Hiking During The Flowering Season On Rhodes

The flowering season and a breathtaking hike on Rhodes

The view of Rhodes Town from the Monte Smith hill in May

The intoxicating flowering season of Rhodes

May has arrived, the month when the wildflowers, the jasmine shrubs, the olive and pomegranate trees, the Caper bushes by the sea coasts, the Asphodel and the signature herbs of the Greek islands are in full bloom.

On Rhodes island, April and May are the two months when Mother Nature is singing Her love songs through the blooming landscape. These months are not only visually intoxicating ones, but when taking a deep breath, the fragrance of the sea breeze, the blooming herbs and the rejuvenated pine forests delight your whole spirit.

Blooming pomegranate tree on Rhodes island

The emanating essential oils of the blooming Mediterranean herbs like sage, wild lavender, oregano, and wild thyme are agents of otherworldly messages for the human soul. These blooming flowers – the love song of Gaia – are manifestations of Eros, the Greek God who „was the uniting power of love, which brought order and harmony among the conflicting elements.”(source)

May is still a month when Greeks usually greet each other with the message of Easter: Christ is Risen! This month is still about the celebration of life, renewal, the victory of light and a testimony to newness.

Blooming olive tree in May in Greece

The flower ritual of ’Protomagia’

This time of the year possesses several local folk and religious customs in Greece that involve certain flowers and herbs. Probably the most wonderful flower ritual I know is on the 1st of May, or ’Protomagia’ as the Greeks call it. Every year on that day, young girls and women go out to the meadows to collect wildflowers, and while enjoying a picnic, they create wonderful May Wreaths. Later they hang the wreath on the entrance of their home. This custom already existed in ancient Greece, where people wore flower wreaths and decorated their houses with them around this time of the year.

Rhodian wildflower composition for the first day of May, when Greeks say to each other,’Kalo Mina!’ (’Have a good month!”)

Who was Maia?

The month May got its name from the nymph Maia, the eldest of the seven ’Pleiades’ (the mountain nymphs of ancient Greece), and she was also the mother of Hermes. When Orion consumed them, Zeus placed the seven sisters on the sky, so they became the star constellation Pleiades – which means ’The Ladies of Plenty’. Maia was called “the nursing mother” and was occasionally identified with Gaia (the goddess of the Earth). When we look at the colourful, vibrant, fragrant lands of Rhodes in May that provide plenty of nourishment for bees and other pollinators, we understand the nursing, mothering message of this month.

Mayflower wreath of the Greek islands by Mariann Lipcsei

Whether you wish to create your own May Wreath or simply want to worship the enamoured, nursing island landscape of Eros and Maia, there is no better time for hikes and long walks on Rhodes island than in May.

In the second part of this article, I will recommend a wonderful hiking route on the island that will lead you through untouched nature scenes. At the same time, you can explore one of the richest cultural sites of the island that will navigate you through the history of Rhodes.

Oh, and one more reason to visit Rhodes in May: the International Museums Day is annually on the 18th of May, which means free admissions to several museums and archaeological sites!

Walk the ancient path of Athena through the pine forest of Mount Filerimos

– from Trianda village up to the ancient acropolis of Ialysos

Panoramic view of Ialysos (Trianda) and Rhodes town (on the right side) from the ancient path of Filerimos hill

If you don’t have time for more than one hike during your holidays on Rhodes, I highly recommend choosing this one. As a reward for this two-kilometre-long uphill walk (besides the breathtaking fertile vegetation), you’ll get a bit of a taste of each historical period of Rhodes by reaching the area of an ancient acropolis on the top of Filerimos hill. This hill was used for religious reverence through all the ages. And not only the hill itself but the whole surrounding area bears a very rich, long human history that deserves a bit more attention.

The historical footprints of this landscape

The 267-meter high hill of Filerimos – covered by an abundant coniferous forest – stands right behind the modern age Rhodian village of Trianda, which was renamed Ialysos in 1976 and became a densely populated town by the 2000s due to the explosion of mass tourism.

Ialysos (or Trianda) is located between Diagoras Airport and Rhodes Town on the island’s northwestern coast, and its seashore lies the closest to Asia Minor. Because of this gifted geographical position and its fertile natural environment, this area records the earliest prehistoric proto-urban settlement of the island (Asomatos) from the 3rd Millenium BCE.

Minoan and Mycenaean style frescoes, pottery remains and tombs proved the continuity of a flourishing, peaceful, self-sufficient society with a culturally open sea trader elite on this landscape up until the 13th century BCE.

Ialysos. Fragmentary LB IA frescoes. „The art of painting at Ialysos was inspired by the poetic feel of the landscape” – from the book WALL- PAINTING AND VASE- PAINTING OF THE SECOND MILLENNIUM BC IN DIALOGUE.

After the Greek Dark Ages, in the 8th century BCE, the ancient Dorian city-state of Ialysos started to emerge here with an acropolis on the Filerimos hill. Ancient Greeks of Ialysos built their temples at the highest peak of Filerimos, and their latest known temple was a great sanctuary of Athena Polias, the virgin patron goddess of the city, wisdom, crafts and war.

The sea-born Rhodians (besides the earth-born Athenians) had their strong and unique Athena cult since Classical times, and they built her sanctuary on every acropolis (Ialysos, Lindos, Kameiros and later in Rhodos).

“Gold rained on the island [of Rhodes] at the time when Athena was born”, – wrote Strabo in his Geography, referring to Rhodos’ special connection with Athena.

