“Nestled in the heart of the Aegean Sea, Rhodes Island, often referred to as the “Eternal Isle,” has emerged from the ashes of the July 2023 fires stronger and more captivating than ever. As we step onto its sun-kissed shores, we embark on a journey of rediscovery, exploring the remarkable revival of this timeless destination, where history, culture, and natural beauty await with open arms.”
Return to Eternal Rhodes Island
Frederic and I were recently invited by the Greek Ministry of Tourism to visit Rhodes and see for ourselves how tourism has fared since the terrible fires that devastated part of the island in July of this year.
The horrific mages on TV gave the impression that the island had been destroyed, but we were glad to discover that this was far from the case. While certainly awful for those impacted, only nine percent of the total surface of the island representing 18 percent of its forests were actually burnt, and that was in the center, south of Lindos. What this means for travelers is that most places of interest are totally intact and open for business.
Of the 600 hotels and guesthouses on the island, only three were damaged enough that they could not reopen. All the others are operational and welcoming tourists.
A building surrounded by burnt land near Kiotari Beach
Rhodes Old City, A Historic Marvel
With our rented car, we were able to get around the island without any restriction. We started in Rhodes Old Town, which was as busy and crowded as ever during the summer season It was heart warming to see its charming cobbled streets filled with visitors who took to the bars and restaurant terraces, shops and museums. Cruise ships are back in the harbor too, delivering their usual hordes. But we also took time to walk in less touristic streets, which hide harming boutique hotels as well as quiet small squares shaded by old trees that left us feeling as if we had found « true » Rhodes.
Acropolis of Lindos
Lindos Acropolis, the Second Marvel of Rhodes
The roads were pretty busy in spite of the of the exorbitant gasoline pump prices. With only two days left to see the rest of the island, we of course went to stunning Lindos. It was also packed with people but this temple is an absolute must see and we had a great time admiring its fine columns and the amazing view over the Mediterranean Sea. Next, we went to Kalithea, an amazing Art Deco-style spa resort built by the Italians in the early 20th century. Its white refined architecture is quite unique and the nearby beach was perfect for a refreshing bath.
The acropolis of Lindos has amazing views too
Beaches for All, and a Secret Inland Place
Rhodes is full of surprises and we discovered that apart from its beautiful beaches offering a wide range of bathing and water sport activities, locals as well as visitors can enjoy a refreshing bath in pure spring water. At the Seven Springs site there are no less than, as the name suggests, seven springs creating a vast pond surrounded by a beautiful forest. These cool shallow waters was refreshing for obvious reasons, most notably its position far from usual touristic itineraries.
Continuing our way on a bucolic road going through the forest ,we got to Agios Nectarios Monastery, one of the largest monasteries of Greece and one of the largest orthodox churches in the Balkans. Here, we also discovered an ancient plane tree that was so big we could stand up inside its trunk.
Haraki Beach, one of the numerous beaches of Rhodes
Resorts and Beaches in the Region Impacted by July’s Fires
We could not leave the island without seeing for ourselves the area devastated by the fires.
A few miles south of Lindos, the scenery changed at once, and we discovered a landscape where blackened tree trunks rose from ravaged earth. But we also saw many olive trees that had successfully survived and other trees that first looked dead yet upon closer examination, were actually budding proudly with tender green leaves. New plantations have been made, and we saw young trees on the side of the road utilizing a drip watering system. But we saw no burnt houses or hotels.
We visited Lardos Beach and Kiotari Beach, two locations that were evacuated during the fires. There, firemen and local volunteers did a great job blocking the flames within few meters from the buildings. Today, the hotels, activities, and beach restaurants and operators are back to work again, with hotels fully booked as before.
Old City of Rhodes by night
Rhodes Island —Ready for Tourism
We met Rhodien hoteliers and tourism professionals who explained that even during the week of fires, two-thirds of the island were not impacted, and tourists went on about enjoying their holidays. The week after, the number of arrivals dipped and a few tour operators closed arrivals for seven days. But soon after, the situation bounced back.
In fact, the tourism numbers in Rhodes, from January 1st to August 15th, were more than the figures for the same period in 2019 and 2022, two of the best years for tourism on the island.
Even in August some hidden squares can be found away from the crowd in the Old City of Rhodes
Welcome back to Eternal Rhodes Island!
Our review of Rhodes situation one month after the fires wouldn’t be complete without thanking all the people that made our reportage a pleasant and successful one. Greek and Rhodien authorities were able to organize our trip efficiently in a very short time. We also want to thank all the Rhodien people we met who have been true ambassadors of the renowned Greek philoxenia, their authentic sense of hospitality and kindness to visitors, which makes a trip to Greece a great human experience.
Don’t hesitate—Rhodes is waiting for you!
BeSeeingYou In: Rhodes, Greece
Good to Know: There are many directs flight from UK airports to Rhodes, no need to fly through Athens
WOW! Factor: Sunny climate, warm sea water, nice beaches, lots of restaurants and bars, incredible medieval City, fabulous archeological sites.
Tip: Spring and Autumn are two delicious seasons to visit Rhodes, which help over-crowding and traffic.
Author bio: Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny