Rhodes - Greek Island Home of the Knights of St. John

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Old Town Rhodes, Greece

Old Town Rhodes, Greece
Linda Garrison

Rhodes (also called Rodos) is a Greek island in the southeast Aegean Sea and is located less than 10 miles from the coast of Turkey. The largest town on the island also is called Rhodes. The island is the largest in the Dodecanese archipelago, which consists of 15 large islands and 150 smaller ones. Twenty-six of the Dodecanese islands are inhabited, with the best-known being Rhodes, Patmos, and  Kos. ​

Rhodes is loved by travelers for its good weather, lovely beaches, ancient archaeological ruins, and its historical connection with the Knights Hospitaller, who is also called the Knights of St. John.  It was also the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes.

Many cruise ships sailing the Greek isles or the eastern Mediterranean include Rhodes as a port of call. The ships dock within easy walking distance of the walled city of old town Rhodes, so guests can explore this fascinating city on their own or take a tour that includes the highlights of the old town. In addition to tours of the old town, other shore excursions include a bus tour of the island, transfer of guests to one of the beaches, or include time to walk to the Acropolis and explore the fascinating medieval village of Lindos

Since most everyone who visits Rhodes takes the time to explore the old town, we'll start our tour with this fascinating part of the island.

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Gate to the Walled City of Rhodes

Gate to the walled city of Rhodes
Linda Garrison

The old town of Rhodes is surrounded by a wall with seven large gates like the one seen in the photo above. Each of the gates is named.

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Wall Surrounding Old Town Rhodes, Greece

Wall surrounding old town Rhodes, Greece
Linda Garrison

The city wall surrounding the old town of Rhodes is still impressive. As seen in the next photo, it's actually a double wall with a dry moat between the two walls.

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Double Wall Surrounds Old Town Rhodes, Greece

Double wall surrounds old town Rhodes, Greece
Linda Garrison

Enemy armies attacking the city of Rhodes had to climb over the first wall, cross the dry moat open area, and then climb over the second wall.  

The Ottomans were the primary enemy of the Knights of St. John and the Christian residents of Rhodes. After a long siege in 1522 where 2000 Christians and 50,000 Turks died, the Ottomans finally took over the city. However, both sides were tired of fighting, and the Knights were able to negotiate a peace with the Ottomans, who offered the remaining Knights and Christians safe passage to go into exile away from Rhodes. On January 1, 1523, about 5000 Christians and Knights left their homes and moved to the island of Crete. The Knights stayed on Crete until 1530 when the Holy Roman Emperor gave them the islands of Malta and Gozo.

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Street of the Knights in Old Town Rhodes, Greece

Street of the Knights in old town Rhodes, Greece
Linda Garrison

The Street of the Knights is the most famous street in old town Rhodes. It stretches from the Grand Master's Palace to the New Hospital-Archaeological Museum. Strolling down the cobblestones, you can almost picture the knights inside the residences that line the street. They were praying, practicing their military skills, or just living their lives.

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Grand Master's Palace on the Greek island of Rhodes

Grand Master's Palace on the Greek island of Rhodes
Linda Garrison

With a name like the Grand Master's Palace, it's not surprising that this is the most impressive building in old town Rhodes.  The leader of the Knights of St. John was called the Grand Master, and this was his residence. The huge palace is built around this large courtyard.

The Palace has 158 rooms, and 24 are open to visitors. There's a surcharge to tour the palace, but the furnishings and mosaics make the cost worthwhile.

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Mosaic Tile Floor in the Grand Master's Palace on Rhodes

Mosaic tile floor in the Grand Master's Palace on Rhodes
Linda Garrison

Many of the mosaic tile floors in the Grand Master's Palace in Rhodes were originally on the nearby island of Kos. The mosaics date back to the first century A.D. and are spectacular. 

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Cats and Flowers on Rhodes

Typical Greek street scene on Rhodes
Linda Garrison

Medieval towns like Rhodes often feature unique sights around every corner. Doesn't this look like a stereotypical Greek island setting--cat, bougainvillea, and narrow cobblestone street. As seen in the next photo, Rhodes has many of these picturesque places.

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Greek Cat, Bougainvillea, and Colorful Door

Typical scene in Greece--cat, bougainvillea, and colorful door
Linda Garrison

Another typical scene from Rhodes and other Greek islands in the Aegean--a cat, a whitewashed building with a brightly colored door, and bougainvillea. 

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Cafes in Old Town Rhodes

Cafes in old town Rhodes
Linda Garrison

Not all of old town Rhodes is made up of palaces and picturesque streets. Visitors will find many souvenir shops, cafes, and bars. It's a fun place to eat lunch and watch the world go by.

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Mosque in Old Town Rhodes, Greece

Mosque in old town Rhodes, Greece
Linda Garrison

The Mosque of Suleiman is the largest remnant of Ottoman rule. It was originally built in 1522 after the Ottoman conquest and was remodeled in 1808. The mosque was named for Suleiman, who was the leader of the Ottoman armies.

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Rhodes Beach

Beach on the island of Rhodes, Greece
Linda Garrison

This long beach is on the eastern side of Rhodes near the old town. The island of Rhodes has at least 42 good beaches

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Rocky Beach on the Island of Rhodes

Rocky beach in Rhodes (Rodos), Greece
Linda Garrison

Visitors who arrive by cruise ship can walk around the old town harbor. Ships dock on one side, the old town is at the foot, and the entrance to the harbor is the site of the ancient Colossos of Rhodes. 

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Entrance to the Harbor at Rhodes

Site of the Colossos of Rhodes in Ancient Greece
Linda Garrison

The legs of the famous statue of the Colossos of Rhodes once straddled the narrow entrance of the old town harbor of Rhodes. Today two deer, which are one of the symbols of Rhodes, guard the entrance.

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