Figurine possibly representing the local Athena Lindia goddess of Rhodos circa 6th century BCE (source)

The currently visible partial ruins of the Athena Temple of Ialysos was built around the 3rd-2nd century BCE above an older temple, of which 9th-6th century BCE votive objects can be visited in the Archeological Museum of Rhodes.

I mentioned partial ruins because Christians destroyed the Athena sanctuary around the 6th century AD in order to build an Early Christian three-aisled basilica exactly on the top of the ancient temple using its own materials. And guess who they dedicated the basilica to? To the Virgin Mary, the chaste female saint of Christianity. Covering the actual temple and the cults of the pagans, early Christians consistently built a church of an analogue saint of theirs.

On the locations of Athena (or other female deity), temples Christians tended to build a church for the Virgin Mary. The same happened in Lindos and on the famous pilgrim hill of Tsambika, where ancient Greeks had the sanctuary of Eileithyia, the goddess of human conception and childbirth. And the Greek Orthodox tradition carried on with the same Christian saints of these early churches until today.

The contemporary church of the Virgin Mary of Filerimos on top of the ancient temple of Athena.

At the very same location in the 10th century, Byzantine faithfuls built their own aisleless church too. So did the Crusaders of Saint John – the invaders of Rhodes in the Middle Ages. They built two chapels here in the 15th century where they kept and revered the famous miraculous Byzantine icon of unclear origin: ’Our Lady of Philermos’.

It was an icon worshipped by both Western and Eastern Christians, and it finally left the island with the Knights in 1522 after the fall of Rhodes. The Crusaders attributed their long successful defence of Rhodes to the icon, and they treated it as their most precious possession. The present-day church of Filerimos owns only a copy of this icon, and the original one is exhibited currently in the National Museum of Montenegro.

The miraculous icon of Our Lady of Filerimos which represents only the face of the Holy Virgin without the Divine Child (source)

In the 15th century, the Crusaders decorated the tiny Byzantine chapel of Agios Giorgos Chostos (which is located a few meters west of the ancient temple) with colourful western-style wall paintings (but with Byzantine painting traditions!) depicting the passion and the life of the Virgin Mary, and the Knights with their patron Saints.

The entrance and the interior of the tiny chapel of Agios Giorgos Chostos on the acropolis of Filerimos

The Ottomans destroyed the main church complex on the top of the hill and used this site solely for military purposes due to its 360-degree panoramic view and its strategically safe location.

The Italian conquerors of Rhodes (between 1912 and 1945) restored the monastery of Filerimos (which is a popular place for weddings and baptism ceremonies by present-day Rhodians), excavated the remains of the Temple Athena Polias and the nearby Dorian fountain-house, they created the Golgota path of Filerimos with reliefs depicting the Passion of Jesus that leads to a popular panoramic viewpoint. (This is the hilltop where a huge concrete cross stands – you have probably seen it from the plane while landing on the island.)

Panoramic viewpoint on the top of Filerimos hill

The Path

The hiking trail leads you from the foothill of Filerimos through the ancient footpath up to the above-described acropolis of Ialysos (the entrance costs three eur). You can either start your walk right by the foothill of Filerimos (a 2 km long walk one way) or further into the core village of Trianda (a 4 km long walk one way).

There is a huge meadow between the hill and Trianda where you can collect your wildflowers for your May Wreath.

The meadow between Filerimos and Trianda
Detail of the traditional Rhodian village, Trianda

Parking is possible at both locations, and buses are pretty frequent between Rhodes Town and Ialysos (Trianta) if you have no vehicle.

You must have your eyes wide open in order to find the beginning of the steep, narrow ancient path very close to the fire station (don’t confuse it with the long, winding asphalt road). Once you find the path, your reward will be the breathtaking natural environment of the pine forest with its local characteristic herbs, wildflowers and shrubs.

The ancient path of Filerimos

You will be able to observe all the ingredients of the healing herbal liqueur made by the 20th century Capuchin monks of Filerimos: ’Sette Erbe’, or Seven Herbs. They created this unique local spirit by collecting and mixing seven herbs of the pine forest, including oregano, thyme, sage and wormwood, and three more… 

The rich vegetation of Filerimos hill

The ancient path consists of two parts. Just follow the asphalt road uphill once you have done the first part. In the first hairpin bend of this asphalt road, take the off-road path on your right hand, and after that, immediately turn left uphill to start the second part of the steep, narrow ancient path of the forest. 

This section of the ancient trail will lead you up to an old narrow asphalt road that you should follow uphill (right direction). At the hairpin bend of this old road, you will see a fountain with fine engravings of a cypress tree and flowers (most probably from the Ottoman period).

Fountain with engraved marble slab on the old asphalt road of Filerimos hill

When this old road reaches the main asphalt road, you can continue uphill along the main road. After a 10 minute walk, you will arrive at a huge parking space right next to the acropolis.

You will see here:

Huge pine trees, old beautiful oak trees, majestic cypress trees, wandering peacocks, grazing animals and of course the abundant historical footprints of all times.

Peacocks on the acropolis of Ialysos
Oak tree on the acropolis of Ialysos
The parking area of the acropolis of Ialysos

I hope you will enjoy the time travel of this little journey and soak up the beauty of Rhodian nature on its zenith in May.

Don’t forget to tell us about your journey on Rhodes in the comment section. We would love to read about your experiences!

And if you have never been to Rhodes, don’t hesitate anymore, book your accommodation NOW!

 Written by Mariann Lipcsei Ilios Art  / May 2022 / Copyright © / Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any content of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Why Should You Spend Easter On The Greek Island Of Rhodes?

