The province (nomos) of Rethymnon, is sandwiched between those of Herakleion to its east and Chania to its west. Lacking its own airport yet easily accessible from Chania or Heraklion, this region is one for the more adventurous traveller. The rolling hills of the Amari valley are ideal for cycling, walking, or just relaxing in a landscape of sumptuous beauty. Gorges cut their way through limestone, before reaching the sea, depositing rainwater in winter and hikers in summer. Mountain villages are fabulous places to escape the heat and see traditional craftwork. And then there’s the towering presence of Psiloritis (Mount Ida), the island’s tallest mountain, which at 2,456 metres above sea level, rises a full three metres higher than that of its nearest rival, Mount Pachnes, in the White Mountain (Lefka Ori) range of Chania. Read more below...
Crete has such a wealth of important archaeological sites that, on the face of it, the province of Rethymnon might appear not to be over-endowed in this department, but there are enough, covering every period from final Neolithic (circa 3600 BC) to Ottoman to keep the would-be historian happy. (Read about the sites of Plakias, Monastiraki, Eleutherna and Lappa).
Axos is another Minoan site, situated on the road between Anoghia and Bali, the latter of which acted as its port. Since one doesn’t need a passport to cross from one region (nomos) to another, note that Aghia Galini is far closer to the exceptional Minoan sites of Phaistos and Aghia Triadha than Herakleion, and Lake Kournas is appreciably closer to the city of Rethymnon than that of Chania, despite being geographically part of the province of the latter.
Rethymnon’s north and south coasts have fine beaches, and in between these lies Mount Ida. On its eastern flank at close to 1500 meters lies the Nida plateau, and just above this the cave of Ideon Andron (meaning 'eating place for men'), where Zeus was mythologically reared. Mountain villages such as Spili, with its beautiful Venetian fountain, spouting water from the heads of 19 lions is a fabulous place to escape the summer heat of the coastal plains.
East of Rethymnon, Zoniana has a wonderful museum showing the history of Crete. Famous wax models of Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) and Eleftherios Venizelos (the greatest of all Greek statesmen) feature, amongst others. Anoghia is capable of accommodating the more adventurous traveller, and is known for its crafts, such as weaving, tapestry and lace work. It’s a very pretty village, despite suffering badly at the hands of the Nazis due to its part in the capture of General Kreipe, in 1944. If you visit the museum of Alkibiades Skoulas, look out for a painting depicting these atrocities. Two other places are inexorably linked with Crete’s past under harsh Ottoman rule: The Arkadi monastery and the Melidoni cave, which are both worth a visit (read more about them in the Landmarks section).
On a more refreshing note, Rethymnon’s north coast is ideal for those who like a good swim, with beaches in abundance. Most of these lie east of the city, though Petres is an exception. For more on the beaches click on the section titled Swimming, under Chania.
Rethymnon is a nomos for the cognoscenti. It is for those wishing to escape the pressures of everyday life and spend some time off the beaten track. If this is your kind of thing, then Rethymnon is for you.