Yesterday, we had decided to do a little touring of Rhodes ourselves. We decided to go against our Apollo guides recommendations (The rebel lives on!) and go for a local car rental company, Speedway Rent-a-Car. Full-day prices from €35 for the smallest car, a Huyndai Atos, but we decided to go for a bigger – and safer – model, their Suzuki Jimny canvas top model at €50 for a day. Do stop by their website, though, as they offer better prices during the low season.
We talked a bit with the receptionist at our hotel, and she gave us excellent advise on where we should and could go, as well as clear directions on where NOT to go – without any explanation as to why, so you can make up your own. Armed with a circled map and a list of town names to look for, we were ready to go on our road trip.
The car was delivered to our hotel on time by a very friendly chap with rather good english skills, taking us through the registration form, insurance, the workings of the car and its features and politely answered any questions we had regarding driving in Greece (for instance, driving in a round-about is done in the complete opposite way of how it is done in Denmark – when in the round-about, you hold back for the people entering from the right).
The car itself, was in an “okay” state for a rental. Plagued by severe rust in the “usual” places for a Jimny (the panel that holds the back canvas was almost entirely rusted away) and to be honest, I think the car needs a checkup on the suspension. For a 4×4 off road car, it was very, very stiff in the joints. However, it spun well, and ended up taking us all the way from A through E and all the way back, so all in all the car turned out just fine.
We took off from our hotel in Ixia around 10:15am, and set off for ancient Kamiros, a 40 minute drive down the west coast. Now, our practical experience with greek traffic was very limited to jumping for our lives when we got lost in Rhodes New Town the other day, so we only expected the worst as we started down the street towards Kamiros. It turned out, that greek traffic is really not that crazy, at least seem from the drivers perspective. Speed limits are “inspirational”, yes, you can double park as long as you turn on the emergency lights and two cars can easily pass eachother at very small passages. Stick to this, and you will do just fine.
Getting to Kamiros was a fairly easy feat. As others online have complained, Kamiros is not that well exposed to the tourists, so you will not find too many road signs leading there. Coming from the north, leaving the small town of Kalavarda following the south-west going road by the shore, within a few kilometers you will come across a taverna/beach grill on your right – the road to ancient Kamiros is right across the street from this taverna. Go up the twisting hill-side road, and look for a parking spot on the top of the hill. Please note, that the local bus drivers have no problem parking their busses in front of your car – fortunately, they are very happy to help moving their busses when you want to get your car out.
Leaving Kamiros, we continued going south-west with the Aegaean sea on our right. After about 15 minutes, the road turned away from the sea and took us into the mountains. And what a ride those mountains were! See, when you drive in a car that is not yours, in traffic that you are not used to, you mostly concentrate on staying on the road. One word of advise: Please do remember to stop over once in a while to enjoy the amazing view! Steep mountain sides go up on one side of the road, and equally steep drops lead down on the other. No road barriers you say? Nope, not one, so watch where you are driving!
Coming around the top of the mountain, you suddenly find yourself with the Aegaean on your left side. No worries, you did not unbeknownst cross the island, the road just makes you loose all sense of direction and within minutes, you find yourself entering Monolithos. Follow the signs, and find yourself parked below the entrance to Monolithos Castle.
Heading back from Monolithos Castle, the sun was once again beating down on us, so we stopped by a local greek tavern in the outskirts of Apolakkia. Unfortunately it was very local, so they did not accept VISA as payment, so we had to drive on. To our luck, Apolakkia did indeed provide a local taverna, were VISA was accepted, and how fortunately were we? This taverna, Amalias Grill House, turned out to serve the best food we have had over this vacation! So, if you find yourself in the area of Apolakkia, do yourself the favour of stopping by Amalia Grill House in the city square.
After our wonderful late lunch, we set off for Lindos, about an hours drive from Apolakkia. Traffic was still very sparse, and sun was searing hot and it was getting quite late in the afternoon before we finally arrived in Lindos. Much to our sadness, the area south of Lindos was ridden with the highest number of half-finished buildings, and we could not help talking about some of the poor families who might have thrown every effort into building this, the home of their dreams, just to be body tackled by the bank somewhere along the way, perhaps leaving the families with debt and no home.
Next stop was Thermes Kalitheas, an attraction we had lots of trouble finding in maps, Google, etc. So we decided to trust our receptionist, and just head towards Kalithea and see if we could find it. The ride was somewhat uneventful, however, we now finally saw more of that crazy Rhodian traffic we had experienced earlier as cab passengers. We decided to take a defensive stance against the somewhat reckless local drivers, and just let them pass and give them a little room. Better arrive a little late than not arrive at all.
We drove off the main road into Falirakis following a sign for “Piges Kalithea”, and – pardon my french – what a dump! Not in the literary sense, but .. Shops, theme parks, arcades, all sorts of tourist traps, lined up side by side for about two kilometer! Some in better shape than others, but all of them pretty worn down. Now, this could be because of the high season not having kicked in for real yet, but we quickly agreed that in 3 years, this place would make an excellent backdrop for some Urban Exploration’ers. The tragic mile was followed up by a few kilometers of one gigantic concrete hotel after another, some of them clearly left without much restoration since the 70ies, and others somewhat new and just “too much” to our taste, at least.
Past all the hotel, we found another sign for Piges Kalithea, and decided to go that way, and there it suddenly was – out of nowhere! The main gate for Kalithea Springs!
Filled with the tranquility of the springs, we decided to stick with our plan and avoid the Rhodean City traffic. Instead, we finally pulled out the GPS from the bag and asked for a route going over the mountain in front of us. Going west across the mountain, with the sun in our eyes, we drove up the hill, overlooking the sorry area of Falirakis on our left and – in the distance – the buzzing city of Rhodes. The road was – at best – a decent rubble road, with plenty of bumps, and we had not driven far along this road, before the land surrounding the road was filled with old, busted furniture, garbage bags and all sorts of rubbish. What a shame.
Coming round the top of the mountain, barely avoid 4 playing wild dogs, we suddenly hit an asphalt road, followed by 5 of the most prestigious villas we have seen during our trip to Rhodes. Wonderful area and setting for building your dream home indeed.
Now we were back in Ialyssos, so all we had to do was to find a gas station, refill the car and return it to Speedway Rent-A-Car. The local Shell was a manned service station, so we were greeted by a local guy who know exactly how much gas we should put on the car before returning it. Very helpful indeed, as it turned out he was right in his assessment! Excellent service.
We returned the car to the parking lot as directed, and dropped by the nearby office to hand over the keys. Very friendly fella received the key and ask – seemingly interested – to our trip around the island.
We can only recommend that others take this trip as well. All of the sights were worth visiting, not too many tourists there at this time of the year, but please do remember to carry some cash, both for the countryside tavernas as well as entrance fees for Kamiros (€4 per adult), Lindos (€6 per adult) and Kalithea (€3 per adult).