Planning a trip to Rhodes? Our Greek holiday expert, Marc Dubin, gives you the insider information on planning, booking and enjoying a hassle free holiday you’ll never forget.
Rhodes, the island of the ancient sun-god Helios, is keen to emphasise that association: understandably so, with an average of over 300 sunny days annually. But increasingly Rhodes is coming into its own as a cultural destination and not just a place for beach holidays. The medieval walled old town of Rhodes, a UNESCO Heritage Site, and the perfect sugar-cube village of Líndos on the east coast are indisputably must-sees. But frescoed country chapels, crumbling rural castles and one of Greece’s best art museums also attract art-and-architecture buffs. And for the energetic, various watersports await, including great windsurfing.
When to go
Many Brits visit Rhodes in mid-summer when temperatures soar – Líndos is suffocatingly airless – and there are few vacancies to be had. Late June and September can be busy too, but it is usually cooler. The best seasons are late May to early June, once spring weather has settled; or late September to early November, when the sea can be warmer than the air. Winter can be rainy, though with many fine days, but few hotels stay open. Generalisations are just that, however; recently there have been Novembers warmer than October, Aprils better than May.
Getting the best deal
Avoid July and August if possible, though June and September are also busy and you may not save that much on either accommodation or flights. No-frills airlines might not furnish the best deal, especially at peak season – it can be worth going via a European land-hub (including Athens) with a ‘major’ airline for much the same price.
There are no special health precautions needed for visiting Rhodes. Do get a free EHIC card, which entitles EU citizens to free emergency health treatment (at Rhodes general hospital and outpatient clinics only). But buy travel insurance too – to cover more serious medical mishaps.
Packing and Baggage
Rhodes supermarkets (mostly along the road from Zéfyros beach to Kallithéa) sell all essentials, so don’t fill your baggage allowance with food items. If you’re flying with a low-cost airline that charges for every bag, take only the essentials – Greek pharmaceuticals in particular are heavily subsidised.
Getting to the airport
There are flights to Rhodes from across the UK (Bristol, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow among others). Direct flights (on easyJet, Thomsonfly, Thomas Cook or Jet2) are only available between March and November; otherwise you must go via Athens or another European hub, typically Rome or Frankfurt.
Public transport is often the cheapest option for getting to the airport. If you plan to park there, book as far in advance as possible to get the cheapest deals.
Surviving the airport
Flying from smaller airports is always easier than using big hubs like Heathrow and Manchester. In peak season consider booking lounge access to escape the crowds, or at Gatwick and Heathrow – prior to dawn departures – a Yotel module (www.yotel.com).
Most (but not all) flights arrive at Rhodes Diagoras airport’s inadequate old terminal, but most depart from the new terminal, just 100m out the doors and left from the old one. From a well marked stop in between the two, regular public buses (currently euro2.30) ply Rhodes Town’s New Market terminal from dawn until just before midnight. If you’ve booked a hotel in the Old Town, ask to be set down at the penultimate stop, Alexándrou Diákou – it will spare you a lot of walking plus a considerable climb up from New Market.
A taxi to Rhodes Town costs over 20 euros, plus baggage surcharges; legitimate fares to all other resorts are posted at the rank. Most taxis will refuse to enter Rhodes’ Old Town, leaving you at one of the five gates to hump your luggage the final distance.
Transfer times from Diagoras to resorts vary from 20 minutes to Rhodes Town to well over an hour for Kiotári, beyond Líndos. Airport car hire should be pre-booked online; local company Drive (www.driverenatacar.gr), affiliated with Budget, has the best prices and car condition.
Ferries are not really a viable option as it can be over 20 hours’ journey from Piraeus (port of Athens). But if you must, Blue Star (www.bluestarferries.gr) is much the best shipping company.
Once you are there
First night – what would you spend it doing?
