Rethymno combines rarely united features: the old town’s charm and history, with proximity to a long sandy beach.
Although it is the third largest town in Crete, Rethimnon never feels like a city as Chania and Heraklion do. Instead, it has a provincial air; it’s a place that moves slowly, a very romantic plade and the most important preserves much of its Venetian and Turkish appearance.
Explore one of the best preserved medieval cities in Greece, and search for your fairy-tale romance in Rethymno. Venetian fortification works mingle harmonically with orthodox and catholic churches, mosques, majestic mansions of Venetian architecture, arches and cobbled paths which create a magical atmosphere, reminiscence of the city’s turbulent –yet glorious– past.
You can enjoy arriving by ferry and be “there” close to the centre of the Old Town, just a 5 minute walk away (newly built harbours on many Greek islands are now far from the center, removing the romance of arriving IN the place you are visiting!).
There are two sides to Rethymno offering two styles of visit: the endless big beach hotel strip that stretches from the east end of Rethymno, lapping up the coastal “villages” of Perivolia, Platanias, Adelianos Kambos, Pigianos Kambos, Sfakaki, Stavromenos and Skaleta – and – the Rethymno that allows you the character of the old town with its mix of architecture and history, cultural influences and styles ranging from Venetian to Ottoman empire. We present the second and more romantic choice – leaving the all-inclusive beach and booze tours to others.
“Before leaving the beach, we should mention that there are other visitors – the turtles. Turtles are regular visitors along the beaches of Rethymno and return between June and August to lay their eggs each year.
The Venetian harbour…
Rethymno’s harbour area is a fine place for a coffee at one of the cafes and perhaps you will chance to eat there, just for the atmosphere. Look out from the harbour edge at the state of the buildings and seeing the abuse of this historic area you may be disappointed – perhaps you should suggest a renovation or two!
But not to worry, there is much else to see and enjoy, no shortage of other places of great character to stroll, stop in cafes, eat and generally enjoy the enormous amount Rethymno offers you.
The Fortress dominates the city and makes Rethymno very photogenic, its pedestrian streets below, strewn with charming old buildings. Venetian influences abound and the minarets and domed mosques remind of the Turkish influence long gone.
Numerous shops for souvenirs (with many local products now available), trendy fashion or imaginative jewellery…the old and the modern combine to make a colourful and buzzing town.
Venturing outside the town, some days you will visit dramatic gorges, monasteries, time-trodden villages with ancient churches, the south coast Libyan sea, spectacular mountains of Psiloritis and the Lefka Ori (White Mountains).
For Rethymno provides you with an advantageous pivotal point on the island, allowing you to range across the centre of Crete and have enough to discover for weeks!
How to get there
Rethymno’s convenient aspect is that it is nearly equidistant from both main airports, Chania and Heraklion – meaning many more flight options (you can fly into either airport, whichever suits you).
Ferries sail into Rethymno from Athens port (Pireas) daily. The ferries are overnight sailings, take a cabin for comfortable travel. By ferry you can travel overnight from Athens (Piraeus port) and arrive in the centre of Rethymno – well, you will only have a few hundred metres/yards to go to reach your centuries old building, your hotel in the historic old town. See ferry schedules.
By car, we strongly recommend approaching Rethymno along the coast taking the western-most exit from the New National Road at Atsipopoulo/Rethymno – this gets you directly to the port and the old town. There are frequent buses connecting Rethymno with other towns and villages. See bus schedules.
Parking in town: At the port (limited), near the marina at the ferry landing (large). The old town streets are kept for pedestrians only and cars will always need to be parked away from your hotel if you stay within the area.