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This resort has built up around the 8 miles sandy beach, with a long busy promenade next to a street full of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, so you have all you need in one area. There are three weekly markets in Rethymno, and the biggest of these is on Thursday in the main car park- always good fun! So are the busy stalls along Andistasis street, selling hand-made arts and crafts and locally-produced food. There are many little independent shops half hidden in the narrow streets, selling pottery, baskets, woodcarving and woven goods, embroidery and useful things carved out of olive wood, as well as fashionable boutiques for clothes and accessories. The whole town is overlooked by a huge Venetian fortress. Beyond the town, you can visit dramatic gorges, monasteries, traditional villages with ancient churches, and the romantically named White Mountains.
The heart of the old town, where locals gather is the Rimondi Fountain at the North End of Petychaki square. This is where you find the liveliest bars and numerous fashionable little cafes where you drink strong coffee with the locals, or try some Greek yoghurt and honey. The restaurants and old-fashioned cafes serving local fare in this area are better value that the more tourisity harbour area. The fountain, built by the Venetian governor J. Rimondi in 1626 stands on the site of a much older version. It is not just for show – there have been many times when the town was short of water, and public fountains like this one were the only sources of drinking water.
The spectacular Samaria Gorge is worth a visit while you are in the area - but is not for wimps! Beginning at the plateau of Omalos it is 11 miles long – the longest gorge in Europe. But despite the fact that this is a serious hike, over 170,000 people trek through this mighty ravine every year, so you won’t have it all to yourself. It should take about six hours if you are reasonably fit. You begin the trek in the White Mountains, above the Xyloskalo staircase, which zigzags down 700-foot into the gorge. Then you just keep walking, admiring the goats, little chapels, wildflowers, amazing birds and shady pine and cypress forests along the way, and quenching your thirst with clear, cold springwater. At its narrowest point, the 1000 foot walls of the ravine are just three feet apart – so breathe in! You end up in the tiny secluded village of Aghia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea.
There is a gentler option - the Imbros Gorge. At eight kilometres long this dramatic ravine is less strenuous to walk through but it’s still pretty special. You start at the village of Imbros, then hike for two or three hours through wild flower meadows, then squeeze your way through a gap just two metres wide between the towering walls of the ravine and then emerge in the village of Komitades, where you can recover from your exertions at a little tavern.
The city’s archaeological museum, situated on the east side of the fortress is a favourite on the island. It’s a small museum with some large exhibits from Neolithic to Roman times. Don't miss the Minoan goddess figurine. The Historical Folklore Museum is also interesting – not a Morris Man in sight! It has eight halls displaying textiles and basket weaving, embroidery and lace, costumes, ceramics, historic photographs and maps, weapons and coins.