Rethymno

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The Striking Land

Nature is the Absolute Master: Verdant Vineyards on the Foothills of Psiloritis and African Oasis of the Libyan Sea

“…Crete’s mystery is extremely deep… Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force branching warmly and beneficently through his veins, sensing his soul begin to grow…”

Report of Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis

Crete is the largest island of Greece, one of the biggest of the Mediterranean and a crossroad of the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia lying at the southernmost part of Europe. An island of legendary kings, powerful deities and mythical monsters renowned for its glorious history and its civilizations, its exceptional gastronomy, its distinctive musical tradition and its unique culture and heritage, will go beyond your expectations. The city of Rethymno is the capital city of the prefecture of Rethymno, and it is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval towns of Greece. The old town of Rethymno is a magical world with the Rennaisance era unfolding in front of your eyes through the maze of the labyrinthine alleys; Venetian mansions, Byzantine buildings and Ottoman mosques under the scents of the flowers. Leaving the Venetian atmosphere of the city of Rethymno, the countryside reveals the impressive and wildest side of the prefecture where nature is the absolute master. Deep gorges and flowing streams lying on the foothills of the Mountain of Psiloritis, palm trees spreading in a landscape looking like an African oasis, lush greenery vineyards and forest hiding behind the verdant ravines and endless sandy seashores in the cold waters of the Libyan Sea makes you think that you live in a paralleled universe.

Discover Rethymno

Best of Rethymno

The Capital of Rethymno 

The City of Rethymno is the capital of the prefecture located on the western central side of the island. The city stands on the remnants of the ancient city of Rythimna. Rethymno has managed to combine the modern elements with the aristocratic appearance of the past that creates a unique atmosphere. The old town is built around the Venetian Fortezza with oriental influences of the Ottoman period along with the Venetian and Renaissance architectural style. To this extend, the city of Rethymno is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval cities of Greece. In the heart of the city, one will find the charming Venetian harbor, perhaps the most beautiful spot of Rethymno. The most important monuments of the city include the Municipal Garden, Great Gate and the Mosques, the Rimondi Fountain and the Venetian Loggia, the Fortezza and the Venetian Harbour.

The Archaeological Site of Eleftherna 

The Archaeological Site of Eleftherna is one of the most important archaeological sites of Crete located on the northern side of the prefecture, close to the Monastery of Arkadi. Excavations projects, which continue up until today, have revealed traces of tombs, remnants of sanctuaries and huge cisterns, remains of defensive towers and baths dating back to the Geometrical and Byzantine times. The most important monuments include the necropolis of the Geometric Era and numerous Roman buildings at Orthi Petra, traces from the Roman and Christian Periods at Pyrgi and remnants of an ancient settlement at Katsivelos. The importance of Ancient Eleftherna as an archaeological site, led to the establishment of a museum inside the site.

The Cave of Melidoni 

The Cave of Melidoni is an impressive cave located in the village of Melidoni. The cave consists from successive halls and wonderful stalactites and stalagmites formations. Melidoni cave has a rich historical importance, as it is connected with a tragic historical event. In 1834, the cave was used as a hideout from the women and children of the village as they decided not to surrender to the Turks, and the besiegers set fire to the entrance of the cave causing their death. The main hall of the cave is called Hall of the Heroes, where you will see a monument with the bones of the people who sacrificed their lives for their freedom.

The Fortezza of Rethymno 

The Fortezza of Rethymno is one of the most impressive fortresses of Crete located on the hill of Palekastro in the city of Rethymno. The fortress was built from the Venetians in the 16th century with the intention of fortifying the city against pirate invasions. However, the fortress was conquered for the next three centuries and only the outer fortification remain visible. The Fortezza of Rethymno is visible from every single part of the city offering panoramic views over the entire town. Inside the fortress, there are numerous sights of interest including the Bastion of Santa Maria, the Ibraham Han Mosque, the Church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas and the Theatre of Erofili, which was constructed in the 20th century.

The Monastery of Arkadi

The Monastery of Arkadi is one of the most important cultural, historical and religious monuments of Greece located on the north side of the prefecture, region of Arkadi.  The monastery became the symbol of freedom during the Revolution of Crete in 1866, when the besieged inhabitants sacrificed themselves instead of surrendering to the Ottomans. For this reason, the monastery is protected as a European Monument of Freedom from Unesco. Inside the monastery, there is a museum that displays a rich collection of ecclesiastical manuscripts, gold embroidered vestments, the sacred banner of the revolution, weapons and handwritten codes.

The Palm Forest of Preveli 

The Palm Forest of Preveli is one of the most beautiful places of Crete located on the south side of the prefecture. It is a natural monument of extreme natural beauty with tropical landscapes. Renowned for the amazing beach of Megalo Potamos, Preveli Palm Grove is one of the last genuine havens of the island. The Palm Forest of Preveli is protected as a place of special natural beauty with rich flora and fauna under the European Network of Natura 2000.

The Valley of Amari 

The Valley of Amari is one of the most scenic regions of the central part of the island formed between the Mountains of Kedros and Psiloritis. Amari valley is actually a natural passage from the north to south Rethymno and Messara Plain. The valley is surrounded from dense vegetation of wild flowers, olive groves, cherry trees, apple trees and field of crops of corn, cabbages and lettuces, like the Garden of Eden. Amari is a shelter of a series of rare species of the flora of Crete and it is surrounded from charming villages, old byzantine churches and Minoan settlements.

The Village of Anogia

The Village of Anogia is a mountainous village located on the foothills of Mount Psiloritis on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement is known for its old Cretan dialect and the preservation of their traditions and customs. Anogia is also famous for its rich musical tradition and excellent singers and lyra, the traditional Cretan instrument, players. The village of Anogia is one of the main handicraft and cottage centers of Crete and the woven and embroidered artifacts produced have outstanding motifs. It is advisable to visit one of the workshops. The cultural festival of Anogia takes place every August hosting traditional music celebrations. The neighboring traditional mountainous village of Zoniana is worth a visit along with the imposing cave of Sfentoni.  Anogia is considered to be one of the most authentic villages of Crete.

