A June 2005 trip
to Rhodes by GB from Devizes
Quote: Few visitors venture into the interior of this beautiful island, a great pity indeed. We took a full day's road trip to explore some lesser-known beaches, then swing inland to find the bustling town of Archangelos, Petaloudes, the Valley of the Butterflies, and the sprawling Minoan remains at Kameiros.
Notable examples are to be found at Tsambika, Stegna, and Vliha, the latter consisting of 3 miles of sparkling shoreline and scarcely a holidaymaker in view. Tsambika is overlooked by a 1,000-foot-high rock escarpment, on top of which is built the tiny monastery of Panayia Tsambika. The views from here are reputedly the finest in Rhodes.
Driving inland now, the first town of any size is Archangelos, a bustling, thriving community that prides itself on its finely woven rugs and carpets that adorn the exterior of almost every small shop. The town is protected by a ruined Knights’ castle that sits astride a rocky outcrop above the town.
Leaving the town behind, the next port of call is Epta Piyes (Seven Springs), and a few miles farther still is the stunning Petaloudes, or "Valley of the Butterflies." The mountainsides here are verdant compared to the interiors of Crete or Kos and reflect the fact that the Venetians never stripped off the timber here to build their galley fleets.
Birds of prey soar on the thermals, and as we venture farther inland, it becomes almost intolerably hot, the mountains forming an almost impenetrable barrier from the cooling coastal breezes that sees the temperature regularly hitting 40°C.
As we descend from our mountain roadway, we see before us the sprawling ancient remains of Kameiros, a Minoan settlement dating back to the 6th century BC and the principal reason for our drive today. There are no more than a dozen people here, all taking their time to explore this amazing site in the searing Rhodian sunshine. With the pine clad hillsides encircling the town, we wander at leisure here for 2 or more hours soaking up the wonderful atmosphere and imagining how the daily lives of this most civilised race were conducted in this beautiful location.
Local maps of the "roads" are notoriously inaccurate, and a black-top surface can suddenly become a dust bowl without any signed warnings. Beware also that many roads are closed for resurfacing during the summer, and it is known for tourists to take a road deep inside the island only to find bulldozers and graders blocking the route.
Most hire cars are not insured to drive upon dirt roads, and if you take the chance and damage the car, you will be expected to pay in full, in cash, for the repairs.
Many of the inland villages celebrate their "saint" days, although these are rarely publicised. Tourists are welcomed to the communities, though, and given every encouragement to participate.
The golden rules are 1) have sufficient fuel, 2) take plenty of drinking water, and 3) buy a good map. Follow this advice and you will enjoy your inland safari.
From Stegna, we doubled back to Archangelos, and from here, after exploring, we drove north for 7km to Kolymbia, where we turned west onto a main road marked for Archipoli. Turn left after 3km to find Epta Piyes.
Returning to the coast road, we drove a further 6km north to Afantou, where we took an unclassified route west marked for Psinthos. This is another serpentine route demanding attention. Follow this for 8km to Psinthos and continue another 8km to Petaloudes.
Finally, having exhausted the delights of Petaloudes, we took the long drive to Kameiros, situated on the north coast, about 4km south of Kalavarda. From Petaloudes, drive north towards the airport at Kato Kalamonas, pick up the west coast route, turn left, and follow for 19km to Kalavarda.
Attraction | "East Coast Beaches - Vliha, Tsambika and Stegna"
A few kilometres north, and close to Archangelos is Stegna, a small fishing village sheltered by its backdrop of mountains through which the torturous road descends to its single street, bedecked with bars, restaurants and tavernas, a predominantly German and Italian holiday enclave.
Stegna is certainly pretty and we left the car under an obliging olive tree and took a stroll along the main street which backs immediately onto it’s superb beach of golden sand. Several kaikia were already depositing their eager visitors ashore to sample the delights of this charming village which seemed very laid back, judging by the lack of any form of dancing bar or club that we could see. Judging by the numbers already sprawled across the beach, these are the principal reasons to stay here; peace and quiet. The average age of the people we saw had to be 40+, but all were happy, as I would be if I were here.
Leaving Stegna behind us, we climbed back up to the main road and headed north once more to Tsambika. The scale of this beach is staggering; there are several hundred yards of dunes between the road and beach which has to be a mile long and 70 yards wide. It has, however, succumbed to its tourist magnet effect and half the width of the beach has been cordoned off to provide a narrow roadway and parking for hundreds of cars. But this doesn’t detract from the overall effect at all.
