Rethymno is one of the four prefectures of Crete, between Chania and Heraklion. Its capital is the city of Rethymno, which is built on the north coast of the county, 58 km from Chania and 78 from Heraklion. Today its main income is tourism. The countryside is also based economically on agriculture and herding.
(1) Rethymno (2) Agios Vasileios (3) Amari (4) Anogeia (5) Mylopotamos
Coordinates: 35°15′N 24°35′E
The terrain in Rethymno is mostly mountainous, with the relatively small but interesting changes in morphology, as impressive gorges, numerous caves, lush valleys and small rivers. The lowlands are limited on the north coast and in between the mountains. Similarly the rivers play only a limited role in the landscape of Rethymno. There is the Geropotamos (or Avlopotamos) emanating from the mountainous Mylopotamos which has its delta west of Panormo and the Great River which flows into Lake Preveli, all other rivers on the north side are minor and usually have water only during the winter.
Mount Psiloritis: The mountains play the central role in the topography of Rethymno county. To the East the horizon is dominated by Ida, also known as Psiloritis, the highest mountain of Crete, which reaches the height of 2456 m. The mountain and the volume covers about 1/5 of the total area of the county.
It is a sacred mountain to the Greek Titaness Rhea, and on its slopes, according to legend, lies the cave, Idaion Andron, in which Zeus was born. As an island high point at 2,456 m, it is the mountain with the highest topographic prominence in Greece. Interesting features are the plateau of Nida and the forest of Ruva on the east side. The observatory of the University of Crete is located on the secondary peak Skinakas at 1750m.
At the plateau of Nida you’ll find the Idian Cave. The huge opening of the entrance to the cave, which is located at an altitude of 1538 m is what first strikes the visitor. This is a large cave which has a large central hall and a gallery 22 meters long. The cave, where according to mythology, Zeus was raised, was a major cult center of both the Minoan and Roman times. The excavations carried out inside revealed an abundance of important finds such as ceramics, gold jewelery, metal objects and of course the famous bronze shields. As the investigation is in progress the cave cannot be visited.
Mount Kedros (height of 1777 m) is located southwest of the Ida massif with which it forms the two flanks of the Amari Valley. Mount Kedros is conical-shaped and made of limestone. Its landscape abounds with canyons and rock cliffs and is almost barren, with dry scrubs and phrygana being the major forms of vegetation. Kedros grows endemic or rare flowers such as tulips, anemones, corn marigolds, hyacinths, orchids, etc, and provides ideal conditions for the nesting of falcons as well as larger birds of prey such as griffon vultures, golden eagles and Bonelli’s eagles. Owing to the significance of its flora and fauna, Mount Kedros is a node of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. An E4 mountain footpath climbs up to the highest peak of the site.
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge, also known as the Asomatos Gorge, is a gorge on the southern side of the western part of the island of Crete. It is situated where the Kourtaliotiko River flows southwards between the mountains of Kouroupa and Xiron.
The village of Koxare is at the northern end of the gorge. A road runs north to south through the gorge joining Koxare to Asomatos; it then leads west, on to the town of Plakias on the southern coast of Crete. A small ruined church (Agios Nikolaos) sits within the gorge. There is also a 40 metre high waterfall. The cliffs on the side of the gorge provide a roosting site for the Lammergeier vulture.
There is a specific point on the gorge, about 20 metres from the northern entrance, where you can hear some “claps”, like hands coming together. These “claps” are the “kourtala”, that give the name to the gorge. They are the consequence of the wind being funnelled through the high caves of the gorge and breaking the sound barrier. The point near the northern entrance is the main point to hear that sound.
A belt of villages collectively known as the Kedros villages are built on its slopes at altitudes ranging between 400 and 600 m.
The village of Agia Galini in the southern part of Rethymno prefecture gets its share of tourism, but retains its authentic charm, making it an enticing destination. You’ll take in views of Agia Galini’s port, the serene hills surrounding town and the Lybian Sea. Tranquil nearby beaches offer a chance to relax in the sun, with cultural diversions like the remains of the ancient Roman city of Gortyn and the stunning Minoan palace of Phaistos within driving distance.
The Routes of the E4 European Path in Crete and the Prefecture of Rethymno
In Crete, the path begins its way at Kastelli of Kissamos in the Prefecture of Chania and ends up at Zakros in the Prefecture of Lasithi. The oldest and most experienced mountaineers of Crete have cooperated in order to choose the regions crossed by this path. Therefore, it is guaranteed that everyone, who walks this route, gets to know the most beautiful and interesting mountaineering landscapes and unexplored Cretan nature, since it passes by old paths, villages, monasteries and Crete’s high mountains.
In the prefecture of Rethymno, the E4 path also comprises two branches, the northern one and the southern one. The northern branch comes into the administrative borders of the prefecture from the region of Argiroupoli village and the northern one from the region of Rodakino. The two branches meet at the plateau of Nida on the mountainous mass of Psiloreitis and, from there, the path goes on to the administrative borders of the prefecture of Iraklio.
The two branches in the prefecture of Rethymno cross areas of great natural beauty and lands of important geological, archaeological, historical and, generally, cultural value. They also offer the chance to go hiking in the mountains of Krioneritis, Kedros and Psiloreitis. The southern branch is recommended to hikers in good form and to those whose interests focus on the byzantine era. The northern branch is recommended to hikers that are more interested in the Venetian occupation and modern culture.
In southern Greece, the best periods for walking the path are spring and summer. In the Peloponnese, Crete and Cyprus, one can walk the path having in mind that mountains there will be covered with snow until the end of April.
Further reading with detailed info
Cretan Adventures – Outdoor Activities
Wild Nature – Eco Tourism and Outdoor Activities
Meronas 74061, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece
Tel: +30 28330 22888
Enagron – Agrotourism and Ecotourism
Activities in Axos, Rethymno
Birdwatching at Mount Kedros and in Kourtaliotiko Gorge
Hellenic Ornithological Society
The Sacred Monastery of Arkadi
At the north-western foothills of Mount Psiloritis, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece
Tel: +30 28310 83135 Official website