Painted Eggs – Easter In Rhodes

Why should you spend Easter on the Greek Island of Rhodes?

Greek Orthodox Easter is one of the most colourful (and probably the most delicious) religious celebrations alive in Europe today. Greeks consider Easter the most important religious holiday of the year, and they celebrate it for more than a week with various spectacular customs.

In 2022 the series of Greek Easter rituals starts on the 16th of April (Saturday of Lazarus) and lasts till Easter Monday, the 25th of April. As the fourth largest island of Greece with its 42 villages and the capital city, Rhodes provides plenty of chances to enjoy and observe the most important traditional annual celebration of the local community.

This is a great chance to visit some of the breathtaking medieval and modern churches of the island in their full glory with the Easter decorations and the special atmosphere surrounding these rituals during the Holy Week.

Furthermore, it is an ideal time to visit the precious historic sites of the island without the usual crowds of tourists. Easter is still the low season period on Rhodes with the mild weather of April and a great chance to take advantage of low season prices of both services and accommodation.

And you can even enjoy your first swim of the year at one of the famous (or secret) beaches on the 220 km long coastline of Rhodes – yet without sunbeds and plenty of fellow travellers but with already warming crystal clear water.  

If you need a little Greek Easter guidance, continue reading because we’ll explain the most interesting customs of this special time of the year and provide you with a little Easter calendar at the end of the article to save the dates for April 2022.

Greek Easter and the Lenten period – welcoming the light into our life

Humanity’s rituals and celebrations evolved around certain astrological events. More specifically, these events always followed the journey of light on our planet. From the beginning of human history, people felt the impact of cosmic events on their lives (both on body and soul), and they revered these happenings. Greek Easter – a Christian feast – has cosmic reference, similarly to all the springtime festivals and rituals around the world. The timing of Greek Easter is defined by alignment with the movement of both the Sun and the Moon.

Greek Easter’s date changes every year according to the Spring Equinox and the subsequent full moon. In 2022 the Spring equinox is on the 20th of March, and the following full moon is on the 16th of April, which is the first full moon of springtime. Easter Sunday in Greece always takes place the week after the first full moon of meteorological spring.

The symbolism of Spring Equinox is evident: the victory of light over darkness – just as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We call Spring Equinox the first day of spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, and from that date, we start to have more hours of sunlight than darkness each day.

This is the time of growth, extension, rebirth, and rejuvenation in nature. And as we humans are part of nature too, so it is for us. With longer and warmer days and more sunlight, our body awakens, our metabolism becomes faster. The forty days long fasting period before Easter (Greeks call it sarakosti/σαρακοστή) supports and prepares this shift in the human body, which helps the rejuvenation of an individual in a desired spiritual dimension as well.

Sarakosti (the forty days of lent) starts on a Monday (called Clean Monday), when Greek families and friends have picnics in nature (namely: koulouma) and eat fantastic, light Mediterranean lenten food, with seafood being a predominant dish on the menu. From this day on, wine, olive oil, meat, egg and dairy products are forbidden for the faithful. Clean Monday is the day when each church prepares its festive decorations. Sarakosti is the period when farmers prune the olive- and other fruit trees, women clean the whole household, people whitewash buildings, the outdoor ovens, stairs and streets. Traditionally this was one of the two occasions during the year when each member of a Greek family bought a new dress for themselves (the other occasion was Christmas), and they wore them on Easter Sunday.

Greek Easter is full of beautiful symbolism and preparations to cleanse one’s body and soul and welcome the light, the spring, the resurrection force in our life.

The holy week (Megali Evdomada) and its main events

This is the most important week in the Greek Orthodox religion. During this week, faithful people take feasting much more serious, and they have two religious ceremonies each day in the churches. These ceremonies revive the events and suffering of Christ before his death, and his symbolic coffin with his icon (called the epitaphios in Greek) is in the centre of the church during this week.

16th of April – Saturday of Lazarus

The church ceremony of that day remembers the biblical story when Jesus resurrected his friend Lazarus, who was in the tomb on the fourth day. On this day, the church celebrates the miraculous act of Jesus: the resurrection and life in general.

Source Picture: Wikipedia

Greek kids walk together from home to home with wreaths made of fragrant spring flowers and herbs and with baskets (sometimes wearing white dresses) while singing the hymns of Lazarus (these songs are called ’kalanda’ in Greek) as messengers of the coming Easter.

Children of Psinthos village on Rhodes on Saturday of Lazarus

The people of each household give special biscuits and fresh eggs in return for the beautiful songs. These special lenten biscuits are called lazarakia, and this is the first biscuit special to the Easter period. They can be decorated with any seeds, dried fruit, or cloves, but the cake is always kneaded into a human shape (shaping Lazarus’ body with crossed hands).

According to an old custom, mothers made one lazarakia for each of their children.

Picture Source: http://www.aglaiakremezi.com

17th of April – Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday

Officially this is the beginning of the Holy Week. The church celebration on this day commemorates Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his crucifixion, where the crowd welcomed him with palm branches (symbol of peace and victory). The same crowd who demanded his crucifixion a week later.

, Local communities make crosses from palm leaves and take them to the church ceremony where they become blessed. After the ceremony, people take the blessed palm leaves home and place them close to the holy corner (in Greek: iconostasio) of the house.

