Rethymno is Crete’s third city in importance and it’s one of the best day trips you can organize during your stay in the capital of the island, Heraklion. There are several things you can do on a day in the area, such as visiting the magnificent old town, with the old mosques, unique Cretan Renaissance architecture and magnificent Fortezza, Rethymno’s famous landmark. Let’s see what are the best things you can do on a day-trip to Rethymno.
Start your day in the Old Town
Rethymno is home to one of the best-maintained old towns on the island. A walk along the many alleys of the city will be a good excuse to discover aristocratic houses dating back to the sixteenth century, the times when the Venetians ruled over the island. Among the most important Venetian buildings, it’s worth paying a visit to the Venetian Harbor, as well to Rethymno’s 9-meter tall Lighthouse.
Sit at one of Rethymno’s seaside cafés and enjoy the view and the atmosphere of the pretty seaside promenade.
An important historical site in Rethymno is Rimondi Fountain, which you can access from the sea walking up to Platanos Square. The Venetian fountain dates to the 1626 and it still bears the characteristic Lions of Saint Mark as well as some inscriptions in Latin. The coat of arms of the Rimondi Family is still engraved in the fountain. During your stop here, do not forget to drink a few sips of water… they say it’s a must if you want to return to Crete.
Not far from the Venetian harbor, it’s possible to reach the Fortezza, the wonderful Rethymno’s fortress built to defend the city against the pirate incursions and the Turkish threat. Unfortunately, the city (and the whole island) finally fell to the Ottoman empire, which ruled on Crete since the end of the 1600s until 1898.
Testimony of the Turkish domination is exceptionally visible in Rethymno’s City architectures. Several Venetian mansions were remodeled according to the Turkish style and still portray beautiful wooden facades and typical harem balconies.
The Turkish imprint is also evident in the different mosques and minarets still standing in the old town. The most impressive of them belonging to Neratzes mosque, is now a music school thanks to the magnificent acoustics of the domed building.
Explore Unique Mountain Areas
As in all over Crete, there is also a unique mountain settlement you can visit in the area of Rethymno, some of them really famous. Probably the most traditional one is Anogeia, located very close to Crete’s highest mountain, Mount Psiloritis.
A visit to Anogeia is a great excuse to try Crete’s creative and tasteful gastronomic offer with dishes including grilled lamb and goat as well as fresh vegetables and salads.
Anogeia is also known for its fabric production. Women of the region weave and create fantastic carpets and tablecloths that you can take home as a souvenir. The village is also home to several musicians and dancers, and festivals in the area are not rare.
For those into nature and hiking, exploring the gorge of Patsos can be a great opportunity to learn more about Crete’s local fauna and flora. Patsos can be considered a fairly easy gorge if compared to the more imposing Samaria in the region of Chania.
A good way to complement your Patsos hike is to stop for a visit of the Amari Valley, here you can enjoy a superb Cretan lunch in one of the many local tavernas of the area.
You can also read more about other gorges you can explore in Crete here.
Visit Arkadi Monastery
Finally, your Rethymno visit shouldn’t be complete with a visit to one of Crete’s most iconic religious spots, Arkadi Monastery. About 20 km from the city of Rethymno, Arkadi Monastery represents a substantial part of the island’s history and fight for freedom from the Turkish rule.
It’s Katholikon (main church) dates back to the sixteenth century and its remarkable history made the monastery a landmark of Crete.
The monastery had a leading role during the years of the Cretan resistance to the Ottoman rule. In 1866, during the Cretan Revolt, 943 Greek, especially women and small kids, found refuge from the Turkish in the monastery. The battle against the Ottomans lasted for several days, and when realizing they were unable to save themselves, they blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. The monastery is now a national sanctuary and monument in honor to the Cretan Resistance.
Plan Your Stay
Those looking to explore both the East and the West of the island should choose a central position to establish as a base during their stay. Heraklion capital of the city is the perfect spot to easily reach places such as Rethymnon or Lassithi’s region capital, Agios Nikolaos.
Staying in Heraklion during your Crete holidays is a winning move that will make it easy to reach some of the best local beaches, but also to some of the island’s most characteristic villages. If you need more information to plan the practical parts of your trip, check this practical guide to Crete.
Book a local hotel in the city center according to your travel style. Heraklion offers endless choices of accommodations whether you want to indulge in local gastronomy, admire the best views in town or even be more aware of the environment during your stay.