Ancient Kamiros Rhodes is another stunning site that I was about to see after driving from the capital to Prassonissi along the east coast and heading back along the west side of the island. I didn’t really know what to expect since everybody was always praising the other, the eastern coast, because of the calmer waters and sandy beaches. But the time has come for me to discover the west coast on my own.
When I reached Kattania again where I left the main road towards Prassonissi before, it wasn’t long before the road went down by the coast. And it was beautiful. There was nobody besides me, the Aegean Sea was bathing the rocky shore, and I could discern a few islands emerging on the horizon. A lovely sight!
How I got lost
The road soon seemed to go opposite the shore and after a while, I saw a charming white village surrounded by greenery. The church bell tower was peeking among small densely built houses, and I just had to turn there to have a look. I wanted to drive around, maybe to stop and take a few photos, but the moment I went up a narrow alley, it wasn’t possible to go any further by car. So I left it there and went for a walk.
The alleys were charming, with cobblestone and white walls all around, and an occasional lush bush of flowers hanging from walls or balconies. There was nobody around like it was deserted, it even made me tiptoe. I could hear some Greek song coming through one of the windows, like coming from the distance. It was hot, crickets were chirping and that was it – no humans in sight.
I managed to find the way through the labyrinth of alleys to come out to the church, to see that bell tower that was craving attention from afar. I was trying to find the way back. That one was tricky.
All the alleys seemed to go up or down and I could see that after 10 meters or so, they were turning but going nowhere. So I had to go the opposite way numerous times, trying to come out to some passageway towards the other side of the church. The car was there somewhere.
Yasas in Apolakkia
While rambling around, a woman threw a bucket of water right next to me, humming, trying to cool down the area in front of her doorstep. My first human here! She smiled and said yasas (hello in Greek). I said it back and just when I was about to utter the question in English, she smiled again and waved her head in silence saying “no use, I don’t speak the language”.
Soon, I came out to some kind of a square. A street going up with shops and restaurant terrace, a few stores around. I said yasas to one of the men going toward the store. He smiled and I rushed to ask about the village – I didn’t know the name of the place or how to go back to my car, if he could tell me where to turn, etc. He was patiently looking at me, and after a burst of all those questions, he just waved speaking fast in Greek – and went on his way.
This was a scene for a movie, I could picture my stunned expression but burst into laughter soon after. I finally decided to go arooouund the village (not to engage in the white-alleys labyrinth again) and, of course, after a while, found my yellow car in the same spot.
I stopped at the gas station to ask for directions. The village was called Apolakkia, they said, and they were confused when I said I was driving up the west coast. I found out why soon enough.
High in the mountains
I was on my way again, driving towards Monolithos. The road was taking me away from the coast and going up. After a few kilometers, there was the village of Siana. I got out because of the sight of a charming colorful church. After Siana, there was nothing around, only mountain peaks, lavish forests, and fields, and the smell of pine trees. And I was still going up. The road was curving and I had to slow down a few times.
Did you know that there is a mountain of an altitude of 1.215 meters in Rhodes? And I was driving right through there. It is called Attanyros. When you go from Monolithos to Kritinia, there is a breathtaking view of small islands next to Rhodes. The sun was high up in the sky over the horizon, the sea was mesmerizingly dark blue reflecting those sun rays, and I had a great view from the road high in the mountains – trying to push my camera through the pine tree branches to take a nice photo. This view made the whole road trip even more lovely.
The landscape changed again. When coming down from the mountains, there was the castle standing on the cliff, as if strutting out in the open to show off its magnificence. This was the imposing medieval Castle of Castello built by the Knights of Rhodes in the 16th century to protect the west coast. Soon, I reached the village of Kritinia, clinging to the mountain slope. It took its name from its earliest inhabitants who were from Crete. After a while, the road descended to Skala Kamirou, to the coast, and I was in Kameiros Rhodes in no time.
This was another wonderful experience. A vast area of ruins situated on the hill, overlooking the sea and a few islands on the horizon, just breathtaking! I was climbing up the ancient steps to go around the remains of this once important Dorians’ town and turned numerous times to admire the view. Such a lovely spot for a town!
Ancient Kamiros Rhodes is considered Pompeii of Greece, but while the latter was buried under the volcanic lava, the town here was gradually abandoned and buried by the earth throughout centuries. Dorians founded the town, along with Ialyssos and Lindos in the 12th century BC, and it was famous for olive oil products, figs, and wine. When Rhodes town was founded in 408 BC, people began to leave this place. The remains of Kamiros Rhodes are overwhelming.
Filerimos to Serbia
Given that I stopped a lot during my road trip around the island, I had to leave Kamiros Rhodes earlier than I wanted. But I had enough time to stroll around, take lots of photos, and wonder how vivid this town must have been a couple of millennia ago. My next stop was Filerimos hill, overlooking the coast from an altitude of about 270 meters. There was another great view of the coast on one side, and the mountains on the other.
This was the acropolis of Ialyssos which was used during the Byzantine period and under the knights for military purposes. It was also the first site to be fortified by the knights when they settled on Rhodes in 1306. The hill took its name after a monk who came from Jerusalem in the 13th century bringing along the icon of the Blessed Virgin painted by the Apostle Luke. The small church he later built here became a basilica and a monastery was added in the 14th century by the knights.
They say that the right hand of Saint John (the same one he baptized Jesus with) was also kept here. The knights brought it from Jerusalem to Constantinople, then to Rhodes, and Malta afterward. They gave it to the Russian emperor in the 18th century and it was later presented to the Serbian king. During World War II Serbian Orthodox Church moved it to its temple in Montenegro’s town of Cetinje for safekeeping, and it’s still there. Just imagine how overwhelmed I was by the story, being from Serbia myself.
“This is just a perfect travel glimpse for the blog”, I thought: “A lovely story to tell.”
I wanted to go up to the monastery, but there was a wedding at the time since the church is very popular among Greeks. And I just went around some more taking more photos and playing with the nearby peacocks. It was time to go after all.
Passing by the modern town of Ialyssos, I remembered reading how the oldest settlement on the island was found here dating back to 1,500 BC. In the ancient Greek world, the town was famous because of the Eratides family whose leading figure was Diagoras. He won the Olympic boxing competition three times in the mid-5th century BC. The airport of Rhodes is named after him.
And I was just passing by the airport, looking over at one of the smaller airplanes rolling down the runway. It seemed so close, as being in the lane right next to me. The traffic light turned red and I stopped thinking: “Is it red for me or for him?” I smiled to myself and drove back to Rhodes town.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about Kamiros Rhodes.
Next: BOAT TRIP TO SYMI ISLAND
The full Rhodes Greece SERIES