Rhodes sunset - Credit: Romtomtom
In the ancient world, Rhodes was seen as the island of the Sun God Helios, who crossed the firmament with his team every day. The bronze statue, the “Colossus of Rhodes”, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world. Today, Rhodes with its 2000-year history is a fascinating mix of beaches, nature and testimonials.
Rhodes City (Rhodes)
A walk through the old town of Rhodes is at the same time a ramble through the thousands of years of history of the city - from the Archaeological Museum with its ancient statues, graves and ceramics, you can go down Street of Knights to the Palace of the Knights dating from the Middle Ages which has not suffered any damage to the present day. Not far away you will find modern boutiques, bars and cafés which invite you to pass away the time and take a stroll.
The formidable city walls from the 15th Century are an impressive sight. You can walk along part of them to enjoy a wonderful view of Rhodes old town. The Turkish quarter with its oriental mosques, in which time seems to have stood still, is also worth seeing. In the tangle of small alleyways you will stumble again and again across quaint nooks and crannies, but the old town is at its most beautiful in the early evening when the dwindling sunlight lights up the streets of houses dating from the Middle Ages in gold.
Valley of the Butterflies (Petaloudes)
Butterfly Valley is a narrow, lush forested valley through which a beck runs - this idyll is ideal for walking and taking a picnic. At its upper end there is an 18th-Century monastery which is worth a brief visit.
Those visiting the valley, however, generally have other reasons. The “Valley of the Butterflies” is not so-called for no reason - thousands and thousands of rare harlequin butterflies with their red and black wings live here. It is, however, not always possible to see them. You will mainly come across them in the summer months between June and August - in late summer they lay eggs, in April the caterpillars hatch which transform in June and spend the summer in the valley. Why this species of butterfly has come to settle in this area of Rhodes can be explained by a botanical particularity - amber trees, whose aromatic resin attracts the harlequin butterflies and on the bark of which they feed, only grow in this area of the country.
Historical: Lindos was built by the Dorians in about the twelfth century B.C. Rhodes sent nine ships to help out in the Greco-Trojan War and these were probably from Lindos. Lindos became the centre of maritime trade in the area and was very prosperous.
A stay in Lindos in undoubtedly one of the high points of a trip to Rhodes. The fact that this settlement has been constantly inhabited since the ancient world is unsurprising when you consider the scenic position of the village between the hills and the sea. The whitewashed houses form an arch around the hill, which is crowned by the Acropolis surrounded by an enormous wall from the Middle Ages which can be seen from the village.
On the way to the Acropolis, you may easily get lost in the maze of alleyways and in many places stumble across well maintained silicic mosaic floors with splendid patterns. The so-called captain houses from the 18th Century, which are decorated with complex façades, are famous. At the excavated site at the highest point of the Acropolis you will find the Temple of Athena Lindia, which was meant to replace the old wooden temple and which was constructed in the 6th Century BC under the rule of Kleoboulos. Here, you can walk over the terraces, pass by an Exedra from the 3rd Century BC, through an impressive portico and the gateway which forms the entrance to the holy temple area.
Thari Monastery (Moni Thari)
The Thari Monastery, a Byzantine gem, lies south of Laerma in the middle of the island. It is run by a few monks who have their own radio and TV programs. It was empty until well into the 1980s when Abbot Amfilodios first gave it a new lease of life. The monastery goes back to the 13th Century and was built on the site of an even older building.
The basic legend says that a Byzantine princess from Constantinople suffered from an incurable illness and almost died alone in the woods of Rhodes. The mild climate and the bubbling springs in the area cured her and she founded a monastery to show her thanks. She determined the site for this by throwing her ring - the monastery was to be built where her ring was found. The church is worth a visit due to its frescoes with scenes from the Old and New Testament, which mainly originate from the 16th and 17th Century, although some date back to the early 14th Century.
Kamiros The ancient pottery town is admittedly one of the less important ancient sites on Rhodes, but is nevertheless worth a visit. The picturesque Kamiros, nestled between green hills not far from the western coast of the island, is the smallest of the three ancient sites of Rhodes but lost its importance after the merger in 408 BC of the separate site with the capital Rhodes City.
Kamiros is a homogenous Hellenistic settlement whose inhabitants were farmers and craftsmen, often potters which gave Kamrios its far-reaching reputation as a pottery town. Ceramics from Kamiros were exported nearly everywhere in the world known at the time. The architectural uniformity of the town is due to the fact that the entire town was completely rebuilt shortly after a serious earthquake in 226 BC which flattened out the town. It was finally abandoned after another earthquake in 142 BC, after which the population lost their destroyed town.
At 1,215m, Ataviros is the highest mountain in Rhodes. The ascent is extremely hard and you should allow approximately 7 hours to get there and back and make sure that you have good footwear with you. It is best to start the walk from the tiny village of Embona. The otherwise sparse mountain is covered in spring by a gory sea of white and blue sage, light-blue anemones and pink rockroses - a sight to sweeten the tiring walk. If you can reach the summit, the breathtaking view of the island and the sea is worth it.
Here you can also see the scant remains of a Zeus Sanctuary from Mycenaean times. A gruesome legend surrounds this - the altar is said to have been designed in the form of a bronze bull in which people were locked away. Then a fire was started and those inside died a painful death. The priests of the sanctuary interpreted the screams and cries for help of those sacrificed as an oracle. Even today inhabitants of the village tell this story at the foot of the mountain.
The “Seven Springs” are a waterfall which is formed from the meeting of several springs to irrigate the Kolymbia plain. Here you will find a tavern which will tempt you to while away long periods of time with its tables under the shade of donated sycamores and numerous peafowls which form a tryst.
Epta Piges is a popular place for the residents of Rhodes, who like to bring picnics here, particularly in the summer months. It is pleasantly cool here even in the height of summer thanks to the water and close-by pine forests. It is hardly surprising that legends claim this place was a favourite with nymphs. A 150m long water tunnel links the beck to a lake. Only the courageous should take this route to the lake, since the tunnel is pitch black. For those less adventurous there is also an overground route, but it is slightly longer. Fans of rare plants will also appreciate this area, as light-blue mandrakes, for example, grow here which have a human-like figure and are said to have had magical powers in the Middle Ages.
Embona is one of Rhodes' largest mountain villages and is the wine capital of the island. At the entrance to the village you will find the Emery winery, which produces excellent wines and can also be visited on weekdays - with wine tasting included, of course! Its fame is due to the Athiri grape, which thrives wonderfully on the small terraces on the western slopes of Ataviros and has been cultivated since ancient times. Attempts to cultivate this type of grape outside Rhodes have always failed.
Due to its famous wine, the village has been taken over by mass tourism. Not a day goes by without the arrival of coaches of tourists. Many of the local taverns offer Greek evenings with folklore dance shows. Those wishing to have a slightly quieter visit to Embona should take a short walk to the quieter and more traditional part of the village where you can buy rugs and weaved goods which are made in nearly every house in Embona.
About The Author: Nikki McCowan is an online Brand Manager and owner of http://www.lastminutetraveluk.co.uk Last Minute Travel UK is one of the largest affiliate based holiday websites, serving hundreds of customers each month.
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