When a world-traveling friend tells you that Rhodes is his FAVORITE destination, you put it on your list. That was the case for us, and the reason we booked a Windstar cruise featuring a full day in Rhodes. But what to do with only one day in Rhodes? How can we get the most out of our time in port?
Most cruise passengers tour with the official ships tours. These are great, and guarantee the ship will wait for you before leaving port. However, the tour groups are large and the speed of the tour is dependent on the slowest participant. We’ve been delayed on a bus tour in Greece twice, once for a prolonged bathroom stop, and once for a couple who stopped too long for drinks. So, though private shore excursions seem a luxury travel expense, we believe there is value in our time. We’ve found a private guide or private driver the best way to get a tour designed for our interests and our schedule. We do choose excursions that guarantee a return to the ship on time however!
Once we’d booked the cruise, we contacted our friend who’d recommended we travel to Rhodes. He gave us a long list of must-sees for the island of Rhodes, from the charming walled and walk-able Old Town, to the Acropolis of Lindos 30 miles away. With those in mind, and knowing our time was limited, we booked a private tour. Having one day in Rhodes from a cruise ship made choosing the right tour company important. We consulted reviews on TripAdvisor and other online sites and decided on Rhodes Private Tours . We chose a 3/4 day tour, which allowed us some time to enjoy the Old City on our own at days’ end. (Windstar’s small ships dock within feet of the city walls so the walk back into the city is easy.)
Rhodes is a strategically placed island, the largest island in the Greek Dodecanese chain, but lying within eleven miles of the Turkish coast. It has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries. The significance of this location means that the island has roots in Minoan, Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and Greek culture. For a time, Rhodes was a autonomous country, ruling over its section of the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence of this history, and all the civilizations that impacted Rhodes, are apparent as you tour the island.
The Medieval City of Rhodes
The walled Old Town, a UNESCO site, closes to cars at 9 a.m., so we made sure to be off the ship as soon as the gangway opened. Manelos, our guide, was waiting on the dock and whisked us right into town to give us an overview and orientation. As he drove, he suggested walks we could take later when we would be able to explore the city on foot.
Manelos gave us a detailed history of Rhodes, more than we could possibly take in! In summary – the Old City we visit today was built by the Knights of Rhodes, who eventually left the island and became the Knights of Malta. Subsequent occupiers, Ottomans, Italians, etc. each left a mark on the city.
But the history of Rhodes goes much further back than our written history. Just inside the Liberty Gate there are remnants from the Temple of Aphrodite from the 3rd century B.C.
Exploring the Island of Rhodes on a Private Shore Excursion
Manelos finished his Old Town introduction before the roads closed to cars. He gave us some time to enjoy the waterfront where one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Colossus of Rhodes, once stood. Manelos then had us turn to show us a building visually similar to the Doge Palace of Venice, thus illustrating the joining of cultures in one location.
Then off along the coast to Lindos. There were four of us traveling and the car was a bit cramped but Manelos kept us laughing with stories of tree-climbing goats (real) and koalas in the eucalyptus (false).
The town of Lindos is about a 45 minute drive from Rhodes town. It is the site of an archaeologically significant citadel on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Finds dating back to the Neolithic and Mycenaean periods have been discovered in the area. More recently (by recent I mean the 14th century) it was a castle of the Knights of St. John. At the top is a Doric temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Excavations indicate an even earlier temple lies beneath.
The Acropolis at Lindos
When we arrived at Lindos, Manelos dropped us at the entrance – an advantage of a private tour over the bus tours. And an important advantage as we still had a very long walk ahead of us. The acropolis sits on the top of a 350 ft high sheer rock overlooking the Mediterranean. We passed on the option of taking a donkey up, and were glad we did when friends told us the donkeys left them with 3/4 of the climb still to go.
The walk begins though a maze of shops selling leather goods, lace tablecloths and the usual touristy kitsch. And though they thin out, these lace sellers will still be haggling their goods as you ascend the mountain.
Be advised that the climb to the top is difficult – steep and uneven stairs with few handrails. Not for anyone with walking difficulties.
But the summit itself – breathtaking!!!
The acropolis is as beautiful as the acropolis of Athens but set against the backdrop of azure seas. Once at the top, it becomes obvious why this site had been chosen as a sacred space or fortress through the centuries. The panoramic views and the sheer scale of the climb ensured safety to those at the top.
Below us lay St. Paul’s bay, a picture perfect inlet and beach. It was in this protected spot that St. Paul is said to have taken refuge during a storm.
We met Manelos at the bottom of the hill for our return to Rhodes. He varied the route back, taking us by modern waterfront hotels, through farmlands where he picked figs for us to try, and down a winding road to a charming restaurant on the sea. We sampled octopus before ordering salads and spaghetti with fresh tuna. Though tempted to jump into the sparkling water we decided to stay dry for the ride back to the ship.
Manelos delivered us back to the ship in time for us to rest, shower, and gather stamina for a walk back into town.
What to Do in Rhodes – afternoon on our own
This ancient city is a photographer’s dream. There’s a picture around every corner. We wandered happily along cobblestone pathways, poking into shops filled with ceramics and lacework. Before long we were lost in the labyrinth of alleys. We stared at our map for a while, rotating it back and forth to no avail, until noticing a rooftop taverna nearby where we got our bearings (and our wine).
Back to the ship in time for our sailaway from the beautiful island of Rhodes.
We were thrilled with our one day in Rhodes. The private shore excursion, though a bit of a luxury, allowed us to see the highlights of the Medieval City, ascend to the acropolis in Lindos, and get a good overview of the whole island. We still had time to explore on our own and enjoy a late afternoon drink at a rooftop cafe. We felt this approach allowed us to maximize our time on a shore day in Rhodes.
Did we see everything? Of course not, but that’s why we’ll return!
What is your favorite destination? Please share so we can add it to our list!
Read more – Packing for a Mediterranean Cruise