travel zone

Rethymno

Rethymno, besides my father's hometown, is the smallest province of Crete that lies between Iraklio and Hania. Even though the town of Rethymno is just the third largest of Crete, it is known as the intellectual capital of the island. Hmm. When I lay out details like that it sounds boring, doesn't it? Well, let me try another way. What about questions and answers?

crete map - rethymno map

Rethymno Hotels

If you search for accommodation in Rethymno I recommend you to visit Rethymno Hotel Online Bookings. There, you can make your reservations directly to the hotels and find rooms in low prices and useful guest reviews.


Why do people choose Rethymno?


island of crete - traditional man

First of all, choosing Rethymno for your vacation means choosing Crete, but I'm not going to get into so many details. Crete is a popular island for a reason. Actually, lots of them: because it's big so everyone can find what they want, because it's genuinely Greek but its Cretan uniqueness is obvious, because, because, because. That's not the point though, is it? If you're looking at this section, that means you've already chosen Crete and you're thinking about making Rethymno your holiday base. So, basically, people choose Rethymno as their base for two reasons: firstly, because they like the environment it offers; still divided into the old and new towns, Rethymno is painted Venetian underneath and history has caressed it in ways that the changes of the present can't outbalance; and secondly, because of its location. With Minoan sites to the east and beaches to the west, all in reasonable striking distance, Rethymno is basically ideal as a base for your vacation.



What does Rethymno look like?


crete rethymno - hellenic roman fountain

Well as I mentioned above, Rethymno is a popular place because of its environment. The Venetian influence is still apparent in the houses, the mansions, the alleys. The oldest monuments of Rethymno are Venetian.

Anyway, Rethymno is essentially a rural town with the comforts of an over-crowded city and the beauties of a developed village. Stone-paved, labyrinthal alleys and catwalks, aristocratic buildings dating from the 16th century, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, these are the things that characterize Rethymno, the things you will find.

It may not fit, but let me make a personal comment at this point: you will like Rethymno from the moment you see it, I'm positive. It's a beautiful town that has developed enough but not too much and has thankfully kept the parts that make it special and, honestly, I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't like it. It's just too good to be ignored. Not so much information in this paragraph, huh? Just a personal opinion. Let's move on to the next question, then.




What are the places I should visit in Rethymno?


That's going to take a while for me to answer. You see, Rethymno may be the smallest province of Crete, as I already stated at that momentary cold information-only speech of mine, but that means nothing. It's still a big place, full of opportunities. Let us leave the archaeological sites aside, since I'm going to refer to them in the following question and let us stick to the. other kinds of sites.

island of crete - moni arkadiou monastery

Moni Arkadiou is the first thing that comes to mind. The Arkadi Monastery was founded in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 17th. Strategically positioned, this old Venetian-style monastery was built by an unknown monk probably named Arkadios (hence the name) and can be found 4km after leaving Rethymno. But what is it that makes it so special? Well, the story that it has to tell. See, Moni Arkadiou was the place where once upon a time in the 19th century Koroneos chose to store the gun powder due to its fort-like shape. When the rebels hid in the monastery, the Turks demanded that the Abbot hand them over and he refused. That resulted in them attacking the Moni on November 7th, 1866. Two days later, they managed to breach the monastery walls and Abbot Gabriel set fire to the gun powder in order to not surrender, thus killing 826 Turks and Greeks, along with himself of course. Quite a story, huh? And you know, you can visit the powder room, too. Also, there is an archaeological museum that contains pictures of the heroes of 1866. Just be warned that due to its sad history, the Moni has a slightly moody atmosphere.


crete rethymno moni preveli monastery

Moni Preveli, 14km east of Plakias (don't worry, I'll refer to it too, later), has a bit happier tale to tell. Dating from the 18th century and still well-maintained, Moni Preveli is the place where Abbot Tsouderos began to collect arms during 1866. No, wait - yeah, it was Moni Preveli, the lower half, specifically, that is known as Kato Preveli and is abandoned now. Anyway, the Turks found out about the arms soon and they came to destroy the monastery. But the Abbot, instead of resisting, welcomed them in and got them so drunk that they fell asleep and the monks were able to flee before they woke up and did what they had come to do.

In Piso Preveli, the 'back' monastery, you will also find the fountain with the famous Byzantine palindrome "Ni[ps]on anomimata mi monan o[ps]in", which means "Cleanse your sins, not only your face". Unfortunately, the original Byzantine church was demolished by the monks in the 1830s, after the Turks kept refusing them permission to make repairs, but some of the furnishings, like some 17th century icons and a piece of the True Cross, were thankfully preserved. Also, in the museum of Moni Preveli you will find a candelabra presented by grateful British soldiers after the war.

crete - prasano gorge

Next: the Prasano Gorge. The Prasano Gorge, one of the most beautiful gorges in Crete, dries up between mid-June and mid-October so these are the months that you can visit it. It will take you up to five hours (or at least that's how long it took me) and you should wear sturdy shoes and bring water with you. Other than that, just enjoy viewing the plane trees, olives, cypresses and rhododendrons!

Let me think, did I forget anything? Hmm, yeah, there are a couple of villages that are worth visiting. Like Agia Galini, an old fishing village that, if I'm not mistaken, also has a beautiful (and popular) beach nearby. Or Plakias, a once tranquil fishing village that has now become a retreat for adventurous backpackers. Or like Spili, which also happens to be my father's hometown-village-whatever. Spili is a breath-taking farming village that has developed nicely. At night, it turns into a big park since no cars are allowed to drive through its stroll-friendly main road. Its main attraction is the "Lions", a long fountain that consists of more or less 19 Venetian lionheads from which fresh water flows and splashes. Spili is also near the beaches of Agia Paraskevi and Agios Pavlos.

