Rethymno is one of the most beautiful regions in Greece and a popular destination in Crete. The capital of this mountainous province is the city of Rethymno with a history of more than 4500 years.
Rethymno province with its gorgeous mountains and rich history offers a variety of things to do and see. Here we are going to share the top things to do in Rethymno and the area outside of the city. You can also read our travel guide to Crete where we talked about all you need to know before you visit the island.
Best Thing to do in Rethymno city, Crete
Rethymno is the third-largest city on Crete island, which attracts a lot of tourists every year especially during summers. Some tourists stay in Rethymno only for a few days then move to other parts of the island, but some prefer to stay longer. Whether you have a couple of days or an entire week, you will always have something new to do in Rethymno.
Strolling around Rethymno Old Town
The best way to visit the Old Town is by walk. If you are not staying in the town centre and you want to drive to Rethymno town, you can park your car in the parking lot next to the main port, then start roaming around.
As soon as you begin to walk through the quaint streets, you can find various souvenir shops and restaurants. Here you can find a number of Venetian and Turkish sights including temples and public buildings.
You can walk around the town by yourself or take the Walking Tour in Venetian, Byzantine, & Ottoman Rethymno to learn about the history of the town and try some local food and beverage samples.
Eating at the Venetian Harbour of Rethymno
There are many cosy restaurants and cafes near the beautiful Venetian harbour of Rethymno. It is better to be there before the sunset. You can have an aromatic meal with a great view of the sea while the sun is setting down.
Even though the peak season is the summer, you can also go to the harbour most of the days during the winter since it is usually warm enough to enjoy the sunset.
When you are at the harbour you will be able to see the Egyptian lighthouse, which was built in the 1830s when the Ottoman Empire handed Crete (including Rethymno) to the Egyptians. The lighthouse is probably even older and the Egyptians rebuilt it on the site.
The lighthouses in Rethymno and Chania are the largest remaining Egyptian lighthouses in Crete.
Fortezza of Rethymno
The Venetian castle of Fortezza is a unique monument on the west side of Rethymno town at the top of Paleokastro hill.
This fortress was built by the Venetians to protect Rethymno in the sixteenth century and it has various buildings, a hospital, some shelters and a church which was turned into to a mosque when the Ottomans took over in the seventeenth century.
Nowadays Fortezza hosts the cultural events every summer.
Watch the Phyllo Master making Phyllo Kroustas
Phyllo is a vital part of Greek cuisine including Pita (Greek pie), Bougatsa, Baklava and many other sweet and savoury Greek dishes.
Giorgos Hatziparaschos, 85-year-old (in 2019), is the last traditional phyllo master who makes ultra-thin phyllo and Kataifi pastry by hand. You can find him in his workshop at 30, Vernardou Street in the Old Town. He opened his workshop in 1958 and since then he is making phyllo pastry every day.
We were lucky enough to watch his demonstration. It was very impressive to see how he could expand a small piece of dough over the gigantic 3x4m table.
More Things To Do and See around Rethymno
Rethymno is not all about the city. In the surrounding area, there are plenty of historical attractions and villages to see, outdoor activities to do and beaches to rest.
If you have more than one or two days in Rethymno and would like to explore around, here I am going to share with you more things to do around Rethymno.
Walking Patsos Gorge in Rethymno
The Patsos Gorge is a spectacular gorge for either an adventure hike or just a short and relaxing walk.
The gorge of Patsos is easy to find, it is a 30 minutes drive away from Rethymno, situated towards the south before the village of Amari. You should see a sign on the main road, which leads you to a parking lot, where you can start your walk.
The path is well indicated and it will take you through the beautiful cave-chapel of Saint Anthony. There are some picnic tables next to a freshwater spring, where you can stay and enjoy your day if you don’t want to continue walking.
If you want to continue walking, you should have hiking boots and be prepared to get wet. You should walk inside the river in some segments, especially if you go during the spring. The whole hike through the gorge should take between 2.5 to 3 hours.
During the summer, walking through the Patsos gorge should be quite pleasant as it is covered with trees providing plenty of shade.
Get some tan in Rethymno Beaches
Obviously, there are a lot of amazing popular beaches in Crete and some of them are not far from Rethymno.
Rethymno Beach and Missiria Beach
The closest beach to the Rethymno town is Rethymno Beach. You can walk towards the east of the town to find this long sandy beach. There are plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas for rent.
It can get busy and crowded during the high season, but if you go further away from the town, the beach gets nicer and is usually less crowded.
