“Rhodes is back!” Greek island says it’s ready for visitors following wildfires

RHODES, GREECE — Following a string of wildfires last month amid record-breaking heat waves, the island of Rhodes in Greece is becoming fully operational once again for visitors.

According to the Greek government and tourism officials, the South Aegean island is ready to welcome back visitors, with only a very limited number of hotels in the fire-affected southern region still closed.

Wildfires prompted the evacuation of more than 20,000 visitors last month. But the Greek government has confirmed that the remaining villages that had been evacuated as a precaution are safe for residents and visitors to return to.

“Rhodes is back! We are pleased to announce that the operational state of emergency has expired on the island of Rhodes. Life is now returning to normal for the entire island of Rhodes, including the few areas that were affected,” reads a statement by the Greek Tourism Ministry. 

“The residents of Rhodes, who have been heroic and selfless throughout these difficult days, together with the Greek state, are looking forward to continuing to offer their care and unique hospitality to foreign visitors,” it concluded.

The Hotels Association has launched an initiative to return the personal effects of evacuated guests who returned home without their luggage, free of charge, if the hotel they were staying at is a member of the association.

“Today, the island of Rhodes is fully operational, welcoming thousands of visitors daily and soon 100% of the island’s accommodations will be available,” reads a statement by the Association.

This week, Greek authorities announced tougher penalties for arson, with fines to be increased to 10 times the current level. Greece battled 10 major wildfires in July, including blazes outside Athens and on Rhodes, during three successive heat waves, burning more than 500 square kilometres of land so far this year, more than double the annual total in 2022.

Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said details would be announced next month, but added that fines for causing fires deliberately or because of negligent behaviour would match penalties introduced two years ago for the abuse of animals. Those carry a fine of up to 50,000 euros and a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

Also this week, the Sicilian government confirmed that the wildfires that have been burning in recent weeks on the island have been contained, and that tourist sites have already reopened.

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