For the next edition of our Insider Interview series, we get together with Amanda Settle from Amandasettle.com, who lives and breathes all things Greece.
As an expat living in Greece, her website has in-depth guides to life on various Greek Islands, with everything from the best beaches in Patmos to what to expect from the shrimp festival in Symi.
We’ve been lucky enough to pick her brains about everything that makes Rhodes a brilliant place to visit.
Greece has so many islands to choose from… why would you say travellers should visit Rhodes over other major Greek islands?
The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes has something to offer every traveller. It has a small island feel in the bays of Haraki and Stegna as well as classic white houses in Lindos with the acropolis above and stunning bays below. There’s also the Unesco World Heritage site of the medieval walled city of Rhodes, long sandy beaches and hillside villages.
Traditional life exists here alongside the modern. You can sail, swim, kitesurf, go walking, cycle, bird watch, or just sit by the pool all day. There are small guest houses in stunning old buildings or modern All Inclusive resorts with infinity pools. With an airport and ferry links, it’s also a great base to see other islands in the Dodecanese.
If a traveller only has a few days on the island, what is the one thing he or she shouldn’t miss the chance to visit/see/do in Rhodes?
If I had to narrow it down to only one thing, i’d say the medieval walled city. You can wander the alleyways, sit and watch the world go by, enjoy local cuisine, go shopping, explore museums and really feel like you’re touching history.
In terms of food, tourists tend to find themselves eating at all the obvious places, but which lesser-known restaurant gems do the locals love in Rhodes when it comes to dining out?
We love heading into the hills and going to the local tavernas. Many are open on weekends in winter when they are packed with people from all over the island going to enjoy traditional slow-cooked meat in a warm room with a roaring fire. Equally, you can escape the crowds and head to quieter places where you can have a leisurely mezze overlooking the sea.
One of our favourites is the Old Monolithos Taverna in Monolithos. It’s open all year and is a great place to escape the heat in the cooler mountain air with stunning views across the coast and traditional home-cooked food. In winter the fire will be lit and welcome just as warm with slow-cooked meat and traditional vegetable dishes.
Obviously places like Athens are packed with Grecian history, but what sites does Rhodes offer that might appeal to travellers?
Rhodes has several ancient sites, the Acropolis on top of the castle in Lindos is one of the most photographed spots on the island. There’s also an Acropolis and ancient stadium and theatre in Rhodes Town. Further down the west coast of the island is the ancient settlement of Kamiros. Lesser known is the Temple of Zeus on the top of Mount Attivyros, the highest point on the island.
There’s also the history left behind by the Knights on Rhodes, with a selection of castles to explore in different states of disrepair dotted around the island. All of the them are in positions with commanding views of the coastline.
Culturally, are there any places or events you’d recommend to really immerse yourself in the local culture?
There are always festivals and events going on around the island. If you can, go to the island in spring and head to the Orange Festival in Massari. It’s an annual festival that takes place at the end of March beginning of April, and is one of the largest festivals on the island.
For a different view of the town of Lindos, come along on Father’s Day when they hold an evening medieval festival with a parade through the old alleyways, displays of traditional crafts and fabulous stage entertainment in the amphitheatre.
Lastly, every year on the last weekend of September, the island has it’s Open Doors event. Many historic buildings in the medieval city that aren’t normally open to the public, open their doors and everything is free of charge. It’s an opportunity to see behind the high walls and ornate wooden doors, and there’s different buildings every year.
For some amazing Greek Island beauty in Rhodes, are there any natural sightseeing opportunities that you can’t miss?
For amazing views, head down the west coast to see the rugged beauty and an undeveloped natural coastline. Make it to the end of the island at Prasonissi and you’ll find the beach where the two seas meet, if you get there at the right time of year you can walk right across and explore the small islet at the end with its lighthouse.
For bird-watching head into the hills and to the two reservoirs where you’ll find a great selection, especially in spring and autumn. Lastly, if you’re driving in the hills around sunset or sunrise look out for the unique Rhodian deer.
What’s the best way to get around when travelling on the island?
The best way to explore the island is by car, at 1,408 square kilometres with a really well looked after road network, it’s great to drive around the mountain roads and down the coastlines. You can also hire a moped or take a guided tour by coach.
For travellers who don’t want another pen or postcard, what cultural souvenir would you recommend taking home from Rhodes?
Rhodes has always been well known for its pottery, and there are many shops where you can see the potter making the pots before you buy them. The village of Embona is known for its carpets and many of the villages still have women making lace.
The island is great for growing things so there’s a good selection of locally produced preserves, honey, nuts, olives and olive oil. For something a little more unique, you can pick up some locally made alcohol from the village of Sianna.
Do you have any other suggestions for alternatives to the tourist trail or typical tourist activities on the island?
For something slightly different there are a few companies who offer cycle tours around the island. If you’d rather be on a horse, there’s Elpida’s Ranch that offers rides in pristine countryside and swimming in the sea with the horses. For those who like a little more excitement, there are a few kitesurfing schools on the island as the wind and surf are perfect for it.
Those who don’t want to get too out of breath can take a wine tour of the island, there are several vineyards and it’s a great way to see and taste what the island has to offer. That said, families should definitely head to Petaloudes, the valley of the butterflies and walk among the cool air and natural streams of the valley filled with a unique natural forest of sweet gum trees. Butterflies in their thousands are found here every year in late May.
Lastly, head up to Epta Piges, Seven Springs, an area with natural springs that was built up by the Italians to irrigate farmland on the coast, you walk through the tunnel to the natural river and pools and enjoy the cool air among the pine forest away from the coast.
If you want to avoid the bus tours completely, find the alternative butterfly walk at the village of Salakos. Also away from the coach tours is Eleousa, an abandoned Italian square with amazing architecture and a beautiful church, not far from the square you’ll find a huge fountain with a pool of fish unique to the island.
Head further up to Profitis Ilias where you can enjoy a coffee at a hotel that would fit in well in the Alps. Not far from there is the abandoned villa known as Mussolini’s House built by Italian General Di Vecchi in the same alpine style as the hotel.