Video Link: Making Palm Crosses:
A Blessed Palm Cross In A Traditional House Of Archangelos

19th of April – Holy Tuesday / Megali Triti

, Traditionally, on this day, Greek women bake the famous Easter koulouria, the thin biscuits with red eggs. Every household has its own koulouri style. It varies from a simple ring shape to complicated baskets or even dragons (in the village of Archangelos). On Rhodes, people bake red Easter eggs into the baskets, the custom of which dates back to Byzantine times. These biscuits cannot be eaten until Easter Sunday because they contain olive oil, egg and butter, which are forbidden during the lent. The divine ingredients of the Easter koulouria are the following: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mastic and rosewater.

During the Holy week, you will be able to find these sweet divine biscuits at any of the local Rhodian bakeries.

Picture source from the book: Μακριά μυρωδιά. Η μαγειρική κληρονομιά της Ρόδου
Koulouria With Eggs During Easter Days On The Small Island Of Kastellorizo

20th of April – Holy Wednesday / Megali Tetarti

On Holy Wednesday, the women complete the final touches in and around the house. When everything is clean and tidy, the family members have a shower before the evening church ceremony, where they receive the ’evheleo’, or blessed oil. The priests draw a cross on the faithful’s forehead, palms and hands with this blessed oil. The symbolism of this ritual is the healing of body and soul from the sins and, therefore, absolution.

Picture Source: http://www.greekorthodoxcheltenham.org.uk

The biblical events of this day are as followings: on this day, Jesus held the last supper for his disciples, before which he washed the feet of each of them. Judas betrays Jesus on this day. After the Last Supper, Jesus prayed under the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane and experienced his last spiritual struggle, knowing his human destiny.

Picture Source: https://www.madata.gr/epikairotita/social/410193.html

21st April – Holy Thursday / Megali Pempti – Stavrosis or the day of crucifixion

On this day, Greek people remember the crucifixion of Jesus. In the households, they prepare the red eggs. Half of the red eggs go into the wonderful Easter cake, tsureki, as decoration, and the other half stays in a basket waiting for Holy Saturday’s midnight supper.

In the old days, Greeks painted the eggs red with beetroot or onion. The red colour symbolises the blood of Christ, and the egg is a symbol of birth and fertility since ancient times. Red is the most frequently used colour in ritualistic behaviour in human history.

On this day, the church holds the most extended ceremony of the whole week. After reading all the gospels, women stay at the church and sing so-called mourning songs (in Greek: moirologia) until dawn.

Photo by Giannis Koullias / Kalymnos island

22nd April – Good Friday / Megali Paraskevi

This day represents the funeral of Jesus and has probably one of the most spectacular ceremony’s of the Holy Week. According to the old custom, in the early morning the women of the villages go to the countryside and collect thousands of wild flowers for the colorful garland decoration of the epitaphio, which symbolises the coffin of Jesus.  The usual colors of the flowers are: white, red, pink, purple. Then the women and children decorate the epitaphio together while the bell of the church slowly tolls giving the signal of a funeral. On this morning, people usually go to the cemeteries to light a candle on the graves of their loved ones.

On this day Greeks don’t eat sweet food. A typical meal eaten during the Holy Friday daytime is cabbage or lentil soup with vinegar.

Photo by Giannis Koullias – Epitaphio

During the evening church ceremony they throw flower petals and sprinkle rose water on the epitaphio while smoking frankincense.

Photo by Giannis Koullias – Epitaphio

Some men of the religious community carry the epitaphio to start a procession around the village, or neighbourhood, but at least around the church imitating the funeral of Jesus. Carrying the epitaphio is considered an honor within the community. The chorus sings, and the faithful follow the epitaphio, which is a wonderful, unique religious event.

23rd April – Holy Saturday / Megalo Savato – Resurrection or Anastasi

The resurrection of Christ is a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation. Light is born and awakens again and again, and after mourning the losses, the death, the winter, the darkness, there is rebirth, there is spring, there is an “opening” to light again. The Greek word for spring (= anixi/άνοιξη) exactly means: opening.

During the morning church service people shake and hit the chairs to create a loud noise which refers to the act of resurrection.

Men prepare the goat or lamb for the next day – especially if they bake it in the outdoor oven for a day.

The evening ceremony is the most anticipated one. This ceremony breaks the period of the Lent, and provides the Holy Light to the faithful – this light is the symbol of the resurrected Jesus. The Holy Light comes every year straight from Jerusalem and every Greek person receives it on the night of Holy Saturday. They bring their own decorated candles to the church to be lit.

At midnight the priest lights his own candle first and says: “Christos Anesti!” – “Christ has arisen.”

The faithfuls’ answer:  “Alithos Anesti!” He has arisen indeed!”

People pass the Holy Light to each other saying the above mentioned sentences as they do. The bells are ringing, people make bonfires, or set off fireworks.

People are passing the Holy Light from candle to candle on Kastellorizo island


The fireworks of Holy Saturday on Kastellorizo island

People bring the Holy Light home, and light their olive oil candle on their altar (iconostasio) where they keep this light alive until next Easter.

Ikonostasio with the Holy Light in a Rhodian household

Afterwards Greeks either stay at home with family and friends or go out to restaurants to eat the special Easter soup called ’magiritsa’, which contains the inner parts of the lamb or goat with lots of herbs.

During this dinner people play a game with the red eggs (cracking them) for good fortune for the coming year.

Restaurant table on Holy Saturday night on Kastellorizo island

24th-25th of April – Easter Sunday and Monday

These two days are dedicated to celebration, dancing, eating, and community. Greeks gather usually in outdoor spaces where they enjoy the mild Greek spring, the breathtaking natural environment of the Greek countryside, and all the incredible amount of food they prepared the days before accompanied with the Easter cakes. They usually place the red eggs on the table and fresh wildflower bouquets.

