The third-largest settlement on the Greek island of Crete, the port town of Rethymno has been occupied since the Late Minoan period. Its Venetian- and Ottoman-era old town—a knot of narrow, flower-bedecked lanes overlooked by a fortified Venetian castle—oozes history and character. A series of sandy beaches stretch out along the coastline to the east.
Though often overlooked by tourists in favor of Heraklion and Chania, Rethymno makes an excellent base on Crete as well as a worthwhile day-trip destination for those staying elsewhere. Guided walking tours provide an intimate look at the town’s Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman connections, as well as ticking off top sights such as the Venetian Fortezza and the Mosque of Kara Musa Pasha. Some city tours include tastings of local Cretan food and wine.
Things to Know Before You Go
Rethymno is a must for history buffs and the culturally curious.
If exploring in summer, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat for protection.
Lots of artisan shops and tavernas can be found around town.
How to Get There
Rethymno is situated on the north coast of Crete, the largest of Greece’s Aegean Islands. Ktel bus lines 1 and 2 connect Chania to Rethymno, a journey of about an hour. The trip between Heraklion and Rethymno via Ktel bus line 1 takes around 1.5 hours.
When to Get There
The midday heat in July and August can be intense, so it’s best to explore early in the day or in late afternoon. Be sure to take ample rest stops to hydrate and cool down. One of the liveliest times to visit is during the annual Carnival of Rethymno in January and February, when the streets are the setting for parties, dances, and parades.
Highlights of Rethymno
Rethymno is home to several notable sights, ranging from historical landmarks to natural attractions. Enclosed within sturdy walls is the 16th-century Venetian Fortezza, a fortified castle complex built to protect against Turkish attacks. Also of note is the Venetian Harbor, dominated by a 17th-century lighthouse, and the 17th-century Rimondi Fountain in the old town, featuring three water-spouting lion heads.