Rethimno is probably not the first city that comes to mind when you think of Crete, but that unassuming beauty is where its charm lies.

It is located in the western half of the island, and it borders with the White Mountains in the west and Mount Psilorotis in the east. The area is quite mountainous and it is divided into four provinces: Mylopotamos, Amari, Agios Vasileios and Rethimno, with the capital city in its boundaries.

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The history

It is the third largest town on the island with a population of approximately 34.000 people. The town has a long history that dates back to the post-Minoan period. The ancient “Rithymna” had a flourishing era between the 4th and the 3rd century B.C up until the Roman times, in which Rithymna had turned into an established village.

During the Venetian rule, the city was totally renovated and realizing the importance of Rethimno’s position, the Venetians decided to take advantage of the city’s port, which was a big transit place for various kinds of merchandise. In time Rethimno also expanded and was refortified due to the imminent Turkish attacks. At last, the town and the whole island were occupied by the Turks in the middle of the 17th century.

Unification with Greece

In the late 1890s the Great Powers took control of Crete and the Russian army had dominance over Rethimno.

Finally, in 1913 the so-awaited unification with the Greek state became a reality for the island! A decade later an exchange of population took place during which, according to the Lausanne Treaty, the Turkish Cretans left once and for all from the city in order to settle in Asia Minor and Greek families made the trip to Rethimno. During World War II, a part of Rethimno was destroyed due to German bombings and as a result, some of its inhabitants moved to Athens or left the country entirely in search for something better.

How can I reach Rethimno?

There is no airport in the city, but Rethimno is located between Chania and Heraklion; both of which have international airports. Once you arrive, there will be rental car options and busses in order to reach the city.

The same applies to the cruise ship itineraries. Chania and Heraklion both have ports accessible from Piraeus (the port of Athens) and from different Cycladic islands.

The carnival of Rethimno

If you ever find yourself in Crete, or even in Greece, during the Orthodox carnival (every year the dates vary from January till March), make the trip and get yourself to Rethimno! It is one of the most famous carnivals in Greece and definitely the best on the island. A massive feast takes place that combines old traditional elements with modern ones, and dates back to the beginning of the previous century!

The beaches

Rethimno has long sandy beaches in the north and magnificent sceneries in the south. To get a full taste of this gorgeous region, do not omit either! Here we recommend these two…

Maybe the most renowned beach in the south, Preveli has a tropical essence that will make you feel as if you’re far away from Europe. The palm trees, a small river that forms a lake before it empties in the sea and the sandy beach will make you fall in love! Plus, in the eastern part, you will find an unusual rock, that is shaped like a heart.

A fully touristic developed area that has everything you might need for your holiday. Resorts, snack bars, beach volleyball courts, and a well-organized beach. There is also a second beach, named Skinos, which is less crowded and ideal for fishing.

What does the city offer?

Rethimno has a unique advantage that it is rarely found in most cities. Within short proximity from the city center, Rethimno Beach is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the beautiful Aegean waters without having to go into the trouble of arranging transport or traveling long distances in the summer heat. This is easily combined with some sightseeing, shopping or a lazy afternoon of drinking Greek coffee while gazing at the Venetian harbor and wallowing in the delightful island breeze.

The Old Town

The Old Town of Rethimno is one of the most well-preserved in Crete, and it is worth exploring.

The Egyptian lighthouse gives a unique feel to the harbour, which started operating during the Byzantine period but thrived in the Venetian era, and creates a romantic atmosphere perfect for an intimate dinner or a peaceful stroll.

A rare combination of 16th-century buildings, narrow alleys, Renaissance ambience, and Turkish architecture. This unique amalgam of cultures can be found in downtown Rethimno. The city has been influenced radically over the years by every newcomer who has had control over it but has managed to maintain some Greek classical features. After the Venetians conquered the island, the renovation of the city took place according to their architectural standards followed by a change in architectural style during the 17th century when the Ottomans reigned over it.

The Fortezza

The Fortezza (fortress) stands on the edge of the Old Town; a part of its wall still up to this day.

The top of Palaiokastro hill was the place where the citadel of the ancient Rithymna was built. That was the spot, where the city was developed during the centuries that came. In time, under threat of Turkish attacks, the Venetians decided to build a fortress. Constructions began in 1573 and lasted until 1580 and although the original plan was for the Fortezza to contain all the residences of the city, it became impossible to achieve due to lack of space.

During the Ottoman rule, some modifications occurred, without significantly changing the fortress. More houses were built on the inside of the walls which then later needed to be refortified. In the 20th century the residents started abandoning the fortress and today, the area has become the property of the Greek state. It is one of the most highly regarded and important monuments of the city and hosts plenty of cultural events. Every summer you can find the Erofili theatre which holds the Renaissance Festival of Rethimno inside the castle.

Other places to explore nearby

If you like exploring, this is the perfect Cretan region.

Since it is the narrowest part of the island, it is also the easiest to get from the north in the Aegean to the south in the Libyan Sea and to scout the whole area.

Apart from the beaches, there is a small town, named Anogia, that is absolutely worth visiting. Located 52 km away from Rethimno and 36 km away from Heraklion, its name prepares you for what to expect. The English translation is “the place that it is built on a high level”. Anogia is built on Psiloritis Mountain, with an altitude of approximately 800 m. The locals are very devoted to their land, and their primary occupation is farming. They are also extremely friendly, known for their hospitality and sometimes you can see them dressed in the traditional Cretan clothing. That’s the way that many in the area choose to dress, even in our days and not for tourism purposes.


This small town has contributed a lot when it comes to culture. Some of the best players of the Cretan traditional musical instrument, the Lyra, descend from Anogia, along with the legendary singer Nikos Xilouris, whose home is open to the public.

You can also visit the really old churches of St. John, St. Demetrius, St. George and the Assumption of the Virgin. Finally, don’t forget to take it easy, and spend a relaxing afternoon in a café hanging out with the locals, or in a taverna (traditional restaurant) tasting local delicacies.