If you love sun-soaked beaches, beautiful architecture and fine Greek food, Rethymno will be the perfect vacation destination. One of Crete's most popular cities, it's an absorbing historical port with plenty to see, taste and do.
Rethymno has been around for thousands of years, having been Roman, Venetian, Ottoman and Greek (along with a few years of German occupation). The Old Town and the Fortezza bastion are highlights, but there's no shortage of historical sights.
Northern Crete is blessed with some beautiful beaches. If you just want a beach vacation, Agia Galini, Panormos or Preveli will be ideal.
Rethymno buzzes in the evenings. Start at great eateries like Knossos before partying at Chaplins or the Punch Bowl until the sun rises over the Fortezza.
Just inland, you'll encounter a series of dramatic gorges like Kourtaliotiko or Prassano, where you can swim in pools beneath waterfalls and relax in the gorgeous scenery.
Whether you fancy stocking up on retsina or locally grown olives, Greek sandals or traditionally made leather accessories, Rethymno has the boutiques and markets for you.
Ride the ferry to Old Town Rethymno. As you stroll through Rethymno's historic center, you'll be amazed by this quaint town boasting a wealth of oriental and Venetian Renaissance architecture. At Ruga Maistra street (Venizelou Avenue) you'll notice the city streets run parallel to the sea. The preserved Ottoman features on the walls complement the Venetian styled houses and little stores. Walk alongside the cobblestone walkways and admire the beautiful arches. When you are done sightseeing in the Old Town, head towards the beach where a strip of shops and hotels will whisk you back to the present.
Visit Rethymno's pentagonal-shaped Archaeological Museum and receive a greeting from the majestic clay larnax housed at the entrance. Marvel at the various exhibits representing the Neolithic period and Roman era. The museum houses a plethora of pottery antiquities from 1888. Peruse the prefecture exhibit and admire the Archaic, Eleftheria and Minoan artifacts. You'll be mesmerized by the Neolithic and Early Minoan findings discovered in a Melidoni cave and the Minoan villas of Apodoulou and Monastiraki. The breathtaking Minoan goddess figurine is the museum's most sought-out exhibit.
If you love to hike, travel the Samariá Gorge. You'll be at one with nature as its hills, rocks, and terrain surround you. The six-hour tour starts at the National Park of Samaria, where you'll start your descent down the Omalos plateau surrounded by the white majestic mountains. The hike ends at Agia Roumellon, a little village on the Libyan Sea. If you love to hike, then the long trek to Agia Roumeli will be a fun adventure. Have lunch, drinks and admire Agia Roumeli's scenic beauty. Vistors are encouraged to sail and spend the night at Sougia or Hora Sfakion, two nearby villages.
Visit the tiny town of Spili, located on the hills of Mount Kedros. This village is south of Rethymno in the province of Agios Vasilios. As you stroll along the cobbled streets, you'll notice the vibrant green trees and mountains. Walk over to the village square and admire the water fountains decorated with marbled headed lions. There are breathtaking frescoes and art displayed in the Churches of Agia Theodori, Agios Georgios, and the Church of the Metamorphosis of the Sotira (the Savior).
Visit Paleokastro Hill and take a tour of this Venetian styled fortress built by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century. This magnificent sturdy structure aligned with bastions remains a symbol of the town's military stronghold past. Adjacent to the fortress you'll see a mosque that was once a church. If you visit in the summer, you'll get a chance to enjoy one or more of the many music concerts held at the wall near the fortress. Take a moment to breathe in the fresh air and admire the scenic view overlooking the wondrous sea.
Most tourists visit during the summer, but you can beat the crowds and still enjoy the sunshine by traveling in April and May or October.
Chania Airport is around 40 miles to the west and buses from Chania to Rethymno will cost around EUR6.20.
From Iraklion, take Highway 90, then the E75 along the island's north coast, or take the E75 from Chania. Highway 97 also snakes across the island from resorts to the south.
KTEL provides a good network of buses across Crete. It costs about EUR10 to travel from Iraklion.
Most of the finest hotels are located around the Venetian harbor, including the Rimondi Boutique, Aquila Porto Rethymno and Kyma Beach Hotel.
Old Town - The weaving lanes of the Old Town are overlooked by flower-strewn balconies, with Turkish mosques and fountains, small stores and plenty of churches. It's beautiful.
Perivolia - Just east of the city itself, Perivolia has an attractive, broad beach and a string of excellent hotels.
Missiria - A little further along the coast, Missiria shares Perivolia's beach and is more spread out, with a relaxed vibe and great beachfront eateries like Odyssia.
KTEL buses are the only public transportation option in Rethymno and provide a reliable, basic service.
Taxis don't tend to be metered, so try to arrange a price before you travel. As an example, it should cost around EUR50 to get to Chania and EUR60 to Iraklion.
You can rent a car in Rethymno from Sixt or Budget for rates as low as EUR10 per day.
The Old Town is the city's shopping hub, offering everything from jewelry and leather goods to musical instruments and Greek foodstuffs. Check out Feel Silver for bracelets and chains or Habit for the latest Greek apparel.
Local supermarkets include ΣΥΝ.ΚΑ and INKA, where a gallon of milk will cost about EUR4.30.
Rethymno has everything Greek cuisine lovers could wish for. Outstanding options include Pigadi and Goules, which both have a traditional focus. Chef Michalis Chasikos works wonders at Avli, while Petite Fleur is an excellent French bistro. Generally, meals will cost around EUR15-20.