The prefecture of Rethymno is a microcosm of all Crete boasting an astounding scenic diversity with a warm provincial atmosphere. It is an area of magnificent beauty and in many parts remains unspoilt.
The prefecture stretches across the centre of Crete and has an area of 1.396km2 with a population of approximately 86.000 inhabitants. It is divided into five municipalities: Rethymno, Agios Vasilios, Amari, Anogia and Mylopotamos.
The city of Rethymno is the capital of the prefecture. It is strategically situated in the heart of the island with around 40.000 residents. It is directly connected to the port of Piraeus all year round and is easily reachable from the international airports of Chania and Heraklion.
Rethymno is regarded the “hidden jewel” of Crete as it is the most picturesque city of the island and one of the best preserved medieval towns in Greece. The stately Venetian Fortezza Castle built in the 16th century is perched on the Palaiokastro Hill with a panoramic view of the old Venetian Town and Harbour. Meandering cobblestoned alleys lead to impressive Renaissance monuments such as the Venetian Loggia and the elaborate Rimondi Fountain, as well as occasional minarets which add a touch of the Orient. This blend of Venetian-Ottoman architecture is responsible for the city’s aristocratic ambience. Rethymno is rich in history, tradition and nature, hence its impressive archaeological, folklore and marine museums. It is the centre of contemporary art with compelling modern paintings. As the host of an array of events such as the Wine Festival, the Renaissance Festival and the Carnival of Rethymno, it is undeniably a uniquely dynamic cultural city.
Rethymno is also a university town with the Gallos Campus situated 5km away from the centre with over 11.000 students attending the various schools. For this reason the city is always alive with the vigour of youth. A variety of cafes and restaurants are abuzz all through the day amidst enticing surroundings – either on the beach or along the promenade. In the evenings stylish music bars and clubs, which have been handsomely restored, add unique colour and energy to the nightlife of the town.
The prefecture of Rethymno is bordered in the West by the White Mountains and in the east by Mount Psiloritis consisting of the highest summit Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) of 2.456m. This region is dominated by outstanding natural wealth – among the imposing mountains are flourishing valleys which contrast with deep spectacular gorges, such as the Kourtaliotiko Gorge. It is also exceptionally rich with caves, the most famous being those of Ideon Andron (the legendary birthplace of Zeus), Melidoni, Sfendoni, Gerani and Agios Antonios. Some scenic winding roads pass through quaint traditional villages set amid olive groves and almond trees. Others lead to tranquil impressive monasteries such as Moni Preveli and Moni Arkadiou which played an important role in the island’s rebellion against the Turks.
Splendid beaches encompass the prefecture. In the north are the more organised blue flag beaches such as Koumbes and Bali with crystal clear waters and long golden stretches of sand. The southern part is decorated by more peaceful and pristine shores such as Triopetra with fabulous azure waters, rocky scenery and breathtaking sunsets.
Rethymno prefecture is immersed in endless tranquility and natural beauty on the one hand, charismatic old villages and energised expanding centres on the other – all awaiting to be explored.