Rethymnon Travel Guide - Island of Crete - Greece
Located between the popular regions of Heraklion and Chania, Rethymno keeps a lower profile in tourist development. Apart from some beaches in the northern side, the rest of the region remains off the beaten track even in high season. As it is not as popular as Chania and Heraklion, the region of Rethymno has more quiet and relaxing places. Bali, Adelianos Kampos, Panormos and Platanias are the most tourist developed beach places on the northern side, while Agia Galini and Plakias on the southern side are great family places for privacy. Holidays in Rethymno can be cosmopolitan or totally remote, depending on your preferences. A drive around will also bring you to important historical sites and places of natural beauty. Moreover, Rethymno combines rarely united features: the old town's charm and history, with proximity to a long sandy beach.
Rethymno Town is the capital and the commercial centre of the prefecture of Rethymno located 80 km east of Heraklion and 60 km west of Chania. It counts on 20,000 inhabitants most of whom are engaged in trade and tourism. The beautiful town of Rethymno stands on the site of the ancient city of Rythimna that many excavations have revealed. The town combines an old time aristocratic appearance with a modern aspect, captivating all visitors with its traditional layout and rich cultural heritage. It's a place that moves slowly, a very romantic plade and the most important preserves much of its Venetian and Turkish appearance.
The old town is built around the impressive Venetian fortress Fortezza and it retains its elegance and unique architecture. Venetian fortification works mingle harmonically with the Hellenic and Roman remains, the municipal gardens, orthodox and catholic churches, mosques, the Turkish fountains, majestic mansions of Venetian architecture, arches and cobbled paths which create a magical atmosphere, reminiscence of the city’s turbulent –yet glorious– past.
The modern town of Rethymno offers a vast range of tourist facilities and lies around the natural bay. There you will find many seaside taverns, restaurants and local shops on the busy waterfront. In the heart of the town lies the picturesque Venetian port, the most romantic spot in Rethymno. The Venetian Loggia today houses the information office of the ministry of culture. The Wine Festival is held there annually at the beginning of July. Apart from all the spots that show Rethymno's history and charm, the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno is also an interesting place for someone to visit. One can get a map of Rethymno Town on the official site of the Municipality of Rethymno: https://www.rethymno.gr/en/city/maps.
Agia Irini - Agia Irini Monastery (nunnery)
For really sublime views over Rethymno and surrounding areas, including dramatic sea vistas, head uphill following signs to Agia Irini. On the way, after a little over a kilometer and a half, stop at a church above you on the right – there is a driveway up to it, though the gate for cars is often locked you can still walk up, see the church and enjoy this magnificent viewpoint. Continue on to Agia Irini monastery (nunnery) and a quiet, tranquil visit is there for you. It was founded in 981 and it is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. It was completely destroyed by the Turks at 1896 and it was restored on 1989.
Seven km outside Rethymno, to the south, up on the hills, it is an idyllic one-day tour for those who like to walk in the country. A real paradise, a place of purifying harmony, beauty and peace, the splendor of nature. A walk to another world, unspoiled and uplifting, untouched from progress or tourism, in the green, between trees and plants, along little steams, under the songs and sounds of many kind of birds. Old and now deserted watermills, along the stream, were supplying Rethymno with flour during the last centuries, giving the name to the old and the new settlements. Taking Theotokopoulou street, passing from Evligias hill, with the pine tree forest, the road comes to the Nunnery of Agia Irini. 2 km after, there is the new village of Mili from where you can get down to Mili gorge and the old settlement. Taking the gorge to the end, it leads back to the coast of Rethymno.
Originally built in the 14th century and re-built in the 16th century, it is located in an attractive hill, 23 km south-east of Rethymno. In the center of the complex stands the Byzantine church. It is well known as one of the most important centers of the Cretan resistance against the Turkish occupation and a symbol of fight for freedom. In November 1866 the Turks sent 15000 men to besiege the monastery. After two days siege and when the entrance was bombed by the Turkish canons, Cretans chose not to surrender and set fire to the store of gun powder, blowing themselves up. Shot and sword marks can be seen on the door, walls and the table inside the refectory. Monastery, ossuary and museum open daily. A festival is held there on 7-8th of November in memory of the destruction of Arkadi Monastery.
