15 things to see and do in Rhodes beyond the beach

Rebecca Hall

written by
Rebecca Hall

updated 04.10.2023

As Greek islands go, Rhodes has it all. Beautiful beaches, ancient sights, a UNESCO World Heritage ‘living’ Old Town and 300 days of sunshine a year. With several summer charters from many UK and European destinations, and flights through Athens in the winter, it’s easily accessible. In addition, those who enjoy the journey as part of the travelling experience will relish the opportunity to travel by ferry — albeit a 13-hour journey, but with comfortable cabins if you choose to book one. 

What are the best things to see and do in Rhodes beyond the beach?

It’s in the southeast Aegean Sea, very near the coast of Turkey, the port of Marmaris only 25 nautical miles away, hence the island’s volatile and interesting Ottoman history. 

Alas, Rhodes has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, mainly the devastating wildfire in July 2023. But, as past experience has proved, the island is resilient and recovering well, maintaining its tourism flow. Here we explore unique things to see and do in Rhodes beyond the beach.

Seeking to make your journey exceptional? Talk to our local travel experts or browse our Greece itineraries.

1. Rhodes Old Town

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, Rhodes’ Old Town was built in the 14th century by the Knights of St John. It’s a medieval city of fortresses, gates, castle walls and a huge dry moat. In addition, its labyrinthine cobbled alleyways contain over 200 streets, many with no names. 

As you meander around, it’s easy to see how invading pirates could get lost. Don’t be alarmed if the same happens to you — losing yourself in the Old Town is considered a rite of passage.

The Ottomans eventually conquered Rhodes in 1522 and defeated the Knights of St. John, who moved on to Malta. 

They maintained the Old Town, adapting it to accommodate their own religious needs. Minarets were built atop churches, and many Greeks were made to give up their homes, only allowed to return for work purposes.

The Italians took over in 1912, giving Rhodes a new lease of life, and visitors today will enter into a relatively untouched piece of history.

For over 1500 years, life has continued within, hence the island is considered to be one of the oldest “living” old towns in Europe. Over 6000 people still live and work within its walls.

Want to enjoy your own bespoke Greek island trip? Talk to our local Greece travel experts.

Historical streets of old town Rhodes with flowers in Rhodes © Shutterstock

Rhodes' historic Old Town © Shutterstock

2. Palace of the Grand Masters

This unique landmark is the pièce de résistance for your Rhodes Old Town visit.

Originally built by the Byzantines, it was reconstructed by the Knights of St. John in the 14th century as a home for their Grand Master.

In addition, the palace served as an administrative centre and fortress during the knights’ tenure.

Impossible to miss at every twist and turn of the Old Town’s cobbled, tiny streets, the Palace of the Grand Master is a museum in which you can wander the large halls, dining room and throne room. Then there’s the original private quarters of the Grand Master. 

All in all, visiting the Palace of the Grand Masters is akin to stepping onto the set of Game of Thrones.

The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes © Shutterstock

Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes © Shutterstock

3. Street of the Knights

Take a stroll along this famous 200-meter cobbled street to glimpse and appreciate the island’s famous history.

Starting from the Port and concluding at the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Street of the Knights has seven 16th century inns along it. These represent the seven regions the Grand Masters originated from. Although most of them were French, other regions could be found from around England, Germany and Italy.

The seven still standing are in various states of repair, four completely intact. The front of each is decorated with emblems reflecting their respective country, the French one being the most spectacular.

The stonemasons who painstakingly worked on these facades were mostly Greek, but some craftsmen were also brought in from Spain and France. 

Take time to walk up the Street of the Knights to admire the architecture and stonework — and have your camera ready.

Street of Knights in Rhodes old town, Greece © Shutterstock

Street of Knights in Rhodes' Old Town, Greece © Shutterstock

4. Castle Walls walk

For a bird’s eye view of the Old Town, what better way than to walk atop the Castle Walls? From here, you’ll gain a different vantage point of the ancient city and its colourful houses and minarets. No drone required for photos!

You buy your ticket and enter at the Palace of the Grand Masters, with the walk running for 4 km (2.5 miles). Along the way, you’ll spot towers, bastions and imposing gates bearing the Venetian coats of arms. 

The ones still existing today were built in the period between the two Ottoman sieges (1480 and 1522).

Rhodes Old Town and Walls © Shutterstock

Rhodes Old Town and castle walls © Shutterstock

5. Butterfly Valley

Heading out of the Old Town now, some 14 miles away, to appreciate something different in the Rhodes countryside. 

