Located in the eastern Aegean Sea just 11 miles southwest of Turkey is Rohdes. It is the largest of Greece’s Dodecanes islands.
Rhodes is one of the sunniest destinations in Europe. It boasts 300 days of sunshine every year. Making it a popular destination for sun lovers and a popular port for cruise ships plying the the Greek Islands route.
Rhodes has been inhabited since the Stone Age and has a long and illustrious history. It’s most significant period was around 407 B.C. when three cities on the island (Kimiros, Lindos, and Ialyssos) merged together to become the new city of Rhodes.
It was during this time period that the huge bronze statue of the Greed god Helios was erected to stand guard over the waters of the ancient harbor. Created by the great Greek sculptor Hares and called the Colossus of Rhodes this statue was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately according to legend the 110 foot statue was demolished by an earthquake in 226 B.C.
Today the harbor known as Mandraki Harbor is home to lavish yachts and local fishing boats. Its shores are lined with trendy cafes. Even remnants of the great statue are gone, standing in the harbor are a male and female deer, the modern symbols of Rhodes.
There are many things to see and do around the island, it offers something for just about everyone. Beautiful sun kissed beaches for those who come to relax and enjoy the clear blue waters that surround the island, a modern cosmopolitan city for those looking to shop, dine, and enjoy cultural attractions, and ancient and medieval sites for those who want to explore the island’s rich history.
No matter what your interests are most folks who visit the island end up making at least one trip to the Old Town. That walled in city founded by the Knights of St. John in 1309 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Old Town Rhodes is a living museum with immeasurable charm. Spend a day there, you won’t be disappointed!
Here are some things you can do in Old Town Rhodes, trust me it’s well worth the trip!
To get the full effect of this walled in town walk in thru one of the open gates. St. Catherine’s, Marine, and Liberty gates are entered on the ocean side while Amboise gate is on the side and back of the city. These are just 3 gates into the city.
There are actually 11 gates to the town, some ancient and some modern. Not all gates are still open. The ancient St. George Gate was closed in 1480 and turned into a bastion by the Grand Master.
I like the modern Liberty Gate it has some “windows” that overlook the sea and offers some cool photo ops. This gate was built by the Italians in 1924 and was built to reflect the medieval gates.
The Liberty Gate is not far from the Archaeological Museum and offers a glimpse of the ruins of Aphrodite’s Temple.
You’ll find shops, restaurants, and cafes along the street that leads from the gate. From this gate, and from any of the gates you can easily make your way to the Palace of the Grand Masters.
Museum and History buffs will want to visit the Archaeological Museum. The museum houses exhibits of art and sculpture from different periods of Rhode’s history as well as artifacts from the time of the Knights. But it’s main attraction in my opinion is the building itself.
The Archaeological Museum is housed in the impressive building that once served as the hospital of the Knights of St. John.
Visitors enter via the main entrance on the east side of the complex and find themselves in a large courtyard surrounded by vaulted porticoes.
There’s a monumental grand staircase on one side of the courtyard that leads up to the timber roofed balcony.
Exhibition rooms are located in the wings of the building and house some very fine sculptures and artifacts from Rhodes and nearby islands.
The Museum is open daily until 7:40 pm. Admission is €3.
It’s definitely worth a short visit!
From the Museum you can make your way to the Street of the Knights.
This medieval street features the lodgings of the Knights of St. John. The buildings represent the 7 countries where the knights came from. You’ll see a coat of arms or plaques next to the doors telling you which country it represented.
The Street of the Knights lead up to the Palace of the Grand Masters. [spacer height=”-20px”]
Located at the end of the Street of the Knights at the highest point in the Old Town of Rhodes is the Palace of the Grand Masters.
Built by the Knights of St. John in the 14th. Century it was the home of the Grand Master and served as the fortress that defended the town and the harbor.
It is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece. Today it is a museum with exhibits that display the history of Rhodes. It also has a fine collection of 16th and 17th-century jewels, handicrafts, weapons, books, and paintings, and mosaics of late Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian times, excavated on the island of Kos.
During peak season the Palace of the Grand Masters is open daily from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm. Between November to March it closes at 3:00 pm. Admission is €6.