Towering above the north end of the beach is the 1,000-foot-high Tsambika (after which the beach is named),atop of which is the tiny monastery of Panayia Tsambika. It is accessible by a 1.5-kilometer paved road that ends at a small car-park. From here, its 297 stone steps to the summit, and as much as we’d have liked to climb up, the heat pretty much decided against it. The view from the top is reputedly the best anywhere on Rhodes.
On September 8th, many local "barren" women make the breathless climb to the summit, where they pay homage to an 11th-century icon and eat a small piece of the wick from one of the lamps. If they subsequently bear a child, it’ll be named Tsambika (female) or Tsambikos (male), names particular only to this part of the Dodecanese.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 19, 2005
Vliha, Tsambika and Stegna Beaches
East Coast of Rhodes, Greece
Attraction | "Archangelos - Oranges, Castles, and Churches"
Second, the town has a thriving "countrycraft" industry manufacturing carpets, leather footwear, and pottery. The exteriors of every store are adorned with luxurious rugs and traditional shepherd’s knee-high boots. Most of the rug shops have their little "factory" to the rear, where you will find Grandma weaving away on a centuries-old loom.
Third, Archangelos boasts two superb churches, those of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, from where the town takes its name, and, finally, the majestic ruins of a Knights’ castle that sits on a rocky outcrop south of the town.
The church of Archangel Gabriel Patitiriotis sits in a quieter corner of the town. The easiest way to find it in the maze of alleys is to look for the bell tower and use that to home in. It sits in a wonderful hokhlaki courtyard, and, like many churches here, its bell tower is separate from the church, forming part of the entrance to the courtyard. It is a peaceful retreat in this bustling town, and we sat in the shade awhile and watched an old lady dressed head to toe in black sweeping the steps up to the entrance.
The bell tower is again of the "wedding cake" type and probably the most ornate we saw on the island.
Moving on, we started looking at some of the rugs, as we needed a replacement for the one at home. We stopped at a small shop and were welcomed inside by the owner, who offered us a glass of chilled orange juice.
After Caroline described what we were looking for, she proceeded to roll out several rugs until one caught Caz's eye. It was priced at 30€, a good-enough deal to start with, but, with sensible haggling, she got it down to 22€, a bargain indeed that now sits proudly beneath the coffee table.
The only downside to the town is the relentless screaming of mopeds along the main road, which detracts somewhat from the "rural" experience, so we decided to head towards the castle. Unfortunately, the stony track that led there was blocked by a huge pile of rubble, so, not wanting to fly in the face of officialdom, we chose not to climb over and had to be content with the views from the road.
The main road and back streets of Archangelos are replete with bars and tavernas, mainly occupied by locals who seem mystified that anyone would want to voluntarily walk around with rucksacks in 40°C heat. But that is the Greek way; why stroll around when you can sit in the shade with an ouzo?
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 19, 2005
Oranges, Castles, and Churches
Attraction | "Petaloudes - The Valley Of The Butterflies"
Approaching the attraction from either direction, there are many free places to park, and leaving the car in whatever shade we could find, we paid our 2.20 euros each and entered the valley.
Every year, from late June to September, countless millions of Jersey Tiger Moths descend upon the valley, attracted by the humidity and shade of the wooded slopes and for the resin from the liquid amber trees that adorn the hillsides. We were here in mid-June, and already there was a great number of "butterflies" resting on the trees, their black and yellow wing-covers bristling in the very welcome light breezes that filter down through the valley.
There are designated stone walkways along the entire length of the valley with rustic hand rails on the steeper stretches. The stream tumbles down the centre, this being the only sounds other than the tourist chit-chat. The moths are very sensitive, and there are constant signs asking visitors not to shout, run, or use cell phones, as this upsets the reproductive cycle of the moths.
The woods are full of wildlife, and we saw goats, lizards, and countless species of birds and insects as we wandered around. Be aware that there are some pretty scary-looking flying insects here in the woods, but they will, generally speaking, leave you well alone if you don’t antagonise them. The water means that mosquitoes are also in abundance, so we sprayed with repellent before entering the valley and weren’t bitten.
We walked for maybe an hour or so until the path became very steep. Although the valley is covered by a dense canopy of amber and pine trees which keeps the sun out, the humidity was getting to us, so we decided to turn back the way we came and take refreshment at the decent-looking taverna by the entrance.
