Rhodes, Greece, is the Crusader Isle, steeped in ancient history and boasting 300 days of blue skies a year. Rhodes lies at the southern end of the Dodecanese island chain that skirts the Turkish coast and is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the Mediterranean.
Many of the beach resorts on Rhodes are now firmly devoted to package tourism and anyone expecting to see a Greek goatherd and his flock has come to the wrong island.
Bar touts and club bouncers make up the local 'colour' these days and local traders in the tourist hotspots can display an avarice that only an unending supply of free-spending tourists can sustain.
Nevertheless, Rhodes is well known for bargain holidays and there are plenty of quality Rhodes' hotels to choose from. And the island is big enough to swallow all types of travellers – from beach holiday families to independent backpackers.
To the west of Rhodes City, a maze of high-rise conference centres towers over shingle beaches while, to the east, replicated rows of holiday hotels stack along the coast like so many deck chairs.
Only south of the popular resort of Lindos do the crowds thin out and does a more authentic glimpse of Greek island life emerge.
With so many cheap flights on offer, many now opt to fly to the island direct, hire a car and do some island exploring.
Rhodes is one of the most visited of the Greek islands with many thousands flying in each year. The most popular beaches lie along the north and east coasts. North coast beaches are not particularly good but they are closest to Rhodes Town and are home to mega-size hotel complexes. The east coast has the beach resort hotels with Faliraki the most notorious for down-market attractions. Crowds thin out in the south, with the hugely popular Lindos marking the end of package holiday territory. The south has fewer facilities but a more authentically Greek atmosphere than the noisier north.
Renowned as an archaeological treasure house, the city of Rhodes, or Rodos, sits on the northern tip of the island with the sea on three sides. Rhodes is really three cities in one.
The first Rhodes Town is the modern city – a monumental heap of whitewashed concrete which, but for some attractive Italian buildings, varies from the dull to the seedy.
The second Rhodes Town is the medieval walled city – a national treasure granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO and a maze of cobblestone streets and beautiful sights.
The third Rhodes Town is the seashore development that runs along the north and east coasts awash with luxury hotel complexes and overwhelmingly devoted to tourism. There are smart restaurants and some interesting shops and cafes but the main impression is cheap, brash and tacky.
Rhodes Town beach is shingle and sand with little in the way of charm despite the setting and the sunshine. Backed by tower block holiday hotels and bizarrely shaped luxury conference centres, it has a sort of regimented misery that belies its lovely location.
The beach is usually very windy and the sea can get very rough. Stones, rocks and pebbles can be flecked with oil from passing ships and there is a steep drop into the sea, so it's unsuitable for children. Visitors can also expect to pay top prices in bars and tavernas.
The 'new town' is dominated by blocks of hotels and throughout the summer it throbs to disco music and revving motorbikes. Mandraki Harbour, guarded by its twin bronze deer, is the hub and cafes banked up beneath the nearby arches are where to sit to watch the city go by. It may be noisy and expensive but it oozes atmosphere with its street sellers, pavement artists and boat trips.
There are impressive Italian buildings near Mandraki harbour and remnants of the Turkish presence that once dominated persist at the Mosque of Mourad Reis.
The nearby aquarium too is worth a visit, although the stuffed and moth-ravaged monk seals looked a sorry sight. Visitors can catch the scenic holiday train outside the town hall for a tour of the sites with excellent commentary from the driver.
To explore the old city, the wise visitor will get a map and guide. It brands them as dumb tourists, of course, but there is just so much to see that there is really no alternative.
A safe place to start is Symi Square, near Mandraki harbour, and a tour of the Castello where the knights left their most enduring marks.
For a different era in Rhodes' history find the Plane Tree Walk where the clock tower marks the wall that separated the knights' quarters from the rest of the city. The place is packed with shops, bars, cafes, restaurants – you name it, but expect to pay for it.
The main road west out of Rhodes City follows the north coast to the airport at Leoforos Triandon. Resorts stagger along the route virtually without a break as this is the main tourist holiday strip for Rhodes. A series of narrow shingle beaches line the shore while hotels dominate the inland skyline. Sunbathers can expect northerly winds and swimmers may face heavy swells and crashing waves.
Bizarrely shaped hotel and apartment blocks set in manicured grounds are the staples of Ixia, home to international luxury hotels that double as out-of-season conference centres.