It will take about 3 hours to see every exhibition, but an hour or so to just see the highlights, like the wonderful mosaics.
Those are really the 3 main sights within the Old Town of Rhodes, but if you don’t want to see inside each of them you really don’t need to.
You can spend hours just wandering around the winding alleys and streets around the town. That’s really what I love to do.
Each street is different. The main streets leading to the main attractions are lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. You’ll also find the old Synagogue and Mosques along those streets.
There’s also a Jewish Library on one of the main roads not far from the Synagogue.
Open times for these sights are posted by theirs gates or doors.
But don’t stay on the main streets, they’re too busy and too commercialized in my opinion.
To get the real feel of the town don’t be afraid to wander thru the side streets.
You’ll find unique shops selling handmade items in these less frequented streets, as well as local restaurants, hotels, and private residences.
Did I mention that Old Town Rhodes is a living museum? It has some 6,000 people who live and work in the building used by the knights over 500 years ago![spacer height=”-20px”]
Wandering around the side streets is a great way to meet and interact with the local residents and browse some of the unique shops.
You might consider stopping at one of the local cafés for a quick snack or refreshing drink. Believe me you’re going to need a beverage after exploring the Old Town. It gets pretty warm on Rhodes! [spacer height=”-20px”]
When you’ve had your fill of the Old Town head out the Marine Gate and take a stroll along the harbor.
There’s a small pebble beach in the Commercial Harbor just across the street from the Marine gate. if you walk a bit to your right towards St. Cathrine’s Gate you’ll see this pretty dolphin sculpture built on the rock. It makes for a nice short photo op.
From the dolphin statue head back towards the Marine Gate and make your way Mandraki Harbor where the once spectacular Colossus of Rhodes stood guard during ancient times.
On the way to Mandraki Harbor you’ll pass by some enterprising shop owners who’ve turned their fishing boats into gift shops. We thought they were pretty cool and were amazed at the amount of stuff they could fit on the boats!
You’ll also pass kiosks that sell boat tours to neighboring islands and even Turkey. You can also find fishing charters along the harbor. It might be something you can do another day!
Continue on along the harbor and walk along the breakwater. Here you’ll pass 3 windmills.
The windmills are what remains of the 14 medieval windmills that used to grind grain for the town.
There are benches along the breakwater where you can have a quick rest while enjoying the luxury yachts docked in the harbor.
Or you can grab a seat on the steps around the windmills and watch tourist boats enter the harbor. There are some pretty unque looking boats that sail the seas around Rhodes!
At the end of the breakwater you’ll come across St. Nicholas Fort and Tower.
The fort was built between 1464 -1467 to guard the military harbor.
Currently you can’t go inside the fort but you can have a quick walk around and a peek thru the gate!
Just past the fort are the statues of the male and female deer, the current symbols of the island. The statues stand on columns on either side of the harbor.
When you’re ready to walk back consider walking along the harbor instead of the breakwater. You can admire the yachts and fishing boats docked at the harbor.
About halfway back you’ll find a floating restaurant, it’s usually open for dinner. You might consider a meal or a drink if it’s open. We had wanted to but it was still closed when we passed by.[spacer height=”-20px”]
If you’re feeling hungry and didn’t get to try one of the island’s specialties in the Old Town head over to the New Market across from Liberty Gate. You’ll find lots of outdoor restaurants serving Greek specialties like Tzatziki, Pastitsio, Moussaka, and Souvlaki.
My favorite was this beef souvlaki served with rice, tzatziki, and fries![spacer height=”-20px”]
Ready to plan your dream Rhodes vacation? Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan it! At Savvy Nana Travel we specialize in custom itineraries for families, couples, and groups. If you can dream it we can plan it!
Khios is the capital and main port of the Greek island of Chios. The island is located about 5 miles off the western coast of Turkey in the North Aegean Sea.
This kidney shaped island is revered as the birth place of Homer and is the 5th. largest of the Greek Islands. Like the whitewashed buildings and alleys of the famed Cyclades Islands, most notably Santorini and Mykonos, the island and its capital, Khios, boasts its own authentic character.
