Cruising is a great way to see the world on a tight budget, but as any cruise veteran can tell you, it’s also a lot of work. In the early days of the industry, sailors had to spend a lot of time preparing their ships to navigate. Today, those who sail longer routes have to be more prepared, as they have to maintain a boat on a time schedule.
I had the opportunity to visit Rhodes, Greece for the first time, this past spring. The site is well-known for its stunning view of the Aegean Sea, which is the main reason tourists come here. However, I’ve recently discovered that Rhodes is an absolutely beautiful place to visit. I’ve recently discovered that Rhodes is an absolutely beautiful place to visit.
Midway through the year, we decided to look at the Greek Islands from a different perspective. Our trip included an excursion to Rhodes, a Greek island that is best known as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. Nestled between the mainland and the island of Crete, the town of Rhodes is a popular tourist destination for cruise passengers. ~~. Read more about travel age magazine and let us know what you think.
When cruise passengers arrive on the Greek island of Rhodes, they may imagine themselves as “time travelers.” While visiting ancient Dorian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine monuments, or looking at the aqua-blue bay at Lindos where St. Paul, the Apostle, landed in the first century A.D. to teach Christianity on the island, it’s simple to do just that.
While walking around Rhodes’ Old City, frequently regarded as contemporary Europe’s finest preserved Medieval town, it also feels natural to “slide into the past.” It is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the Crusades, religious battles with Muslims in the Holy Land, the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (later called the Order of the Knights of Rhodes) reigned for two centuries here. Rhodes was chosen as the fortified eastern Mediterranean naval base by the knights.
Travel Agent visited Rhodes in July 2021 as part of Celestyal Cruises’ seven-night “Idyllic Aegean” roundtrip from Athens aboard Celestyal Crystal.
Medieval fortifications may be seen on the island of Rhodes. Susan J. Young took the photo.
Our earlier articles about this voyage focused on Celestyal’s cruising philosophy and fleet, as well as the ship’s onboard food and entertainment. So, here are some highlights from our Celestyal “time traveler” shore excursion to Rhodes, the “Island of Roses.”
With its enormous defenses, bastions, and gates visible on the sea approach to the city, the Port of Rhodes is a doorway to history. Even Celestyal’s passengers who prefer to stay on board after their ship has landed may just gaze out to get a sense of the destination’s historical bent.
Visiting Ancient Lindos
Travel Agent toured Rhodes as part of a small private group but the tour essentially mimicked a Celestyal shore excursion offered to all guests, “Acropolis of Lindos & the Citadel of Knights” (RHO-01). In July 2021, this guest tour was priced at 74 euros (approximately $87) per person for adults and 55 euros (approximately $65) for each child ages three to 12.
A 40-mile picturesque motorcoach trip down the island’s eastern shore kicked off the tour. We saw contemporary beach resorts, citrus and olive orchards, vineyards, and coastal coves with beautiful blue-green waters from the bus windows. We also came upon the ruins of a World War II airstrip.
Lindos, a coastal village established by the Dorians, a Greek ethnic group, in the 10th century B.C., was our destination. Lindos (together with many other Rhodes port communities) was once a strong city-state, owing to its marine commerce and strategic location between the Aegean and the Middle East in the eastern Mediterranean. Rhodes established its own “colonies” in the area by the sixth century B.C. The island of Rhodes contributed nine ships to participate in the Trojan War, most of which historians think departed from Lindos.
The Lindians were also the first to establish a maritime rule of justice, the Rhodian Naval Code, which eventually formed the basis for the Roman Naval Code. Some Lindian ideas are still at the heart of contemporary maritime law.
Lindos’ ancient acropolis sits atop a mountain next to the current town and its remains of an old theater. Susan J. Young took the photo.
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Lindos’ Dorian-era acropolis, which dates back to at least the 10th century B.C., was subsequently “improved” by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The knights also left their imprint on the acropolis by erecting walls around it and a palace atop it.
About two-thirds of our intrepid company of Celestyal explorers chose to scale the 545-foot acropolis. Those interested in climbing the acropolis should be aware that it is a hard uphill trek with rocky, uneven terrain and no railings. One of my fellow travelers saw a youngster who had collapsed. Another member of our party made it halfway up the mountain before turning back. Nonetheless, several of the tourists in our party succeeded in finishing the ascent.
The reward is a feeling of achievement as well as breathtaking views of ancient and medieval structures, the white-washed village of Lindos below, and two azure-blue bays, one of which is Ayios Pavlos, the landing site of the Apostle Paul.
Near Lindos, the Bay of St. Paul’s (Avios Pavlos). / Photo by Susan J. Young
The hardest portion of the ascent is on stairwells constructed by the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, which lead to their 15th-century fortress. If you ascend, look for the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Pierre d’Aubosson above the entrance gate.
Our crew also discovered ancient buildings on the acropolis, including the remnants of a Roman temple, a Hellenistic Stoa with 42 Doric columns, and a Byzantine church. The Propylaea is reached by a broad stairway, which leads to the ancient Greek temple of Lindian Athena.
