Rethymno constitutes the heart of Crete and the most well-preserved Renaissance cities of Greece. Its history is dated 4500 years ago with the boom of Minoan Civilization, while today there are several Venetian monuments as well as building interventions that took place during the Turkish occupation of the island.
In the town you can find numerous houses with gardens full of flowers and traditional shops where you can drink your coffee and enjoy the Cretan cuisine. The city of Rethymno gives you an alternative choice as regards the tourism sector of the island, thanks to the warm and hospitable behavior of local people, but mainly the calm and relaxed atmosphere that prevails in the whole city.
The old Venetian port of Rethymno constitutes the main attraction of entertainment and night life for the local people and the visitors. During the summer period, the fish taverns dominate in every corner of the port and offer unique viands and unforgettable taste experiences, while the well-preserved facade of the buildings make the difference for the island’s visitors. Moreover, vessels, ships and smaller sailing boats are moored in the port, while some of them are wooden and perform short itineraries to nearby beaches, reminding us nostalgic periods.
On the contrast, during the winter, many cafes and bars play a central role in this area, where the remaining tourists and students savor their coffee and enjoy themselves until the early morning hours, escaping from the daily routine. Finally, we should mention the Venetian citadel of Fortezza, which includes bastions, churches, an old Ottoman mosque and an open-air theater. Each year cultural events take place in this theater.
The Great Gate is the unique fortification that is preserved until today, while the Rimondi fountain in Petihaki square constitutes a typical example of the Venetian architecture. Traditional coffee houses, taverns and cafes exist In this area and the church of Santa Maria distinguishes among others, because of the imposing domes and the extension of the tallest minaret in Rethymno, when it was transformed to the old Neratze Mosque during the Ottoman period. At a short distance there are unique exhibits of the Folklore Museum, which is decorated with the sign “VIRTUTE FULCIDA DOMUS. MDCIXKAL. JUNII” which is translated as follows “Virtue makes this house shine, first days of June 1609”.
On the other hand, the church of Saint Francis with its chapels are full of visitors each year, because it operates as an exhibition center. We leave behind the city of Rethymno and we move to the inland, where the well-known Arkadi Monastery is located. The Arkadi holocaust took place there during the Cretan Revolution and it became a landmark of the Cretan Struggle, leading to the Sultan’s grant of an organic law for the island’s Christians in 1868. The Archaeological Museum of Eleftherna is located in the northeastern part of the monastery, at a distance of approximately 7km and on a journey of 10 minutes. The museum comprise 2000 m2 of space and hosts thousand years old funeral findings and other items dated from the Archaic, Hellenistic and Byzantine periods.
Beyond the historical monuments of the prefecture, the small town of Anogeia is of a great importance and has benefited from the tourism development. Thanks to its high altitude and climate, Anogeia is the ideal winter destination for the tourists, providing at the same time access to the houses of important Cretan artists (for example Nikos Xilouris) as well as the churches with frescoes dated from the 12th century. The Cave of Zeus (Idaion Andron) is located on the slopes of Idi plateau and constitutes a tourist attraction for the visitors. According to the Greek mythology, Zeus grew up there, protected by the Kouretes.
Some of the most famous and organized beaches are situated in the north coastline of Rethymno prefecture. Each beach is connected with distinctive hotel installations in order to cover all the needs and there is as well the possibility of participating in different water sports. Among others, we can distinguish the cosmopolitan village of Bali with its beautiful bays, caves and the green water of its sandy beaches as well as the village of Panormo with Limanaki beach which is ideal for calm and affordable excursions.
On the other hand, there are some magnificent beaches in the south part of the island. These beaches remain almost unspoiled as regards the human factor and offer unique moments of relaxation and privacy. Moreover, Preveli beach is a typical example of an earthly paradise that combines the salt water of the Mediterranean sea with the fresh water of Kourtalioti river and the small palm forest.
At a short distance you can find the reconstructed monastery of Preveli which operates as a museum of icons and relics. On the contrast, more isolated coastal tourist destinations, such as Agios Pavlos and Plakia could offer relaxed holidays to families who wish clean blue water and satisfactory local dishes from the traditional taverns.