The prefecture of Rethymnon is Crete's most mountainous region, bordered in the west by the White Mountains and in the east by Mt. Psiloritis. It is divided into four provinces: Rethymno, Agios Vasileios, Amari and Mylopotamos.
The capital of the province (and of the prefecture)
is Rethymnon, with a population of around 40.000 it is Crete's third largest
map of Rethymnon
Its main attraction is the Old Venetian - Ottoman quarter which occupies the headland beneath the Venetian fortress. It is a maze of narrow streets, Venetian monuments and the occasional minaret adding a touch of the Orient. The Old quarter has grown into an important place for shopping and offers a wide assortment of stores selling just about everything from souvenirs to jewellery, leather, Cretan spices and pottery.
Rethymnon also possesses a long sandy beach running several kilometres towards the east. It comes as no surprise that it is now one of the main tourist areas of Crete, lined with hotels and apartments of all categories.
This province is situated east of the town of Rethymnon.
The coast is still quite wild and in parts not easily accessible.
The chief coastal resorts are Bali and Panormo.
Bali is set in beautiful surroundings, with several small coves, hills and narrow sandy beaches. The many touristic developments have marred the natural beauty of the area and it can be crowded in summer
Panormo has a nice sandy beach and is easy to get to from Rethymnon. What used to be a small village built on an ancient settlement has become a sizeable tourist resort.
The hilly interior of the province is also attractive to tourists, especially the villages of Margarites and
Margarites is known for its fine pottery and is invaded by tour buses every morning. It is really best to go in the afternoon where all becomes calm again.
Anogia, perched on the foothills of Mt. Psiloritis is the largest mountain village of Crete. It is famous for its long history of rebellion. In W.W.II all the men of the village who could be caught (mainly the ones too old to escape) were massacred by the German in retaliation for their role in aiding the kidnap of General Kreipe, the commander of the German occupation forces. The town's weaving industry was developed by the widows of these massacred men to support themselves. Anogia is also famous throughout Crete for its musician families.
A road leads from Anogia to the Nida plateau (22 km), a small plateau at an altitude of 1400m from which it is possible to walk to Timios Stavros, the highest summit of the island (2456m), in about 4 hours.
The province of Agios Vasileos begins at Armeni in the north and ends on the south coast of the island where the best known resorts are Plakias, Preveli and Agia Galini. It is a province of gently rolling hills. The capital of the province is the small town of Spili. Spili is a pretty mountain town with cobbled streets and plane trees best known for its unique Venetian fountain which spurts water from 19 lion heads. As it is situated on the north to south road there are quite a few visitors (and tour buses) stopping by to admire them but in the evening it is still a sleepy little town. Spili is a good place to escape the summer heat.
Plakias, once a tranquil fishing village with a beautiful, long sandy
beach, two cafes and one taverna was one of the secret beach paradise of Crete
in the late 60's and early 70's. No more! Since then Plakias moved
on to bigger things and is now quite a large resort . It is still a beautiful place because of its location at
the foot of the mountains but do not expect to see much of the traditional
There are some very good walks that can be undertaken in the area. If you don't like wind, a word of warning: Plakias can get extremely windy because of a gap running north to south in the mountains.
Moni Preveli is a famous, well-maintained monastery located above
the Libyan sea. Like most Cretan monasteries it played a significant
role in the island's rebellion against the Turks. In W.W.II, after
the Battle of Crete, it sheltered many Allied soldiers who were being
evacuated to Egypt. In retaliation the monastery was plundered by
the Germans. The treasures of the monastery are kept in a small museum.
Not far from the monastery is the superb palm beach of Preveli. The river Milopotamos cuts the beach in half and its banks are lined with palm-trees. This beach is one the most beautiful beach in Crete and is now attracting so many visitors that it is also one of the busiest.
Agia Galini is another picturesque little town suffering from an overdose of tourism. The once sleepy little village perched on a hill overlooking the sea consists almost entirely of hotels, rooms-for-rent, restaurants, bars and shops. In the season it is very very busy but manages to retain quite a bit of atmosphere.
The Amari province is often seen as the heartland of Crete and the
repository of its culture. Its capital Amari is surrounded by tranquil,
unspoilt villages. From the legend of Zeus to the horrific bloodbath
at Moni Arkadiou, Crete's tormented history took shape under the
shadow of the looming Mt. Psiloritis. You will need your own transport
to visit this province which is poorly deserved by public transport,
although there are several daily buses from Rethymnon to Amari.
The Amari valley can be reached either from Rethymnon or from Agia Galini. This region harbours around 40 well-watered, unspoilt villages set amid olive groves and almond and cherry trees
Moni Arkadiou is an impressive 16th century monastery. In 1866 the Turks sent massive forces to quell insurrections which were gathering momentum throughout the island. Hundreds of men, women and children who had fled their villages used the monastery as a safe heaven. When 2000 Turkish soldiers attacked the building, rather than surrender, the Cretans set light to a store of gun powder. The explosion killed everyone, Turks included, except one small girl. She lived to a ripe old age in a village nearby.