The Archaeological School of Denmark excavated the Lindos acropolis in the early twentieth century, uncovering Neolithic stone implements from the third millennium B.C. Two marble plaques engraved by Timochidas, a priest of the Greek goddess Athena, in 99 BC were among the other artifacts discovered.
One of the plaques, in particular, mentions many VIPs who are said to have visited the temple and given gifts for the goddess. As a result, today’s “climbers” may take pleasure in being ranked with Helen of Troy and Alexander the Great on plaques.
If you want to climb, choose comfortable, supportive shoes rather as flip flops or sandals. Because the sun and heat may be severe, especially in the summer, carry sunscreen, a hat, and a bottle of water.
Lindos Town is a white-washed town.
Tour buses coming from the Port of Rhodes will drop off their passengers at a parking lot along the main road above town. Visitors will then walk, take a cab, or take a shuttle bus down to the town (available during certain hours). In town, automobiles are not allowed.
Visitors may either go to “the climb” or tour the town once they arrive. We were among many tourists on our Celestyal trip who chose to remain in Lindos’ town center rather than ascend. On the rooftop of a tiny, peaceful Greek taverna, we sat and had coffee, juice, and a home-made pastry. Then we went out to visit the 16th to 18th century “Captains’ Houses,” Lindos’ old theater, which still has some original seats and an orchestra space, and the 14th century Church of Our Lady (Theotokou), which is located in the town center.
The church’s ancient bell tower serves as a great wayfinder for those who wish to have a peek around. Just keep in mind that photography is not allowed inside. This church is built in the form of a cross and has beautiful artwork. Tip: Look for examples of excellent 17th-century wood carving, such as a bishop’s seat. The church’s “chochlaki” Hellenistic flooring, which is made out of black-and-white stones in a zip-zag pattern, was one of our favorites.
Lindos’ small streets provide lots of shopping opportunities. Many tourists browsed and purchased items from stores offering clothes, ceramics, souvenirs, crafts, and presents.
Rhodes’ Medieval Old Town
We reboarded our motorcoach for the trip back to Rhodes’ medieval capital for an Old City walking tour after our stay in Lindos. We entered via the walls through the Gate of St. Anthony after a short walk from the motorcoach.
The Old City is a treasure trove of strong walls, arches, fountains, and ancient structures at every turn. It’s simple to imagine oneself on the set of a Hollywood film. But, sadly, this was not a hoax.
Rhodes’ enormous city walls, photographed by Susan J. Young.
Between 1309 and 1522, the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (or, subsequently, the Knights of Rhodes) controlled the island of Rhodes as a sovereign state. Rhodes was a commercial port that rivaled Venice at the time, and it even had its own currency.
Founded as a monastic order with a medical purpose during the First Crusade, the Order’s monks (also known as “Hospitallers”) maintained a Jerusalem hospital for Christian travelers. As the danger of Muslim invasion became more serious, the Order became more militaristic, ultimately serving as armed guards for Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The knights eventually evolved into a global elite military force reporting exclusively to the Pope.
When the Arabs conquered Jerusalem in 1291, the Order fled to Cyprus, then to Rhodes, where it established a new headquarters. The heritage of the knights lives on today. The Old City is Europe’s biggest and most dynamic medieval town, with an estimated 6,000 people living and working there, many in ancient buildings formerly inhabited by the knights.
The Old City is divided into two distinct sections. An internal wall originally separated the northern portion (Collachium) from the southern part (Chora or Bourgo). Lachitos Street now passes through the barrier that separates the two parts.
In medieval Rhodes, the Grand Masters’ Palace. / Photo by Susan J. Young
The beautiful Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes (or acropolis of the knights), also known as the Kastello, can be found in the Collachium. It functioned as the administrative headquarters for the knights and was mostly unscathed during a siege in 1522.
It was damaged by a church explosion in 1865, but the Italians carefully rebuilt and repaired it in 1940.
Several churches and knights’ residences, many of which still have their coat-of-arms seals, are among the other sights to see in the Old City. Many tourists visit the Byzantine-era Church of Our Lady of the Castle, which is located at the start of Knights Street, which climbs upward to the Palace.
Symi Square, immediately inside the outer wall’s Eleftherias Gate, was formerly known as Arsenal Square, since it was thought to be the location of the knights’ naval station.
A beautiful early Christian baptistry can be seen at Argyrokastro Square, while Museum Square is home to the Historical and Archeological Institute (originally the Knights’ Hospital), which contains many of Rhodes’ art treasures and mosaics.
The Inn of the French Language (Langue), situated on the Knights’ Street, is a must-see along the itinerary. It’s one of the many inns of different ethnicities that can be found around the ancient city.
Visitors may also buy till they drop on Sokratous Street, a lengthy market with an endless supply of souvenirs, crafts, and clothes in the Old City.
There are around 200 streets or small alleyways throughout the city, some of which are unnamed. If you get lost, just ask for Sokratous Street. Someone will almost certainly guide you in the correct way.