Typical is the giant Rodos Palace Hotel and the equally upmarket Mira Mare Beach. Tributes to concrete and rivals to a Dallas soap set are the circular Olympic Palace and the Metropolitan Capsis.
Ixia beach is a deep and steep strip of shingle lining the busy airport road. Restaurants and shops edge the long esplanade which has a child playground and a couple of watersport centres.
The northerly wind can get very fresh on Ixia beach and many prefer calm hotel pools to the choppy seas and the non-stop whine of passing mopeds.
In the evening, hotel guests stroll into Rhodes Town past main road bars and eateries lit up like a sci-fi film set. Neon offerings are more smorgasbord or burgers than moussaka or souvlaki.
A few tavernas do offer Greek food and music, but locals stay well away from the tourist traps and prefer the food delights of nearby villages such as Tris (left just beyond the Miramare Hotel).
Quiet roads run inland from the neon-lit main highway where visitors may be surprised at the rural switch to rustic smallholdings and sights of goats grazing the fields.
About nine kilometres from Rhodes, the resort of Ixia merges with the hotels of Trianda or Trianta which, although it attracts a great many visitors, manages to retain something approaching a traditional Greek atmosphere.
Trianda beach is a long strip of shingle and sand backed by a busy road and riven with sunbeds. It offers the usual facilities found on well-developed tourist beaches.
There are all the usual watersports and the windy coast here is a big hit with windsurfers, especially in the afternoons when stiff breezes can sweep along the shore.
Trianda is effectively the beach resort of the inland village of Ialyssos, large and bustling with some local atmosphere despite the surrounding high risers, although it's not particularly picturesque.
Regular buses run into Rhodes Town and to other villages along the coast. There is also a taxi-rank in the centre of the Trianda.
On the hillside above of Trianda is one of the island's most noted beauty spots at Ialyssos on the plateau of Filerimos.
Studded with cypress and pines, this was once the site of one of three ancient city-states that ruled Rhodes.
The ruins that remain are somewhat meagre, but Ialyssos does have third-century temples to Zeus and Athena.
Filerimos is visited more for the heavily restored church of the Virgin Mary – built by the Knights on the site of a Byzantine basilica – and the monastery, an Italian restoration of the original.
Reached by a flight of steps bordered by cypresses, the monastery and its domed chapels feature on the coat of arms of the Grand Master d'Aubusson.
Beneath the Byzantine ruin is a tiny underground chapel with 14th-century wall paintings. The monks sell their liqueur, known as 'sette' and made from seven local herbs.
Memorable views and a riot of flowers make this a trendy area for photographers and nature lovers, especially in the spring.
Kremasti lies a little further along the coast road from Trianda and is less a resort than a busy run-of-the-mill village with rooms to let, apartments and a few package hotels.
Still expanding, Kremasti has a wide pebble beach with the usual sun-loungers, parasols and watersports. The beach is steeply banked pebble and stone, making it unsuitable for children.
It sits at the end of the Rhodes airport runway and can get frenetic on airport transfer days for Rhodes' package holidays.
A striking church dominates the tree-lined village square which is peppered with shops and cafes. Kremasti village is famous for its Panayieri, or Festival of the Virgin Mary, on August 15. There is a giant street market, fiesta and funfair. The Panhellenic Craft Fair is held in Kremasti from August 14 – 22.
The nearby village of Pastida is an oasis of calm, sheltering amid citrus and olive groves with a smattering of small shops and tavernas.
Further west along the coast road, and at the other end of the airport runway, is the village and coastal resort of Tholos or Theologos.
The narrow strip shingle and sand soon flattens out into a wide expanse, backed by scrub and low dunes. The windy beach is a favourite with windsurfers but there is little protection for sunbathers.
The crowds tend to thin out at Tholos despite the high rise hotels all around and the hilltop village centre is about a kilometre inland.
Tholos has a much more of a traditional Greek atmosphere than most north coast resorts with some typical island architecture among the shops and tavernas.
One of the last resorts on the north coast is the village of Fanes with a picturesque harbour and a flat isolated beach dotted with stands of tamarisk trees.
At Fanes, about 30 kilometres from Rhodes City, visitors leave hotel land behind for a long flat swathe of sharp sand and shingle with a couple of good tavernas at the back of the sands.