Archaeological Sites

The Archaeological Site of Apodoulou is located in the valley of Amari. In this village, human presence has been uninterrupted since the beginning of the Minoan Civilization until today. The remnants of this glorious civilization were found in numerous locations around the village. Archaeological excavations brought to light traces of three building complexes dating to the period of the first palaces.  Findings of the projects also include an area of domed tombs from the post palatial period and traces of jewelry, pottery, weapons and inscriptions of Linear A.

The Archaeological Site of Eleftherna is one of the most important archaeological sites of Crete located on the northern side of the prefecture, close to the Monastery of Arkadi. Excavations projects, which continue up until today, have revealed traces of tombs, remnants of sanctuaries and huge cisterns, remains of defensive towers and baths dating back to the Geometrical and Byzantine times. The most important monuments include the necropolis of the Geometric Era and numerous Roman buildings at Orthi Petra, traces from the Roman and Christian Periods at Pyrgi and remnants of an ancient settlement at Katsivelos. The importance of Ancient Eleftherna as an archaeological site, led to the establishment of a museum inside the site.

The Archaeological Site of Lappa is located close to the village of Argyroupolis. Ancient Lappa was an important city that flourished during the Roman times. Excavations have brought to light important findings including Roman Baths, mosaics and statues of Dionysus, Venus and Zeus. Findings from the excavations are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno.

The Minoan Necropolis of Armeni is located eight kilometers away from the southern side of the city of Rethymno. Excavations projects brought to light over two hundred chamber tombs from the Late Minoan era. Key findings uncovered objects of great archaeological value including jewelry, pottery vases, bronze tools, stone vases and inscriptions of Linear A and B. Also, numerous skeletons have been excavated that yield important information for the deirt of the Minoan people. Findings from the excavations are exhibited in the Archaeological Museums of Chania and Rethymno.

Castles and Fortresses

The Fortezza of Rethymno is one of the most impressive fortresses of Crete located on the hill of Palekastro in the city of Rethymno. The fortress was built from the Venetians in the 16th century with the intention of fortifying the city against pirate invasions. However, the fortress was conquered for the next three centuries and only the outer fortification remain visible. The Fortezza of Rethymno is visible from every single part of the city offering panoramic views over the entire town. Inside the fortress, there are numerous sights of interest including the Bastion of Santa Maria, the Ibraham Han Mosque, the Church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas and the Theatre of Erofili, which was constructed in the 20th century.

Churches and Monasteries

The Monastery of Arkadi is one of the most important cultural, historical and religious monuments of Greece located on the north side of the prefecture, region of Arkadi.  The monastery became the symbol of freedom during the Revolution of Crete in 1866, when the besieged inhabitants sacrificed themselves instead of surrendering to the Ottomans. For this reason, the monastery is protected as a European Monument of Freedom from Unesco. Inside the monastery, there is a museum that displays a rich collection of ecclesiastical manuscripts, gold embroidered vestments, the sacred banner of the revolution, weapons and handwritten codes.

The Monastery of Atali is built above the settlement of Bali. It is an impressive monastery offering panoramic views over the Cretan Sea. Built in the 17th century, the architectural style of the monastery belongs to the period of Renaissance. During the revolution of 1821, the monastery operated as a supply center. Inside the monastery, one can wander around the monk cells with its distinctive architecture, the old olive press and the charming courtyard.

The Monastery of Preveli is built in the beautiful natural setting on the western slopes of the Palm Grove of Preveli. The impressive monastic complex comprises from the deserted Lower Monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos and the Back Monastery of Theologos, which is still in operation. During the Ottoman occupation, the monastery played an important charitable and social role since it owned various pieces of land that was donated from the Christians in order to grasp the conquerors while it also served as a shelter for the rebels of the Cretan Revolution. Inside the monastery, one can admire a small ecclesiastical museum that exhibits a rich collection of books, manuscripts and icons.

The Monastery of Timios Stavros Vosakos is built in a plateau between the peaks of the Talean Mountains on the north side of the prefecture. Built in the 17th century, the architectural style of the monastery belongs to the fortified architecture and it is dedicated to Holy Cross. The complex of the monastery is arranged from three wings around the main church and a charming fountain of the 17th century. One of the most beautiful spots of the monastery is the monumental gate with two small rooms on the eastern wing. Inside the monastery, one can there visit the wax workshop, the raki distillery and the open-air wine press. The monastery celebrates in honor of the saint on September 14.

The Nunnery of Agia Irini is built on the foothills of Mount Vrysinas close to the settlement of Agia Irini. Built in the 14th century, the nunnery is considered to be one of the oldest nunneries of Crete and its style belongs to the defensive fortified architecture. The nunnery was awarded with the Prize for Cultural Heritage Europa Nostra from the European Union for the conservation of architectural monuments. Inside the nunnery, the nuns have maintained painting workshops and workshops of embroidery and sewing with the intention of preserving the tradition of Crete.

Museums

The Archeological Museum of Rethymno is housed in the building of the old prison of the city at the gate of the castle of Fortezza.  Exhibits include vessels, bronze tools, gold jewelry and sculptures from the Geometrical, Ancient, Classical, and Hellenistic and Roman times.

The Ecclesiastical Museum of Rethymno is housed in the Cathedral of the city of Rethymno. Exhibits include a collection or rare ecclesiastical items including church utensils, icons and bells.

The Historical and Folklore Museum of Rethymno is housed in a Venetian building in the heart of the town of Rethymno. The exhibition spaces cover five halls with folklore art and traditional handicraft work.  The aim of the museum is to preserve the Cretan folklore culture in cooperation with international organizations and institutions.

The Marine Museum of Rethymno is located at the center of the old town of Rethymno. The museum is dedicated to the marine life of the prefecture. It contains an extensive collection of sponges, fishes and colorful shells.

The Military Museum of Chromonastiri is housed in the Venetian mansion of Villa Claudio at the village of Chromonastiri. The museum exhibits military uniforms, weapons of different eras, medals and historical relics since 1821.