Arkadi and Preveli monastery are two of the major monasteries of Crete and amongst its most sought and visited - both medium distance outings.
Anogia is considered as one of the most attractive, picturesque mountainous villages of Crete. It stands at an altitude of 750 metres on Mount Psiloritis, the highest mountain of Crete, and about 50 km east of Rethymno Town. Due to its secluded location, the village retains its strong authentic character, the local customs, traditional costumes and its old Cretan dialect. The village was burned by the Turks during the Ottoman occupation and, in 1944, German forces destroyed every building except the church and killed all the men in Anogia as a payback for the kidnapping of the German General Von Kreipe by the local resistance fighters. Worth-visiting is the 12th century church of Saint John, with its beautiful frescoes and icons. The village of Anogia is one of the major handicraft and cottage industry centres of Crete and the woven and embroidered articles produced have superb motifs which are unique to the village. It is interesting to visit one of the many workshops open to the public and observe articles being woven on large looms. Birthplace of the famous Cretan singer and composer Nikos Xilouris, Anogia has a great musical tradition and many excellent singers and lyre (a local instrument called lyra in Greek) players are originated from here. Some are still living in the village and can be heard playing during the cultural festival of Anogia in mid-August. Many traditional cafes and taverns can be found in the narrow streets of Anogia.
From this charming village one can enjoy some nice excursions such as a visit to the Minoan Palace of Zominthou, the cave of Ideon Adron, an ancient place of worship and where according to mythology Zeus grew up, the mitata on Mount Psiloritis, and, during the winter, the ski center.
Apart from all the beautiful, traditional villages of Rethymno, 28 km on the west of Rethymno town is a very beautiful lake surrounded by The White Mountains with a wonderful scenery. It is actually the only sizable lake in Crete, with eating places along its edge, and cafes above from which to gaze at the view. Enjoy the lake itself in a paddle boat (at last, some fun for the kids!).
BEST BEACHES OF RETHYMNO
A sample of the best beaches of Rethymno can be found below:
Préveli is a magnet on the south coast of Crete and famous to all visitors of the island. The area hosts two monasteries (Kato Moni and Piso Moni) and a beautiful beach with palm trees that is also called Palm Beach. The distance from Rethymnon is 38 kilometers with a journey time of about 45 minutes. The palm grove and beach of Preveli are at the end of the Kourtaliotiko gorge. The last part of the gorge is about three kilometers long, and halfway here there is a small stream flowing from Megalo Potamos into the Libyan Sea. A must visit when in Rethymnon!
Triopetra is an unknown paradise on Crete, located in the area between Agia Galini and Preveli, on the south coast of the Rethymnon department. Abandoned sandy beaches, a few tavernas, and apartments and that’s all there is. The water is wonderfully clear. There are beach beds and at the tavernas are showers. The road is narrow, but paved, with beautiful views. Triopetra can be reached by car within an hour from Rethymnon city. The name Triopetra owes the beach to the three large rocks rising out of the sea, giving the beach its own special characteristic.
Far away from mass tourism in a small quaint town, you will find Plakias on the south coast of the Rethymnon prefecture. For peace seekers a real must. The elongated sandy beach is one of the largest in the south of Crete. This beach is great for surfing too, since it can get really windy . Some of the smaller pieces of the Plakias beach are also used by naturists. The nearby village of Plakias offers lots of tourist facilities.
Livadi is a small fishing village on the Akrotiri peninsula in the northwestern part of Crete. Chania is about 15 kilometers to the south. Livadi has a 60-meter-long sandy beach, which is beautifully situated in a wide bay. The clear water is very shallow, and the beach is well protected from waves. It is perfect for holidays with young children. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas on the beach. There are also changing rooms and toilets. You can park on the street nearby. Right next to the main beach is a smaller sandy beach.