The prefecture Rethymno is situated between the 2 highest mountain ranges on Crete, the Lefka Ori, (White Mountains) and Psiloritis (Ida Mountains)
With 85,160 inhabitants (at the latest count), it’s the 3rd largest prefecture on Crete. Although tourism is the main activity, historically Rethymno has always been associated with agriculture; most important of course is the olive sector, but also live-stock breeding. You’ll find yourselves driving or walking through the millions of olive and fruit trees, from avocado to oranges and grapefruits.
Rethymno city is the 3rd largest on the island and we see it as a smaller copy of Chania. It has a picturesque Venetian harbour, the ‘Old Town’ with its narrow streets with shops and restaurants and several museums. The biggest is the “Fortezza” the Venetian Fortress situated prominently high on a rock overlooking the city. Within its walls is the Erofili theatre which the main venue for events during the Summer Arts Festival. The old town has many small boutique hotels, but the majority of the tourist visiting Rethymno will be staying at the larger resort hotels to the East of the city, along one of Crete’s longest sand beaches; like Platanes, Adele (Adelianos Kampos) and Pigi (Pigianos Kampos). They are about 3-11 Km away. Many day visitors come to enjoy this charming city which has a central position on Crete and is an excellent location for excursions and daytrips by car.
The Monastery Arkadi lies 21 Km east from Rethymno in the mountains. It played a significant part in the liberation of Crete that resulted in the reunification with Greece. It was here that over 700 women, children and monks chose death above being a prisoner of the Turkish occupier. In 1866 the abbot Gabriel ordered his ammunition chief Konstantinos Giamboudakis to give fire to the last barrels of dynamite and this holocaust warned the rest of Europe to help the Cretans in their struggle for freedom. Today the Monastery is a place that many visitors choose in their program; from Rethymnon in the summer there are daily trips with the charming Yellow train.
Let’s go south... and introduce the tourist resort Plakias. Here we find “a special taste” on Crete. Smaller hotels, pensions with studios and apartments, luxury villas, the most southern youth hostel of Europe and beautiful beaches, even some nudist. It’s the Nr.1 walking area of the island. Nearby are interesting sites like Prevelli monastery, the Palm Beach, Pappas Michaelis museum, the Koutaliotiko gorge, the mountain Timeos Stavros. Places nearby are Rodakino, a much more remote resort, but maybe you like a holiday without too much “hustle and bustle”. East of Plakias is the lovely tourist resort Agia Galini. Surely a very nice place for shopping and dining, the beach here is clean and sandy but not very big. There are transfer boats to superb sandy beaches nearby, like Agios Georgios, Agios Pavlos and Triopetra. Also daily services to Palm beach Prevelli. The village offers plenty of accommodations in small hotels and pensions. More secluded places are in Triopetra, Agios and Lygaria beach.
A special area for us is the Amari valley, which is worth a day tour with your car or motor bike. On the way there are plenty of old traditional villages, churches & monasteries, but above all a beautiful country side, with nowadays 2 artificial lakes. The first one is at Vizari and supplies the area, with farming water. The new one is at Potamon which will supply Rethymno with drinking water. Nearby is a spectacular gorge named St.Antony of Patsos, where you should make a lovely relaxed walk of about 2 hours.
We must reveal our favourite village; it’s Panormo 25 Km. from Rethymno, towards Heraklion along the North coast. Here you’ll find a good combination of an old fishermen’s village with limited tourism. Even the big powerful hotel chains were forced to build their premises on the outskirts of the village. From the harbour you can make adventure activities like sailing with a captain.
On the slopes of Crete’s highest mountain we find a very traditional area with villages like Margarites, for pottery craft, Zoniania with impressive caves, Anogia for embroidery works and Axos with a new wood art museum that you shouldn’t miss on Crete.