A few years ago during Kurban Bayram the FT team were given the opportunity to visit the island of Rhodes as guests of the island’s administration.
We were driven all over the island and were amazed by what we saw.
There are several places in and around Fethiye where on a clear day, particularly in winter, it is possible to see the island of Rhodes, which is in fact just 70 kilometres across the blue waters of the south Aegean. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that it takes only 90 minutes to reach the island by ferry from Fethiye harbour but there are also daily ferries leaving from Bodrum and Marmaris.
Bustling Rhodes City offers visitors history, shopping and wonderful Greek food, but do find time to take a trip down the east coast of the island, as no visit to the island is complete without a visit to Lindos. There is a bus service, great if you want to absorb the local atmosphere, but you could also hire a car or take a taxi.
A symphony in white and blue – like the Greek flag
The squat white buildings of Lindos, perched above the azure blue bay and sandy beach, are dazzling in the bright autumn sunlight. This postcard-pretty village looks ageless and even though it has changed over the years and the demands of tourism have inevitably left their mark, the authorities have regulated development. As a result all the buildings within the hilltop settlement are in keeping with the original houses and all the new buildings are tucked away behind the rocky coastal headland.
Cars are kept out of the old part of Lindos and the closest drivers can come is to the town square. However, the town of Lindos is compact and it’s only a short walk into the market area, which creates a lively and colourful entrance to the village.
In the cool, shady alleyways there are donkeys waiting, drowsy in the heat.
Their long furry ears twitch as they wait patiently with their guides to take tourists through the narrow lanes all the way to the acropolis. This is the sum of their lives; donkeys have always been the beast of burden in Lindos. There are no roads to the citadel, so it’s either a Lindos donkey or Shanks’s pony.
Time travel on a donkey
Entering the network of winding streets is like stepping into another world. There is something quite mysterious,exotic and timeless about this place but also incredibly Greek! The lanes are full of quaint cafes and restaurants to sit, eat, drink and relax, to absorb the characterful environment of this iconic Rhodian town.
Walking has its merits; it is easier to take advantage of photo opportunities but sitting and gently swaying from side to side atop a donkey affords riders interesting views and stupendous panoramas denied a pedestrian. People in ancient times certainly knew a good location when they saw one; the views are breath taking. Okay, maybe it was more to do with defence but it’s also just possible they recognised the beauty of this place when they first laid eyes on it.
Finally your gentle donkey will take you to entrance of the citadel; the magnificence of the place is overwhelming.
A short history of Lindos citadel
Founded by the Dorians, led by the king Tlepolemus of Rhodes, who arrived in about the 10th century BC, Lindos is one of six Dorian cities in the area known as the Dorian Hexapolis. By the 8th century Lindos was an important trading centre but its significance declined when Rhodes town was built.
In classical times Lindos was dominated by a massive temple dedicated to Athena; its final form emerged in around 300 BCE. Hellenistic and Roman times saw the temple precinct grew as more buildings were added. In early medieval times these buildings fell into disrepair, and by the arrival of the 14th century parts of them were covered by a massive fortress built on the same site by the Knights of St John as a defence against the Ottomans.
A natural citadel, the acropolis of Lindos was fortified successively by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Knights of St John and finally the Ottomans. As a result of these many layers of history the site is difficult to excavate and interpret archaeologically.
Exploring on shank’s pony
Walking back down the hill also provides an opportunity for some sight seeing and shopping. ‘The Captain’s House’ is a remarkable building and well worth a visit. The entrance is through an arch, under which some enterprising people have opened a café. Built in 1693 it once was, as the name suggests, home to a sea captain but it is now possible to stay in there. The Captain’s House villa is laid out in the traditional style with all the rooms accessed via a cobbled courtyard.
There are many churches to visit too: the beauty of them, the gold, the iconography, smell of incense, the cool darkness, makes them wonderful places to sit and think for a while.
Walking or donkey riding makes people hot and the best way to cool of is with a swim in the amazingly clear azure waters of Lindos. It must have something to do with the quality of the light and depth of the sea but whatever caused these dramatic colour changes from light turquoise to deep ultramarine it is truly magical. The small but rather beautiful beach has sun beds and shades but other than that is amazingly unspoilt bearing in mind tourists have been coming here for more than 50 years.
A Big fat Greek dinner
Walking, swimming and exploring creates an appetite and fortunately, in the town square with the shady plane trees, there is the oldest and reputedly the finest restaurant in town.
Mavrikos opened back in 1933, as the date above the entrance testifies and the quintessentially Greek courtyard dining experience, exquisite food and wonderful views and surroundings makes this place an essential part of any visit to Lindos.
There are some wonderful places to stay in Lindos and with many of them comprising more than a few rooms, it is much more like staying in someone’s home.
Incidentally, the classic film The Guns of Navarone was partly filmed here and nowadays, Lindos is now a very popular venue for weddings.
The ferry from Fethiye takes less than two hours, giving ample time in the day to absorb the unique atmosphere of the walled town, do some shopping and take a leisurely and delicious lunch at one of the many tavernas or restaurants before returning to Turkey one of the evening ferries that depart in the late afternoon.
Of course, it is also possible to stay the night and explore the rest of this extraordinary island.
Yeşil Dalyan’s daily service stops for the winter but starts again in mid April. For more information click here.
Winter trips can be made a couple of times a week from Marmaris. For more information click here.
Bodrum is every day during the summer but this changes from the end of October. Click here for more information.