Like in the rest of the island, the villages of Rethymno keep their traditional beauty. Walk around Rethymnon Town and explore the stone paths, the elegant mansions, the lovely arches and certainly the Venetian port. This is the most popular spot of the Town, lined up by delicious taverns and nice cafeterias. Above the town, there is a strong Medieval castle called Fortezza.
The northern and southern coasts are dotted with fabulous beaches. Bali, Panormos and Adelianos Kampos on the northern side get pretty popular in summer, while Plakias and Agia Galini are the most tourist places in the southern side. The inland of the prefecture has traditional villages, impressive gorges and historical monasteries, such as Preveli and Arkadi. In these villages, visitors will frequently listen to authentic Greek music.
he long history of Rethymno is traced back to the Neolithic years where a plethora of archaeological findings including coins, signs and writings of ancient historians witness the inhabitance of fishermen in Gerani Cave. During the Minoan period, Rethymno and the rest of Cretan cities flourished greatly on an economical and cultural level. From the 12th to the 11th century BC, the Minoan civilization developed rapidly in trade and culture.
Many towns were constructed that period in Crete. The most important Minoan town in Rethymno wasAncient Eleftherna. However, the catastrophic erection of Santorini volcano marked the end of this prosperous period. The following years, the beautiful cities of Crete including Rethymno are conquered by the Dorians, Romans, Venetians, Turks and Germans and the brave Cretans are unable to maintain their independence.
In 1204, a new period started for Crete and particularly Rethymno. With the abolition of Byzantine Empire, the island surrendered to the Venetians. However, due to their many conquests in Peloponissos and Aegean, Venetians neglected their new accession gave access to the other conquers of Crete. The presence of the legendary pirate Barbarosa in the city in 1538 was quite important for Rethymno. His attack led to the construction of extensive fortifications for the protection of Rethymno.
The flourishing period of Rethymno begun in the early 16th century highlighting the history of the city, a unique blend of Cretan and Venetian culture. The city was almost entirely rebuilt by the Venetians. This led to the Cretan Renaissance, a gold period of arts and letters that is apparent only in Crete and the Ionian islands. Rethymno flourishes rapidly with the arrival of new scientists and intellectuals. Many literary societies and a public library was established in Rethymno. Unfortunately, this cultural era ends in 1669 when Turks conquered Crete leading to the decline of Rethymno. The locals of Rethymno continued their fight against the Turks which led to many casualties. Finally, in 1897 Crete gained its independence and in 1913 it was united with the newly-established Greek state.
Today, Rethymno is one of the best-preserved towns in Crete that maintains its aristocratic character, with a plethora of elegant buildings from the 16th century, arched passages, narrow alleys and Byzantine monuments. Still, the most important Venetian work is the Fortezza above the town.
Museums - Archeological
Rethymnon is one of the most picturesque cities of Crete with a rich recorded history from the Palaeolithic to the Roman times. Of unique interest is the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon, located opposite the Fortezza. it hosts findings which highlight the diachronic quality of the Cretan culture from the Neolithic to Roman times. Part of the exhibition includes vessels, figurines, weapons, and pieces of daily use.
Of great interest is the Wax Museum located in Zoniana village, displaying natural size figures made with wax by Dionysis Potamianos and his wife. The natural size figures depict famous personalities of the Cretan history like the prime minister of Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos. It is an ideal place for the children.
Equally impressive is the Ecclesiastical Museum of Rethymnon showing valuable exhibits like the campanile and other ecclesiastical items. In close distance lies the historical Museum. Rethymnon has a high cultural activity and visitors can admire a excellent pieces of Modern Art in the Contemporary Art Gallery, located close to the city center.
Agia Galini Beach, Bali, Panormos, Perivolia, Platanias, Adele, Agios Georgios, Agios Pavlos, Damnoni, Enetiko, Geropotamos, Misiria, Petres, Pigianos Kampos, Plakias Beach, Preveli, Rodakino, Souda, Stauromenos, Town Beach, Triopetra
Religious Monasteries and Churches
Around the prefecture of Rethymno lie a plethora of churches and monasteries built during the Christian and Byzantine years. Basilicas and single-aisled domed churches witness the rich historical past of Rethymno and embellish the villages as well as the main town. On the inside they are decorated with magnificent mosaics and icons that captivate all visitors. Especially the town is ideal for those who want to study the religious architecture in depth and admire the Byzantine art.
Some of the most worth seeing churches and monasteries are spread out in the villages of Rethymno. One of the best examples is the historic Preveli monastery dedicated to Saint John the Theologian. It is located on the southern coast of Rethymno, on the slopes of Mt Psiloritis. It consists of two complexes, the Lower Monastery and Pisso Monastery which operates to this day. Inside the monastery visitors can admire gold crucifix from the True Cross which became miraculous by the faithful. In one of the monastery's rooms there is a little museum exhibiting various ecclesiastical items.
The foundation of Arkadi Monastery goes back to the late Venetian period, although its exact date is unknown. However during the 16th century the monastery was already established as the spiritual and educational centre of Crete. Its architecture relates to a fortress with gothic elements and vaulted cells. From the monastery you have a breathtaking view to the sea and the gorge which is set around lush vegetation. It is located close to the idyllic Prevely beach, 23 km from Rethymno town.
Arsani monastery was also built around the same time, in a splendid location with lush green forests and a panoramic view to the Cretan Sea. It is dedicated to Agios Georgios but the name of the monastery was probably taken after one of the monks named Arsenios. There is a museum with impressive relics and other ecclesiastical objects.
One of the closest monasteries to Rethymno town is dedicated to Agia Irini. It exists since the 14th century in the homonymous settlement, on an altitude of 250m on the hill of Mt Vrysinas, 5 km from the centre. It is one of the oldest female monasteries in Crete, still active. Its fortress architecture has been awarded and as a result, it charms all visitors. It is surrounded by the nuns cells, workshops and beautiful chapels.
Remains of Early Christian basilicas have been found in Rethymno. The largest one is Panormos Basilica located 30 km from the town. It was excavated in 1948 and dates back to 5th century. Equally important is the Early Christian basilica of Goulediana (6th century) and Ancient Eleftherna, Agios Ioannis (13th century) and the church of Panagia Roustika(7th century).