On Easter Sunday and Monday the sunkissed Greeks enjoy life, spring (άνοιξη: the opening, blooming and extending life force), the blooming olive trees, the festive tastes, the music, dancing together and each others company.

If I were you, I would not hesitate to book my holiday on Rhodes to visit the most spectacular and colorful celebration of Greece: Easter.

Have you ever been to Greece during Easter? We would love to read your experiences and highlights about Greek Easter traditions…

written by Mariann Lipcsei Ilios Art / March 2022 / Copyright © / Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any content of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Have You Heard About The Magic Cake Of Rhodes?

The fascinating custom of Fanouropita

One of the most beautiful things I love in Greece is that certain foods are closely connected to special celebrations and moments in people’s lives. Or I could say this the other way around – each important event has its own unique taste within the cultural traditions. That’s why life can be so tasty and full of expectations on the Greek islands, especially Rhodes.

Everything has its own time and value if you follow the rhythm of these traditions. In Greek culture, you can never separate food, community gatherings and religious customs from each other. They go hand in hand, and one of the best examples is the story of Fanouropita – the aromatic sweet cake of Saint Fanourios. And probably this is the most special one of all, straight from the island of Rhodes.

Fanouropitas from the book ’Μακριά μυρωδιά. Η μαγειρική κληρονομιά της Ρόδου

As with most of the traditional sweets of Greece, Fanouropita itself is closely related to a specific celebration (and saint) within the Greek Orthodox religion. But Fanouropita is a real Rhodian treat with a unique custom behind it. You don’t just make Fanouropita. You always do it for a specific reason as an offering to Saint Fanourios – whose worship originated from Rhodes Island and spread to other parts of Greece.

Let us look at the etymology first: ’fanerono’ (φανερώνω) in Greek means ’I reveal’. And Fanourios is the saint in Orthodox Greece who reveals things. According to religious belief, you can call upon him and ask his guidance whenever you lose something important, or need an answer or a solution for a problem, or whenever you need good luck in a specific situation.

Let’s suppose that you’ve lost your car keys and you can’t find them anywhere in heaven and earth. What do you do now? You keep calm and bake a Fanouropita following the guidelines:

  • Use 7 or 9 ingredients (not less, not more).

The recipe, therefore, is not strictly defined but contains only lenten ingredients (besides olive oil): sugar, water, flour, baking powder. On Rhodes Island, the Fanouropita can also include raisins, walnuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon and cloves to ensure the divine taste. Mix the ingredients (sprinkle with sesame on top), and then put the pastry into the oven for an hour (~180 Celsius)

  • During the whole baking process, think about your lost car keys; otherwise, the magic will not work.
  • When the cake is ready, offer it to at least seven households/families. You can eat the cake yourself only after that. But you have to eat the whole cake, no remaining pieces and crumbs!
  • Now, wait for Saint Fanourios to reveal the exact place of your car keys.

The religious Rhodians happen to bake the Fanouropita not only as an invocation but also after any lucky event, as a gesture of gratitude towards Saint Fanourios. This is a so-called votive gift (or offering) which was common also in the Ancient Greek religion related to different gods and goddesses. The Colossus of Rhodes (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) was also a votive gift to the solar deity, Helios, who helped the Rhodians to defend their polis against the attack of the Macedonian King, Demetrius Poliorcetes.

Both the act of invocation (prayer) and gratitude can express and retain a deep humbleness in an individual towards non-human forces, whatever we call them. But nevertheless, it can also remain no more than superstition – perhaps it is the intimate matter of each individual.

The celebration of Saint Fanourios

Probably the most breathtaking church on Rhodes dedicated to Saint Fanourios is the byzantine chapel within the walls of the Medieval Town of Rhodes and dates back to the 13th century. Only by observing it from the outside one could never imagine the amazing interior of this half-underground chapel with its old colourful frescoes. It is located in Agios Fanourios street within the Old Town. It is best accessed from the Gate of Saint John (Kokkini Porta) or from Saint Athanasios Gate.

Saint Fanourios church, Medieval Town of Rhodes
Entrance of Saint Fanourios church, Medieval Town of Rhodes


The Orthodox Greek religion celebrates Saint Fanourios annually on the 27th of August and it is one of the most interesting religious celebrations in the Old Town of Rhodes. On this day you will find lots of locals participating in the liturgy. They bring their own homemade fanouropitas, and share it with each other after the church service in the lovely garden accompanied with coffee – of course. This is a truly unique event once a year only in that specific church in the Medieval Town.

Fanourios church annual celebration of Saint Fanurios (27th August), Medieval Town of Rhodes
Saint Fanourios church annual celebration of Saint Fanurios (27th August), Medieval Town of Rhodes
The holy icon of Saint Fanourios on the annual celebration of Saint Fanurios (27th August), Medieval Town of Rhodes

Maybe, dear Reader, you can start to realize that visiting and understanding Rhodes has many aspects: traditional local tastes embedded in unique celebrations and customs, visiting Medieval churches within the UNESCO site, ancient remains, and understanding the shaping (natural and cultural) forces of the character of a Greek island.

We would love to hear about your favourite custom or superstition…please share your story or leave a comment below

Fanouropita was only a tiny slice of the big cake of Rhodes. To begin your own discovery, book your accommodation in Rhodes with us HERE!

