We'd been to Rhodes before, over 10 years ago, and enjoyed it - the weather is usually warm and the nightlife is pretty good. This time, we went in the last week of September that, according to the holiday rep, is prone to some rain and thunderstorms on almost the same few days every year. Sure enough, we had a couple of storms on the first few days but it soon cleared and the weather was pretty warm for most of the rest of the fortnight.
Officially the sunniest place in Europe, it was said to have been born of the union of Helios the sun god and the nymph Rhode. It's a place full of history with plenty of places to see or you could just lie in that warm sun.
We had a one-room apartment, which had a little kitchen alcove by the door but that had everything we needed - sink, kettle, fridge, two-ring cooker, coffee maker and a microwave along with all the usual pots, dishes and cutlery. The room had twin beds and a telly and it was cleaned and changed every day so, given that we didn't plan on spending a lot of time indoors, it was fine. The TV was pretty basic; with BBC World being the only English channel among about 12 of various languages so don't count on keeping up with any UK soaps.
The bathroom was of the standard Greek "wet room" type where the hand-held shower can get a bit manic and always soaks the place, regardless of the meagre shower curtain. Doesn't matter though as there's a drain in the middle of the floor and it soon dries up.
Air conditioning is available for an added charge but it always gives me a cold so we passed and just left the balcony door open at night, which kept the place cool enough. The only downside to that was the noise. Not from the road as I've mentioned in a couple of reviews of the place, that wasn't actually that bad as the hotel is one street back from the main road, but some eejit across the road had two cockerels. Once one started crowing, the other piped in and they tried to out crow each other until they got hoarse and they did this several times a day, usually starting at about five in the morning.
Other than hotels and apartments, there's a decent array of restaurants and bars to keep you fed and watered. For food, the Alexandros, Coconut, Dimitrios and Jason II are all good but the best place we found was the Napoli Pizzeria, which was just opposite where the road splits to go down to Ialyssos beach. One we missed, which got good reviews, was Le Gourmet but it's quite a ways off the main road and one we avoided like the plague was the Poseidonias, as it seemed to encourage the diners to have a dance but if that's your thing…
All of the bars were much the same with numerous large screens showing a range of football or rugby matches from some the most obscure and piddling leagues around the world and you're really unlucky, the British TV soaps. I can't understand why anyone watches that rubbish at all. There were a few good international football matches on but most of the rest was pretty dire stuff.
The beach in Ixia and in fact on most of the northwest coast of the island consists of pebbles. No sand just pebbles so if you like a sandy beach then this isn't the place for you. It's also much windier than the other side of the island and the Aegean Sea here is about 4°C colder than the Mediterranean on the other side too. But if you're into water sports like windsurfing or sailing, then this is an ideal place.
The modern city is good for nightlife and shopping and Mandraki Harbour is worth a visit as it's always bustling with people and boats. There also seemed to be a different cluster of giant cruise ships berthed there every day, offloading their hordes of day-tripping passengers. We got the bus in quite a lot and, just where you get off at the end of the run, there's a busy market with a row of cafés at the front, looking out over the harbour. It's amusing trying to get past the waiters who are pretty serious about trying to get you sit at their little bit of territory but it's also a nice place to sit and have a coffee or a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and one of those enormous cakes on display. It's not cheap though but worth the occasional indulgence.
The jewel of the place has to be the medieval town. Surrounded by 4km of massive Byzantine walls, it contains a mix of ancient Greek archaeological sites, museums, churches, Turkish mosques, shops, restaurants and cafés and above all of these is the magnificent Palace Of The Grand Masters.
Over several visits, we had a walk around part of one the moats, visited most of the museums and the palace, wandered through the maze of little streets looking for some of the older sites and spent a fair bit in the shops for souvenirs. Beware the restaurants and cafés around the main squares though as you pay through the nose for the privilege of sitting there.
We hired a car for a couple of days to see some more of island and, if you cope with roads full of maniac drivers hell bent on running you off the road, it's worth the trouble. Speed limits seem to be optional and if you try to stick close to them you'll soon have a taxi at your back literally trying to edge you off the road. Driving on Rhodes is not for those of a nervous disposition. We got a taxi back from town one night and he drove at 100kph along a stretch of road that was supposed to be 50kph and he was laughing as he edged other cars out of the way and then he ended by driving the wrong way up a one-way street to our hotel. God help anyone mad enough to hire a scooter, they treat those like targets just to see how many they can scare.
That aside, it's worth getting out and about to see the rest of the island. Here's where we got to…
The Valley Of The Butterflies (Petaloudes)
This is a narrow, heavily wooded gorge of pine and storax trees where huge swarms of Tiger Moths gather each year between June and September to breed. Yes, these are actually moths and not butterflies but just try selling a day trip to the Valley of the Moths.