If you want to get away from the town completely, you can take a local bus or even drive to Missiria Beach, approximately 5 km east of Rethymno town.
Preveli Beach & Palm Forest
Pereveli beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, which is located in the south of the island, 37 km away from Rethymno. Driving is the easiest way to get to the beach. You have approximately a 15-20 minutes walk from above the cliff, where you have a great view of the sea. Make sure you have your camera with you to take some photos.
On the beach, you can talk a path next to the river bank where there is a large colony of palm trees. Walking through the palm forest under the shade of the trees on a hot day in the summer is refreshing. You can also swim in the river if you are up for it.
Take an Adventure trip to Preveli Beach from Rethymno
If you want to have an adventure trip and explore the hidden sides of the Rethymno region you can take the Land Rover Safari to Preveli beach tour. You will get a local guide and will learn about Cretan culture while having some genuine fun.
If you are travelling with a group of friends you can take the Self-Drive Jeep Safari to South Coast, Palm Beach tour from Rethymno. You will drive an open roof off-road vehicle, which is a fun way of getting to know the magical island of Crete.
Visit the Pottery Village of Margarites
The picturesque Margarites village is situated 30 km South-East of Rethymno city. The village is famous for its pottery and as soon as you start strolling around you will see a lot of charming ceramic shops and pottery workshops.
The tradition of making pottery has been passed on for generations. Some of the craftsmen still use traditional methods to make small pieces of pottery. Some of them will be happy to demonstrate the process of making a jar or a small pot.
The village with its attractive narrow streets has a lot of gorgeous spots to take photos. You can easily spend a half-day walking around the village and checking out its cute cafes.
The mountain village of Argyroupoli is located 27 km southwest of Rethymno. The village also referred to as Ancient Lappa, is famous for its natural springs, waterfalls and old mills.
The lush landscape makes the village very interesting and unique. You can spend half a day or even an entire day in this village. I highly recommend eating in one of the gorgeous restaurants next to the springs.
Cretan Gastronomy Center
When you are in Argyroupoli Village, you can go to the Cretan Gastronomy centre, where you can learn traditional Cretan recipes and get familiar with the local life and culture. You will also be able to learn about the different types of olive oil and its harvesting process. During our visit, we learned how to prepare and cook Dolmadakia stuffed vine leaves (Dolma).
If you only have one day to visit Rethymno and the beautiful villages around it, you can take a full-day tour of Margarites, Rethymnon and Argyroupoli.
Visit the Arkadi Monastery
The orthodox Monastery of Arkadi is one of the most important historic monuments in Crete. It is situated 23 km away from the city of Rethymno. The monastery was established during the 5th century, while its church was built later on, at the end of the 16th century.
Arkadi is important for Greeks because of its participation in the struggle against the Turkish occupation.
There are about 800 caves in Rethymno’s mountainous area so if you are in Rethymno you should at least try to visit one of them.
Melidoni Cave is the most popular one and it is a 35 minutes drive from Rethymno city. The cave, located at an altitude of 220 meters, used to be a place of worship of the god Hermes.
When you get there you will have a stunning view of the surrounding landscape, after enjoying the view you will need to walk down almost 100 steps.
You can get a day trip to Arkadi Monastery, Margarites village and Melidoni Cave to explore these three popular places by bus and bike.
Bygone Crete Adventure with Cooking Class
Taking the Bygone Crete Adventure is a great way to explore the depth of the Cretan rural life and history. The tour takes roughly 11 hours.
During our tour organised by Urban Adventures, we visited some iconic historic sites, went to a medieval village with a population of fewer than 300 people where we had a chance to talk to some locals.
The fun part of the tour was lunchtime when we learned how to cook stuffed vegetables. We had to get involved in preparing the meal which made the learning process more interesting. You can check the details of the tour here.
Best Time to Travel to Rethymno
Rethymno and its beaches can get very crowded and expensive during the summer. Since the weather between April and November is usually warm enough to have a pleasant trip. I would recommend you to go at the end of the spring or at the beginning of Autumn to avoid the crowds and the high season.
How to Get to Rethymno
Crete has three airports. Chania International “Daskalogiannis” Airport, the closest airport to Rethymno, is nearly 35.28 km from the city.
You can get the bus from Chania Airport to Rethymno city for 6.20 Euros. You can check the bus timetable here.
You can also take a taxi from the airport to the city or you can also rent a car at the airport for the duration of your stay.
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