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Rhodes and Kos are two of Greece’s most popular resort islands, and for good reason: they offer not only some real historical dazzlers but also some rich, off-the-beach experiences. On Rhodes, cultural must-dos include visits to the Palace of the Grand Master and other sights in Rhodes’s Old Town, as well as the Acropolis of Lindos; Kos’s great archaeological treasure is the Asklepieion, the great healing center of antiquity. All open as early as 8 am in the summer and stay open well into the evening, and on an early or late visit you will avoid the heat and crowds.
On these busy islands it’s also easy to wander off the beaten path to enjoy mountainous hinterlands carpeted in pine forests, vineyards, and groves of olives and oranges. A visit to either island should include a country drive (or bus excursion) and lunch in a village taverna; good stops would be Siana in Rhodes and Kefalos or Zia on Kos. Symi and Patmos are geared to travelers looking for low-key retreats and a glimpse of authentic island life. It’s easy to slip away to uncrowded beaches and coves on either, but also join islanders for their time-honored ritual of an evening stroll—chances are you might meet one of the artists, writers, or designers who are making Patmos into one of the newest international getaways, as you’ll see on the main waterfront promenade and also the narrow lanes of Skala, which come alive in the evening. On Symi, you can amble around the harbor in Yialos then walk up the Kali Strata (Good Steps) to Chorio.