Escape the drizzle for sun-drenched island of Rhodes

Sunset over Pefkos

Sunset over Pefkos - Credit: Archant

Sandy beaches, historic sites, superb dining, great night life and a shopper’s paradise in the narrow lanes between whitewashed houses

The Greek island of Rhodes and its sunbathed resorts that dispense contrasting measures of relaxing days and lively nights is principally thought of as a summer holiday destination.

Yet the island that is famed for its scorching summers and mild winters where the thermostat rarely dips below a pleasant 13C (56F) in the coldest months is a great choice for an escape break in the spring and autumn.

Rhodes, at 50 miles from tip to toe and almost half as wide, is the largest of the Dodecanese Islands and is located in the east Aegean sea near Turkey, a four-hour flight from the UK.

We had chosen to travel in the shoulder season as the spring and autumn months ticked all the boxes for those like us who sought lazy days and lively but not manic nights.

We opted for the former fishing hamlet of Pefkos – or Pefki to the locals – which is located 34 miles from the medieval Rhodes Town to the north. The village is situated on pretty pine-clad slopes that gently unfold as they approach the resort’s trio of sandy beaches.

Pefki means pine tree in Greek and it was for these pine trees that this small town which is located a mile and a half to the south of the ancient resort of Lindos was named.

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Pefkos was founded as a temporary residence for farmers from Lindos and nearby Lardos who grew grapes, olives, tomatoes, figs and corn in the area. In recent years tourists have replaced crops and the region now houses a lively little resort which at the time of our visit remained pleasantly busy, while nowhere near full capacity.

And it was hot. The daytime temperatures of the shoulder season months of May and October are generally in the low 20s. But it was at least seven or eight degrees hotter throughout our stay in October which enabled us to spend the bulk of the days swimming and sunbathing on each of the three beaches that border the town.

The tavernas were another highlight. There was plenty of choice and eateries catered for all tastes. The more casual of them presented simple meals such as chicken or pork pitta – delicious chunks of meat, fries, salad and tzatziki wrapped up in pitta bread, while the traditional Greek tavernas and fish restaurants offered meals that would easily have held their own anywhere.

And they were busy too. With one or two superb exceptions, very few of the tavernas were full, but they all enjoyed a steady stream of diners who we discovered would later head to the plentiful selection of bars for a nightcap after finishing their meals.

It would be unfair to pick out a favourite restaurant for they were all excellent, but we have already promised ourselves that when we visit next, we will eat at least once more at the terrific Nikolas restaurant-taverna. The sea bass I ate on my first visit was so good that we went back another night and were equally impressed by exactly the same meal.

Friendly service

We were struck by the friendliness too. One of the more memorable examples was of the young waitress who served us throughout a long evening at a traditional Greek taverna.

As the plates were cleared away and the last of the wine was poured, she struck up a conversation with my wife. What followed was a long, light-hearted and often hilarious tale of the day-to-day life of this girl who hailed from Bulgaria and worked here for six months a year with her Greek boyfriend.

To the question of, “What did she do in Rhodes for the other six months?” she answered with an impressive: “Nothing. Just see my boyfriend, go fishing and go shopping.”

If shops are what you want there are plenty of them in nearby Lindos where traders sell clothes, jewellery, pottery and leather goods in the immaculate lanes that run between the whitewashed houses at the base of the ancient acropolis.

Lindos and its narrow streets, which prohibit traffic in most parts of the town centre, offers a tantalising mix of history and beaches and nearby the historic St Paul’s Bay is famous for both. For this sheltered cove is named after the apostle St Paul who allegedly landed there in 58AD as he sought to bring Christianity to the island. Lindos town is a spectacle in itself, the narrow and often steep cobbled streets wind past the captains’ houses that were built by wealthy ship owners in the 16th and 17th centuries. These lanes continue on down to the beach or gently twist back up towards the ancient marble and stone acropolis that towers over the village.

A steep climb by donkey or on foot takes you to the bottom of a huge flight of stone steps that leads visitors to the entrance of the castle which is perched on top of a 116m (381ft) high rock.

The vast acropolis acted as a sanctuary and place of worship for many centuries and the present building was built on the site of an earlier structure in around 400BC.

During a turbulent past the acropolis has been modified by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Knights of St John and Ottomans and well over 2000 years later, the former stronghold continues to offer spectacular views of the surrounding harbours and coastline.