Rethymno Prefecture – Stunning Canyons, Quaint Villages, and Amazing Beaches

The prefecture of Rethymno lies in the western part of Crete in between the prefectures of Chania and Heraklion. In Rethymno you will find beautiful beaches, wild gorges, archaeological sites, Byzantine churches, and picturesque villages. Rethymno is one of the most beautiful places in Crete.

Arkadi Monastery (in Greek Moní Arkadíou) is an Eastern Orthodox monastery, situated near Rethymno. It is one of the most historic monasteries on Crete
Arkadi Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery and one of the most historic monasteries in Crete

Rethymno is one of the four prefectures of Crete, located 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.

A landscape with gorges, caves, and small rivers

View of Kourtaliotis river and canyon near Preveli beach at Libyan sea, river and palm forest, southern Crete, Greece
View of Kourtaliotis river and canyon near Preveli beach at the Libyan sea, with its palm forest in southern Crete

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.

Rethymno – How to get there?

Rethymno – By ferry

You will need to reach either Heraklio or Chania first, since there are no direct ferries to Rethymno. You will find plenty of ferries from Athens to either Heraklio or Chania, since Piraeus port has a daily connection with both, all year round. During high season, you will also find ferries for Heraklio Port from several of the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands. Santorini is connected on a daily basis during the summer months. Chania is only linked by ferry with Piraeus. Arriving in either Chania or Heraklio, you can reach Rethymno by taxi, rented car or the public KTEL buses.

Flying to Rethymno

Rethymno has no airport and therefore you need to reach either Heraklio or Chania first. Chania International Airport “Ioannis Daskalogiannis” receives domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki all year round. During the summer months it receives seasonal flights from many European cities as well.
Heraklion International Airport “Nikos Kazantzakis” receives flights from Athens, Thessaloniki and Larnaka, as well as flights from European destinations during the summer months. The flight duration from Athens to either Heraklio or Chania is approx. 45 minutes. Upon arrival, you can reach Rethymno by taxi, rented car or the public KTEL buses.

Mt Psiloritis, the highest mountain in Crete

Psiloritis – where Zeus was born

The snowcovered Mount Psiloritis (Mount Ida), Crete Greece
The snowcovered Mount Psiloritis (Mount Ida)

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.

Read more about Mount Psiloritis

Quad safari in Crete Greece

Quad Safari


The Idian Cave

Mouth of the Idian Cave on Mount Ida, Rethymno, Crete
Mouth of the Idian Cave on Mount Ida, Rethymno

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

Mt Kedros 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, it has a height of 1,777 m. 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.

Things to see and do in Rethymno

Kourtaliotiko Gorge

The Kourtaliotiko Gorge (or Asomatos Gorge) - gorge on the southern side of the western part of the island of Crete. Greece.
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge (or Asomatos Gorge) – gorge on the southern side of the western part of Crete

Kourtaliotiko Gorge, also known as the Asomatos Gorge, is a gorge on the southern side of the western part 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.

Preveli beach, at the exit of Kourtaliotiko gorge in southern Crete Greece

South Crete 4×4


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. Read more about Kourtaliotiko Gorge

cycling in Greece

Rethymno Cycling Tour


The Kedros Villages – built on mountain slopes

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

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 Libyan 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. You will find the village of Agia Galini 55 km south east of Rethymnon Town.

Agia Galini caves, Rethymno region, Crete, Greece
Agia Galini caves

The Sacred Monastery of Arkadi

Garden yard of Arkadi Monastery in Crete, Greece
Garden yard of Arkadi Monastery

The Arkadi Monastery is located i 25 km southeast of Rethymno Town. The Monastery is situated on a rectangular plateau on the northwest side of Mount Ida, at an altitude of 500 m. The Sacred Monastery of Arkadi is to be found at the northwestern foothills of Mount Psiloritis, Rethymno Prefecture. Read more about Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery in Crete, Greece

Arkadi, Eleftherna, Margarites


Hiking in Rethymno region

The routes of the E4 European Path

Travel to Arkadi Gorge, Rethymno, Crete
Arkadi Gorge, Rethymno region

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.

Rouvas forest on Psiloritis mountain, with streams and colorful plantation at spring, Crete, Greece

Walk in Rethymno Maroulas


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.

Where to stay in Rethymno?

Click the link below and find a list of the best hotels and other accommodation in Rethymno Prefecture.

Ecotourism in Crete

Enagron Ecotourism Village, Rethymno Prefecture Crete Greece
Enagron Ecotourism Village in the mountains of Rethymno Prefecture

Crete has the perfect environment for ecotourism and eco-travelling. At Enagron Ecotourism Village you will experience the authentic Crete. Along with the beautiful landscapes you will discover the Cretan culture and expand your knowledge of local gastronomy. You will also learn about the myths and legends about Crete while exploring nature hiking, birdwatching, and mountaineering.