Towards the seaside village of Lindos is the “Valley of the Butterflies” — Petaloùdes in Greek. It’s a natural, protected oriental sweet gum tree park, and every year at the end of May, thousands of tiger moths gather to rest on the bark to conserve energy.  The result is the only forest of its kind in Europe.

Visit this valley if you’re keen on walking through nature to view not only this unique phenomenon, but also the huge rocks that rise up around the valley, lush vegetation, and a waterfall that ends in a natural green swimming pool. It’s very chilly, so be warned!

Butterfly valley of Rhodes island © Shutterstock

Butterfly Valley, Rhodes © Shutterstock

6. Kallithea Springs

9km (6 miles) from Rhodes Old Town brings you to another world. As far back as the 5th century B.C., people would come for the healing waters sprouting from the area on the island known as Kallithea.  

Two world wars saw the springs and their facilities turned into an area to support the war effort, or under German command. Nowadays, after much renovation, Kallithea Springs is a unique place to spend all day.

Thermal waters of 25C await you, so instead of a day by the beach, come and spend time relaxing in the warm waters, eating lunch, and sipping a cocktail at sunset.

Kalithea Springs constructed in the 1930s, Rhodes Island © Shutterstock

Kalithea Springs, Rhodes Island © Shutterstock

7. Acropolis of Lindos

Athens isn’t the only place to boast an acropolis. It may be the most famous in the world, but Rhodes has its own at Lindos in St Paul’s Bay. This is in the southeast of the island, 31 miles by car or taxi from Rhodes Old Town, roughly an hour’s drive away.

Lindos, once a small fishing village, is now fairly modern and the Acropolis sits atop a 380-foot cliff with a magnificent coastal backdrop. You’ll find other historical monuments within it, such as the remains of temples from the 4th century B.C. 

It’s a steep climb to the top, so another gorgeous viewpoint of the actual Acropolis itself can be had from the comfort of the beautiful cove of St. Paul’s Bay. 

With sunbeds and umbrellas, you can also choose from a range of tavernas and coffee bars and visit the picturesque chapel of St. Paul. Make sure you cover up if you want to go inside.

Interested in Greek history? You’ll love our customisable Historical and Mythological Cyclades islands trip.

Ruins of ancient temple. Lindos. Rhodes island© Shutterstock

The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes © Shutterstock

8. Profitis Ilias 

Heading inland 28 miles from the Old Town of Rhodes, continue winding up through the pine forests and you’ll reach Mount (or Profitis) Ilias — a peak of approximately 2,618 feet in the centre of the island. 

Foxes and deer are known to roam these forests, but it’s some abandoned ruins that attract several tourists every year.

There are two intact chalet-style hotels here. Park outside and head off into the forest. Hidden amongst the trees, with views all the way down to the coast, is an abandoned two-story villa. This was originally the summer residence of the Italian Governor of Rhodes in World War II, between 1936 and 1940. 

It was intended, eventually, to be Mussolini’s retirement home before the Allies triumphed. Hence it fell into disrepair, and its ghostly shell is what you can see today. 

Profitis Ilias hill near Faliraki Rhodes Greece Europe © Shutterstock

Profitis Ilias, Rhodes © Shutterstock

9. Ancient Olympic Stadium

Again, don’t assume that it’s only Olympia or Athens that has an Olympic stadium. The Olympic Stadium is part of the main Acropolis of Rhodes’ complex which, as an archaeological site, still hasn’t been fully excavated. Much is still being discovered.

The Olympic Stadium was restored during the Italian’s rule of the island in the early 1900s. In Ancient Greek times, games to honour Helios, God of the Sun, were held here. 

Like most Greek monuments, it’s not forbidden to walk over and many locals partake in their own unofficial daily sun worship by taking their morning walk around the stadium. Join them.

Stadium in the Rhodes city in Rhodes island in Greece © Shutterstock

Rhodes stadium © Shutterstock

10. Monastery of Fileriamos

What’s so iconic about this gorgeous monastery, dedicated to the Virgin Mary — about 10km (6 miles) outside Rhodes Town — is its design.  

As you approach, you’ll see it’s not a ‘typical’ Greek church. That’s because this 15th-century building is in a Gothic style. 

It’s very much intact, with the underground 14th-century church of St George also on site. From here there’s also a lovely walking path to the top of a hill with a huge cross and views around the island.