One of its cultural distinctions revolves around the island’s production of mastic. This aromatic gum is created from resin from the Lentisk trees which are scattered everywhere on the island. Mastic has been a staple ingredient in cosmetics, perfumes, and medicines since Roman times. In Khios mastic is also used to flavor foods and beverages.
Much of the island’s industry from ancient times to today revolves around the Mastic trade. In fact it was so important that the island established fortified Mastic Villages throughout the 14th. and 16th. centuries to keep the industry safe.
Collectively known as Mastichochoria these 5 Mastic Villages are situated deep in the southern point of the islands. The villages are Pyrgi, Mestá, Kalamoti, Armólia, and Lithío. A visit to Khios would not be complete without a trip to at least one of these quaint little villages.
The 2 most picturesque are the Pyrgi and Mestá, each one has features unique to each village, and each are still involved in the mastic trade.
The village of Mestá was built around the 12th. Century during the Byzantine Era. The village is located about 35km from Khios and is build at a height of 120 meters. This fortified walled village protected mastic merchants from pirate raids.
The village has one way in making it much easier to defend. The narrow streets wind thru the village between shops and houses like a labyrinth. The 2011 Census showed 337 inhabitants. [spacer height=”-20px”]
The church of the Older Taxiarchi located in the center of the village was built in 1794.
A few steps from the church is the main village square. Here’s you’ll find a few restaurants and cafés with tables and chairs lined up under bright umbrellas in the square.
The streets leading from the main square host a few souvenir shops and businesses.
It’s a quiet village and a great place to spend a quite morning or afternoon if you’re looking to get away from the more crowded port of Khios. Khios is really not too crowded unless there’s a cruise ship at port, then the restaurants and bars along the main road are packed.
Pyrgi is the largest of the the Mastic Villages with a local population of 775. It is also the municipal seat of Mastichochoria.
This charming village is truly unique. Built during the 13th. century, Pyrgi boasts stunning architecture designed in the “Xysta” style. This style is a process that uses geometric framework in black and white plaster to adorn the buildings. It really is amazing.
The village’s narrow streets are lined with these intricately decorated buildings, even the underside of balconies are decorated![spacer height=”-20px”]
The 16th. Centruy St. Apostle’s Church and bell tower are beautifully decorated inside and out.
The facade is designed in the “Xysta” style.
While the interior is richly decorated with chandeliers, guilt pulpits, and painted icons. [spacer height=”-20px”]
While visiting the church don’t forget to step out on the loggia for a bird’s eye view of the village square.
The square is surrounded by restaurants and bars with canopied tables and chairs in the center. Be sure to grab a seat and enjoy a refreshing drink or snack. [spacer height=”-20px”]
Christopher Columbus was one of the village’s famous visitors. He’s visited the village to confer with mapmakers before he set out for his grand voyage to the West Indies, that’s when history tells us he discovered the Americas instead.
One of the houses on the main street is where Columbus reportedly lodged during his stay. The Columbus crest is etched above the front door of that house.
Every where you look in Pyrgi you will be treated with one of these buildings. You can’t miss them! [spacer height=”-20px”]
When you’ve had your fill of wandering around the Mastic Villages of Mestá and Pyrgi head back to Khios for a well earned dinner. You’ll find many restaurants lining the main road by the port with bistro style seating so you can enjoy sea views.
Thanks to its coastal location Khios has an array of fresh seafood dishes. Try the local specialty “atherina, a deep fried pancake of fresh fish or shrimp with onions. Or try “tomato Kaftedes”, deep fried tomato balls.
Or better yet have my new favorite fried Mastelo! This soft white cheese is made exclusively on the island of Chios by Mr. Konstantinos Toumazos.
Ready for your dream Greek vacation? Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan it! At Savvy Nana Travel we specialize in cruises and custom itineraries for families, groups, honeymooners, and everyone!
I’m fairly certain that when most folks think about Athens the first thing that comes to mind is the Acropolis, that world renowned hilltop city that is home to the iconic Parthenon. And why not? Almost all tours books about the city boasts a perfect shot of that famous temple dedicated to the goddess Athena on its cover.
