Crete is always a fascinating island to discover, and today, we are exploring Rethymno, the third biggest city. If you’ve never visited, this is a must-do in Crete. Of course, after the capital city Heraklion and Chania, the second largest city. Rethymno is easy to navigate, and I would say that you can see everything in one day. It is located in the north part of the island, between Chania and Heraklion, and it takes one hour to get to either location. There are many exciting things to see and buy in Rethymno, which we will cover in this post. Also, you will see what Rethymno is famous for what is like and decide if it is worth visiting.
How to get to Rethymno
If you are unsure which airport to pick on the island, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s Chania Airport or Heraklion Airport. Since Rethymno is located between these two towns, you can easily access it within one hour by car. You can also visit Rethymno from Chania or Heraklion by bus. If you are looking for a particular route, check KTEL’s official website. Every year, the timetable changes. Nevertheless, you can get all the info at the bus stations. To give you an idea of the prices in Crete, from Rethymno to Heraklion, the price for one person is 7.60 euros. I would say that it’s not too bad of a price. From Agia Galini to Heraklion, the price is 8 euros per person.
The buses are frequent between these three towns, so getting around is easy. Only if you want to travel from the north to the south is where it gets complicated. There are no connections, so having a car is better if you plan to travel south. You can maybe get a taxi sometimes if you must. I took one for 50 EUR from Rethymno to Triopetra. Some buses might go to certain villages near the big towns during the high season, but there is no chance for a bus in the off-season. That is probably why every local has a car.
What to see and do in Rethymno
- Venetian Fortezza Castle
Just like Chania and Heraklion, Rethymno also has its own Venetian Castle, built in the 16th century by the Venetians who occupied Crete between 1204 and 1669. It was built on the hill of Paleokastro in 1573 as protection from Ottoman attacks, but in the end, the Ottomans took over in 1646. During the German occupation, it was turned into prisons and dormitories. Today, some buildings are still standing, and it’s worth exploring. The entrance is below 10 euros per person. The castle spans over 1307m with many structures and an excellent view over Rethymno. As for the town icon, I would say visiting it is a given.
- Old town (shopping, pottery, gold jewelry, local pastry)
Porta Guora is the entryway to the old town of Rethymno, formerly the Venetian Castle’s main gate. There are many other adjacent streets to get into the old town. There are many things to enjoy and explore in the old town. Lots of clothing boutiques, jewelry shops, souvenirs, restaurants, and pastry shops. It’s a great place to shop for gifts or just for yourself. You can find charming pottery pieces which are great to take back home.
Also, the local gold pieces of jewelry are just gorgeous. The Disc of Phaistos is a piece of jewelry you will find across the island. It is a symbol from the Minoan times discovered in 1908 south of Crete in Agia Triada. You can visit the Minoan Palace of Phaistos, where the disc was found, or the original disc in the Archeological Museum of Heraklion. You can find the disc as a bracelet, necklace, ring, or earring. It’s very stylish and minimalistic.
One more famous gold piece of jewelry is the Malia Bees Pendant, discovered in 1930 in Chrysolakkos near Malia, another Minoan Palace. The pendant symbolizes two mirrored bees carrying drops of honey to their beehive. You can buy gold pieces with the Malia Bees as earrings or pendants. Today, the original piece is showcased in the Archeological Museum of Heraklion.
Lastly, some pastries I loved were the Cretan sweet cheese pies called Kalitsounia, made with mizithra cheese from sheep, goats, or both. You can get them from the bakery Earth Flavors.
- Rethymno Port
The port is not big, but it makes for a lovely walk. Plus, there are many restaurants, and it’s a great place to have a refreshing drink, lunch, or dinner.
- Rethymno Beach
If you’re in for a swim or want to feel the soft golden sand on your feet, stop by Rethymno Beach. It spans over 13 km with many tourist resorts. Are you feeling adventurous? Then I suggest visiting Plakias in the south of Crete, and while you’re in the area, check out Kalypso Resort. It’s a fascinating place. Plakias has a vast beach with a spectacular view, and you can even hike up the hill for a better panoramic view.
Another tip for you is to get your hands on as many natural Greek products as possible. For example, I love Cretan Bee and always buy from them when in Crete or abroad. Their products are truly superior. The facial creams are so creamy and moisturizing and feel so amazing on the skin. You can see that the product is whole and not watered down with chemicals. The smell of fresh roses, honey, and essential oils is to die for. They are based in Agios Nikolaos, on the east side toward the end of the island. You can join their beekeeping tours, olive oil soap, and beeswax ointment workshops if you’re into natural stuff. They are worth a shot if you’re in the area.
Rethymno is a lively town with many tourists during the summer period and calm during the winter months. Overall, I would say that it’s a great little place to explore. If you want to discover more of Crete, particularly the south of Crete,
check out this incredible location that you should visit this summer.
Enjoy Crete, and please keep it clean!