08 July 2017

Hit the Rhodes and explore centuries of history in the oldest medieval town

TURNING the corner of yet another cobbled street, I admit defeat. We’re lost.

Rhodes Old Town has more than 200 streets or lanes with no name. So it’s hardly our fault we’ve become disorientated.

Rhodes Old Town has more than 200 unnamed streets and there are seven gates in the Old Town walls to wander through

But when the streets you are strolling down are as fascinating as this, what’s the problem?

Centuries of history surround you in the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe — one of the northernmost points of the Dodecanese Islands.

Wander through one of the seven gates of the Old Town walls and within minutes you’re lost in a maze of narrow streets, many with their distinctive stone arches thick with blooming flowers.

If you find yourselves like us, happily wandering aimlessly, just ask to be directed towards Sokratous, the nearest the Old Town has to a main street.

And after all that walking there are gorgeous bars and restaurants for a reviving drink.

Plus we were already getting the best of both worlds with a two-centre stay with Olympic Holidays combining the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Rhodes with the peace of tiny Tilos. But more of that later.


Olympic Holidays has a seven-night twin-centre holiday from £790.58pp, including four nights’ self-catering at the Ilidi Rock Apartments on Tilos, three nights’ half-board at the Rodos Palace on Rhodes, return flights from Gatwick and transfers. Leaves September 13. Visit olympic holidays.com or call 020 8492 6868.

Centuries of history surround you in the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe – one of the northernmost points of the Dodecanese Islands

On Rhodes we stayed at the impressive Rodos Palace Hotel, a ten-minute drive from medieval masterpieces such as the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.

The sprawling hotel site is packed with well-designed gardens, bubbling water features, shaded paths and a sense of calm amid busy island life.

The pools are pretty and practical, and there is attentive service should you fancy a pina colada on the patio.


There are loads of busses and taxis readily available, but you must walk along the promenade and down the narrow streets at least once[/caption]

It bills itself as the finest luxury hotel on the island — a claim hard to argue with. Rooms include spacious suites with kitchens and private pools and there is a wealth of dining and drinking choices on site from poolside bars to the cavernous Ambrosia restaurant.

The fine-dining options should not be ignored. The hotel’s chefs are genuinely committed to their art, providing modern treatments to present mainly local ingredients in a tasty light.

When in Greece it is only right to order the Greek salad, and they do the best. We were also pleasantly surprised at the quality of the domestic wine, which has come on in leaps and bounds.

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Tilos is an exceptional island. Nine miles long and half that wide and there’s nothing to do except walk, swim, eat and relax[/caption]

After a fabulous lunch featuring fried halloumi, a nap, and a relaxing couple’s massage in the hotel’s beautiful spa — the tranquility interrupted only by my natter­ing wife — it was back to the Old Town.

There are loads of buses and taxis readily available, but do try the walk at least once. Most of it is along a newly-built promenade path with superb views across to Turkey.

We spent an idyllic evening people-watching in the shadow of the town walls, where nestles one of the best off-licences you’ll ever find.

The proprietor of The Cellar of the Knights is a very nice guy, and sells some great wine. His shop is in the wall, with seating outside. Don’t miss it.

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It is so peaceful. The 500 or so islanders are all so welcoming[/caption]

We were quite close to the spot the following morning, as we got a taxi for the short ride from the hotel to the port.

It was time for Tilos, a two-hour ferry trip to a place we had never heard of until our holiday.

First impressions were good as the boat hoved in on a cliff-sheltered bay framing Livadia, the sort of town you would see in your mind’s eye if asked to picture the ideal Greek island settlement.

Nestling in the rock face on our right, surely home to the best views on the bay, were the collection of white buildings that form the Ilidi Rock Apartments complex, where we were staying.

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The pick of the beaches is Eristos, which has an added attraction in the form of the En Plo taverna, a great snack bar[/caption]

It’s the No1 accommodation on the island on TripAdvisor and it’s easy to see why. There are stunning views, quaint rooms kept spotless and a delightful hostess in Maria — a mine of information on local flora and fauna.

And what an island Tilos is. Nine miles long, half that wide and there’s nothing to do.

Nothing except walk, swim, eat, drink, relax, relax, relax.

It’s a nature-loving hiker’s paradise, with secluded beaches, towering cliffs watched over by eagles and curious mountain goats clopping about the place.

Dedicated to restfulness

Buy a map in one of the cheery little Lavidia stores and wander.

In season there’s a regular bus service you can take for a different starting point to your walk and a chance to inspect the abandoned village of Mikro Horio.

Pick of the beaches is Eristos, which has an added attraction in the form of the En Plo taverna, a great snack bar.

Back in Lavidia, at any of the tavernas dotted about, we would bump into island-hoppers and holidaymakers who seemed to have a mantra: “We’ve been coming here for X years” (where X is any number between 15 and 30).

“And why do you keep coming back?” “Because it’s so beautiful, so peaceful and because the 500 or so islanders are all so welcoming.”

They are not wrong. I have never been anywhere else that I felt so relaxed and untroubled.

It didn’t have the majestic, historic heritage Rhodes can boast, though there is an interesting old monastery and a castle ruin, but it did have an atmosphere dedicated to restfulness.

Batteries thoroughly recharged it was back, reluctantly, to the ferry and an absolute certainty, as we left for Rhodes, that we would return.

That will be me in the Armenon restaurant on the seafront in 2047 telling some sweaty tourist straight off the ferry: “Yes, we’ve been coming here for 30 years . . . ”

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