Athens is more than just the Acropolis. (Tn case you’re wondering Acropolis literally means city on a hill, it is not the name of the ancient buildings built there. The historic structures on the Acropolis each have their one name depending on their use, the Parthenon and Erectheion are the most popular.) Athens is a bustling modern city built around ancient historic sites. There are many things to see and do in this great city, specially if you’re a history buff.
But what about kids? What you may ask does Athens have to offer kids? Well, we’ve taken our kids and grandkids to Athens many times and they love it!
Traveling with kids is the best way to expose them to different cultures, cuisine, and people; and Athens is a great classroom. Not only do the ancient sites bring history to life for kids (that’s what my grandson Dion tells me), it encourages them to learn more about the culture.
Here are 5 kid friendly activities to do in Athens. You might want to read a few Greek mythology books to the kids before you go, we always do!
Climb the Acropolis and let the kids scramble among the rocks. Just be sure they don’t cross the barriers around the structures.
Take a tour of the Panathenaic Stadium.
This stadium is built of fine marble. It hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and was one of the venues during the 2004 Olympics.
Sports fans will love the tour. Not only do you tour the venue, you get a glimpse of all the tunnels under the stadium!
Visit the Acropolis Museum located at the foot of the Acropolis.
This is a great museum to visit after a trip up the Acropolis. The museum is dedicated to all the artifacts that were discovered on the Acropolis. It is home to many of the statues that adorned the various buildings of the citadel.
The kids will love the entrance to the museum. They’ll love walking on the glass floors where they can see a current archaeological dig. Then peek over the sides to see more of the dig.
Grab a free Family Backpack from the museum and set of on the trail of exhibits to complete the challenges. It’s fun and educational too! Our kids thought the Caryatids (6 statues of Maidens that supported the south porch roof of the Erectheion) were really cool!
Don’t forget to step out on the roof for an amazing view of the Parthenon! You can even grab a bite at the restaurant there.
The kids loved seeing the statues of their favorite mythological heroes. They thought the bronze fragments from the Antikythera mechanism and the golden death mask of Agamemnon were pretty cool too!
Wander around the Plaka!
This historic Athens neighborhood is built of the slopes of the Acropolis. It’s the historic heart of Athens that incorporates a maze of streets with ancient sites, neoclassical architecture and monuments, shops, restaurants, and more.
The kids love browsing thru the shops and picking out their souvenirs; statuettes of Greek heroes for Dion, toy swords for Devon, and handmade wooden toys for Jett!
A trip to Athens, or anywhere in Greece for that matter, wouldn’t be complete without sampling the region’s delicious cuisine.
You’ll find many great restaurants, cafés, and tavernas in the Plaka and surrounding districts.
Our favorite dish is Chicken Souvlaki!
What’s your favorite family activity in Athens? Drop a note and let us know!
Ah, Santorini! This Greek island is part of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean Sea.
The mere mention of Santorini inspires visions of white-washed homes in quaint villages, iconic blue domed churches, ocean views, and fabulous sunsets. Santorini has all the ingredients for a romantic get-away for two. It’s no wonder that it’s a favorite wedding and honeymoon destination.
But what if a family with young kids or teens? Does Santorini have anything to offer you? Of course it does! I have to admit we’ve never actually stayed in Santorini, but our family’s been there many times. It’s a popular port of call for many of the cruise ships that sail the Mediterranean route. And cruising is definitely our family’s favorite vacation, and Med cruises are our first choice!
We’ve been to Santorini many times with the kids and grandkids. We’ve always found something fun for them to do. The first time we took our grandson Jett to the island he was only 10 months old. I doubt he’ll remember it, but I know he loved the donkey ride to Fira, the main town. And Devon, who was 3 when we first took him to Santorini still talks about his first donkey ride up to town. Our kids and grandkids all love Santorini!
So whether you’re staying on the island for a few days or spending just a day here are 6 fun activities for your family!
Red Beach in the afternoon
Santorini is an island so the most family friendly activity would be a day at the beach. I mean everyone loves the beach right?
There are many beautiful beaches on the island, pretty much all easily accessible on public transportation, but if you’ve got kids you’ll want to stick to the “family beaches”, meaning beaches where nudity is not allowed.