Rethymno Beach Guide

Beach of Agios Pavlos, in Rethymno region, in Crete island, Greece
The beach of Agios Pavlos in Rethymno prefecture

The long coastlines of Rethymno region are hiding quite a few beautiful beaches. Several of them are on the northern coast towards the Cretan Sea where other maybe a bit more exotic beaches are to be found on the southern coast towards the Libyan Sea. Find our 15 favorite Rethymno beaches below.

South coast at the Libyan Sea

  • Agia Galini beach – Sandy surrounded by huge cliffs Agia Galini is family friendly and a perfect place to relax. It is located 55 km southeast of Rethymno Town.
  • Agios Pavlos beach – is one of the most picturesque spots in southern Crete. Agios Pavlos is a sandy beach in a small bay, partly organized and great for chilling out. It is located 58 km southeast of Rethymno Town.
Agios Pavlos Beach in Crete island, Greece. Tourists relax and bath in crystal clear water of St. Paul Sandhill Beach
Agios Pavlos Beach – Tourists relax and bath in crystal clear water of St. Paul Sandhill Beach
  • Damnoni beach – is a beautiful, sandy bay near the popular resort of Plakias. Damnoni is a nice place to relax, organized with sunbeds and umbrellas. It is located 42 km south of Rethymno Town.
Damnoni beach at southern Crete view from top of the hill
Damnoni beach at southern Crete view from top of the hill
  • Preveli beach – is located right where a river outlet its water at the exit of gorge. The beach is set amidst palm trees and lush greenery. It is located 40 km south of Rethymno Town. Read more about Preveli beach
Preveli beach on Crete island with azure clear water, Greece. Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands
Preveli beach with azure clear water on the southern coast of Crete
  • Plakias beach – some parts of the beach are organized, and others are secluded. It is a long, calm, and relaxing beach located 40 km south of Rethymno Town.
Plakias beach Crete Greece
Plakias beach
Young woman reading a book at the beach while the sun rise, Hersonissos, Crete Greece

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  • Souda beach – is a small bay near to the fishing village of Plakias on the southern coast of Rethymno. It is well organized, but seldomly crowded. Souda beach is located 42 km south of Rethymno Town.
Amazing Souda beach in Crete island, Greece near famous resort of Plakias
Amazing Souda beach near the resort of Plakias
  • Triopetra beach – a lovely, secluded beach south of Rethymno at the Libyan Sea. Due to its remote position, it never gets crowded. Triopetra (3 stones) is named after the three rocks in the sea in front of the beach. It is located 55 km southeast of Rethymno Town.
The beach of Triopetra with turquoise sea in Southern Crete, Greece
The beach of Triopetra, meaning ‘Three rocks’

North coast at the Cretan Sea

  • Bali beach – a nice sandy beach surrounded by a wild landscape with a couple of monasteries in the area. It tends to get quite popular during the summer months. Bali beach is located 32 km east of Rethymno Town.
Famous summer resort in Bali village, near Rethymno, Crete, Greece
Bali village is a popular summer resort near Rethymno
  • Enetiko beach – is a sandy beach in walking distance from Rethymno city centre. It is located 1 km from Rethymno Town.
  • Geropotamos beach – is a small beach with a river delta on the way to Panormos. It is non-organized and secluded and therefore never really gets crowded. It is located 18 east of Rethymno Town.
Aerial view of beautiful natural big rock arch Kamara Geropotamou, near sandy beach and river, Rethimno, Crete, Greece
Aerial view of the beautiful rock arch Kamara Geropotamou, near the sandy beach and river by the same name
  • Panormos beach – is fully organized with taverns and accommodation. It has crystal clear water and a stunning view over the sea. It is located 22 km east of Rethymno Town.
  • Perivolia beach – is a long and sandy beach, located just 2 km east of Rethymno Town. It gets very popular and often crowded during the summer months.
  • Pigianos Kampos beach – is a sandy beach, organized with sunbeds and umbrellas, located 8 km east of Rethymno Town.
  • Platanias beach – is a long, organized beach surrounded by many tourist facilities. It gets very popular during the summer months due to its soft sand and short distance to Rethymno Town. It is located just 4 km east of town.
  • Town beach – is long and sandy with some parts organized with sunbeds and umbrellas. It is in waking distance from the city centre.
Coast of Greece Crete island Rethymno town with waves on the beach
Rethymno town beach

Weather and climate in Rethymno Prefecture

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Average monthly temperatures in °C and average rainfall in mm in Rethymno region, Crete
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