By now, several coaches had disgorged their passengers into the valley and we were glad that we’d decided to return to the car. There wasn’t a parking spot to be seen now, as we took a welcome drink and light snack at the very reasonably priced taverna, a large Diet Coke at 1.50 euros and a huge local goat-cheese-and-salami baguette at just 2 euros.
I would advise any potential visitors to arrive early or after 3pm to enjoy Petaloudes at it’s most peaceful. On weekends, it’s very popular with the local Greeks who come to picnic beneath its shady arbours. It opens at 8:30am through to sunset, May to September, and is just 2.20 euros to enter, while from March to April and in October, it's just 1.50 euros. Bear in mind, however, that at these times, there will be no butterflies to see.
Valley of the Butterflies
Attraction | "Ancient Kameiros - The Minoan Seat in Rhodes"
As we arrived and parked, we were amazed and pleased to see that again, like so many sites in the Dodecanese, we were virtually the only people here. No tour buses and no crowds, just the breezes whispering through the pines that clad the hillsides around this ancient township.
Amazingly, the remains were only discovered in 1859, when locals uncovered some graves. A programme of excavation was implemented by the French archaeologist Saltzmann and many of the early finds were spirited away to Paris. More recent finds are now, however, housed in Rhodes’ Archaeological Museum.
Along with Lindos and Ialyssos, Kameiros was one of the three Dorian powers that joined forces in the 5th century BC to form the city-state of Rhodes, although a settlement had existed here since 2,000 BC. After the new city-state was formed, Kameiros started to lose its grip on power and was flattened by an earthquake in 226 BC. It was rebuilt but a devastating earthquake in 142 AD finally led to it being abandoned for good. The vast deposits of dust and rock from the quake covered the town and as such, the surviving foundations were never looted for building stone, resulting in their well-preserved condition today.
The site lies within a sheltered hillside and was principally inhabited by farmers and craftsmen and, unlike other towns which built high walls and defensive battlements, Kameiros had no fortifications of any type or an acropolis, due to the gentle topography of its location.
Walking around this peaceful old settlement, it was easy to find the central agora, or market-square from which the town radiated. There are Doric and Ionic temples, bath houses, stone staircases, store rooms, and private dwellings. Further down the hillside, a majestic stairwell leads to where the remains of the old main temple are to be found, along with the foundations of a sacred precinct and a 3rd century stoa, a colonnaded avenue. The stoa comprised two rows of Doric columns that ran for 200m along the ridge above the town. The site also features a sophisticated drainage system and a huge cistern, further up the hillside that supplied the town with fresh water.
There are plenty of information boards telling you what you are looking at--a refreshing change from Kos and Crete where it is left to your imagination.
Being around 5pm, we had missed the tour coaches, so take note; go in early morning or late afternoon for peace and quiet.
There has been no attempt at interpreting what the place must’ve looked like; no artificial construction, no modern concrete, and no scaffolding and workmens’ ladders. What you see is what they found.
The site closes on Mondays, opening times are: summer (April-October) 8am-7pm, winter (November-March) 8:30am-2:30pm, entrance charge of 3 euros.
Archaeological Site of Kamerios
Island of Rhodes
Attraction | "Epta Piyes - The Seven Springs"
Epta Piyes was on our itinerary for our road trip, and, like anywhere else we visited, we eagerly anticipated what it had to offer.
Pulling into the car parking area, we were surprised to find that ours was the only car. Great, we thought, we'll have the place to ourselves. How wrong we were; the lack of cars wasn't down to the time of day or similar circumstances, but probably due to the fact that anyone who'd been here before definitely wouldn't want to come back.
You trek down through some fairly dense woods until you arrive at the Seven Springs. These are, as you would expect, seven holes in the ground, up from which a small trickle of water flows, each of them numbered (one to seven, surprisingly) with a tatty, old bit of wood.
The place was developed by the Italians in the 1920s to supply water to Kolymbia, a few miles down the main road. The water from the springs is siphoned off and channeled through a pipe to a holding "lake." The smell from the lake is indescribably awful, and I for one wouldn't wash my worst enemy’s pants in there, let alone consider drinking it.
And that's it I'm afraid - the delights of Epta Piyes. I didn't even bother taking any photographs. This place is certainly hyped up in most tourist guides, to the point that you feel it is a must-see.
But save your money, time, effort, and petrol; drive on by, park in the next pull-in, and watch the grass grow. It's free, doesn't stink, and is far more exciting.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on August 19, 2005
Epta Piyes - Seven Springs
GB from Devizes
Devizes, United Kingdom