The Museum of Cretan Lyra is located in the city of Rethymno. The museum is connected with the tradition of music of the island. More specifically, the museum exhibits the history of the traditional musical instrument of Crete, the lyra, through an exhibition of a collection of traditional musical instruments. The museum is actually the workshop of Cretan lyra that was founded from the respected lyra player, Manolis Stagakis.

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Rethymno is housed in a Venetian building at the heart of the old town of Rethymno. The museum hosts a permanent exhibition of the work of Lefteris Kanakakis as well as artworks including oil paintings and aquarelles from contemporary Greek Artists.

The Paleontology Museum of Rethymno is housed in the Temple of Mastaba in the town of Rethymno. The museum exhibits a rich paleontological collection of fossils and endemic mammals including dwarf elephants, dwarf hippopotamuses polymorphous deer.

Monuments

The Loggia of Rethymno is one the jewels of the old town of Rethymno. The Venetian building was constructed in the 16th century. The Loggia used to be the meeting place of noble people in order to discuss economic and political issues. Today, the Loggia hosts the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno.

The Mosque of Ibrahim Han is located in the middle of the Fortezza of Rethymno. The mosque was originally a Venetian cathedral dedicated to Saint Nicholas. During the Ottoman occupation, the cathedral was transformed into the mosque of Ibrahim Han. The mosque is closed to the public. However, a series of musical exhibitions in various occasions are hosted inside the mosque.

The Mosque of Neratze, else known as Gazi Hussein Mosque, is found in the city of Rethymno. While it was initially a Venetian church dedicated to Santa Maria, it became an Augustinian Monastery. During the Ottoman occupation, the church was transformed into the mosque of Gazi Housein or Nerantze and an impressive minaret with two galleries was built from the renowned stones from the village of Alfa. The mosque was turned again into a Christian church after the liberation of the island and today it houses the Municipal Odeon.

Natural Beauties

The Cave of Ideon Andron is the legendary birthplace of Zeus located on the eastern mountain slopes of Psiloritis in Nida Plateau. Although the cave has not special geological value, the cultural value is priceless as it is considered to be the birthplace of the greatest god of Ancient Greece. The cave of Ideon Andron has an area of eight hundred square meters that is divided into three chambers along with the sanctuary. The stalactites near the entrance are worth seeing. The cave is accessible through a stone paved trail from the village of Psihros.

The Cave of Sfentoni is one of the best preserved caves of Greece located close to the village of Zoniana. Excavations projects in the interior of the cave have brought to light findings from the Neolithic period. The beautiful cave consists from fourteen chambers with impressive stalagmite and stalactite decorations.

The Cave of Melidoni is an impressive cave located in the village of Melidoni. The cave consists from successive halls and wonderful stalactites and stalagmites formations. Melidoni cave has a rich historical importance, as it is connected with a tragic historical event. In 1834, the cave was used as a hideout from the women and children of the village as they decided not to surrender to the Turks, and the besiegers set fire to the entrance of the cave causing their death. The main hall of the cave is called Hall of the Heroes, where you will see a monument with the bones of the people who sacrificed their lives for their freedom.

The Palm Forest of Preveli is one of the most beautiful places of Crete located on the south side of the prefecture. It is a natural monument of extreme natural beauty with tropical landscapes. Renowned for the amazing beach of Megalo Potamos, Preveli Palm Grove is one of the last genuine havens of the island. The Palm Forest of Preveli is protected as a place of special natural beauty with rich flora and fauna under the European Network of Natura 2000.

The Gorge of Kourtaliotis is one of the most beautiful gorges of Crete. The impressive gorge resembles a tropical lagoon with verdant sceneries of palm trees. The gorge starts from Koxare village and flows between the mountains while it is also crossed from the river of Kourtaliotis that flows up to the Lagoon of Preveli.

The Lake of Kournas is the sole natural lake of the island located close to the village of Georgioupoli. The lake is considered to be one of the most important ecosystems of Crete with a rich flora and fauna and it is protected under the European Network of Natura 2000. The homonymous village is perched on the hill above the lake and it is renowned for its delicious taverns. A visit to the lake is highly recommended! It is interesting to mention that you can ride a pedalo in the summer!

The Lake of Potami Dam is an artificial lake with beautiful scenery located in the verdant valley of Amari. The lake is considered to be one of the most important wetlands for migratory birds in Crete. The surrounding area is ideal for lovers of hiking and bird watching.

The Mount of Kedros is located on the southwest of Psiloritis Range. The mountains are mostly rocky with wild gorges and bare rocks. It has a dry landscape with lush vegetation of wild flowers, tulips and herbs. Due to its high ecological value and rich flora and fauna, Kedros has been declared as a protected area of exceptional biodiversity from the European Network of Natura 2000. The hiking clubs of Crete often organize excursions to this beautiful place.

The Natural Park of Psiloritis is located on the central part of the island. The park is a member of Unesco Global Geoparks Network and the European Geoparks Network. The aim of the park is to conserve the cultural and natural heritage of Psiloritis as well as the sustainable development of the area. The mountain is different from the other mountains of the island with the highest peak of all reaching the 2.456 meters. Snow covers the main mountain chain all year long. Numerous interesting caves and gorges spread between the peaks of the mountain. The north and west part of the mountain is full of large settlements and cultivations while the southern and eastern sides are wilder owing to the vertical cliffs and the steep rocks. The shelters of the shepherds, known as Mitata, are the typical constructions found in the wild landscape of the park. The rich nature of Psiloritis is ideal for agrotourism, hiking and mountaineering activities. Some of the most interesting locations include the Cave of Ideon Andron, the Forest of Rouvas, the Plateau of Nida and the Villages of Anogia and Zoniana. If you plan to explore the mountains and caves of Psiloritis, it is advisable to seek guidance and local guidance from the climbing, hiking and walking clubs of the island. The headquarters of the park are located at the village of Anogia.

