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All Rhodes lead to fun.

Byline: NORMAN SILVESTER

THE taxi driver warned me when I arrived at Rhodes' tiny airport that there was going to be a heatwave.

It seemed a safe bet. The island gets 300 days of sunshine a year, more than anywhere else in Greece.

And although it was only early May, temperatures were already reaching 90F.

The sun in Rhodes is as sure a bet as rain in Manchester or snow in Siberia. After all the Greek sun god Helios was from Rhodes.

Travel agents are expecting the Greek islands to be the big holiday destination this year on the back of the success of Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

But people have been travelling to Rhodes to catch some rays for the best part of 3000 years.

In classical times when Greece ruled the world they came to view the famous Colossus of Rhodes (one of the seven wonders of the world) until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 226BC.

All these years later it's still the No1 holiday destination in Greece.

I stayed at the Hilton Rhodes Resort in Ixia just a few miles from Rhodes Old Town.

The hotel has its own beach and water sports centre, a state of the art gym, two shopping arcades, squash and tennis courts and three swimming pools.

Once I was able to drag myself away, it proved an ideal base from which to explore this beautiful island.

Some say Rhodes, like most Mediterranean destinations, has been spoiled by mass tourism and noisy nightlife.

But if you like a bit of culture and ancient history then it still has plenty to offer. The island is littered with monuments, churches, castles and ruins.

Rhodes Town is the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe complete with castle and imposing fortifications .

Lindos, further down the coast, is a must visit with its steep climb from the village to the ancient ruined Acropolis. But if you're feeling the heat you can always hire a donkey to take you up.

Among other attractions is the extraordinary array of wildlife to be found in the Valley of the Butterflies in Petaloudes.

Also worth a visit is the island of Symi, famous for its shrimps and sponges. One good way of seeing the sights on Rhodes is to go on a jeep safari. You will be taken into the heart of the island well away from the tourist spots.

But be sure to take a hat and plenty of sun cream. Matteo De Jong knows the island well and his excursions are good value.

While on Rhodes it is worth getting to know real Greek cooking and to avoid the tourist food.

The authentic Greek restaurants, for example, do not have pictures of food outside on the menu display boards.

Rhodes is famous for its fresh fish. During my stay I feasted on fresh sea bass, red snapper, octopus, lobster, clams, mussels, tiger prawns and shrimps for only a few pounds.

The local beer, Mynos, is excellent but at 5.2 per cent is more powerful than beers at home. Local wine is also good and cheap and will boost your confidence if you join in the traditional Greek dancing.

For watersports enthusiasts there is windsurfing, jet skis, sailing, scuba diving, parascending, and catamaran and dinghy sailing throughout the island. Operators are happy to offer lessons to beginners.

And if you want to party all night then Rhodes has all that and more.

Faliraki, a short taxi ride from Rhodes Town, for example, has 60 restaurants, tavernas, bars and nightclubs. It is also known as the St Tropez of the island and has Rhodes' only nudist beach.

It was once an old fishing port but now the only fishing done is for members of the opposite sex.

It's said that Faliraki will overtake Ayia Napia and Ibiza this year as the place for all-night beach parties and it definitely has a real buzz.

Bars not to be missed are the Ministry, The Set, Q Bar, Tokyo Joe's and Art Bar where drinks measures, like the people of Rhodes, are more than generous.

ESSENTIAL SIGHTS

The Acropolis of Lindos dates back 3000 years

Rhodes Old Town is the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe

Faliraki for the best nightlife

The site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the world's seven wonders

Valley of Butterflies for wildlife

Symi Island for shrimp and sponges

DETAIL

Package holidays including flights to Hilton Rhodes Resort are operated by Thomson a la carte holidays and Greek specialists Argo Holidays (020 73317000). Prices range from pounds 605 for a week to pounds 985 for a fortnight. All the main travel companies also offer packages to Rhodes.
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Title Annotation:Town of the Week
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 24, 2001
Words:780
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