The flat beach, shallow water and stiff breezes make for ideal conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing and the sports are hugely popular here.
While luxury conference centre hotels dominate the north-west coast, the northeast favours the standard holiday hotels and apartment blocks for the package holiday trade. The main coastal highway snakes down to Lindos with every sand and shingle bay along its length a thriving tourist resort. The resorts vary from fun-filled holiday playpen of Faliraki to the upmarket kitsch of Therma Kalithea.
Koskinou and Kalithea are small working villages in their own right but holidaymakers are housed in the line of hotels that runs south about 10 kilometres out of Rhodes Town.
The Kalithea area is not to be confused with Thermi Kalithea – the revamped former spa that sits on a rocky outcrop and which lies a little further to the south.
Beaches here are dominated by self-contained, all-inclusive, holiday hotels that squat side-by-side along sands that, although reasonable enough, are not the best on Rhodes.
It's mainly sharp sand and pebble, although patches of soft sand appear to the south towards the rock outcrop at Thermi Kalithea.
No hidden coves or quiet bays lie hidden on this part of the coast, just a long stretch of wide, flat beach. Koskinou is all-inclusive hotel holiday territory.
Thermae Kallithea, also variously spelt Thermi, Therma, and Kalithea or Kalithia was originally a health spa built in the Moorish style by the Italians in the 1930s.
The dramatic, decayed setting and kitsch architectural features, including domed pavilions and pink marble pillars, make it a favourite venue for fashion photographers.
A major spa restoration has breathed new life into the resort which is approached down an avenue of pines. Palm trees offer shade on a small shingle beach while sun loungers lie around a small lido.
Buildings are illuminated at night to add a Disney-like glitz to the pseudo-oriental atmosphere.
A nearby cove is the target of many scuba diving excursions from Rodos and 15 minutes walk away is the beach resort hotel of Aldemar Paradise with various watersports.
On the road to Faliraki, a left turn down a dirt track leads to several small coves. The sea is deep here so you'll need to be a decent swimmer to get the benefit.
Each cove usually has a few sunbeds and a beach taverna that often gives the place its name. A succession of grim hotels on the main road leads to Faliraki beach, a 20-minute walk away.
Once a fishing village – and some brochures claim it still is – a visitor would be hard put to find a fisherman on the main beach at Faliraki these days.
Often dubbed 'lively' in the brochures Faliraki resort, about 15 kilometres south of Rodos, is little more than a noisy neon teenage playpen.
Jet skiing, go-karting and bungy jumping appeal to the daily influx of frolicky young visitors whose idea of fun is getting smashed on lager and making a lot of noise.
And noise there is, brain-addling at night as the bars and clubs wind up to full power. The din can be heard several kilometres away.
Faliraki beach is a gritty flat sand and packed with bodies from dawn to well after dusk. Mosquitoes home in from the nearby lowland to gorge on the bare teenage flesh.
Drinks at Faliraki bars will cost up to six times supermarket prices and the street touts from the clubs and bars can be both persistent and aggressive.
Perversely, some holiday hotels promote a Cycladic village theme for those wishing to enjoy the 'Greek experience' that has been comprehensively cemented over to cater for the tourists.
Faliraki waterpark is nearby, one of the largest in Europe, with water flumes and slides for any bored by the beach 'experience'.
And, if its fishermen you want, there is a small harbour at the southern end of Faliraki beach where a few can still be glimpsed in the early morning.
Just south of Faliraki is the small pebble-beached cove of Ladhiko, sometimes spelt Ladiko, where many scenes were shot for the classic war film 'The Guns of Navarone'.
It is amusingly dubbed the Anthony 'Queen' bay by owners of many excursion boats that visit. The film's star actor Anthony Quinn once bought some property near here.
The more prosaic Ladiko has enormous and vertiginous cliffs behind with slabs of rock available for sunbathing. Underwater stones can be sharp so the beach is not ideal for children.
Above Ladiko Bay is a small taverna and another small sandy bay down a nearby dirt track has borrowed the name and cashed in on the visitors with some sunbeds and caravan cafe.
Afandou must surely rank as one of the most boring beaches on the island. White stone and shingle stretch out in one great seven-kilometre swathe of mediocrity.