The Plateau of Nida is one of the largest plateaus of the island lying in the heart of Psiloritis Mountain. The peaks of the surrounding mountains form spectacular sceneries especially in late spring and early summer. The shelters of the shepherds, known as Mitata, are the typical constructions found in the wild landscape of the plateau. The plateau is accessible through a dirt road starting from the village of Anogia. Inside the plateau, one can visit the birthplace of legendary Zeus, the Cave of Ideon Andron, and the observatory of Skinakas at an altitude of 1.750 meters. Hiking lovers can cross the Gorge of Voriza.

The Valley of Amari is one of the most scenic regions of the central part of the island formed between the Mountains of Kedros and Psiloritis. Amari valley is actually a natural passage from the north to south Rethymno and Messara Plain. The valley is surrounded from dense vegetation of wild flowers, olive groves, cherry trees, apple trees and field of crops of corn, cabbages and lettuces, like the Garden of Eden. Amari is a shelter of a series of rare species of the flora of Crete and it is surrounded from charming villages, old byzantine churches and Minoan settlements.

Promenades & Villages

Anogia is a mountainous village located on the foothills of Mount Psiloritis on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement is known for its old Cretan dialect and the preservation of their traditions and customs. Anogia is also famous for its rich musical tradition and excellent singers and lyra, the traditional Cretan instrument, players. The village of Anogia is one of the main handicraft and cottage centers of Crete and the woven and embroidered artifacts produced have outstanding motifs. It is advisable to visit one of the workshops. The cultural festival of Anogia takes place every August hosting traditional music celebrations. The neighboring traditional mountainous village of Zoniana is worth a visit along with the imposing cave of Sfentoni.  Anogia is considered to be one of the most authentic villages of Crete.

Argyroupolis is a mountainous village located on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement is built on the remnants of the ancient city of Lappa with panoramic views over the surrounding areas. Blessed with verdant vegetation and huge trees, the beautiful village is renowned for its imposing waterfalls and natural springs.  An ideal driving route includes the one starting from Argyroupolis towards the village of Asi Gonia that passes through beautiful landscapes full of verdant vegetation. If you happen to be in the village on April 23, you can attend the festival of Agios Georgios Galatas (the Milkman), a unique custom that is held for the blessing of the sheep where shepherds bring the sheep to the church in order to milk them. One can also visit the village of Agios Konstantinos for the remnants of the Venetian villas, as it served as a resort for the Venetian aristocrats.

Agia Galini is a seaside village located on the south side of the prefecture. The beautiful settlement is built amphitheatrically around the charming harbour. The harbor provides a safe haven for sailboats during the summer. Agia Galini is also known for its delicious fish taverns. There are numerous monuments worth visiting in the wider area including the Roman Gortyna, the Palace of Phaestos, the Monastery of Preveli, the Lagoon of Preveli and the Gorge of Kourtaliotiko.

Axos is a mountainous village located on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement has an authentic atmosphere and a traditional character blessed from the exceptional beauty of the surrounding areas with a rich flora and fauna of orange, maple and olive trees. Axos became quite renowned due to the family of Patelaros, who used to produce agricultural product including olive oil, vinegar, wine and tsikoudia. One can visit the scattered Byzantine churches of the village especially the wall paintings of the church of Agios Ioannis and the exceptional temple of the church of Timios Stavros. Also, it is worth visiting the neighboring traditional village of Zoniana and the imposing cave of Sfentoni.

Maroulas is a mountainous village located on the north side of the prefecture. The charming settlement spreads around an old olive press and fortified towers. It is worth mentioning that the village has managed to preserve its traditional architecture. Built on a hillside, Maroulas overlooks the largest olive grove in the Mediterranean. The village is a typical example of a fortified village scattered with small factories and towers, gates and arches, chimneys and stone houses.

Margarites is a mountainous village located on the north side of the prefecture. The charming settlement has a traditional character with lovely winding alleys well worth exploring. Margarites has been renowned for its pottery since prehistoric times. To this extend, the village hosts an interesting pottery collection that showcases the entire process of pottery making. One can also visit the neighboring village of Tzanakakia, the Cave of Melidoni and the Monastery of Arkadi.

Plakias is a seaside village located on the south side of the prefecture. The beautiful settlement stretches along its charming harbour. Plakias is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages of Crete. With a starting point of Plakias, one can visit the imposing fortress of Frangokastello and the Monastery of Preveli by a short boat trip while lovers of hiking can follow the beautiful trail of Kotsifou Gorge.

Prasses is a mountainous village located on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement has numerous monuments worth seeing including some impressive Venetian mansions and the Venetian aqueduct. The surrounding verdant vegetation and the diversity of nature makes it an ideal destination for lovers of walking. Hiking enthusiasts can follow the route towards the gorge of Prassano. In a close distance from Prasses, one can also visit the traditional village of Mirthios for its panoramic views over the Libyan Sea.

Rethymno is the capital of the prefecture located on the western central side of the island. The city stands on the remnants of the ancient city of Rythimna. Rethymno has managed to combine the modern elements with the aristocratic appearance of the past that creates a unique atmosphere. The old town is built around the Venetian Fortezza with oriental influences of the Ottoman period along with the Venetian and Renaissance architectural style. To this extend, the city of Rethymno is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval cities of Greece. In the heart of the city, one will find the charming Venetian harbor, perhaps the most beautiful spot of Rethymno. The most important monuments of the city include the Municipal Garden, Great Gate and the Mosques, the Rimondi Fountain and the Venetian Loggia, the Fortezza and the Venetian Harbour.

Rousospiti is a mountainous village located on the north side of the prefecture. Characterized as the balcony of Rethymno for its glorious views towards the White Mountains, Rousospiti is one of the few villages with an authentic aura of the Venetian period.  Owing to the high elevation of the settlemnt, Roouspiti is ideal for hiking excursion to the Monastery of Agia Irini and the Mount Vryssinas.

Spili is a mountainous village located on the west side of the prefecture. It is a beautiful settlement that will excite you in the springtime with its colours and perfumes. Due to its mountainous location, the village offers amazing views over the sea. Spili is famous for the production of traditional unique weaving. In a close distance from Spili, one can visit the village of Melambes for its traditional character.

