The island of Crete has everything to offer to holiday makers, and so does the province of Rethymno by itself: a historical town to explore, countryside where you can get a taste of traditional life, mountains great for outdoor activity and beautiful beaches. The only thing it doesn’t have is a major archaeological site, though there are some smaller ones. (And of course Knossos, one of the most impressive sites in Greece, is not far.) It is a beautiful area for holidays in Greece.
The town of Rethymno
The old town of Rethymno has an unbeatable charm. The 16th century fortress, the colourful historical quarter with its narrow winding lanes, Venetian and Turkish houses, churches and mosques, wall fountains and small shops, and the picturesque Venetian port make it worth at least a full day visit. Take your time to wander around, to visit the fortress, to have a drink by the sea and to visit the archaeological museum.
The northern coast of Rethymno
The northern coast of the province of Rethymno has some long stretches of beach, but most of it is too built-up and developed to my taste and I wouldn’t recommend you stick around. There are a few spots that have kept their charm. The seaside village of Panormos, for instance, is quite exceptional. It was a flourishing trading port in the 19th century, but it hasn’t developed much since. It miraculously escaped the fate of so many other Cretan seaside villages that were taken over by tourism. There are a couple of biggish hotels and holidays resorts on the outskirts of the village, but nevertheless the village itself has remained quiet and unspoiled, with a handful of grocery stores and craft shops, and a few small cafés and tavernas with tables out in the pedestrian streets. Next to the port there are two nice sandy beaches.
Explore the hills and mountains of Rethymno
Away from the coast, the landscape turns green and hilly, with peaceful villages scattered around. Don’t miss the ceramics village of Margarites where you can find interesting pottery. The village is also known for its excellent tavernas, each one serving its own specialty. Further south there are several mountains, including Crete’s highest, Mount Idi (or Psiloritis). In its foothills, the village of Spili is known for its 25 lion fountainheads. Other places of interest are the Sfendoni Caves, the Gorge of Kourtaliotiko as well as several monasteries.
The best beaches of Rethymno
The southern coast if Rethymno has a wild and untamed beauty, and there are several magnificent beaches. The beauty of Preveli Beach, at the mouth of a river gorge lined with palm trees, is hard to describe. However, when I went there an afternoon in August, I found it too crowded to fully enjoy it. If you’re in Crete during the high season, try to go very early in the morning, and later go on the visit the Preveli Monastery. Other well-known and beautiful beaches include Triopetra, Damnoni and Plakias, but with a good map, a decent car and some walking shoes you can find many more that are quieter.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Rethymno