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We had an earlier than normal start today, with my alarm going off at 7am, because we had an exciting day trip planned. We needed to leave Faliraki around 07.45, which unfortunately meant that we weren't able to have breakfast at our accommodation; no one around here seems to be a particularly early riser, so breakfast generally doesn't start until 8. We drove into the centre of Rhodes Town, then walked towards the harbour. I had booked us tickets for a ferry departing Rhodes at 9am for the small island of Symi. Symi is situated about 40 miles northwest of Rhodes. It's closer to Turkey than it is to Greece and we had some views of the Turkish coastline from the boat on the way there. If you look at the photo below, the further bit of land in the distance on the left is Turkey. The journey from Rhodes to Symi took around 90 minutes. As the boat began to approach the harbour in Symi, we got our first views of the colourful houses which make up the main town. I was really excited to see that it looked just as pretty in real life as it had in the pictures I'd seen online. The views were spectacular even as we were just waiting in line to get off the boat. Perhaps partly due to the proximity of Turkey, it seemed like a very patriotic town and we soon spotted a large Greek flag on the hillside. Symi is quite a mountainous island and a lot of the main town is built up into the hillside. It was a baking hot day today and so we didn't feel like much uphill climbing. Luckily, it wasn't really necessary to go uphill. There was quite a long flat round around the harbour, so we stuck to exploring that. This church tower by the water reminded me a bit of Perast in Montenegro. In other places, the colours were so bright that they reminded me a bit of Procida, the colourful Italian island off the coast of Naples which we visited in 2017. The houses in Procida had been a mixture of pinks, blues and yellows though. Here it felt like yellow was the dominant colour. The population of Symi is only around 2500 people, most of whom live in the main town around the harbour. Historically the main industries on the island were sponges and shipbuilding. Today, tourism is the main employer. It's certainly a popular destination for people to visit as a day-trip from Rhodes. Although it felt like we were off the beaten track, there were actually a lot of other British tourists on the island. A lot of people seemed to stay in the first part of the harbour which had the most shops - or else were travelling around the town on a tourist train - so as we walked further away from where we'd disembarked from the ferry, things got quieter. It must be really peaceful here in the evenings once all the day-trippers have gone home! As we walked further around we realised that there was another beautiful church up on the hill, with a large bell tower standing next to it. I think Symi might win the prize for most picturesque place we've been on this holiday! Once we'd explored as far as we could around the harbour, we found a restaurant with tables in the shade to get some lunch. Definitely one of the best lunch views I've ever had! I had pasticcio, which is definitely becoming my favourite Greek food. And it only cost €9! I also had yoghurt and honey, which is a new discovery on this trip. The honey here is delicious! Then we just had time for another stroll around the harbour, followed by a drink in the shade, before it was time to catch the ferry back to Rhodes. Symi was incredible and definitely well worth visiting as a day trip from Rhodes
The plan for today was to do a road-trip around the island of Rhodes. We started by driving south from Faliraki, towards the village of Lindos, often described as being the most beautiful on the island. As we got our first glimpse of it from a roadside viewpoint, we could see why. It was a really spectacular sight; a cluster of white houses with a castle towering above. We drove closer to the village and parked, which cost us €5. A lot of places we've visited on this trip we've managed to park for free, but Lindos is a very popular town with tourists. We walked from the parking area into the centre, with some beautiful views of the sea as we did. Once we were inside the town we made our way down white and very narrow streets. It was actually a bit claustrophobic in places, with lots of the streets having canopies which provided shade but made it feel almost like you were walking inside. The little church in the centre of town was very pretty. We made walked to the outskirts of the town to find the old amphitheatre. It's not the most impressive ancient theatre we've ever seen, but it is the only one we've ever seen that was home to multiple goats From here we had some great views up to the castle above the town. It felt too hot to climb up there today, so we made our way back through the town towards the car. From Lindos we drove a bit further south, then across Rhodes to the western coast. On the way we passed part of the area which had been devastated by wildfires earlier