The shingle dips steeply at the shoreline where large and slippery underwater rocks make even paddling difficult. Parts of the beach are so desolate you would be reluctant to tether a goat there.
Some brochures boast of visitors having the beach to themselves; it's not hard to see why, and few will visit more than once.
The plucky resort, about 20 kilometres from Rodos, tries to attract visitors with an 18-hole golf course and a tourist train to ferry visitors the two kilometres from village and beach across a hectic main road.
Afandou village, the second largest on Rhodes, is a working village, although tourism is now the staple trade. Dozens of tavernas and holiday bars line the main street. Music and karaoke blare from busy bars around the town square.
Just outside Afandou village, surrounded by pines, is the monastery of Agios Nektarios, with an immense pine tree and a drinking fountain fed by springs that tumble from the surrounding hills.
The approach to Kolymbia is dramatic, along an arrow-straight road lined with mature eucalyptus. Built as a model farm by the Italians, Kolimbia, Kolymbia or Kolympia, is remarkable for the local houses, noted for their over-large chimney stacks.
The resort, about 25 km from Rodos, is relatively small and much favoured by German package tour operators.
It has a picturesque rocky cove with an attractive beach to the north, mostly shingle with watersports at each end.
A long, scruffy beach nearby is backed by an impressively ugly hotel and some sandy coves to the south are a 10-minute walk.
Kolymbia has an unhurried air despite the visitor numbers and most hotels blend unobtrusively into the landscape.
The high count of all-inclusive hotels has curbed the independent tavernas and bars with just a handful left to compete. There are boat trips and a bus service to other resorts and Rhodes city.
Overlooked by a Gibraltar-like rocky outcrop topped by a monastery, the swathe of soft sand at Tsambika or Tsambiki, also spelt Tsampiki or Tsampkia, is reached down a precipitous, hairpin road.
The steep descent keeps out tourist buses and other public transport, but Tsambika beach nevertheless teems with tourists and the sunbeds are fanned like playing cards.
A beach taverna is supplemented by several beach cantinas offering drinks, sandwiches and shaded relief from the sun. Behind, the sand peters out to a dirt and gravel car park.
According to legend, barren women had only to climb barefoot to the tiny white Byzantine church of Panayia Tsambika above the beach to ensure pregnancy. As a result, many of the island's children are named Tsambikos or Tsambika, depending on their sex.
The rock outcrop above overlooks both Kolimbia and Tsambika beaches with stupendous views along the coast.
Archangelos is the most notable village on the island, outside Rhodes City, with around 6,000 people living there and lies on a plain circled by the mountains of Profitis Elias, Karavos and the hills of Kefaloti, Kastro and Anagros.
Home to a dwindling leather crafts industry which still makes carpets and traditional goatskin boots, Archangelos is a now firm favourite of the German package holiday industry.
Many village houses are painted in vibrant colours and the centre is dominated by the Church of the Archangel Michael with its imposing bell tower.
Tavernas and bars line the single main street and Archangelos also has the ruins of a 15th century Crusader castle, although little remains except for the outer walls.
Nearby are the farming villages of Malona and Massari, set in the valley of Nethona River amongst citrus groves. In fact, the Archangelos area is full of citrus trees, olive plantations and vineyards.
Archangelos' village beach is at Stegna, or Stengena, roughly two kilometres from the village and 33 kilometres from Rodos. It lies at the end of a steep, winding road on a coast of sandy bays and rocky outcrops.
Stegna beach is mainly sand with the odd patch of shingle, clusters of rocks and several small coves and rock pools to explore.
Beachfront cantinas and bars open in summer and there is a tiny harbour at the end of the bay. Stegna is a favourite spot for excursion boats and day trippers usually arrive at noon for 3-4 hours.
There is only one bus a day but four mini-markets offer the basics. German package tour companies favour this area too and a large hotel to the north of Stegna beach caters to most of them.
Deep, golden sand in a medium sized cove of clear water with a few underground rocks make Agia Agathi one of the best beaches on the island and about 36 kilometres from Rhodes town.
A new road peters out to a dirt track and a beach car park. There is no resort as such, just the 600-metre beach, a string of beach cantinas and a few rows of sunbeds.
The sands at Agathi are golden and soft and waters shallow making it an ideal spot for families with children. There are toilets and showers, even a cardphone, but no natural shade.