Red Beach, Kamari, Perissa, Agios Georgios, and Perivolos are the most popular family friendly beaches on the island. All are considered “partly organized”, that means there are lounges and umbrellas for rent and most likely bars and restaurants (which will allow you to use restrooms), and some have watersport rentals as well. These beaches are within 10-12 Km. from the main town of Fira and are easily accessible by public and private transportation. There are also nearby hotels if you plan on staying on the island for some time.
Water Park in Perissa
If you’re tired of the beach there’s a small waterpark in Perissa. Now when I say small, I mean small. Don’t expect the thrill rides of Atlantis or Wet n’ Wild! They’ve got a few slides and a splash zone, for adults there are loungers and umbrellas, and of course a bar.
But it’s a great way to spend a hot summer day for a very good price. Admission is €6 for adults and €3 for kids. The restaurant serves good food at reasonable prices (€10-12 per meal).
Go on a donkey ride! There are only 3 ways to get from the port where cruise ships tenders dock to the town of Fira: Walk up the 600 steps that zigzag up the 800 ft. cliff face, take the cable car, or ride up donkey up those same steps!
I know riding the donkey is controversial and frowned upon by the cruise lines. I’ve heard many folks grumble about animal cruelty, hey I love animals too! But the donkeys don’t seem to be poorly treated, their owners seem to take good care of them, they are after all a money making enterprise.
All that aside I have to admit we ride them up to Fira all the time. The kids actually look forward to riding them. As for me, I ride them because the alternatives aren’t much better. Cable car lines can be 2 to 3 hours long depending on how many cruise ships are anchored off Santorini. And walking up those steps along side the donkeys as you side step their droppings is not my cup of tea. So a donkey ride up it is!
Rides cost €5 each way, kids are free and must ride with an adult. As I’ve said Joel took Jett up on donkeyback when he was just 10 months old! There they are, Jett’s in the Ergo! Dion and Devon ride with one of us. Dion’s been trying to get his own donkey, but the man won’t let him and neither will we!
But I do not recommend riding the donkey down from town. I did it once and will never do it again! I made it down safely, but it was a harrowing ride, took 3 drinks before I could stop shaking!
Go ahead ride the donkey, it’s part of the Santorini experience!
View from Oia
Take the bus to Oia Village on the north end of the island!
Oia is probably the most famous village on the island, it’s certainly the most photographed.
It calmer and less crowded than Fira with many shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes. The kids love wandering the small alleys and peeking into the various shops. You can grab a cold fruit slushie to cool you off while you enjoy the fantastic views.
Did I mention the best sunsets are viewed from Oia!
Port on Nea Kameni
Take a small ship to the center of the caldera and hike up Nea Kameni, a volcanic island that is part of the Santorini group.
Nea Kameni is an uninhabited volcanic island in the middle of Santorini Volcano’s caldera. It is a protected natural monument and national geological park.
It is an active volcano and you will see fumaroles emitting hot sulfurous gasses as you hike up. It’s an easy hike, even for small kids. There are fabulous views of Santorini and the other nearby islands.
This area does get quite hot and there is virtually no shade. The only shade is a bench with a thatched umbrella along the path. There are no shops or cafes on the island either. So wear a hat, bring plenty of sunscreen and water, you will need them![spacer height=”-20px”]
It’s a very well preserved Bronze Age Minoan Town and may have inspired Plato’s Atlantis.
The town was buried in ash during the volcanic eruption around 1623 B.C. E. The ash helped preserve the village, much like Pompeii. Unlike Pompeii there were no human remains found leading one to surmise that the village was abandoned before the eruption.
This site may not be suitable for very young children, unless they’re budding archaeologists. But it is worth the trip if like us you like to include a bit of education in your vacation.
Admission is €12 for adults, kids up to 18 are free. It’s easily accessible by public transportation, the bus stop is directly across the street from the main gate. Bus tickets are €2 each way. Taxis cost €20 each way.
You’ll need no more than a couple of hours to explore the site and can couple this activity with a trip to Red Beach. Red Beach is a short walk down the street from the main gate (cross the street, there’s a sign a few feet from the bus stop directing you to Red Beach, you can’t miss it). Don’t worry about walking back to the bus stop after the beach, the bus turns around in the beach parking lot to begin its return trip to Fira.