this year. It was sad to see the burnt trees and vegetation, but driving around the island did make it clear how much of the island (thankfully!) hadn't been on fire. Our first stop on the western coast of the island was Monolithos, a small village in the middle of nowhere. There's a medieval castle just outside the village. The castle was built by the Knights in the fifteenth century to help defend the island. You can climb up to the castle from the car park via a series of stone steps. It wasn't too steep but it felt a bit difficult in places; the stone was worn smooth on some of the steps, which made it feel quite slippery. Once we made it to the top we had some fantastic views, both of the surrounding countryside... ...and of the sea. There was also a tiny little chapel up here, which was really pretty. We walked around for a while and admired the views, before making our way back down the steps to the car. The final stop on our trip was the castle of Kritinia. Parking was impossible at this one, so Tim dropped me off for a few minutes to take some photos. The castle was built to protect the local population from Ottoman attacks. There seems to be more of the castle left standing than there was of the castle at Monolithos, but there wasn't an obvious way to explore it without clambering over all sorts of rocks. Never mind, I managed to see a bit of it and get some nice sea views. Then it was time to complete our circuit of the island by driving up towards the airport and across to Faliraki. And to get some more use out of the pool and sun-loungers
It was another beautiful sunny morning when we woke up on Rhodes. Breakfast was included at this apartment and it turned out to be more substantial than we'd expected. As well as the usual selection of bread, cheese and ham we were offered fried eggs and/or an omelette. As we sat outside to eat it at 8am, the sun was already beating down. The plan for today was to explore the capital of the island, also called Rhodes. Rhodes Town is less than 10 miles up the road from where we are staying in Faliraki, so we only had a short drive. We parked in some free parking near the commercial port and set off to explore the city. The port where we parked is a bit outside the centre of town, so first of all we had to walk towards it. We could see the walls of the old town in the distance as we walked past the city's main beach. We followed a lovely walkway, lined with palm trees. As we got closer we could see how extensive the walls were. And make out the minaret of a mosque behind. Rhodes is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe and the fortifications here are really impressive. They were built by the Knights Hospitaller, a medieval military order who settled in Rhodes on their way back from the Crusades. The Knights lived on Rhodes for a couple of centuries, departing in 1523 when the island was conquered by the Ottomans. The fortifications they left behind are amazing. As you might imagine, Rhodes is a very popular tourist destination and the small streets of the old town are normally really busy. We'd made an early start and were walking around not long after 9am, which meant it was still comparatively quiet. We were able to wander down the streets and admire the buildings without too many other people in the way. The old town is packed with restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops, most of which were still in the process of setting up. We found the Suleymaniye mosque, which was the first mosque built by the Ottomans after their conquest of Rhodes. It's been rebuilt several times since then, having suffered damage from earthquakes. The mosque is not far from the main castle: the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. This was the headquarters of the Knights, originally built in the early 14th century. It's such an impressive castle! From there we wandered through more little squares. Every so often we'd come across a pretty fountain... ...more ruins... ...or a view of the sea. We found a second mosque too. We spent a while walking through a maze of narrow streets to get out of the old town, because I wanted to see what remained of the Acropolis of Rhodes. Unfortunately, once we got within sight of it we could see that what remained was currently completely covered by scaffolding! So we decided to turn around and walk back. This did give us the opportunity to leave and re-enter the walled part of the city at two different points though, seeing even more of the fortifications. In some places there's a large moat between the walls, which today has paths where you can stroll around. From the edge of the walls there were some great views of the towers and turrets within the city... ...as well as of the main castle itself. We'd been walking around for about three hours by this point and were extremely hot, plus Tim had an online exam to sit in the afternoon, so we decided to walk back to the port to collect the car and drive back to Faliraki. I had a very relaxing afternoon making the most of the pool and sun-loungers while Tim did his exam.