We got there just too late in the season and all of the moths had had their fun and then dropped dead so if you want to be swarmed by hordes of flapping moths, then get there before late September. We saw a couple but they were pretty done and only saw one flying. The moths feed on the tree resin, which is also used locally to make frankincense.
That aside, the walk up the narrow gorge path beside the tumbling stream is quite pleasant and when you get to top you can visit Kalopetra Monastery where a little wrinkled old lady will sell you a glass of freshly squeezed orange or a bowl of yoghourt with honey and almonds. There are some great views down to the coast from up there too. You can go into the monastery and see the gold and silver treasure in there but be aware that you're expected to cover any bare arms and shoulders before entering and there are garments by the door for just that purpose.
Further down the north west coast is the ancient Dorian city of Kameiros, discovered in 1928 and, along with Lindos and Ialysos, was one of the three main city-states on the island.
It's been destroyed twice by earthquakes over the centuries but there's still quite a lot to see like the Acropolis, the Temple of Athena and the fountain square. They've even done some restoration work on some of the more important buildings.
We kept going south until we reached the impressive castle of Monolithos, a Venetian castle perched atop a massive jagged rock by the edge of the sea. There a little café there and there are also some stalls selling honey and suma, a fairly strong local spirit.
You can climb up onto the top of the rock and the castle for some excellent views out over the sea and smaller islands. There's a small white church dedicated to St. Panteleimon on top now and it looks a bit out of place among the ruins of the castle.
I should say at this point that we'd intended on going down to Glyfada Beach before reaching Monolithos but the map was definitely wrong and we missed the road down. On top of that, there were some serious road works just beyond Sianna and by the time we'd gotten past them, we were at Monolithos.
We carried on along the road past Monolithos for a few kilometres, where we found the little pebbly Fourni Beach and we settled down among the pebbles to watch the sun going down before heading back to Ixia.
Seven Springs (Epta Piges)
Over on the east coast is a little valley of plane and pine trees where seven springs burst out of the ground. We could only see about three springs but they've got them numbered and signposted for your enjoyment. There's also a café to help relieve you of any heavy money you might have in your pockets. It only seemed to sell beer or chilled coffee though so if you fancied having lunch there, take your own.
It's a nice place to visit in the heat of the day as you can walk up the valley for quite a distance in the shadow of the trees until you get to an olive grove at the top.
Massari and Haraki Beach
We drove south to Massari, which has an enormous, if somewhat shingly beach and we had a nice lunch in a small restaurant by the sea. The beach there seemed to go on forever and it was completely deserted.
From there we walked along the road to Haraki, which is a bit more tourist oriented. It has a nice little shingle bay surrounded by bars and cafés. There were some little fishing boats pulled up on the shore and quite a few people sunbathing but not too many so it looked fine for a quiet kind a seaside break. There were no large hotels here so I imagine it's mostly rented rooms and apartments.
The village is overlooked by the impressive ruins of Feraklos Castle, another Knights of St. John fort and the last one on the island to fall to the Ottoman Empire.
Driving back north again, we stopped in at Tsambika Beach for a swim and a laze in the sun. Tsambika is a long, golden sandy beach - real sand at last and no pebbles. It can get quite busy but the water is clear and shallow so it's ideal for families. There are loads of small fish in the water too just swimming around you as you wade or swim in the crystal clear water.
There's not much else here though - a W.C., a mini-market and a few catering shacks along the beach so don't expect a restaurant lunch.
We took a coach trip to Lindos for the day. It saved the driving and didn't cost much more than a day's car hire. Well it didn't as we booked the trip in a local travel agents in Ixia as they're always much cheaper than doing it through the holiday rep. Same with the car hire, get it yourself and save a lot of money.
Lindos is another of the ancient cities of Rhodes and the main attraction is the Acropolis, high above the little village of white sugar-cube houses. We came here last time we were in Rhodes but we came on a boat trip then, which was really tedious as it takes ages to cruise down all the way from Rhodes Town and then back again.
There are 300 steps up from the village square to the Acropolis so take care if you're not as fit as you should be. Take plenty of water with you too; it's hot climb up and if you're getting there by boat then you can double that climb, as you need to get there from the beach. It's worth it though as the views from the top are very good.
The sandy beach in Lindos is horrendous. It's overcrowded and far too narrow to accommodate the huge number of sun beds crammed onto it. If you want some space, then go for a paddle or a swim - the water's shallow and clear and there's plenty of fish again.
Well, that was it - a couple of weeks holiday on Rhodes. The whole set of pictures can be seen here.