The prefecture of Rethymno 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 main towns are Rethymno, Spili, Perama, Plakias and Amari.
Rethymno is characterised by a variety contrasts. Flourishing valleys succeed harsh, mountainous areas, and imposing, rocky shores follow endless sandy beaches.
The city of Rethymno is the capital of the Prefecture. It is perfectly situated in the heart of Crete, surrounded by long sandy beaches and rocky mountains. Rethymno city has around 40.000 inhabitants, the prefecture around 82.000.
Rethymno became a city during the Venetian occupation. The Venetians needed an intermediary port for the operation of their ships travelling between Iraklion to Hania. They also needed an administrative centre, so Rethymno became the third biggest city on Crete and an important cultural centre. The town was destroyed in 1567 when Algerian pirates conquered, robbed and burned it. The Turkish occupation of Rethymno began in 1646.
The town still retains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings from the 16th century. We still find arched doorways, stone staircases, narrow streets and the very beautiful Venetian harbour. 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 a pretty important place for shopping and offers a wide assortment of stores selling just about everything from souvenirs to jewellery, leather, Cretan spices and pottery.
Rethymno is a city that caters to the needs of the visitor. The night life can range from very lively – in the pubs and bars around the harbour and inside the old city, to quiet relaxation in small bars right on the beach.There is always fresh fish to be found in the taverns around the harbour and there are many other restaurants and taverns outside the city in equally attractive surroundings.
Throughout the year various activities are organized which draw large crowds. The Carnival of Rethymnon is the third biggest in Greece and is normally held in February or March. From June to September the big Renaissance Festival is held and almost every night there is a performance in the Fortezza, the castle above the harbour. Another festival is held on 7-8th of November, in memory of the destruction of Arkadi Monastery.
Apart from the city, the region of Rethymno is also wonderful. There you will meet the typical Cretan landscape, sometimes wild and other times fertile, with many mountainous villages, lakes, gorges and Byzantine monasteries around. Magnificent clean sandy beaches can be visited on the north coast, at the Cretan Sea as well as on the south coast of the island, at the Libyan Sea.