Read more from Mariann by visiting her website Ilios Art

Written by Mariann Lipcsei / February 2022 / Copyright © / Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any photo, or written content of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Big Honey Guide Of Rhodes

the big honey guide of rhodes
A Journey Through The History Of Honey On The Greek Island Of Rhodes

When we travel to Greece, we also travel to a country that has the highest density of bee colonies and apiaries in Europe, and has an annual honey production of 15,000 tons.(1) Beekeeping all over Greece is a traditional rural profession dating from ancient times with a rich history, symbolism and cultural footprint up until today. The island of Rhodes – an important location of the apiculture of ancient and contemporary Greece – provides us with a great adventure through its honey in gastronomy, religion, culture, history and natural beauty. Rhodes, the fourth biggest island of Greece with its sunny climate and mountainous geography has one of the best honey products of the Aegean sea.

The following honey-guide will add new dimensions to your travel on the island of Helios and give you hints of local products and places to visit, such as the one and only Bee Museum of Greece and the ancient Kameiros of Rhodes.

1. The story of honey and beekeeping

Honey was the first sweet in humans’ diet since we formed hunter-gatherer groups as a species. species. One of the first pieces of evidence of honey consumption is a Mesolithic cave painting from Spain (Cuevas de la Araña) depicts a hunter who is harvesting a wild honeycomb back around 6000 BCE.

Honey seeker depicted on 8000 year old cave painting at Arana Caves in Spain

The Eastern Mediterranean can rightly be called “the cradle of beekeeping” according to our archaeological findings. In Greece, the earliest evidence of the gathering and usage of bee products (like beeswax on pottery pieces) date back to 5500 BCE, but they don’t hold proof of the usage of either domesticated or wild bee products.

As humans, our natural desire for eating sweets made us develop from being hunters of wild honey to being systematic beekeepers. Humans at one point in history started to copy the nests of the cavity-nesting honey bee (Apis mellifera) and created their own beehives.

Our very first direct evidence of systematic apiculture practice is from ancient Egypt from c. 2400 BCE. (2) While in Greece systematic beekeeping most likely had already started around 1600-1500 BCE in Minoan Crete, most probably learning from their fellow Egyptian beekeepers. (3)

Migratory, or pastoral beekeeping was already a common practice back then – just like today. In order to increase the amount of honey production, ancient beekeepers in the Mediterranean would transport their hives according to the local blooming flowers on the mainlands or even by boats on the sea and rivers.

Humans built their hives throughout the ages from various materials like dried mud, clay, cork, stone, wood, woven wicker and so on. The principles of today using beehives with moveable frames was originally established in Greece. (4) Therefore it is fair to call Greece the cradle of modern beekeeping (besides democracy).

Island of Rhodes traditional beekeepers used a unique stone beehive (called thyri) for some centuries, remains of which can be found even today near Malona village. It was the typical beehive of the Dodecanese islands, a much cheaper one than the fired clay hive, and much more durable – although not portable.

On Rhodes people used a special ceramic honey storage jar, the ’vetena’ (bitina, pithari, plithari) with an opening close to the bottom of the jar. The reason is that one gets the best, purest quality of honey always from the bottom of the jar. The wise Rhodian farmers have a saying: “Oil from the top, wine from the middle, and honey from the bottom.”

2. The Rhodian honey

The famous Greek geographer and historian, Strabo (Στράβων) in the first century BCE was already writing about the exceptional quality of the honey of the Aegean islands. „The island honey was regarded as the best” – he wrote in his most famous work, Geographica. And no doubt even today the island honey is the most divine in Greece.

If we look at Rhodes, the sunniest Greek island, we find that weather conditions ensure extremely rich vegetation, and unique, diverse microclimates. Rhodes’ mountains have plenty of varieties of herbs, wildflowers and coniferous trees like thyme, oregano, heather, rosemary, pine. And you need nothing more from nature to gain a high nutritional value and great taste in your honey.

Rhodian countryside (West coast)

From late February till the end of November flowers constantly bloom throughout the island. These conditions support the above mentioned ’pastoral beekeeping’, therefore many of the Rhodian beekeepers transport their wooden hives according to the location of the blooming flowers.

A Rhodian beekeeper showing the bee comb

You can discover for yourself the rich vegetation of the island, the divine scent of its wildflowers and medicinal herbs by hiking on the countless hiking paths of the island’s countryside between the villages, medieval monasteries and ancient sites, while you will find plenty of beehives along the way belonging to the local beekeepers. Rhodes is much more than “a beach”.

Bermuda Buttercup in January in Ialysos Rhodes
Heather Bushes on Rhodes
Rhodes countryside beehives

The most characteristic and famous types of honey on Rhodes are definitely thyme, pine, and heather (or ereika by the local name) honey. Thyme honey is the sweetest of all with a light golden colour and silky texture. The Rhodian thyme honey is a prize winner amongst Greek honey. The second most popular is dark pine honey with its high iron content and a less sweet taste. The heather honey of Rhodes is a bit bitter in taste, with a deep wonderful reddish colour and with incredible nutritional value. Unfortunately, the last mentioned one is not produced each year, it is highly dependent on the amount of rainfall. Besides these three types, one can find wild lavender, sage, koumaria (Arbutus unedo, a type of local wild berry), thrumbi (a wonderful type of savory, Satureja Thymbra) and ligaria (Vitex agnus-castus) honey on Rhodes.

Local Food Market of Rhodes, honey products of a beekeeper

Today on Rhodes there are about 150 registered beekeepers (with at least 10 hives each), and the majority has a small population of bees (between 30 to 50 boxes). On Rhodes, the honey consumption of the local population is relatively high and everybody has their own local honey producer who they trust and know personally.