On the far side of Agathi sands is the tiny chapel of Ayia Agathi built into a cave. For those who prefer quieter beaches, Agathi is the one to head for, although it can get busy at weekends.
Haraki is a quiet, small fishing port overlooked by the ruins of Feraklos castle – one of the first to be held by the Crusaders.
A dull promenade separates a row of chalets, shops and tavernas from the long and narrow crescent beach of shingle and stone.
Haraki is noted for its good tavernas and the resort has a large number for its size, with plenty of variety. Tavernas overlooking the bay offer excellent meals in a very romantic setting.
A small harbour at one end of Haraki beach is busy with fishing boats in the early morning and there is a steep path up the hillside to the Feraklos castle ruins above.
The locals are notably friendly and the resort is popular with Greeks, which all help to give Haraki a relaxed atmosphere often missing in holiday resorts on Rhodes.
Regular buses leave for coast resorts and to Rhodes City and there is car hire in the village.
Kalathos is a village on the main road just north of Lindos. The very long stone and shingle beach at Kalathos stretches along the shore for about four kilometres.
The beach shelves rather steeply, making it a poor choice for children but it rarely gets crowded despite some large hotels nearby. A cantina, mini market and some tavernas sit on the road that runs behind the beach.
The northern end of the beach is owned by the Greek military and access is restricted but few people bother to wander that far north along this vast beach. Photography is not advisable for those that do.
Kalathos village is a 15-minute walk from the beach just off the main road between Lindos and Rhodes Town. The village is attractive with a fine church and about 400 permanent residents.
There are a good number of bars and tavernas for such a small village and visitors will find plenty of variety but then there is little else to do here but eat and drink.
Kalathos is a good base from which to explore Rhodes, close to the famous resort at Lindos, and for those who don't like the hustle and bustle of noisy neighbours.
Lawrence Durrell once described Lindos as "of a scrupulous Aegean order, and perfect of its kind". Well, times have changed.
Lindos has inherited the perfect setting – a shimmering violet and emerald pool set in a horseshoe bay tinged with golden sand and sheltered by hills dotted with sugar-cube houses.
The 'perfect order' however is scrambled by the cars, coaches, bikes and boats that now blow into Lindos like a daily sandstorm.
By 9 am the beach is already buzzing with holidaymakers as cars and bikes roar in, followed by an endless stream of Rhodes island tour buses.
When Lindos beach seems about full, the excursion boats hoot into the bay and disgorge more milling throngs of visitors.
In July and August, the packed amphitheatre can also turn terribly hot and airless. Temperatures can soar to 40° in high summer with little in the way of natural shade.
Popularity brings the usual high prices and visitors will pay top euro for a sunbed on Lindos beach – if a sunbed can be found.
Those that do can enjoy a beach is beautiful soft sand, a sheltered bay of shallow water and watersports of all kinds, an ideal location for families with young children.
Various steep paths that snake down from Lindos village where the narrow, traffic-free streets blare to music bars and can get so crammed that visitors queue to get from one end to the other.
Pefkos is about 56 kilometres from Rodos and purpose-built for tourist visitors. Apartments and villas have mushroomed over the past few years but buildings are low rise and hidden in the pine woods.
The one-kilometre beach is narrow with sand and shingle and it lies parallel to the main road and approached down a couple of tarmac roads through pine woods (Pefkos is Greek for 'pines').
Sun loungers hug most of the shore but, at the far end, the beach fans out into a flat area of small rocky bays with shallow water, making this an attractive spot for families with children. More small coves can be found by walking north or south.
Less manic than nearby Lindos, Pefkos has no village – just a clutch of shops, restaurants and bars stretched out along the single street main street.
The atmosphere is overwhelmingly British. There are full English breakfasts, Sunday roasts, chips, beer and karaoke, Chinese and Indian restaurants, big screen TVs and quiz nights.
Buses leave for nearby Lindos with connections to Rhodes City but, without a car or moped, a taxi is the only reliable, if expensive, form of transport.
Tourists tend to leave the southern beaches to themselves. Poor roads, fewer facilities and the distance from the capital keep numbers down, although this is changing as the years roll by. Hotel rooms have increased dramatically in the last few years as development is curbed in the more attractive resorts like Lindos. All-inclusive holiday hotels are quickly becoming the norm along this part of the coast.