Zoniana is a mountainous village located on the foothills of Mount Psiloritis on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement is known for the preservation of their traditions and customs. The majority of the inhabitants are engaged in agriculture. One can also visit the Cave of Sfentoni and the Iakinthia Festival.

Sunset Spots

Spot: Beach of Triopetra, South Rethymno

Spot: Fortezza of Rethymno, City of Rethymno

Spot: Lighthouse of Rethymno, City of Rethymno

Spot: Monastery of Preveli, South Rethymno

Excursions

Excursion: The Prefecture of Chania is the westernmost prefecture of Crete. The capital of the prefecture is the city of Chania, a city of culture and beauty with an exceptional identity, history and tradition blessed with the finest of Crete. Worshiped by beauty, Chania is encompassed from an endless coastline of sandy beaches of exotic beauty, impressive gorges and secret caves, verdant valleys and flowing rivers covered with olive and citrus trees amongst the green oasis of the mountainous and coastal villages.

Excursion: The Prefecture of Heraklio is the central eastern prefecture of Crete. The capital of the prefecture is the city of Heraklio, the renowned place the Palace of Knossos and the myth of the Minotaur.  Having experienced rich historical momentums of great glory, Heraklio entails a barren landscape with fertile plains and golden sandy beaches adorned from a lovely countryside with charming villages hiding between the verdant vineyards between the lush valleys and plateaus’ retaining their customs and traditions, magical archaeological sites with glorious history, stunning caves and gorges waiting to be discovered.

Excursion: The Prefecture of Lasithi is the easternmost prefecture of Crete. The capital of the prefecture is the city of Agios Nikolaos that spreads around the bay of Mirambello. Agios Nikolaos is an irresistible city where nature, history and tradition blend together in harmony. The natural beauty of Lasithi features landscapes of untouched nature with fertile valleys, numerous caves and gorges and an impressive coastline scattered from archaeological sites, castles, fortresses, churches and monasteries.

Activities

Bird Watching: Rethymno has the perfect environment for thousands native and migratory birds.  (1) The Gorge of Prassano is an important biotope with lush vegetation that serves as a shelter for the last Bearded Vultures of the Balkans. The gorge starts at the village of Prasses and ends at the beach of Platanias. (2) The wetlands of Geropotamos and Agia Galini are also important regions for migratory birds.

Botanical Park: The Valley of Amari is home to a series of charming villages, the Springs of Platis River, the Potami Dam and the fertile valley of Amari with a wide variety of rare plants including the Wild Orchid of Crete.

Bicycling: The countryside of Rethymno is an ideal place for cycling lovers. There are numerous bicycle rentals on the island where you can rent a bicycle and discover the beaches and villages of Rethymno. Discover numerous bicycle routes from the Brochure Of The Official Website Of Crete.

Diving: The varied coastline of Rethymno offers numerous exciting explorations for diving enthusiasts including reefs with rare flora and fauna, underwater caves, old shipwrecks and small isles. The shipwreck of Skorpios, the Cape of Drapano, the Elephant Cave, the Schinaria Reef and the ancient anchors of Bali are amongst the most renowned diving sites. One can find diving centers in the villages of Adelianos, Bali, Platanes and Panormos and Rethymno Town

Driving: The countryside of Rethymno is an ideal place for driving lovers. (1) One of the most challenging routes includes the one of the Gorge of Kotsifou. The road passes through a narrow slit in the mountains. You must really hold on to everything because the car might fly out of your hands. That’s why there is also a warning sign. (2) The Mountain of Asiderota offers an unforgettable driving route, where you can visit the charming villages that surround the mountain overlooking the endless Libyan Sea. (3) Starting from the road of village of Spili follow the road uphill to the mountain of Gerakari; it is a stunning drive with beautiful sceneries.

Hiking: Rethymno hosts numerous paths ideal for lovers of hiking. (1) One of the most beautiful routes is the one passing through the Gorge of Patsos. It is a beautiful gorge with verdant vegetation and running waters ideal for lovers of nature. (2) The Gorge of Kourtaliotis is one of the most beautiful gorges of Crete. It is an impressive gorge that resembles a tropical lagoon with verdant sceneries of palm trees. The gorge starts from Koxare village and flows between the mountains while it is also crossed from the river of Kourtaliotis that flows up to the Lagoon of Preveli. (3) The Mountain Range of Psiloritis is the highest mountain range of Crete, home to the impressive cave of Ideon Andron and the plateau of Nida. You can follow the marked E4 path, which will lead you to the top of the mountain and the charming chapel of Timios Stavros, one of the best views that you will ever witness. (4) Another route ideal for lovers of nature is the route passing through the Gorge of Myli. The wonderful trail starts from the village of Myli and leads to the abandoned settlement of Paleo Myli. Discover more information from the Mountaineering Club of Rethymno.

Mountain Biking: The region of Rethymno provides one of the most interesting opportunities for mountain biking experiences in the beautiful countryside of the prefecture.

Paragliding: Do you love adventure sports? Chania offers numerous tracks for beginners and advanced users of paragliding in order to admire the high view of the nature of Crete. Hold on tight and the direction of the wind wills always blowing on the right way! Recommended areas include the archaeological site of Falasarna, the plateau of Askifou and the lake of Kournas. Discover more information from the Paragliding Center of Crete!

Sailing: Crete is a paradise for sailing enthusiasts. Sailing around the beautiful coasts of the island is fully recommended. Crete has a favorable climate with stronger winds only on its southern side. One can hire a boat with experienced captains and experience the true beauty of Crete from the Venetian Harbour of Chania. Ideal anchorage points include the marina of Agios Nikolaos that is protected from all weather conditions. The marina of Heraklio can accommodate sailboats and yachts up to thirteen meters with mooring berths from the Yacht Club of Heraklio. Must visit spots include the isle of Spinalonga and gulf of Mirabello on the northeast side of Crete and the isle of Gramvousa on the northwest side of Crete.   The Sailing Club of Rethymno rents boats for experienced captains.

