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What's new (and not so new) on the island of Rhodes

Ancient walls protect 'Old Town' on Rhodes. Photo by Bob Schulman.

Cruise passengers hoping to see the famed Colossus of Rhodes during a day-stop on this Greek island off the southwest coast of Turkey will be disappointed. It’s not there anymore. Not even some rubble where this gigantic statue, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood.

Still, sailing by the old harbor's entrance, it's easy to conjure up the iconic sight of the Colossus towering over 100 feet high – almost the height of the Statue of Liberty – with one foot planted on each side of the passage.

Today, smaller boats slip through the harbor's relatively narrow (and untopped) passage to dock in the harbor. The big cruise ships saddle up to nearby piers.

“True, the Colossus is long gone,” says tour guide Manos Mitsakos, “but there's still plenty of fantastic things to see on the island, not the least of which is the stunning medieval city we now call 'Old Town.'”

Settled by the Minoans in the 16th century B.C., the island fell to the arrows, swords, scimitars and cannons of a succession of conquerors over the years. Among flags that flew over Rhodes were those of the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and – after the fall of Jerusalem to Muslim forces in 1291 – of the ousted Christian Knights Hospitaller, better known as the Knights of St. John.

The three sections of Old Town were once home to 100,000 Christians,Turks and Jews. Today the town is usually packed with seemingly the same number of tourists roaming around its castles, fortresses, gun turrets, museums and shopping lanes.

Elsewhere on the 50-mile-long island (it's about half that size wide) you'll find tourists scampering around an ancient acropolis overlooking the sprawling city of Lindos. Up in the ruins are must-see sites such as the Temple of Athena, the Castle of the Knights of St. John and the Greek Orthodox Church of St. John.

Travelers planning to stay awhile on the island can fast-forward to today next door to Lindos at Lindian Village, a five-star resort stretching over 60 acres on Rhodes’ white beaches. Among the resort’s 146 guestrooms are 72 suites with their own private pools.

Day-visitors dribble back from inland tours in time to stroll around Old Town to sample Greek delicacies in everything from gourmet restaurants to the Rhodian versions of McDonalds and Pizza Hut. After that, they go back to their ships for the next leg of their cruise: a quick 70-mile sail up the Turkish coast to the shopping mecca of Bodrum and the probable location of yet another missing Wonder of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

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