Medieval Monastery of Filerimos on Acropolis of Ialyssos (Rhodes, Greece) © Shutterstock

Medieval Monastery of Filerimos, Rhodes © Shutterstock

11. Monolithos Castle

70km (43 miles) south west of Rhodes Town brings you to the small coastal village of Monolithos. 

The 15th-century Venetian Castle atop a 300 ft rock dominates this little town as it stands guard, alas now in ruins, but with the walls still intact. 

It’s a hefty climb to the top, but worth it for the commanding views — it’s easy to see how invading pirates could be seen for miles around.

Take a walk inside the castle walls, and see the remains of Saint Panteleimon Chapel, one of the patron Saints of Healers.

Temple on the mountain at Monolithos Castle  © Shutterstock

Monolithos Castle  © Shutterstock

12. Monastery of Panagia Tsambika

25km (15.5 miles) south of Rhodes Town is the monastery of Panagia Tsambika. Not necessarily a destination in itself, it’s the surrounds that attract visitors, built as it is atop a hill with commanding sea views. 

It’s not known exactly how old the monastery is, but it was re-constructed in 1770 by a monk. Several stories abound about the place — animals were sacrificed here, plus a local shepherd found an icon of the Virgin Mary.  

Its design of hollow roof tiles and pebble dashed courtyard are typical of the Dodecanese islands. 

Church with a bell tower. Kato Monastery Tsambika. Rhodes Island © Shutterstock

Monastery of Panagia Tsambika, Rhodes Island © Shutterstock

13. Day trip to Symi

There’s so much to see and do in Rhodes, but taking a day trip to the nearby island of Symi is also a must. Symi is a mere 50-minute boat ride away, making a day trip possible.

At only 22 square miles, and with a local population of about 3,000, means it’s a great place to escape the mass crowds — except in high summer.

As a result of Symi ceding to the Italians in 1923 (it re-joined Greece in 1948), you’ll find Venetian architecture everywhere. Colourful merchants’ houses and mansions seem to tumble from the hillside into the sea.

From monasteries to hidden coves, there’s so much to see and do on this pretty island that an overnight stop in one of the unique boutique spots is a must.

Symi island in Greece © Shutterstock

Symi island, Greece © Shutterstock

14. Museum of Bees and Honey

A 20-minute drive southwest will bring you to the inland village of Pastida, close to Rhodes airport. 

The village itself is unique with its quaint whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and platia with café to relax in. But it’s also here you’ll find the Bee Museum of Rhodes, which gives the visitor an overview of the history and tradition of beekeeping throughout Ancient Greece. 

The whole building replicates a beehive for an authentic experience into how honey is made. See this through a glass beehive, plus honey extraction tools and equipment, and other honey-based products such as beeswax, bee pollen and royal jelly. A completely different and educational day out.

Bee and Honey Museum in Pastida Village. Rhodes, Greece © Shutterstock

Bee and Honey Museum in Pastida Village, Rhodes, Greece © Shutterstock

15. Day trip to Alimia

For a boat trip like no other where you’ll learn about the rich marine life surrounding Rhodes, take a trip with Blutopia, with the opportunity to see dolphins and tuna.

Round off with a visit to the uninhabited island of Alimia — 4 nautical miles from the Rhodes harbour of Skala Kameirou on the island’s north west coast.

Alimia was once a flourishing island, and now only has the church in operation — tended to by a caretaker — plus goats. It’s a unique place to venture to away from the crowds.

Alimia island near the Greek island of Halki in the Dodecanese archipelago north of Rhodes © Shutterstock

Alimia island, north of Rhodes © Shutterstock

Inspired by this run-down of unique Rhodes’ experiences? Read our tips for travelling in Greece, and discover some of the best things to do in Greece.

To help you plan your trip, you might also want to get your hands on a copy of The Rough Guide to the Greek Islands, or the Mini Rough Guides to Rhodes.

Alternatively, to forge the hassle of planning, browse our customisable Greece itineraries, or talk our local Greece travel experts.

Rebecca Hall

written by
Rebecca Hall

updated 04.10.2023

Rebecca is a travel writer and author of first time novel 'Girl Gone Greek' - now an award-winning script. She's been living in Greece for the last 12 years and has updated Rough Guides to Greece, the Greek Islands and Portugal and has bylines for print and digital media such as Telegraph Travel, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, World Nomads, Trip Savvy and various inflight magazines such as easyJet Traveller and Ethiopian Airlines, to name but a few. Follow her @BeyondBex on Twitter and Instagram.

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