Known as the “Island of the Knights”, Rhodes is a gem of the Dodecanese, the island cluster in the southeast of the Aegean.
Rhodes was the base for the Order of the Knights of St. John during medieval times, giving the island a distinctly unique, gothic, romantic flair in terms of architecture: they built several castles and palaces in the iconic style that we’re now used to expect in fairytales of proud knights and fair ladies.
In Rhodes, the Order built four major castles all over the island during the 14th century to fortify the island from potential piracy and invasion attacks. Monolithos Castle is one of them.
And though it is now in disrepair and ruins, its grandeur and allure still resonate with everyone who seeks it out and explores it on its breathtaking position on top of a high, craggy rock.
This castle is what we’re talking about today.
You might also like: The Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes.
A Guide to Monolithos Castle, In Rhodes Island Greece
Brief history of the Monolithos Castle
73 km from Rhodes’ Chora, there is the village of Monolithos. The word literally means ‘single giant boulder’ to indicate the characteristic geological formation of the area: there is a big rocky formation jutting vertically up high, offering itself for anyone who wants to survey the seas and the surrounding land.
Monolithos’ strategic qualities were noted since antiquity! In ancient times, there was a watchtower at the top of the great rocky hill, and later during Byzantine times, a Byzantine castle was built.
When the Knights of the Order of St. John occupied Rhodes in the early 1300s, they rebuilt the castle at Monolithos. It took several years and construction finally finished in the late 1400s. The shield and coat of arms of the Grand Master credited with completion were carved at the top of the entrance gate.
Monolithos Castle became a very important stronghold ever since until piracy diminished as a threat and thus it was abandoned, around the 17th century under Turkish/Ottoman rule. Throughout its life, Monolithos Castle was never overtaken by any enemy that tried.
Monolithos Castle today
Nowadays, the castle is derelict. While the outer walls and general structure remain relatively intact, the castle interior is in ruins.
That doesn’t deter visitors from exploring it and reliving the glory days, as the view from up there is amazing. There are also cisterns and tower remains to see.
Right in the middle of the castle interior, you will also find the whitewashed chapel of Aghios Panteleimon next to another smaller chapel that is abandoned.
Why visiting Monolithos Castle is a must
Though the castle itself is in ruins, making the trek to it is not going to disappoint you.
First off, the walk or hike there is extremely picturesque through a lush pine forest. As you climb up the stone stairs you start getting hints of the treat that is waiting for you once you reach the top! Just make sure you are careful as the steps leading to the castle have been polished by the countless feet that used them over the centuries, making them quite slippery.
Once you get on top, you will see one of the most breathtakingly gorgeous views that Rhodes has to offer. The panoramic view from Monolithos Castle includes sweeping vistas from all around the surrounding lushly verdant area, the expanse of the deep blue sea, and the horizon.
Walking through the castle ruins and gazing upon such a gorgeous, massive view, one can feel the sheer advantage and power that came with the beauty surrounding the castle.
Visiting Monolithos Castle is a great single-day excursion, perhaps with a picnic to further enjoy this gorgeous view after your trip back to medieval times, when Monolithos Castle was a guarantee that pirates would never get you!
What there is nearby
Monolithos Castle is quite near Monolithos village which is a traditional, picturesque place to get good food and drink if you’re not up for a picnic at the castle. There are also a couple of beaches not too far away if you’re feeling up for a swim to cool down from the hike!