Old World Romance on Crete
Between Chania and Heraklion on the north coast of Crete lies an ancient port full of romance, history, and an aristocratic air you won’t find anywhere else on the island. Founded by the Minoans, ruled by the Venetians and conquered by the Turks, Rethymno’s past is packed with multicultural influence, and you can see it all within a short walk from port.
Easily explorable by foot, set out from the ship and head to the arching Porta Gorda, the gate to the main market area and the last vestige of the first Venetian fortifications from the 16th century. Spend some time getting lost in the maze of narrow cobblestone streets, and don’t forget to look up—floral canopies and intricate wooden balconies can be seen just above street level. The romantic Venetian harbor is perfect for a seaside stroll, and the best place to soak in a Grecian sunset. Up for a day at the beach? You’re in luck as there’s one in town, plus plenty more sandy escapes a short drive up the coast. Sea turtles are frequent guests here, and lay eggs in the sand from June through August.
You can’t miss the imposing, star-shaped Fortezza castle standing guard over Rethymno. Head up to the ramparts for unrivalled views, and discover the mosques and churches that dot the grounds. Before your ship departs, set out for shopping on Souliou Street, where chic boutiques and traditional artisans are found side by side.
Agios Spyridon Church
Agios Spyridon Church
Carved into a cave just below Fortezza on the west, this tiny church houses intricate icon paintings and carved bird candleholders. Let the sounds of crashing surf wash over you and try to count the pairs of shoes, sandals and slippers wedged into the rock wall as prayer offerings for the sick.
Southeast of Rethymno, this monastery dating back to the 14th century is an enduring symbol of Crete’s fight for freedom over Turkish rule. In 1866, Cretan resistance fighters exploded the ammunition stores of the monastery to avoid being captured by invading Ottoman forces. Today, the remains of those who sacrificed their lives are housed in an ossuary on site.
Draped in lush vegetation, this river gorge is ideal for a day hike. Along the way, discover over 30 abandoned flour mills that were once central to the area’s economy. At one such mill, you’ll meet Evangelos, who lovingly restored his family mill into a traditional greek tavern.
Rethymno, Crete, Greece At a glance