Oh, don't forget to visit Amari and the archaeological museum of Rethymno. The province of Amari consists of two valleys, prime walking and touring territories. I never visited it myself but I've only heard good comments from people who have. As for the archaeological museum, air-conditioned and beautifully arranged, it has a lot of charming pieces that make it worth visiting. It won't take you much time either.




What are the archaeological sites of Rethymno?


crete rethymno - fortezza castle

I will be honest with you. While Rethymno is perceptibly a town of history, it's not like Iraklio. What does that mean? Well, Iraklio has Knossos and Phaestos, the two major attractions of Crete. Rethymno doesn't have anything as spectacular or as significant. But it does have a couple of places you should see and, you know what? It's just next to Iraklio and the distance is nondescript, so you shouldn't be the least discouraged.

Let's start with the Fortezza. Right where the temple of Artemis Roccaea used to be, on Rethymno's acropolis, is where you will find this beautiful Venetian fort. The Venetians were actually the ones to force the locals to build the fort over the temple. The Fortezza is one of the largest and well-preserved Venetian castles in Greece - it's in fact big enough for the entire population of Rethymno! It also offers good views and the church and a mosque inside it survive intact.

 crete - rethymno museum

Other than the Fortezza, four are the archaeological (or historical) sites you should visit. None of them is as important as the Fortezza, but they all are worth your time.


A Late Minoan III cemetery that was discovered near Armeni is a good place to start. Unusually large, it includes some 200 chamber tombs and under-ground chambers. In order to see the grave goods though, you will have to visit the Rethymno museum. Well, I told you you should visit it, now you have one more reason why, other than my words. By the way, the museum is closed on Mondays.


The rest are the Rimondi Fountain, a lion-headed fountain built in 1629 by Avise Rimondi (hence the name, obviously), the Neradzes Mosque, built within the walls of the former church of Santa Maria and Loggia, a typical Renaissance monument built by the Venetians in the mid 16th century. All of them are impressive, but none is as spectacular as, say, the Fortezza or the palaces of Knossos and Phaestos. But then again, what can compare to these, right? The Rimondi Fountain is near the finest buildings of Rethymno, by the way.






Are there any beaches?


It's a fact that Crete is not famous for its beaches. Most of them, while their waters are always crystal-clear and fresh, just have something that will ruin your mood a bit. It may be the fact that they become deep a bruptly at some point; or that there are algae. But luckily, there are a few beaches in Rethymno that will hold no unpleasant surprises for you. One of them is Preveli Beach, one of Crete's most photographed and popular beaches. Damnoni Beach is ideal if you like crowds. And then there's Agia Paraskevi and Agios Pavlos that I mentioned above, near Spili.

crete rethymno - beach crete rethymno - beach




Where will I eat?


crete - traditional restaurant

Well, Rethymno is big, there are places, just search around and. I'm kidding! Of course I'm going to tell you my secrets! Let's begin with "Taverna Pontos", shall we? I'll say it and say it again, only my grandmother (God rest her soul) cooked so magnificently. The best Cretan food you'll ever taste you will find there, on Melissinou Street.

Now don't spend all your days in Taverna Pontos, just because I really liked it! There are a lot of other restaurants that might excite you more, like "Kyria Maria", on E. Fotaki Street, a traditional restaurant well worth a meal. "Vasilis", on Nearhou Street, has been recommended to me, even though I myself h ave not visited it. And Avli is not only one of the prettiest restaurants (as its name, "the Garden", states) but with great Mediterranean dishes. You will find it on Xanthoudidou Street. Then there's Samaria, on Eleftheriou Venizelou Street, with a wide range of mayirefta including vegetables from the owner's own plot (or that's what we were told). Taverna Castelvecchio George has a great atmosphere and lovely fish dishes, on Himarras Street, just under the fort.


What about Rethymno's nightlife?


island of crete - nightlife

Well, what do you mean when you say 'nightlife'? Oh, don't worry, I'm not trying to imply something. Of course a town like Rethymno would offer lots of choices! Just. what is it you are looking for? Traditional, Cretan music? If so, "Gounakis Bar" on Koronaiou Street is just the place for you. Live Cretan folk music and cheap wine, that's what Gounakis Bar is all about. But if you're looking for something more modern. well, you'll have to be specific. "Notes" on Himaras Street is a quiet bar-caf that plays Greek music. "Fortezza Disco" has a more international crowd and mostly attracts the young. Dimman Music Bar on Paleologou and Katsoni attracts the young as well. Baja on Salaminas Street is a popular bar that has a Greek and international music mix. As for Kastro, on the same street, it plays Greek music only every night. So, just choose what you want and be sure you will find it.


OK, how will I get to Rethymno?


Unfortunately, Rethymno doesn't have an airport, so if you're coming from abroad you're going to have to be prepared for an extra distance. Luckily, Rethymno is next to Hania and Iraklio, where the two main airports of Crete are, so that distance won't be that big. From where you will come depends on you and the program you've come up with solely. The flights are more frequent to Iraklio, though. If you're in Athens, you should definitely consider coming by boat. Not only will you have less trouble since Rethymno has a port (although it will take longer to get there, since it's a ship, you know), but your trip will also be quite enjoyable. There are day and night trips that last from 6 to 10 hours, depending on the ship, but the ones going to the Rethymno port are usually slower.

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