However long you’re on Santorini and where ever you decide to wander have a great time! If you find more fun family activities let us know, we’d love to try them next time we’re there!
Mykonos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It’s part of the Cyclades group of islands.
Mykonos is a popular cruise ship port and is famous for its glamorous party atmosphere made popular in the 1960’s by Jackie Kennedy Onasis, Sophia Loren, and other famous icons of the time. Today it attracts the trendy crowd of Hollywood elite including Madonna, Tom Hanks, P Diddy, and Sara Jessica Parker, as well as famous designers like Roberto Cavalli and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Mykonos is trendy and chic; it attracts singles who want to have fun in the sun in the many beaches that have lively bars and cafes. It’s still a magnet for Greek and international celebrities who flock to the island in the summer, attracted by the trendy bars, stylish cafés, upscale restaurants, and fashionable boutiques in the cosmopolitan island atmosphere.
Sounds like a fun party island right? Ideal for singles and even couples who want to frolic scantily clad at Paradise or Super Paradise Beach, 2 island beaches that are famous or perhaps infamous for topless and sometimes nude sunbathing. These beaches are home to bars and cafes where the party really begins after sunset. But what about couples looking for romance and families looking for fun in the sun without nudity? No worries, Mykonos has romance and family fun too!
If you’re looking for romance there are many ocean view restaurants, bars, and cafes where you can have a drink or a meal with your significant other. Or if you prefer a quieter spot there are many places in the island’s picturesque towns.
If you’re a family looking for ways to entertain kids of different ages read on! Here are some kid friendly activities for the whole family on the island.
Everyone, or nearly everyone loves beaches! There are many on the island. But if the kids are with you opt for the family beaches such as Platis Gialos, Psarrou, or Kalafatis just to name a few. All of these beaches have restaurants, watersport rentals and activities, and lounge chair and umbrella rentals.
Most beaches on Mykonos can be easily reached by bus or taxi.
If you’re on a cruise ship and only have a few hours on the island you can book a shore excursion from the ship that will take you to one of the family beaches. Or you can catch a taxi at the main square in Chora, the town closest to the ports or a bus from the local station. Taxis are very limited on the island and if there are several ships at port you may find a long cue for a cab.
Otherwise if you just want to sunbathe and let the kids splash in the water and play in the sand there’s a small beach as you walk from the bus station to the town. There are no amenities, but the town with all its shops and cafes are just foot steps away.
Older kids and adults might enjoy a visit to Delos. Delos is another island of the Cyclades group. Today it’s a important archaeological site that encompasses temples, markets, houses, and the famous Terrace of the Lions statues. The island’s archaeological museum houses many of the artifacts found from excavations of the site.
You can book a tour with one of the local tour companies in Chora or catch a ferry and wander the island on your own. Boats to Delos leave from the docks in Chora in the morning thru the afternoon. You really don’t want to be on Delos long, and definitely not in the midday heat. Be sure to put on lots of sunscreen, bring a hat, and bottled water. Today the island is uninhabited so there are no cafes, restaurants, or shops.
If you’ve had enough of the beach and are looking for something to eat you don’t have to go far before you run into a cafe, restaurant, or snack bar.
There are many restaurants along the ocean front in Chora, but for a quick gelato we like to take the kids to one of the snack bars in the middle of town. That way the kids can have their gelato while the rest of us shop.
But when it’s time for lunch or dinner we usually frequent the Music Cafe or one of the ones by the windmills or in Little Venice. Believe there is no lack of food establishments on the island! My daughters love the Saganaki!
Speaking of windmills, the kids love hiking up to the windmills on the other end of town.
The like to run around the wide open space by the windmills. It’s a good spot to let them burn off some excess energy.
For the more adventurous how about renting some quads? My daughter and her husband love to run around the island on these vehicles. Last time they took my grandsons Dion and Devon while my husband and I stayed in town to hang out with then 10 month old Jett.
The rental company is located at the end of town, one street up from the main street that runs along the coast. You can rent them hourly for by the day. Helmets are provided with each vehicle.
Whatever you decide to do on Mykonos save some time to relax! It’s a wonderful island filled with friendly people, and delicious food!