The Holy Trinity, or “Ayia Tricia,” the ruins of a famous Byzantine church; the Old Town synagogue and the Square of Jewish Martyrs, home to a beautiful fountain adorned with starfish, octopi, and blue tiles; a clocktower; and the Suleymaniye Mosque are among the many additional points of interest.
Susan J. Young took the photo.
Our party had lunch at Restaurant Vasilis, which is located at 16 str. Sofocleous in Rhodes’ Old Town. It has a beautiful outside courtyard, which is a bonus. Traditional Greek specialities, seafood, fresh fish and fresh fish, as well as Greek salads, were included on the lunch menu.
We walked back to the ship on our own, passing through one of the Old City’s ancient gates, marveling at the Gothic defense features’ tenacity. Did you know that there are still two-and-a-half kilometers of defensive walls? That is correct. A moat formerly encircled all of the walls.
During our port day in Rhodes, Celestyal also offered two others tours to its guests—a “Medieval Tour Philerimos Church & Palace of Knights” (RHO-02) tour, also at 74 euros for adults, 55 euros for children aged three to 12, and a “Walking Tour Medieval Rhodes” (RHO-11) option at 47 euros (approximately $55) for adults, 30 euros (approximately $35) for children.
More Rhodes Research
Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager, Dream Vacations, CruiseOne, and Cruises Inc., says, “I always enjoy traveling around the ancient town of Rhodes because it offers the ideal mix of history.” “Exploring the medieval town to imagine what life was like in the past is incredible.” During a Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Apex trip to Greece in July, he paid a visit to Rhodes.
He told Travel Agent that he enjoyed seeing the knights’ castle and museum, as well as learning more about Rhodes’ history and significance to the region’s maritime commerce.
Furthermore, “it’s always fascinating to attempt to imagine where the Colossus of Rhodes originally stood,” adds Daly.
That extremely large statue—some say 108 feet high—was regarded one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” when it was completed about 292 B.C. It took 12 years to construct and was dedicated to the Greek sun deity Helios. However, the Colossus was destroyed in a 266 B.C. earthquake and lay in a heap for decades, until it was sold to a Jewish merchant in 653 A.D. by a pillaging Arab. According to legend, the parts were transported by 900 camels.
While the precise position of the Colossus (or whatever happened to its parts) is unknown, most historians think it was originally situated “on land” near the Castello. As a result, unlike the tale from the Middle Ages, it is unlikely that it straddled the port.
Another alternative recommended by Daly for cruisers in Rhodes is to visit one of the island’s beaches to rest, relax, or enjoy water activities. Celestyal provided beach shuttles in a number of Greek ports of call throughout our trip.
In addition to our Celestyal shore excursion to Lindos and Rhodes in July, we visited Rhodes again in August, this time on a Silversea Cruises’ Silver Moon Greek islands cruise. We chose the four-and-a-half-hour “Panoramic Rhodes” shore trip, which featured views of the National Theater, the Aquarium, a mosque, and other sights while passing through both ancient and modern parts of Rhodes city.
The bus continued inland for many kilometers, and we could see a few antique columns on Rhodes’ acropolis. Our bus next proceeded on a meandering route to Mt. Filerimos’ 1,000-foot plateau, which is also home to another archeological site.
The acropolis of the ancient town of Ialyssos was situated here. A few scattered remnants may still be seen today.
Outside the monastery’s courtyard wall, there is art. / Photo by Susan J. Young
This stop mostly served as an opportunity to stroll about the exteriors of the renovated Church of Our Lady, a monastery, and the barrel-vaulted Church of St. George, as well as take in beautiful countryside and Rhodes vistas.
The Silversea trip then proceeded to Lindos, where the motorcoach made numerous picture stops, including one at the Bay of St. Paul, which we had missed on the previous tour.
The coach then proceeded to Kalathos Village for a pottery and ceramics display by the Savvas family, before traveling via Monte Smith for views over Rhodes, the Old City’s Kastello, and the Turkish shore, before returning to the Port of Rhodes.
“The Acropolis of Lindos,” “Medieval Rhodes,” “Lindos and Rhodes Discovery with Lunch,” and a “Rhodian Pottery Workshop” are among the other “included” excursions provided by Silversea for Silver Moon’s guests this year.
Rhodes was an extremely interesting location for us history nerds, and we can’t wait to go again. This island is a “must” for anybody who enjoys imagining the past while investigating historical stories ashore—a way to feel like a “time traveler” traveling through a country of Dorian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine artifacts and remembrances.
Visit www.visitrhodes.com for additional information.
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When we visit a destination, we typically see it through the eyes of locals, who know the city intimately. We go to a pizzeria and eat their best pizza, we visit a museum and browse the most interesting exhibits, we wander through a local market and buy amazing souvenirs, we eat a burger and wash it down with a beer. We do all these things because they’re a part of what makes a city special. What is a Cruiser? Cruisers are a special breed of traveler that spends more time in a destination than a local, but is not a tourist. While even the most dedicated traveler makes a pitstop to a local market, a cruiser would spend a week in a country, living the everyday life of a local,. Read more about travel industry exchange and let us know what you think.
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