Yoga: Are you a yoga enthusiast? Rethymno offers the opportunity to enhance your stay by joining one of the regular yoga classes at the beach of Triopetra.

Beaches

Ammoudi is a beach complex of three consecutive beaches with turquoise waters located on the south side of the prefecture. The beaches of Ammoudi, Damnoni and Klisidi are three beautiful sandy beaches. All of them are well organized with numerous amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas and diving facilities. The beaches offer panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

Agios Georgios is a sandy beach with turquoise waters located on the south side of the prefecture. The beach is rather secluded ideal for those looking for tranquility and isolation. The wild beauty of the southern coast will compensate you.

Agios Pavlos, else known as Akoumiani Gialia, is a charming sandy cove with turquoise waters located on the south side of the prefecture. The bay is engulfed from sandy hills. The incredible beauty of this place will give you moments of serenity.

Bali is a complex of four consecutive sandy beaches with emerald waters located on the north side of the prefecture. These include the beaches of Livadi, Karavostasis, Varkotopos and Kouskouras. All of them are sandy with emerald waters and numerous amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas and taverns.

Episkopi is a long sandy beach with crystal clear waters located on the north side of the prefecture. The beach stretches over an area of ten kilometers and it is an ideal place for those looking for seclusion. Episkopi offers panoramic views over the surrounding areas.

Geropotamos is a sandy cove with turquoise waters located on the north side of the prefecture. The beach owes its name to the river of Geropotamos that flows into the sea. The beach is rather secluded ideal for those looking for tranquility and isolation. The wild beauty of the southern coast will compensate you.

Ligres is a sandy and pebbled beach with crystalline waters located on the south side of the prefecture. It is a rather secluded beach ideal for those looking for tranquility and isolation. Upwards the beach, one will find some delicious fish taverns.

Panormos is a sandy beach with blue waters located on the north side of the prefecture. The beach is well organized with numerous amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas, water sport facilities and taverns.

Perivolia is a long sandy beach with blue waters located on the north side of the prefecture. Owing to its close proximity of Rethymno Town, Perivolia is one of the most popular beaches of Rethymno. It is well organized with numerous amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas, water sport facilities and taverns.

Plakias is sandy beach with blue waters located on the south side of the prefecture. The main beach us well organized with numerous amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas, water sports facilities and beach bars. The eastern coves are preferred from naturists.

Preveli is an exotic beach with fine sand and emerald waters surrounded from a palm tree forest located at the exit of the river and gorge of Kourtaliotis. The beach is one of the most beautiful beaches of southern Crete while it was a favorite destination of hippies during the 1960s. The beach is either accessible by boat from the beach of Plakias or by car from Monastery of Preveli and a short walking route.

Rethymno is the sandy beach with blue waters located in front of the town of Rethymno.  It is the longest beach of Crete. The beach is fully organized with numerous amenities including sunbeds and umbrellas, water sport facilities and beach bars.

Rodakino is a small village located on the south side of the prefecture. The village hosts a series of isolated beaches with panoramic views of the surrounding areas. Korakas is the main long pebbled beach of the area. Other beaches worth visiting include Klimata, Pefkias and Peristeras.

Schinaria is a sandy and pebbled beach with turquoise waters located on the south side of the prefecture. It is one of the most beautiful beaches of the southern coast of Rethymno with soft sand and fine pebbles. The beach is partially organized with a few umbrellas and sunbeds and a diving center. One will also find some taverns.

Souda is a sandy beach with emerald waters located on the south side of the prefecture.  The beach is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas. However, a part of the beach is left unorganized for the lovers of nature.

Triopetra is a sandy and pebbled beach with turquoise waters located on the south side of the prefecture. It is one of the most beautiful and isolated beaches of Crete. Triopetra consists from two beaches separated from a small peninsula of three rocks, thus the name of the beach (Triopetra means three rocks in Greek.). The beach is known for its fantastic sunsets and the yoga facilities.

Coffee Corners, Gastronomic Delights and Cocktails Inspirations

Coffee Corners

Ali Vafi Garden: Coffee, Rethymno Town

Barrio: Coffee, Rethymno Town

Bistro 22: Coffee, Rethymno Town

Cul de Sac: Coffee, Rethymno Town

Traditional Bakery: Bakery, Argyroupoli

Gastronomic Delights

Alana: Greek Cuisine, Rethymno Town

Agios Pavlos: Seafood, Agios Pavlos Beach

Arodamos: Greek Cuisine, Anogia

Apanemia: Greek Cuisine, Triopetra Beach

Aravanes: Greek Cuisine, Thronos

Castelvecchio: Greek Cuisine, Panormos

Faros: Seafood, Agia Galini

Gioma: Greek Cuisine, Plakias

Goules: Greek Cuisine, Goulediana

Kali Kardia: Greek Cuisine, Lake of Kournas

Karavostasi: Greek Cuisine, Bali

Kapilio: Greek Cuisine, Rethymno Town

Knossos: Greek Cuisine, Rethymno Town

Μariou: Cretan Cuisine, Plakias

Onar: Greek Cuisine, Agia Galini

Othonas: Cretan Cuisine, Panormos

Steki tou Sifaki: Cretan Cuisine, Panormos

Tasomanolis: Seafood, Plakias

Thallasografia: Seafood, Rethymno Town

Veneto: Greek Cuisine, Rethymno Town

Zefyros: Seafood, Rethymno Town

Cocktails Inspirations

Fortezza: Cocktails and Drinks, Rethymno Town

Living Room: Cocktails and Drinks, Rethymno Town

Metropolis Society Bar: Cocktails and Drinks, Rethymno Town

Local Products & Specialties

The local products of the island include graviera cheese, wine, raki or tsikoudia, olive oil, and honey.

