The Rethymnon Area

Crete

Crete's third-largest town after Heraklion and Chania, Rethymnon is a vibrant mix of the old and the modern, a proper working town with a real year-round community that just happens to also boast an excellent range of tourist facilities. Like Chania, Rethymnon has a long and chequered history, with the Ottomans and Venetians leaving the most enduring legacies - the former in the shape of mosques and minarets, the latter still in evidence in the graceful mansions that line the picturesque inner harbour and in the impressive hilltop fortress that dominates the town. Dating from the 16th century in its present form, the Fortezza stands on the site of an earlier Akropolis, and is a must for any visitor, if only for the spectacular views over the town and the countryside to the mountains and out to sea. The town also boasts a diverting archaeological museum, and a maze of colourful back streets lined with atmospheric bars and restaurants, as well as a tempting array of shops and boutiques.

Rethymnon is also the start of one of the island's longest sandy beaches, which stretches east from the town centre for over 10 km. Needless to say, the end closest to the centre is the busiest, and the eastern fringes of the town have developed into a modern resort area with a full range of tourist facilities. The furthest end of the beach remains quieter, and other beaches can also easily be reached by car including the long stretch of sand east of Georgioupolis, and the splendid south coast beaches around Plakias. A short drive east of Rethymnon the traditional seaside village of Panormo makes a delightful base for a family holiday as does the sheltered bay of Bali, just a little further east.

Being located almost halfway between Chania and Heraklion, Rethymnon is ideally placed for exploring Crete's numerous archaeological, cultural and natural treasures, and there is plenty to see in the immediate area. Those who enjoy pottering around traditional villages will find countless charming hamlets scattered around the hills just south of the town. The famous Arkadi monastery is just a short drive to the south-east - it was here that, on 9 November 1866, hundreds of Cretan resistance fighters chose to blow themselves up rather than surrender to the Ottoman attackers.

Another rewarding outing is to head south-west towards Argyroupolis, with its tavernas in a woodland setting surrounded by gushing waterfalls and torrents. Nearby villages reveal hidden treasures as diverse as a 19th century wood mill, several lovely old churches and the remains of the Roman baths of ancient Lappa, and the startlingly beautiful Amari Valley is also easily reached from here.

The villages just inland from the coast have remained relatively untouched by the trappings of tourism, although a large number of smart villas now pepper the surrounding hillsides.

Rethymnon harbour

Rethymnon harbour

Rethymnon harbour The long beach east of Rethymnon Rethymnon waterfront Bali Panormo Rethymnon Old Town and Castle Bali harbour Rethymnon by night Bali

Accommodation in The Rethymnon Area:

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