Holiday Destinations- On the Rhode to recovery
PUBLISHED: 15:40 13 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:21 20 February 2013
Abandon your preconceived notions about Rhodes. The Greek island has reinvented itself as a chic yet cheap holiday destination, says Penny Fray
Theres no sign of the economic gloom lifting, which means its time to get real and tighten our belts. But before you abandon this years holiday plans and resignedly drag your beach towel to the garden, allow me to introduce you to Rhodes. This Dodecanese gem offers beautiful beaches, hip hotels and some of the best food youll ever taste, minus the eye watering price tag.
A cultural melting pot steeped in sunshine and history, the Greek island has finally shed its reputation for violence and vulgarity and reinvented itself as a fairly low cost, luxury holiday destination.
Of course, youll still find the odd watering hole filled with boozy Brits, restaurants with laminated menus and tacky souvenir shops - but theres now more emphasis on the ancient ruins, the charming churches and the sandy beaches.
Here, Rome meets Barbados. The only draw back is that its all sold with the faint whiff of desperation. Wherever you go, the locals are quick to mention the countrys recent financial troubles. British tourism will help, they say, as they overwhelm you with their hospitality.
And its hard to mind because the joy of Rhodes lies in its people, their honesty and their immense generosity.
The archeological sites are also pretty impressive. From the remnants of the Athenian Temple in Lindos, to the ancient ruins of Kameiros, Rhodes offers a historical adventure like no other. It was part of the Roman and Byzantine empires before being conquered by the Knights of St John in the 14th century - their medieval walled city still dominating Rhodes Town today. I must admit, the Old Town was my favourite hang-out, thanks to its bustling streets, museums and mosques. Theres a real sense of living with history there, as you shop next to a ruined temple or touch the cannonballs once fired by Turkish siege guns.
The Palace of the Grand Masters was particularly fascinating in that it housed priceless mosaics and Hellenistic statues. Nearby, the Street of the Knights, lined with gothic style inns, took you back to a bygone age. Trumping both sites in terms of antiquity, however, is the Acropolis at Lindos.
Magnificently perched on a precipice 400 feet above the village, youll find the remaining columns of a temple once visited by the likes of Alexander the Great and Herakles. Donkeys are available to take you to the top if you wish, but to be honest, the climb isnt that onerous and the vistas are breathtaking.
If history holds little interest for you, then youll be relieved to hear that the island also offers an impressive range of water sports. I took an Aphrodite boat trip from Faliraki to some amazing bays where the clear, warm waters were ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Windsurfing is also popular in places like Prassonisi, personally though, Id rather shop.
Although many of the resorts offer the usual tourist tat, youll find some amazing gems in the Old Town selling reasonably priced jewellery, ceramics and icons.
Rhodes is also a Mecca for the greedy, thanks to their custom of serving several dishes in one sitting. Just as youve polished off a huge bowl of Greek salad, various dips and divine dolmades, a feast of freshly caught fish and meat usually follows.
The critics choice is the award winning Mavrikos restaurant in Lindos but my favourite meze was found at Nireas in the Old Town. A pretty impressive display of country cooking could also be found at the Bavis Brothers Taverna in Embona town - the perfect scoffing stop before tasting the vintages of the nearby Emery winery. For a more upmarket experience, its worth visiting some of the islands five star hotels.
The Poseidon Restaurant at the Atrium Palace presented some of the best lobsters Ive ever tasted, while The Sheratons Asian Imperial offered an amazing mix of fusion flavours and designer decor. Despite its lack of kerb appeal, the interiors of the award winning Sheraton Rhodes Resort, located just outside Rhodes Town, is seriously impressive. Having undergone yet another makeover, guests can shortly expect a more modern look with flashes of colour and designer accessories.
The rooms are spacious and most offer a sea view. On top of that, the pools are pristine, the food - fabulous and all the staff are friendly but not in an intrusive way. Theres even free internet access near the lobby area. Obviously, there are cheaper places to stay without sacrificing too many stars, but the advantage of the Sheraton lies in the quality of the brand.
If youre on a budget of around the 300 mark, however, its worth looking at discount travel sites for some great deals.
Where To Stay: The five-star Sheraton Rhodes is available from 378 per person on a bed and breakfast basis. But watch out for special promotional offers online. To book call 0800 325 35353 or visit www.sheraton.com/rhodes
Flights: Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) flies to Rhodes from London Gatwick and Liverpool, from 43.99 one way, including taxes.