The local specialties of the island include dakos, a traditional bread with tomatoes, mizithra cheese and virgin oil, boureki, a vegetable specialty, gamopilafo, a dish of risotto boiled with cock and goat, apaki, a dish made of pork meat marinated in vinegar and various herbs, siglino, a dish made of pork meat cut in stripes boiled in a fireplace with various herbs, tsigiaristo, a dish made of lamb meat cooked with oil in a casserole, courgette flowers with rice, hohlioi, a dish of snails cooked in a casserole, squids cooked in wine, myzithropita, a cheese pie made with myzithra cheese served with honey, kalitsounia, a sweet cheese pie, and kserotigana, a pastry with honey.

Events & Festivals

Every July, the Wine Festival of Rethymno takes place at the National City Park. The festival hosts exhibitions of the local producers, traditional folklore music by the local performers, educational and entertaining activities, lectures from speakers, and wine and food tasting for a period of one week.

Every August, the Renaissance Festival takes place at the theater area of Erofili inside the Fortress of Rethymno. The festival hosts a series of theatre and dance performances, and music concerts for a period of two weeks.

Every year, the Rethymno Carnival takes place in the city of Rethymno. The festival hosts a series of cultural events including treasure hunts, fancy dress parties and various competitions.

On Shrove Sunday, a big carnival parade is held at the entire city of Rethymno.

Every August, the Cultural Festival of Anogia takes place in the village of Anogia. The festival hosts a series of special events accompanied from traditional specialties, music and dance.

Every 8th of November, the Commemoration of the Arkadi Holocaust takes place in the Monastery of Arkadi. The event is held in honor of the hundreds of Cretans who died in order to avoid surrendering to the Turks.

History & Mythology

Mythology

According to mythology, Titan Rea gave birth to Zeus in the Cave of Dikteon Andron in Lasithi. Rea decided to give birth inside the cave in order to protect Zeus from his father, Titan Cronus, who used to eat his children to show his authority. Rea tricked Cronus by sending him a rock wrapped in clothes, that he swallowed. After the birth of Zeus, Rea took him to the cave of Ideon Andron in order to raise him with the help of nymph Melissa. Zeus was guarded inside the cave from seven giants, called Kourites, and every time little Zeus was crying the giants were producing a great noise with their swords so that Cronus would not hear it. When Zeus became strong, he released his sisters and brothers from the stomach of his father and eventually claimed the throne.

Another myth is associated with the area of Rethymno. Giant Talos was a giant with a head of a Taurus made of copper from Zeus. Talos resided in the cave of Melidoni and he was protecting the seafront area of the village from the enemies. However, the beauty of Medea made him weak when the ship of Argonauts arrived. Medea removed the nail from his ankles and the giant died. The mountains of Talea were named after him.

History

Archaeological findings show that the prefecture of Rethymno has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The most important historical event of Crete is that it is the birthplace of one of the most important civilizations of the world, the Minoan civilization that was destroyed after the eruption of the volcano of Santorini and the invasions of the Achaeans and the Dorians. Crete fell under the Roman occupation in 69 AD followed from the Byzantine Era and the Arab Occupation, until Nikiforos Fokas signaled the beginning of the Second Byzantine Era in 961 AD.  After the siege of Constantinople in 1204, Crete was given to the Marquis de Monfera, Bonifacio, who sold Crete to the Venetians, who fortified the Arab Castles and founded new fortified cities. However, the position of the Venetians in the East weakened after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and pirate Ulutz Ali attacked the city of Rethymno. Indeed, the city was fortified again from the Venetians and achieved the characteristics of the Renaissance including luxurious public and private mansions, fountains, a central street, a clubhouse and houses for the inhabitants. At that time, Rethymno flourished as an art city while the renowned painter El Greco (Domenicos Theotokopoulos) started his career in this period and other artists from Constantinople came to Crete. Crete was flourishing until the Ottoman occupation in 1645, which led to many changes to the administrative and economic areas as well as the intellectual way of life, and the architectural style of the city of Rethymno until 1898, when the Russian soldiers took up position in Crete. Crete became a part of the Greek State on December of 1913.  During the Second World War, Crete was invaded by the Germans who bombed the city of Rethymno in 1941, followed from an era of intolerable living conditions. Cretans resisted against the German occupation, resulting in an era of misery and poverty. Today, Rethymno is a great cultural and commercial center and a historical monument with a unique and exceptional identity, history and tradition.

Travel & Transport

By Air: Heraklio has an international airport with scheduled flights on an annual basis.  From April to October, there are charter flights from numerous countries of Europe. The journey from Athens usually lasts forty five minutes to one hour. Book your tickets with AirTickets.com!

By Boat (161.5 Nautical Miles): Rethymno is accessible by boat from the harbor of Piraeus. The journey usually lasts twelve hours. Rethymno is also connected with the island of Santorini. Book your tickets with FerriesinGreece.com !

Mysterious Greece Tips

Agrotourism in Crete

Simplicity, harmony, clean air, warm hospitality and relaxed atmosphere. Is that what you are looking for? If yes, you should definitely visit mountainous villages of Rethymno. One of the most beautiful agrotourism lodges of the island is Enagron located in the village of Axos. The lodge organizes indoor and outdoor agrotourism facilities. Discover more information from the Agrotourism Guide of the Official Website of Crete!

As Authentic As It Gets: Anogia Village

The Village of Anogia is a mountainous village located on the foothills of Mount Psiloritis on the central part of the prefecture. The traditional settlement is known for its old Cretan dialect and the preservation of their traditions and customs. Anogia is also famous for its rich musical tradition and excellent singers and lyra, the traditional Cretan instrument, players. The village of Anogia is one of the main handicraft and cottage centers of Crete and the woven and embroidered artifacts produced have outstanding motifs. It is advisable to visit one of the workshops. The cultural festival of Anogia takes place every August hosting traditional music celebrations. The neighboring traditional mountainous village of Zoniana is worth a visit along with the imposing cave of Sfentoni.  Anogia is considered to be one of the most authentic villages of Crete.

Bird Watching at Its Best: Prasses Gorge

Do you enjoy watching birds? Then, the Gorge of Prasses is for you! There, you will have the opportunity to observe the last Bearded Vultures of the Balkans!