Siana village (and the nearby Kimissala area) is considered one of the best areas for beekeeping and is famous for its high quality of honey. There is an annual Honey & Souma Festival hosted by Siana during the summer, which is only one of many fascinating local Rhodian agricultural festivals. But honey is not only produced in Siana. Almost the whole island is suitable for providing lovely honey products, only to mention a few more villages: Archipoli, Apollona (with its famous local pioneer beekeeper from the past Fotis Mpantouvakis), Psinthos, Kalithies, Archangelos, Malona, Laerma, Messanagros, Kritinia, and so on.

If you are on holiday on the island, just drive out to the countryside, and you will find many street kiosks of local producers to buy honey from. Also, most village kafenios (the traditional Greek coffee shops on the main square of each village, or neighbourhood) sell local honey, and you can always pop up to the local food market of Rhodes Town (next to Agios Dimitrios Cemetary) on Saturdays to meet the farmers and discover their products personally.

Above photos: Kritinia panorama on Rhodes (west coast) – a place to meditate and buy local products

Despite the many centuries of oppression and occupation in Rhodes the craft of beekeeping survived from the Pre Roman Era to the post-Italian occupation period thanks to the unshakable, enthusiastic work of local farmers and teachers of the island.

Right after WWII the first-ever beekeeping school of Greece was established on Rhodes by the teacher, beekeeper Ioannis Segredos. Today the island’s labour office provides beekeeping studies for unemployed citizens.

The one and only Bee Museum of Greece was built on Rhodes (close to Pastida village) founded by the “Melissokomiki Dodecanese” (Beekeeping Company of the Dodecanese) in 2004, where the visitor can learn about local bee products, apiculture history, the biology of bees, pollination, hives, bee plants, local vegetation etc.

3. The use of honey in Rhodian traditions

The majority of the sweets of Greece (therefore Rhodes) has honey as the main ingredient already from antiquity. Not only Hippocrates of Kos (the father of medicine) emphasised the importance of honey for human biology, but also the followers of Pythagoras were promoting the nutritional value of honey and they used a diet based on honey and bread. Well, Rhodians today often eat the local village bread with honey on top. In many cases, they use tahini (sesame paste), or fresh goat cheese on the bread poured over with the local honey. This is called the beekeeper’s breakfast.

And now, just to mention a very few of the several local traditional sweets made of honey:

Melekouni is probably the most famous and unique to Rhodes (and from the Dodecanese). It is a special diamond-shaped traditional sweet with sesame seeds and honey originally related to Rhodian weddings. The ingredients of this sweet vary from village to village and from house to house but mostly includes (besides the honey and sesame seeds) cinnamon, coriander, lemon juice, nutmeg and almond pieces. Nowadays it is a common gift of baptism ceremonies, and in the old days, they were given as an invitation to weddings. If one family received two melekounia, then two persons were invited to the big fat Greek wedding!

Don’t confuse melekouni with the so called pasteli! Pasteli is a snack-bar usually with sesame or any other seeds and with high quantity of sugar, therefore it is hard and crunchy. Melekouni is always soft, has fantastic aromatic taste and it is never crunchy.

Above Photos: The women’s Association of Apollona village is making the diamond-shaped melekouni sweets of Rhodes in a traditional wooden frame

Probably the best locations on the island where one can find traditional melekouni are:

Apolloniatisses – the women’s association of Apollona village

Rodomel Melekouni Rodou – in Afantou village

Filema Rodion – Rhodes Town

Xerotigana is a spiral-shaped deep-fried pastry poured with honey and sesame on top. Appears mainly in Archangelos village during important religious celebrations.


Loukoumades are the famous Greek doughnut balls consumed traditionally on Saint Andreas’ day, on the 30th of November each year.

Tiganites is a special one. When the women of Rhodes make the traditional bread each Saturday, they fry the remaining piece of bread pasty in olive oil. After that, they pour honey on top and eat it as a dessert.

Tiganites with Rhodian thyme honey in Archangelos village
Germanos from Archangelos is making tiganites for his granddaughter

In order not to forget about other bee products, we should mention the long thin candles in the Greek orthodox churches of Rhodes, which are made of beeswax. Beeswax is used as the main ingredient of natural skin cosmetics on Rhodes, specifically by the DM Natural Farming local firm in Kremasti village. This brand uses local organic medicinal herbs in its product having a huge organic herb farm as a basis.

Beeswax products of DM Natural Farming, Kremasti

4. Honey and the bee in ancient Greek culture

Honey in ancient Greece

In ancient Greece – where society and its culture were deeply embedded in its breathtaking fertile natural environment – bees and honey were represented in almost every segment of life: art, religion, music, healing, diet and astronomy.

Honey and beeswax were used in ceremonial activities. The sacred liquids of life (or the liquids of Mother or Earth goddesses) in ancient Greek religion were honey, milk, wine and oil, so they were used as a libation (liquid offering) for the different goddesses and gods. In the ancient world, there was no prayer without ritual. And rituals had the purpose of focusing the mind of the worshipper.

Sacred honey cakes with a triangular shape evalued from geometric meditations and were used in the worship of Aphrodite. We might have a feeling that melekouni of Rhodes can have its origins from that era…

External stimulants were always used in pursuit of higher consciousness and honey mead was one of the first ones in the history of humanity even before wine. Honey mead, the so-called “mad honey” is considered the first alcoholic drink made by humans and was related to ecstatic prophecy, divine intoxication. Ancient Greeks said that Melissa, the Queen Bee goddess taught mortals how to ferment honey. It was already used in Cretan rites of the Minoan culture.

