s okay – you can pick one up at the airport upon your arrival. This way, you’ve got the entire island at your disposal and you won’t have to conform to bus schedules or worry about finding taxis. Plus, driving along the mountainous roads, which are very well maintained, passing by herds of goats and sweeping views of the sea, is reason alone to visit Rhodes.

I wanted to stay in a quiet part of the island, on a beach, that was equidistant from all the sights and activities I wanted to see –Rhodes town, Lindos, and the airport – and opted for the convenient and lovely Hotel Irene Palace in Kolymbia. Within walking distance to several pubs and bars, a car rental center, and large supermarket, I was very comfortable at this place. The colossal breakfast buffet, and the beach and pool just outside, were enough to keep me on campus all day. Almost.

Hotel Irene Palace Kolympia Rhodes Greece

Moonlight from my balcony at the Irene Palace in Kolympia

If you didn’t rent a car, just around the corner from the Irene Palace is a bus stop that will take you to Rhodes town for dirt-cheap. If you have a car, the scenic drive to the town won’t take long, and once you’re there, you will want to spend at least an entire day ambling around the medieval, stone mosaic-paved Old Town, visiting the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes (which looks more like a castle from Harry Potter than anything you’d expect to see in Greece), and the Archeological Museum.

Greece Rhodes Old Town

The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

Greece Rhodes Old Town

Inside the Palace.

Greece Rhodes Old Town

Inside Hogwarts Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

Greece- Rhodes Old Town

The walls surrounding Rhodes Old Town, in the evening. Restaurants, bars, nightlife, fun. The Old Town is the largest medieval town center in Europe.

Make sure you have a lingering meal at any of Old Town’s traditional Greek restaurants, indulging in hummus, feta, and lamb, finishing off with Greek yogurt with sweet grapes. After dinner, the best thing you can do for your soul is to stop by the atmospheric, 300-year-old Turkish Café on 76 Sokratous in Old Town (no website!), sip a traditional Turkish coffee and share a flavored hookah with friends.

Greek Food Rhodes

Lamb, Chicken, Beef and Hummus – This dinner has and is everything.

Greek Yogurt Rhodes Greece

Turns out Greek yogurt in Greece isn’t like Greek yogurt anywhere else

Greece Turkish Coffee Shop in Rhodes

The 300-year-old Turkish Coffee Shop in Old Town, Rhodes.

If you’ve ever wanted to try SCUBA diving, or you’re already certified, head to Lepia Dive Centre in Pefkos, just next to Lindos. I have my Open Water certification but am a bit of a nervous diver, only strapping a tank on every two years or so. The multi-lingual dive masters at Lepia were patient and funny, and their passion for this island and its sea was contagious. They offer “Discover Scuba Diving” courses for total novices, advanced dives and courses for the more expert, and a variety of immersions for in-between divers like me.  This included my first ever shipwreck dive at the Giannoula K – so eerie and beautiful that if I hadn’t had an oxygen tank, it would have taken my breath away. And, by the way? Lepia was, by far, the most affordable dive center I’ve ever visited.

Greece Rhodes St. John's Bay

My SCUBA Dive started in that bay and continued out through the rock opening into the Mediterranean.

St. Paul's Bay, Rhodes, Greece

St. Paul’s Bay, where we started our dive.

St. Paul's Bay, Rhodes, Greece

St. Paul’s Bay near Lindos, Rhodes

Greece Rhodes Scuba Dive Lindos Lepia Dive

On my dive with Lepia Dive Center, weightless and carefree.

Greece Rhodes Scuba Dive Lindos Lepia Dive

The dive is over but the day is young in Rhodes, St. Paul’s Bay.

Greece - Octopus Rhodes Greek Food

Our lunch after a dive. Grilled with lemon, the perfect texture and clean, mildly salty taste.

And while we’re on that subject, everything in Rhodes was cheap. Coming from Rome, where I live, the food, transportation, and alcohol in Rhodes seemed to run at about 50% of what I pay back home. For anyone coming from large European cities, this will cause something of a giddy feeling that instantly encourages shopping, of which there is plenty here. But avoid purchasing shells, which are often imported from elsewhere and are usually harvested unethically. Go for the linens, spices, and pottery.

Greece Greek Spices Shopping Rhodes

Spices for chefs and non-chefs, cheap and abundant in Rhodes.

Greece - Rhodes Shopping

Something for all tastes.

One of the best spots on the island for this is in Lindos. Just down the road from the Lepia Dive Center, you can dive in the morning and visit Lindos in the afternoon. Lindos is the place where you can scratch your little-white-houses-and-winding-paths itch.

Greece - Donkeys in Lindos Rhodes

Transportation options in Lindos.

Greece Rhodes Lindos

More transportation options in Lindos.

Lindos Rhodes Greece

A little pathway in Lindos, Rhodes.

Greece Rhodes Lindos Acropolis

Shopping in the shadow of an acropolis, no big deal.

After wandering through the shady stone streets and drooling over shops, suddenly you emerge onto the sun-soaked clifftop that is home to the Acropolis of Rhodes. These are the kinds of ruins that remind you that you’re really in Greece, whose people were somehow capable of building these enormous structures on mountains, without cranes or bulldozers, more than 2,000 years ago. The jaw drops open as you explore this complex of temples dedicated to the gods, and peer over the walls at some of the most beautiful beaches on earth below you.

Greece - Acropolis of Rhodes

Maybe my greeciest picture of all. The Acropolis of Rhodes

Greece - Acropolis of Rhodes

A Greek ship carved into the wall of the Acropolis of Rhodes, thousands of years ago.

Beyond the sights (on land and under sea), and besides the food, the part of Rhodes that I was struck by, and keep thinking about now that I’m home, is how kind and hospitable everyone was. Everywhere – at the Irene Palace, the Lepia Dive Centre, the airport, even just at a crêpe stand – everyone I met wanted to engage in conversation (always in impeccable English), show me how to find an address rather than just tell me, and offer an extra drink after dinner. Try this! Try that! I never like to generalize, but maybe it’s acceptable when an entire population seems to exude friendliness like the people of Rhodes do. On your list of reasons to go there, put this one at the top.
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