Canyoning Adventure: Gorge of Kakoperatos

Are you an adventure lover? Do you want to stimulate you adrenaline? Then, the Gorge of Kakoperatos is for you! Even the name of the gorge that means bad passage, suggests that it cannot be accessed from humans! It is a rugged canyon with eight impressive waterfalls and deep ponds. The gorge is accessible from the village of Agios Vasilios.

Costumes, Lyra, Wax and Wood: One of A Kind Museums

Rethymno has numerous museums one of a kind! The Museum of Cretan Lyra is located in the city of Rethymno. The museum is connected with the tradition of music of the island. More specifically, the museum exhibits the history of the traditional musical instrument of Crete, the lyra, through an exhibition of a collection of traditional musical instruments. Moreover, the Wax Museum of Potamianos is housed in an impressive Venetian mansion at the village of Zoniana. The museum exhibits more than eighty wax models depicting important personalities of Crete including Eleftherios Venizelos, El Greco (Domenicos Theotokopoulos), Nikiforos Fokas and Nikos Kazantzakis along with representations of the Venetian Empire and Krifo Sholio. Also, the Museum of Traditional Greek Costumes of Kate and Andreas Fragiadaki is located in the village of Roustika. The museum is dedicated exclusively to the traditional costumes of Greece. At last, the Museum of Wood is located in the village of Axos. The museum exhibits more than one hundred handmade works of artworks of wooden sculptures in life sizes.

Discover the Hinterland of Rethymno

It is advisable to travel outside the borders of the city in order to discover the beautiful villages of Rethymno!

Explore the Unexplored: Paximadia Isles

The Isles of Paximadia are two uninhabited islands located on the southern coast of Crete off the Libyan Sea. The name of the two islands derives from their shape, which resembles the shape of the rusk, a dry bread of Crete, which is a product of Crete protected from the European Union. One can explore the isles through a short boat trip from the village of Agia Galini.

Find More Information about Crete

If you want to discover the entire island of Crete, it is highly recommended to be advised from the website of Mr. Alexandros Roniotis. He created a wonderful website with information for his beloved island. His main idea was to present a website with information about Crete! The website is CretanBeaches.com.

Hospitable Crete

The inhabitants of Crete are known for their hospitality all over Greece. If you happen to be in a place where locals invite you for a glass of the traditional alcoholic drink of raki, do not reject as they usually take it very personal, and it is kind of an insult! Just say cheers and smile!

It’s Sunset Time

Yes, we do have a section for sunset spots! However, one should also visit the villages of Maroulas, Mirthios and Plakias to enjoy the breathtaking sunset views!

Natural Explorations: The Gorge of Patsos

The gorge of Patsos lies in the heart of the verdant valley of Amari. It is one of the most verdurous gorges of the island easily accessible as it is managed from the Forest Service. The most beautiful attraction of the gorge is the cavernous church of Agios Antonios. From there, you can follow the route to Potami Dam, ideal for bird watching lovers! The rich vegetation and the numerous springs are ideal for natural explorations!

Olives and Oil: Discover the Production of Olive

The family of Paraschakis owns an olive oil factory in the village of Melidoni. It is a one of a kind olive oil factory  that is open to the public! Visitors will have the opportunity to be guided through three different olive oil factories and learn how olive oil was produced in the older days and how olive oil is produced today.

Springs and Waterfalls: Argyroupoli Village

Blessed with verdant vegetation and huge trees, the beautiful village of Argyroupoli is renowned for its imposing waterfalls and natural springs.  An ideal driving route includes the one starting from Argyroupolis towards the village of Asi Gonia that passes through beautiful landscapes full of verdant vegetation!

Southern Crete: Endless Sandy Seashores

The southern coast of the island of Crete is well known for its beautiful pristine beaches. The beaches border with the Libyan sea and it is also an ideal place for lovers of scuba diving and snorkeling!

Worth Visiting Beaches and Villages

As Crete is the biggest island of Greece, the prefecture of Rethymno has an endless coastline of beaches. Some of the most beautiful beaches include Ammoudi, Preveli and Triopetra. However, lovers of exploration can discover a series of other beaches here!  As for villages, Lasithi is covered with “millions of worlds”. The villages of Crete are many and time is limited to discover them all. Some of the most interesting villages and natural beauties include the villages of Anogia, Spili and Zoniana and the natural beauties of the Palm Forest of Preveli and the Gorge of Kourtaliotis, the Cave of Melidoni and the Valley of Amari. However, as everybody has his own tastes, the best way to explore the island is to rent a car and get a map. Drive in the places that captured your attention, and discover new worlds!

Yoga Retreat: Triopetra Beach

Are you a yoga enthusiast? Rethymno offers the opportunity to enhance your stay by joining one of the regular yoga classes at the beach of Triopetra.

Photo Credits

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Note: All the images are copyrighted from their owners. Please see Terms & Conditions. You can find the original images at the following links:

Agios Pavlos beach: Konstantinos Gkoumas by Flickr

Amari Valley: Lefkoritakis by Panoramio

Anogia village: Tango7174 by Wikimedia

Argiroupoli village: Etschi Bruckner by Panoramio

Chapel of Timios Stavros: Hubert J by Flickr

Fortezza: Dimitris Sotiropoulos by Flickr

Fortezza of Rethymno: Shutterstock

Gorge of Kourtaliotis: Jan van Oosthuizen by Panoramio

Gorge of Patsos: Jason Porter by Flickr

Maroulas Village: Bert Kohlgraf by Panoramio

Monastery of Arkadi: Theofilos Papadopoulos by Flickr

Prasano Gorge: Scoand by Panoramio

Preveli Lagoon: Mysteriousgreece

Psiloritis Mountain: Enagron.gr 

Rethymno: Spyros Papaspyropoulos by Flickr

Sfentoni cave: Black Shutter by Panoramio

Shinaria Beach: Petrock by Panoramio

Spili village: Tango7174 by Wikimedia

Triopetra beach: Kirill by Flickr

Zoniana village: Tango7174 by Wikimedia