Honey was a primary ingredient in ancient medicines. It was widely believed to be a source of divine nourishment. In ancient myths, honey often nourished a divine child raised in secret by a goddess in the depths of caves. The infant Zeus was fed by bees while he was hidden by his mother Rhea on Mount Ida. Just like the child, Dionysus was raised by the nymph Macris fed by honey. They thought that in order to gain wisdom and eloquence, the famous great poets and sages were also fed by bees during infancy.

Bees in ancient Greece

The precious products of bees (honey, wax, mead) induced people to appreciate bees as creatures with divine properties. Bees were worshipped in Minoan Crete as a symbol of eternity, wisdom, and prophetic abilities.

1800-1700 BCE gold bee pendant from the Minoan palace at Malia, a masterpiece of Minoan jewellery and one of the finest and most intricate examples of Aegean Bronze Age metalwork, exhibited today at Heraklion museum

Of course, the rich Greek mythology has plenty of gods related to the bee and beekeeping.

Aristaios (Aristaeus) son of Apollo and nymph Cyrene spread the secret of beekeeping to the humans on the island of Ceos. He was considered as the protector of beekeeping, and also the rustic god of shepherds, honey, honey-mead, medicinal herbs, hunting and olive growing.

Above: Aristaios depicted on a black-figure amphora from 540 BCE.

In the famous, secret Eleusinian mysteries the bee symbolized the circle of life and death itself, which is equal to rebirth. Demeter (a form of the nourishing Mother Goddess and a major mythical character of the Eleusinian mysteries) was responsible for the fertilization of plants, the flourishing vegetation. The priestesses of Demeter and her daughter Persephone were called Melissai (bees). Melissai are attracted to the heavenly fragrances of flowers, from which they make divine nectar: honey. And of course, while Persephone is below in the underworld with her husband, Hades during the winter months, her mother Demeter is sad, therefore the vegetation is dead, not flourishing.

If we look at the roles of bees in nature, we can easily understand the symbols of these ancient gods and myths.

Bee was the symbol of Artemis in Ephesus (the ancient Greek polis located in today’s Turkey). Her priestesses were also called Melissai or Melissonomos, and she herself was called the Queen Bee. She was different from the Greek Artemis of Hunt, and embodied rather the native Anatolian Mother goddess, that feeds and nourishes the entire world, whose sacred gifts are milk and honey. Remains depicting bee figures on different objects such as coins and jewellery were found in Ephesus in excavations. As the owl was the emblem of Athena at Athens, so the bee seems to have been the emblem of Ephesus.

Ancient Kameiros of Rhodes and Artemis of Ephesus

Kameiros, one of the three ancient Doric city states (polis) of Rhodes was excavated first in the late 19th century. During those excavations, archaeologists unearthed gold tiles that depict winged female figures with bee bodies and lotus emblems most probably connected with the worship of Artemis Ephesia, or Bee-Artemis, protector goddess of nature. The findings date back to 700-600 BCE (exhibited today in London, in the British Museum). Similar charms made of gold were found on the islands of Milos and Thira.

Kameiros of Rhodes has not been fully excavated until today, but one of the most breathtaking ancient sites of the island, truly worth visiting.

Golden tablets with the Goddess Melissa (perhaps Artemis), Kamiros – Rhodes (7th century BC)

Finally I would like to share a proverb with you – related to honey – which I heard from a Rhodian farmer:

„Λίγα λόγια ζάχαρη, και τα καθόλου μέλι.”


“The few words are like sugar, but silence is like honey.”

After so many words, I have one final piece of advice for you: come to Rhodes, find local honey, explore the wisdom of the ancients, go out to nature and enjoy the silence of the Rhodian countryside, which is just as sweet as its honey.

Read more from Mariann by visiting her website Ilios Art

Take a look at our holiday rentals around Rhodes – we have something for everyone…


(1) Fani Hatjina – Importance of adaptation of bee populations on their local environment /presentation of the INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM of BEEKEEPING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SYROS, OCTOBER 9-11 2014/ (2) Gene Kritsky – The quest for the perfect hive: ancient Mediterranean origins: „These Egyptian reliefs illustrate that beekeeping at this time was already a complex process, supporting the hypothesis that beekeeping’s origin was much earlier.”
(3) Haralampos V. Harissis – Beekeeping in Prehistoric Greece: „So far, the earliest beeswax residue dates to the Late Minoan IA period and comes from lamps and conical cups found in Mochlos in Crete. The fact that in prehistoric Crete beeswax was used for lighting, which necessitated great quantities of beeswax, implies organized beekeeping and not occasional wild honeycomb hunting. (…) It is probable that the Minoans of Crete had acquired the knowledge of Egyptian apicultural techniques and adopted the use of the horizontal beehive.”
(4) Richard Jones – Beekeeping in the Mediterranean from antiquity to the present: „In a publication of 1682 George Wheler described a coiled straw hive (which could also be made out of willows) with flat sticks (top bars) which could be removed individually but “had to be separated one from another with a knife”. He saw the hive on Mount Hymettus.”

Layne Redmond: When the Drummers were Women
Beekeeping in the Mediterranean from Antiquity to the present – edited by:
Fani Hatjina, Georgios Mavrofridis, Richard Jones
Artemis Ephesia and Symbolic Bodies of Mother Goddesses by Carla Ionescu
Presentations and articles of Weiner Sennyey Tibor Hungarian writer, editor, poet, beekeeper
Several personal discussions with locals and local beekeepers of Rhodes
Bee Museum of Rhodes

Written by Mariann Lipcsei / 16th january 2022 / Copyright © / Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any photo, or written content on this website without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

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