Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese islands, which consist of 12 large and 150 small islands, and the fourth largest island in Greece (after Crete, Evia, Lesvos). It covers 1,401 sq. km. It is situated at the crossroads of the two sea routes of the Mediterranean, between the Aegean Sea and the coasts of the Middle East. It is located 460 km southeast of Athens, 380 km west of Cyprus and 18 km southwest of Turkey. The coastline of the island measure 253 km in length and 151 km of beaches. The island has a length of 80 km (49.71 miles) and maximum width of 39 km (24.24 miles).
Rhodes current population is little over 100,000 inhabitants. Over 50,000 inhabitants live in its capital city and the remaining inhabitants in the 42 picturesque villages of the island. The local language is Greek, the majority of the residents also speak English. The predominant religion is Greek Orthodox. The Metropolis of Rhodes belongs to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. There is a significant Latin Catholic minority (over 2.000, many are descendants of Italians remaining on the island after the Italian dictatorship). Rhodes has a Turkish Muslim minority (over 3.500, mostly remnant from Ottoman Turkish times). 7 Jewish families (approx. 40 persons) remain on the island. Most of the inhabitants are occupied in the tourism industry (service) although historically the main industry was agriculture, stockbreeding, fishery, and winery. The main produce on the island is grain, olive oil, wine, figs, vegetables. Local’s most favorite winter hobbies are fishing & hunting!
The island can be reached both by air and by sea. Rhodes island has three airports, but only one is public, the international airport of “Diagoras”, located in Paradisi, just 14 km from the city of Rhodes. There are five ports in Rhodes: Mandraki, Kolona, Tourist Port, Commercial Port-Akandia, and New Marina. The Tourist Port also operates as a homeport for some Cruise Ship companies, which makes the island a getaway for cruise ships of the Mediterranean. Rhodes town has two local bus service operators: KTEL (covers East Side area) & RODA (covers Rhodes city, and Western Side area).
Rhodes has been blessed with a beautiful natural environment, big variety of beaches, green valleys, mountains, forests, rich and uniquely diverse flora & fauna. It has plentiful water, diverse soil distribution, and favorable climate conditions.
Due to the Mediterranean climate, the habitats of the island mainly belong to the Eumeditteranean vegetation zone. Exceptionally rare, unique mixed forests with Turkish Pine trees (Pinus Brutia) and Mediterranean Cypress trees, Pistacia trees (Postacia Lentiscus), the kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). The hinterland also includes olive groves while the coastal areas are dominated by cedar trees (Juniperus sp). The unique plant species of Rhodes include oriental sweetgum (Liquidambar Orientalis).
There are 1350 plants recorded on Rhodes of which 8 are local endemic, 13 are endemic to the Aegean and 64 are endemic to Rhodes and Turkey. Some of the rarest are Komper’s Orchid, one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the rarest in Europe, Rhodian Peony, one of the most impressive wildflowers on the island, and Candia Tulip that grows in Rhodes, on Crete, and in South Turkey.
The main animal, as well as the symbol of the island, is the fallow deer of Rhodes (Dama Dama), known locally as “platoni”. This is the only wild population of deer in Greece, protected under Greek legislation since 1969. Other important animal species are the Mediterranean Mon Seal (among the rarest and most endangered species), the Rhodian Bonelli’s Eagle, the Butterfly of Rhodes (Panaxia Quatripunktaria, their concentration in the area is due to the forests of oriental sweetgum and the type of resin it produces), Ghizani or Minia fish (a rare and one if the most endangered freshwater species in Europe), and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle – the only species of turtle that reproduces in Greece (it has existed on our planet since the age of dinosaurs)!
The highest elevation is 1216 m (3,990 ft) – Ataviros Mountain. Remains of the Zeus temple are found at the peak of the mountain. The second highest mountain is Gramytis or Akramytis 823 m (2,700 ft), followed by Prophet Elias mount 800 m (2,625 ft).
Rhodes has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate, characterized by dry summers and mild, wet winters. Highest temperature are in July & August 30.5-41.2 C (86.9-106.2 F), lowest temperatures are in January & February – 12.0-8.8 C (53.6-47.8 F).
Due to its excellent geographic location, Rhodes has always been the desired land for near and far seaborn settlers, traders, explorers, and those seeking power in the Mediterranean. Throughout its long and turbulent history, the island was inhabited by different people and nations who have left their mark on all aspects of the island and its inhabitants. Most important historical periods that shaped the development of the island are:
Classical Period (5th and 4th centuries BC)– the period of economic & cultural prosperity
Roman Period (42 BC-330 AD) – In 164 AD Rhodes officially becomes a province of the Roman Empire. Although it lost its economic power, the island still maintained it’s leading role in arts and science.
Byzantine Period (330 AD – 1309 AD) – the Christian doctrine strengthens. Rhodes maintains it’s influence in Maritime issues.
Knights Period (1309 AD – 1522 AD) – Rhodes becomes a significant center of commerce with powerful headquarters of a multinational Christian garrison – Knights Hospitaller. Rhodes has its own currency.
Ottoman Period (1522 AD – 1912 AD) – Rhodes was a possession of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 4 centuries. Rhodes becomes the region’s administrative center. Most of the churches were converted into mosques, and larger buildings were adapted to the Ottoman way of living.
Italian Period (1912 AD – 1944 AD) – Rhodes rebirth under the Italian dictatorship. Despite the authoritarian regime and hard attempts of “Italianization”, Italians completed extensive infrastructure works, radically transformed the capital city & the Medieval town, built new public spaces, commercial facilities, churches, theaters, schools, sports facilities, and entire villages.
Modern Period – on March 1, 1948, Rhodes is incorporated into the Greek state. Nowadays Rhodes has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.
Rhodes island is famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 Wonders of the ancient world, and the Medieval Town that has been declared a World Heritage site in 1988.