The largest of the Dodecanese islands, it is packed with ancient sites, a labyrinthine Old Town and comfortable beachside tavernas, perfect for a lazy lunch in the shade.

The largest of the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes shows the legacy of Crusaders, and Ottoman and Italian invaders in its UNESCO World Heritage-listed main town. Further afield, the whitewashed villages and beachside tavernas are quintessentially Greek.

Enclosed within massive walls, Rhodes Old Town is a classic labyrinth of streets dating back to 14th-century Crusader times. The seven nations represented in the Knights' Quarter, as well as Ottoman and Jewish architecture, show the mix of influences in Rhodes's history.

The Palace of the Grand Masters was built by the 14th-century Knights of Rhodes, blown up in 1856, then rebuilt by the Italians as a holiday home for Mussolini. Sculptures, frescoes and mosaic floors adorn the lavish interior (+30 22410 23359; Ippoton, Rhodes Old Town; 12.30pm-7pm Mon, 8.30am-7.30pm Tue-Sun; £5).

On a promontory above the whitewashed village of Lindos, the acropolis ruins are Rhodes's most impressive ancient Greek site, with temples and colonnades. The 10-minute climb from the village can be strenuous, but the views are well worth the effort it takes (closed Mon; £5).

Away from the developed east coast resorts, the southern part of the island has more untouched beaches. At Cape Prasonisi, a six-mile drive from Kattavia, a sandbar leads to an offshore islet, and is popular with windsurfers.

The old part of Lahania is a village of winding alleyways and traditional buildings that makes it onto very few tourist itineraries. Surrounded by lemon trees and flowers, Agios Georgios is a pretty church in the main square.

Eat and drink
Rogmitou Chronou is a music venue in the Old Town. Downstairs has a medieval feel and live acoustic music on Mondays, while upstairs has a '50s vibe and rock bands on Fridays (+30 22410 25202; 4 Arionos Square, Rhodes Old Town; 10pm-5am).

The Taverna Platanos in Lahania is a relaxed taverna tucked behind the church in the main square. With a range of traditional foods and a flowerfilled patio, it is a good spot to stop for lunch (+30 22440 46027; Lahania; mains £6-£8).

Set in one of Lindos's 17th-century historic buildings, family-run restaurant Kalypso has a warm atmosphere and a roof terrace. Dine on tuna or rabbit stew in red wine. The menu is huge, with vegetarian and children's options (+30 22440 32135; Lindos; mains £6-£11).

With music and sea views, Meltemi occupies a prime spot just north of Mandraki harbour. Grills and fish are locally revered, and the creative salads are fantastic: try the Meltemi, with rocket, apple, walnut, pine nuts and dried fruit (+30 22410 30480; corner of Plateia Kountourioti and Rodou, Rhodes New Town; mains £6-£14).

The fish at Nireas is very good: sesame-encrusted tuna, steamed mussels with garlic - the list seems endless. Popular with families for lunch, Nireas opens onto a quiet square in Rhodes Old Town (+30 22410 31741; Sofokleous 45-47; mains £7-£15).

Tucked away off the main street in Rhodes New Town, Hotel Anastasia, an Italian mansion built in 1932, has big, light-filled rooms. The tiled floors and high ceilings give it stacks of character and the garden is quiet (+30 22410 28007; 28 Oktovriou 46, Rhodes New Town; from £29).

Effie's Dreams Apartments
is next to a 1,000-year-old mulberry tree and has simple studios with small kitchenettes and lovely rural and sea vistas. You'll also find a café serving drinks and snacks, such as country-style sausage with peppers. The beach is a 10-minute walk away (+30 22440 43410; Gennadi; from £38 without breakfast).

Inside a traditional Greek home, the rooms at Filoxenia are embellished with iron beds, antiques and tiled floors. Family rooms are available and all rooms have a fridge and kitchenette (+30 22440 32080; Lindos; from £50).

Wood furniture and warm tones give the rooms in the boutique Sleep Spot Hotel a Rajasthani feel. It has a terrace, a book exchange and a friendly host. It's located in the Jewish Quarter of Rhodes Old Town (+30 22410 34737; Perikleous 21, Rhodes Old Town; from £45).

A stay at Melenos in Lindos is pure luxury. Built in 17th-century style, almost everything in the hotel has been handmade - from the sandstone motifs to the mosaic floors. Artefacts decorate the rooms while the verandas offer views of the Lindos coast. Head up to the rooftop bar for your early evening aperitif (+30 22440 32222; Lindos; from £165).

How to go
EasyJet flies to Rhodes from London (four hours) and Liverpool from £140 return. Jet2 flies from Manchester, Leeds and East Midlands from £100 return. Viking Airlines flies from London for £100 return. Thomson Airways and Thomas Cook fly in the summer.

Find your way
Rhodes Town has two bus terminals. There are fewer buses at the weekend, but regular airport services (£2). A taxi from Rhodes Town costs around £16 to the airport. It takes 1¾ hours to drive the length of the island. Try for car rental (from around £30 a day).

The article 'Mini guide to Rhodes, Greece' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.