What to see in Rethymno
A guided tour of the Prefecture of Rethymnon should definitely include a visit to Eleutherna, the area where the finds of the homonymous ancient city are found. It is not known when the city was actually built but according to scientists there must have been life in the area in the Geometric period, that is 970-820 B.C. It was built on a hill and enclosed with a wall parts of which still survive today. There was a long entrance like a bridge and a tower which protected the sole entrance to the city which was considered impregnable. The aquaduct and reservoirs which were found give evidence of the city’s organization and the level of civilization of the inhabitants. On the north side of the hill there was a temple, possibly that of Apollo, which was used A.D. by Christians for religious purposes. Sculpted tombs on the cliffs and carved sarcophaguses give us information about the civilization of ancient Eleutherna. Eleutherna experienced prosperity during the Roman and Early Byzantine Age. It was one of the most powerful independent cities. Its inhabitants were occupied with trade, agriculture and shipping and the port which was used is surmised to have been the bay of Fodele. Its development becomes obvious from its bridges which surround it and comprise samples of advanced architecture. As an independent power, it provided its own currency, whose one side was decorated by Apollo and the other by Artemes. As an independent city it developed rivalry with Knossos resulting in a war breaking out in 222 B.C. against it and in the same year becoming an ally in the civil war of the cities of Crete. From Eleutherna originates Diogenes Apolloniates, the physicist who lived in the 5th century B.C. and was a student of Anaximenus.
The Archaeological Museum, the most interesting one in the city, is housed in a building located at the Fortezza entrance. It will guide you through the long history of the region as its exhibits date back from the Late Neolithic until the Roman era.
The Minoan antiquities discovered in Armeni village are kept in a separate window. The parts exhibiting findings from the Gerani, Melidoni, Margelon and Elenon caves are particularly interesting. The larnax dating back to the Late Minoan era, the bronze statue of a woman wearing a veil and holding a sphere (about 480 B.C.) and the statuette of a Minoan deity descovered in Pagkalochori and dated back to 1320-1200 B.C. are considered the most remarkable exhibits of the museum
In Rethymno you will also find a Folklore and History Museum housed in a two-story building. On the second floor you can find the exhibition of folklore findings and the first floor houses a small but not insignificant at exhibition of articles associated with the period of the Cretan State.
A little further on the same road, you can visit the Folklore Collection of the Lyceum club of Greek women, a remarkable collection of popular art articles, costumes and domestic items.
The most important monasteries of Rethymno Prefecture, which are worth visiting mainly for their heroic memories, are Arkadi Monastery, Preveli Monastery, Asomaton Monastery and Arsaniou Monastery.
It is located 20 km SE of Rethymno in a lush green landscape full of oak trees, kermes oak trees, pine trees and vineyards. Built in 1587, its architecture is influenced in various ways by the early renaissance, the gothic and classic style as well as the early baroque style. At first, it acquired reputation as a center for copying Greek manuscripts, a work the monks of the monastery had been in charge of. At the same time, it was also renowned for the elaborately embroidered canonicals it produced. On November 8th 1866 an army of 15,000 Turks equipped with 30 canons and under the command of Souleiman Bey besieged the monastery, where 325 armed fighters with their wives and children (964 persons in total including the monks) had found shelter. They blew up the power ked so as not to become slaves of the enemy.
After the liberation the monastery was reconstructed according to its original form. Therefore, the building the visitors see today is not very different from the original one. The monastery houses a museum with an exhibition of findings from the "Arkadi holocaust", heirlooms, weapons, icons, an ossuary, etc.
The Asomaton Monastery is built in a beautiful landscape in the center of Asomathianos plain, surrounded by opulent vegetation and waters. The fountain located in the precinct of the monastery provides fresh water. The monastery was probably built in the 10th-11th century and was then destroyed by the Arabs. It was probably refounded thanks to the fact that Nikiforos Fokas regained Crete. During the Venetian occupation it contributed to the 1723 revolution.
The monastery was destroyed by the Turks when they took control of Crete and was refounded thanks to the initiatives of later abbots. During the Turkish occupation, it played a major role. In 1927 the monastery housed the Agricultural School, which is today a research center. In the church of the monastery you can see the icons of Taxiarches (Archangels) and Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity), which date back to the 18th century.
It is impossible to know when the monastery was founded as it suffered serious damage and was pillaged many times throughout its history. The oldest inscription dating back to 1701 of the famous palindrome "Nipson anommata mi monan opsin" (Wash your sins, not only your face) on the fountain is preserved until today.
Only the remains of the monastery can be seen today, as the roofs have fallen down and only the walls are still standing.
The first part of the monastery (Piso Moni) is located 2 km away from the twin monastery and in still in operation nowadays as a male convent. The monastery offers a magnificent view of the Libyc sea.
You can admire the wood carved chancel with religious icons that are real masterpieces and represent scenes from the Bible in a detailed way. Some of these icons date back to 1750.
The catholicon of the monastery is a two-aisled popular art church, built in 1836. It houses the old abbey, which today used as a guest house. You will also find a small museum exhibiting religious icons that date back to the 19th century. There are also interesting documents dating back to 1798 as well as the ledgers of the monastery dating back to the 19th century.
Near the village of Sises, there is a monastery dedicated to the Holy Cross (Timios Stavros) built at an altitude of 350 m. The monastery holds its celebrations on September 14th. The monastery is known as Vosakou Monastery and was founded during the 14th century.
The prefecture’s north coasts are very busy and organized. Pay a visit to Rethimno beach just outside the city, its golden sand extends over twelve kilometer, and enjoy the sea ideal for small children as it is shallow for several meters. Alternatively you can follow a very easy route on an asphalt roadway which ends up in the organized beach of Plakia.
If you prefer isolated beaches with crystal waters and untouched sceneries away from touristic development you should take the way to the south coasts of the island. In the broader area you will see the isolated beach of Ammoudaki, while if you continue towards Lefkogia you will be amazed by the beautiful beach of Ammoudi with the imposing rocks standing in the sea. If you like underwater explorations the richness of its bottom will take your breath away.
Some of the most beautiful beaches in Crete is Aghia Irini, Triopetra, Ligres and Aghios Pavlos all located in the southeastern side of Rethimno prefecture.
Preveli beach is located in exotic scenery composed by a river, waterfalls, palm trees and fine white sand. Kourtaliotis river falls into Libyan sea forming several lacy coasts. You can reach it by boat departing from Plakia, Aghia Galini or even from Sfakia. Finally, you can also reach this beautiful coast by passing the modern bridge located before Kato Preveli monastery.