Crete’s smallest prefecture located between White Mountains and Mt Psiloritis (also called “idi”), is synonymous with gorgeous mountainscapes, marvellous beaches, Cretan lyre melodies, tsikoudia spirit served with “ofto”, legendary caves, historic monasteries and monuments, traditional mountain villages and luxurious holiday resorts. Feel the essence of Mythical Crete in this mountainous, remote and self-sufficient region of the island of Crete.
The city of Rethymno is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Greece: Venetian fortification works mingle harmonically with orthodox and catholic churches, mosques, grand mansions of Venetian architecture, arches and cobblestone streets they all create a wondrous atmosphere.
Rethymno’s outstanding natural wealth is reflected on Mt. Psiloritis, which dominates the eastern part of the region, the most mountainous part on the island. The variation of the landscape will impress the nature enthusiasts: flourishing valleys succeed harsh mountainscapes and rocky shores follow long sandy beaches. Steep gorges, leafy valleys, small rivers cutting through the mountains, wild life refuges and forty canyons complete the picture. Unique wonders of nature will take your breath away:
• Lagoon of Preveli: At the point where river Meyalos Potamos (“Big River”) flows into the sea and “Kourtaliotis” gorge ends lie the famous Preveli Lagoon and “Palm beach” (“Finikas”), a sandy cove with a small date-palm grove. To get there you have to follow the road to the Monastery of Preveli. Shortly before the monastery a track on your left leads down to a parking place. From this point onwards walk down to the sandy beach, where a remarkable, almost tropical landscape awaits you. The river flowing into the sea combined with the rich vegetation creates a magnificent sight. Don’t miss it!
• The Nida Plateau is located 79km far from Rethymno, on Mount Psiloritis. Here, major attractions are “mitata”, vaulted stone huts where the shepherds live. The Plateau provides also skiing facilities during wintertime.
• Argyroupoli: 27km far from Rethymno you will find Argyroupoli, a village built on the remnants of the ancient city of Lappas. Numerous springs, the cave and the chapel bearing the same name are all well worth a visit.
• Gorges of extraordinary beauty traverse the mountains of the region: the ravine of Kourtaliotis, 3km long, ends at the famous Lagoon of Preveli; the ravine of Kotsifou starts from the village of Kanevos and ends near the village of Sellia; the gorge of Patsos, in the Amari district; the gorge of Prasses, which ends at the village of Platanias at the north coast east of the town of Rethymno; finally, the gorge of Arkadi and a number of smaller ones.
• The mountains of the region are exceptionally rich in caves. The most famous caves are those of Gerani, Simonelli west of the town of Rethymno, ayios Antonios in the district of Amari, Melidoni, Mougri Sisson and Sfendoni near the village of Zoniana. The cave of Ideon andron, in which Zeus was raised according to mythology, represented an important place of worship in both the Minoan and the Roman periods.
Important archaeological finds indicate that the area have flourished from the Stone Age up until the Roman and Early Christian periods. Minoan and Geometric sites, cemeteries, Roman cities and Hellenistic relics have been discovered, most important of which are considered to be Eleftherna, an ancient settlement inhabited until the 8th century, as well as Armenon cemetery with more than 350 underground tombs. Ecclesiastic monuments like stone chapels on Mt Psiloritis, historical monasteries and early Christian Basilicas enrich your visit on the island. A monastery of great historic importance is the 15th century Arkadi Monastery overlooking the imposing gorge and Preveli. Set off on a journey back to time through your visit to traditional settlements like adele, Anoyia, Rustika, Garazo and Chromonastiri and feel their original Cretan atmosphere.
Here you can taste delicious local culinary delights, like goat cooked with tomatoes, hilopites (home made pasta) and snails with vegetables –always accompanied with a shot of local tsikoudia!
Visit Rethymno in the summer and bask on its sun soaked beaches. Magnificent sandy beaches await the beachgoers on the north coast (at the Cretan Sea) as well as on the south coast of the island (at the Libyan Sea). Some of them are:
• Rethymno Beach: Organised sandy beach more than 20 km long, stretching from Rethymno town across the east side of the area.
• Panormos: This coastal village is situated 20 km east of Rethymno. It boasts an organised beach with many tavernas and hotels.
• Bali: Nestling in the surrounding mountains of the Bali bay you will find the coastal village of Bali, 34 km east of Rethymno. Choose one of the small islets and enjoy sun bathing at organised beaches.
• Plakias: The village of Plakias is situated 40 km south of Rethymno. This resort boasts a superb sandy beach and a well-organised tourist infrastructure including water sport facilities.
• Ayia Galini: situated 58km south of Rethymno, the resort offers a well-organised tourist infrastructure and crystal clear beaches hidden on the surrounding islets.
• Preveli beach: The beach of Preveli or “Palm Beach” (Finikas) is situated at the southern coast of Crete, 40 km far from Rethymno. The palm-tree background and the small lagoon turn this smooth sandy beach into a truly unique exotic place!
Don’t forget to visit Rethymno during the summer months to attend two fascinating events only to be found here: the famous “Renaissance Festival” invites you to become protagonists, co-creators and co-travellers in an enchanting trip through time where music and theatrical expression prevail. Almost all performances take place at the “Erofili” theatre in Fortezza. The “Wine Festival”, on the other hand, welcomes wine producers, wine aficionados and culinary enthusiasts to a pan Cretan event of culture, gastronomy, wine tasting, entertainment and fun!