Lardos is set in a large bay, about 65km from Rodos and is little more than a group of supermarkets, some tavernas, car hire firms and a few large hotels.
A big aparthotel went up but the projected tourist liveliness in Lardos failed to happen as the building work on the coast fizzled out.
The sand at Lardos is soft, if a little gritty, but the water is invitingly clean. Many visitors to this part of Rhodes tend to give Lardos a miss and opt for the nearby sandy beach of Glystra.
The village is a 20-minute walk inland where there is a proper Greek community and a good selection of bars, shops and restaurants. Life centres around the tree-lined village square and its impressive fountain fed by mountain springs.
There is live Greek music in the square on festival nights and there are organised trips to Lindos, Rhodes City and other island sights.
Glystra is a small cove with an inviting beach of good fine sand that lies to the south of Lardos. This 'undiscovered' beach tends to take overspill from more northern beaches at Pefkos and Lardos.
The sands at Glystra are quite deep and the beach makes a long sweep around an attractive bay. The water is shallow, so it's excellent for families with young children while snorkellers can hunt for the shell of a car dumped in the middle of the bay.
There is good parking at the northern end of Glystra beach and a family-run cantina opens in the summer providing sunbeds and good food. The beach, although pleasant enough, is somewhat exposed, with little natural shade.
Kiotari is a modern tourist beach resort backed by hills and, at the last count, four all-inclusive hotel complexes.
The beach is large, at three kilometres and very sandy at one end, shingle at the other. A couple of summer beach cantinas plant sunbeds on the best of the sand.
Most visitors bed down in the middle of the beach where watersports. Jet skis, water skis, canoes and windsurfing are all on offer.
There are some rock pools at one end of Kiotari beach but winds can bring occasional whiffs of a nearby sewage plant.
The resort behind the beach has little in the way of Greek charm thanks the characterless holiday apartments thrown up in the 1990s.
There is no real community here but there are several mini-markets, some souvenir shops and a handful of family-run tavernas.
There is only one bus a day from Kiotari to Rhodes Town so transport is needed.
Gennadi is a vast stone and shingle beach about 70km south of Rodos. Much of the land around here is owned by the church, so development has been kept to a minimum.
Gennadi beach is really just a continuation of Kiotari and good if you like stone and pebble with scraps of sand.
It is very long, at nearly six kilometres, and the stones drop sharply into the sea, although the water is clear and swimming is good.
A line of tavernas back the most popular parts of Gennadi beach and some are noted for loud and lively parties after a DJ set up at a local beach bar and attracted hordes of youngsters. It gets much more secluded to the south.
Gennadi village is above the beach and over the main road, and there are tavernas, small hotels and villas. Some large hotel complexes stand somewhat isolated in a forlorn wilderness of flat scrub.
Plimiri has a protected, sandy bay backed by low dunes and a peaceful spot, although the building of two large hotels and a new marina in the old fishing harbour has brought tears to some eyes.
A small roadside taverna near the harbour overlooks the long sandy crescent which backed by bamboo and scrub and lies about 85km south of Rodos. Nearby is the Monastery of Zoodhos Pigi, dating from 1840.
To the south are broad and flat deserted beaches, backed by cedar woodland, but with no facilities. The best stretches are south of Cape Viglos. They are usually deserted and best reached down a dirt track just before Agios Pavlos with its abandoned Italian monastery and impressive clock tower.
There are miles of sand along this stretch of coast with beautiful, deserted bays, the most notable being at Agios Giorgios.
Inland from Plimiri is the farming village of Kattavia with fields of cereals and vegetables with scattered farmhouses, an old abandoned airport and some impressive cypress-lined roads.
At Prassonissi, a dramatic three-kilometre spit of sand charges out to sea with the choppy Aegean on one side and the calm Mediterranean on the other.
The views are astonishing from a distance, but close up the beach tends to be grubby and dirty, not least because of the cars and jeeps parked on it.
In winter the seas can link up and turn the spot into a genuine island, about 80km from Rodos. Even in summer, the brisk winds can force sunbathers to seek shelter.
Surfers find Prassonissi ideal, especially off the northern shore, and many professionals come here to train. On most days the sea is alive with sailboards.
There are a couple of tavernas at the roadside and there are surfboards and wetsuits are for hire.