Last July, at the height of the tourist season, fires raged across the Greek island of Rhodes, burning 135,000 hectares of forest and vegetation and destroying over 50 homes and businesses.
The fires lasted for three days and sparked a mass evacuation of tourists, with hotels on the island and travel agents working quickly to ensure the safety of visitors.
This was the first of a series of wildfires around the world, with NASA describing the summer of 2023 as “the hottest since global records began”.
A few months on, it is late September and evidence of the fires is still obvious just south of Lindos in the villages of Pefkoi and Kiotari, but the recovery of the island is in full swing with newly-planted saplings lining the roads of affected areas and the main hubs of Lindos and Rhodes Old Town thriving with tourists well into October.
Whilst the recovery of the island’s landscape will take time, Rhodes’ popularity amongst Brits seems untarnished.
According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, the number of scheduled flights from the UK to Greece last summer was the highest on record and August saw the highest ever number of departures to Rhodes.
Dr. Veatriki – Kalliopi A. Servou, Director at Rhodes Department of Tourism echoes this optimism, saying: “Despite the devastating fires, our summer season was unaffected by those two weeks and we actually had an increase on arrivals compared to last year alongside the best season since 2018.”
Speaking of the fires, he adds: “We managed to evacuate 19,000 people in five hours without any issues and the people of Rhodes opened their homes, hotels and schools to keep tourists safe.
“After the fires, the challenge was to encourage travellers not to cancel their bookings and to assure them that Rhodes was open for business. Luckily our strong messaging and relationship with the UK market meant that tourists wanted to come and support the island.”
Mary Agiakatsika, a local tour guide in Rhodes Old Town, said: “It made many realise how much they love Rhodes. I don’t know one single person who didn’t volunteer to help during the wildfires, from fighting fires to helping tourists.”
Brother and sister team Kostas and Kathy Minettos, owners of Lindos Hotels, a group of five hotels across the island, acted quickly, housing tourists from hotels that had to be evacuated during the fires.
Kathy tells me that whilst the summer fires were devastating for the island, the majority of hotels were not affected and the rest of the summer season was not impacted as a result, with many of Lindos Hotels’ resorts operating at full capacity in the months that followed. The brand has since partnered with the Forest Ambassador programme, so that for every new booking a tree will be planted in the areas most severely hit.
Looking ahead to 2024, Dr. Kalliopi A. Servou is hopeful for a positive summer season, saying: “We want to extend the season to start earlier and finish later. The weather is mild from March through to November so tourists aren’t restricted to the hottest summer months.”
Airlines and operators including Jet2.com, Jet2holidays, easyJet and easyJet Holidays have already extended the summer season to Rhodes into November in response to strong demand seen last year in support of the island’s recovery. EasyJet is also expected to begin flying to Rhodes from March 2024, as the island continues to be a firm favourite with customers.
Top experiences for 2024
Be creative with ceramics
Lindos Hotels has partnered with NassosKeramik, a local handmade ceramic business, to offer weekly traditional ceramic classes. Guests will design and paint a traditional ceramic tile which will then be baked in a special oven.
Sail the Aegean sea
A sunset boat trip from Lindos allows passengers unobstructed views of the whitewashed town and impressive acropolis. The cruise stops at Anthony Quinn’s and Tsambika bays for swimming and snorkelling in the azure waters before enjoying drinks as the sun sets.
Experience local flavours
Guests can make some of Rhodes’ famous dishes under the watchful eye of the talented chefs at the Lindos Gennadi Grand Resort. They partake in a traditional Grecian cooking class, creating dishes such as melitzanosalata, an aubergine dip, and the famous local dessert, melekouni, a traditional sweet bar made with honey and sesame seeds.
Tale of the Knights
A walking tour of Rhodes Old Town will uncover a rich history dating back to the 14th century. Learn about the Knights of St John and visit The Archaelogical Museum, home to beautiful gardens and Aphrodite Bathing, a 1st-century-BC marble statue. The Palace of the Grand Master is another visually stunning piece of architecture.
The Omakase sushi experience at The Lindos Grand’s Japanese Yume Mou is a feast for the senses. Chef Stavros, who studied the art of sushi making in Japan, and his sous chefs create several delicate dishes in front of diner’s eyes. From finely sliced sashimi to juicy smoked shrimp, it is a fine dining experience clients won’t forget, with a view to match.
Book it with… easyJet Holidays
A seven-night stay at Lindos Grand with easyJet Holidays, departing May 11, 2024, is priced from £737pp, including flights from London Gatwick. easyjet.com