Evening temperatures stay balmy at least five months of the year; thus Rhodians eat late. Follow their lead – only the most touristy restaurants begin table service at 6.30pm. Tavernas in Rhodes’ named resorts like Ixiá, Triánda, Péfki, and Líndos – as well as the main town itself – can purvey poor-quality, expensive food aimed at foreigners. You’ll often have better luck at less popular spots like Stegná, the suburbs south of Rhodes Old Town and the inland villages. Two top-end foodie meccas to single out are Mavrikos in Líndos (ignore ill-tempered reviews on TripAdvisor) and Marco Polo Café in the old town.
Practical considerations for planning an itinerary
It’s nearly 100km from Rhodes Town to Prasoníssi, the southerly cape renowned for its windsurfing, so the island is really too big to drive around in one day. If you haven’t booked a single package, consider changing base at least once, with overnights away from Rhodes Town, Ixiá or Faliráki in the far north. Between Haráki and Kiotári on the more protected east coast there are lots of possibilities, including Líndos. East-coast beaches, cleaner and less windy as a rule, face the Mediterranean, not the Aegean.
Most Rhodes Town museums close by 3pm but may re-open for a few hours in the evening; archaeological sites are open all day continuously until somewhere between 5 and 7pm. Mikró ýpno or the Greek siesta prevails from 2.30 to 5.30pm – most locals are eating, at the beach or asleep.
Rhodian roads are generally decent; there are no really scary routes. The main hazards are presented by other drivers. Local driving is aggressively reckless. The misnamed east-coast ‘motorway’ between Rhodes Town and Líndos – really more like a UK ‘A’ road – is particularly hazardous. If that’s all too daunting, the public bus service along both coasts (from the New Market) is surprisingly good, though much less frequent to interior villages. Renting bicycles or mopeds is emphatically not recommended, except for brief jaunts from a coastal resort up to said villages. East-coast boat excursions are a more relaxed possibility – the main ports of departure are Mandráki in Rhodes Town, and Líndos.
In the medieval town, absolute musts are the walk around the old walls and the Palace of the Grand Masters, while the new-town star is the Museum of Modern Greek Art. Further afield, Líndos acropolis with views to die for – is unmissable. Don’t overlook less heralded sites like the frescoed churches of Thárri and Asklipió (conveniently near each other), or ancient Kameiros and Kritinía castle. With (grand)children in tow, head for the Water Park at Faliráki. Memorable places to lunch (or dine) in the countryside include Perigiali in Stegná, Platanos in Lahaniá, Palios Monolithos in that village, or for a lively, authentic night out, the half-dozen tavernas in the pedestrianised centre of Maritsá.
Allow extra time for the small possibility that your flight might not depart from the new terminal; hire cars are returned conveniently just out front. Flights leave throughout the day, though there can be a crush between 4pm and 9pm; check-in desks have been known to close early, once all passengers are processed – do show up a minimum 90 minutes before scheduled departure time. You may be required to take your own luggage, once weighed, to a distant loading conveyor. Security and passport control are relatively efficient, but there’s little worth eating or buying in either new or old terminals. In case of severe flight delay, the village of Paradíssi – with decent, normally priced watering holes – is scarcely 500m away.
Make your holiday last a little longer by uploading your photos to Facebook for the benefit of friends, or adding them to the Rhodes Flickr group.
- Rhodes pages of the useful World Guides site: www.rhodes.world-guides.com/links_travel.html
- Fairly useful guides to resorts and beaches: www.rhodesguide.com
- Foreign-resident-pitched site with good forums: www.rhodesliving.com
- Real-time arrivals and departures at the airport: http://www.europe-airports.com/greece/show-flightstats.php?code=RHO
- A premier local beach: www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/bestbeaches/7686376/Best-beaches-in-the-Dodecanese-Greece-Paralia-Tsambika-Rhodes.html
- The main local tourist office: www.ando.gr/eot/index.htm
- The municipal site – if not kept very up to date: www.rhodes.gr
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Spain advice page: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/europe/greece