We enjoyed our meal out in Heraklion so much the other night that we decided to eat in the same restaurant again last night. We got served free doughnut balls with honey and shots of raki again Today was the day we were leaving Crete behind and travelling to our next destination of Rhodes. Before we needed to check out of the apartment at 11, there was just time for one last stroll around Heraklion This little building was opposite the robotic parking where we've been leaving the car, and reminded me a lot of the former mosque we saw in Chania at the start of the week. It was set in a small park, beneath the remains of the town walls. Parts of the town walls and the former gates into the city remain here. You can't walk along a lot of them, but it's possible to climb up and walk along a little bit. There's a good view of Heraklion once you climb up. I could see not only the little church next to our car park... ...but also the main cathedral which we'd been admiring in the city centre. It was starting to look a bit cloudy over the city though, as if the promised storms might materialise. At 11 we checked out, dragged our suitcases to the car park and admired the robotic parking for a final time. Heraklion airport is only a few miles outside the city centre so we didn't have a long journey . Finding out where to hand back our rental car, however, turned out to be difficult! When we picked up the car in Chania on Friday night, we'd been told that there was a proper office for the rental company at Heraklion airport, so we'd assumed that finding the correct place would be straightforward. We managed to find the rental car part of the airport without too much difficulty, but it was complete chaos. We saw signs for dozens of different small car rental companies, but not the one we were looking for. At one point, as we drove around looking for it, a Greek man started shouting at us. We assumed initially that he was telling us off for driving the wrong way around the car park (although, no one else seemed to be adhering to any rules of the road!). Eventually it became clear that it wasn't that; he was trying to explain that we were driving the wrong way for our company and we should be in a different section of the car park. We found the right place in the end, although there was no one there from the rental company. There was a small hut with a flap to post keys through though, so in the end we did that and assumed it would be fine. They hadn't held any deposit on our credit card, so we didn't actually need to speak to anyone. We were at the airport a bit too early to check in for our flight, so went to the airport cafe to get a snack for lunch. We were flying to Rhodes with a Greek airline called Sky Express. When planning the holiday initially, I'd wanted to get a ferry from Crete to Rhodes, but travelling between Greek islands is actually quite difficult. Each island is well-connected to Athens, but generally quite poorly connected to any other island. Theoretically there was a ferry between Crete and Rhodes but it didn't seem to be possible to buy tickets for it in advance and there was some suggestion that the ferry company might go bust. In the end I decided to give up on the idea and just book a flight instead. Despite being at the airport with plenty of time to spare, we almost managed to miss our flight. Heraklion turned out to be quite a cramped airport and we ended up sitting several gates away from where we needed to be. A couple of other flights were announced over the tannoy when they started boarding so we assumed ours would be too. With about 20 minutes to go until it was due to take off, I started to get concerned that it hadn't been called. We could see the Sky Express plane from where we were sitting and at that point we looked at it and realised that people were starting to board. A short jog later and we just managed to make it through before the final call finished! The plane to Rhodes was fairly small, with just two seats on either side of the aisle. Compared to the plane we flew to Alderney on earlier this year it qualified as huge, though. The flight to Rhodes only took an hour and before we knew it we were landing at the island's main airport. We retrieved our bags and went to pick up our new rental car, a blue Citroen C3. Then we had a short drive of around 20 minutes or so to the village of Faliraki where we're staying. Faliraki is a place that used to have a very bad reputation as a party town, but I think it's long since stopped being a "cool" place to go and is trying to reinvent itself. We're staying a bit outside of it anyway, so I don't think we're going to be troubled by any rowdy behaviour. We've got a studio apartment with a kitchen/dining area plus bedroom on the ground floor... ...plus unexpected second bedroom on the floor above. Most excitingly, when we open the back door we've got our own outdoor area, complete with little pool. Once we'd settled in we set off to explore a little bit of Faliraki. There's a sandy beach here and we could just make out some sort of small fortress on the hill behind it. In the other direction was a small harbour. We could just make out what looked like some very large, multi-storey hotels on the other side of the bay. There was a beautiful little church down by the harbour. We found a restaurant by the sea to have dinner. Tim had spaghetti and I went for pasticcio again. It was really good! On the way back to the apartment we got a glimpse of the local church, illuminated at night. So far Rhodes seems nice and we're looking forward to exploring more of it tomorrow!