Of Crete’s four regional units - each with their distinctive charms - Rethymnon offers perhaps the most real experience. Rethymnon’s geography is part of the attraction: this compact region of the island (1500 square kilometres) is a narrow segment of the island from north to south. It offers some of Crete’s most stunning drives through mountain passes and opening onto endless views of the Libyan Sea from above.
Rethymnon is also an excellent destination for culture. The capital - Rethymnon town - is an enchanting port city with a romantic Venetian character. The region is also filled with charming villages, each with a distinctive style. Rethymnon also has two of Crete’s most famous monasteries, fascinating destinations in their own right for religious pilgrimage and for culture and architecture as well as for their natural settings.
For nature, adventure, and beaches, you’ll also have an astonishing choice. Staying in the Rethymnon region gives you easy access to the more cosmopolitan beaches of the north coast, as well as the remote and wild beauty of the south coast’s beaches.
Here’s how you can spend 14 days in Crete — an itinerary to fill two glorious weeks with nature, culture, cuisine and relaxation under the sweet Cretan sun for a memorable holiday.
How to spend 14 days in Crete: Too week Rethymnon itinerary
Day 1- Rethymnon Town
A great favourite with all visitors to Crete, Rethymnon Town offers a delightful mix of traditional charm and contemporary interest.
The Fortezza Fortress and the Rimondi Fountain set a romantic Venetian atmosphere that carries thought the narrow stone alleys of the old port. Here, you’ll find the traditional local character, including the famous Kirios Yiorgos Hatziparaskos, a true artisan who can spin a disc of dough into a billowing sheet that is light as a feather. There are also jewellers, leather craftsmen, and other traditional quality handcrafts.
You can make time for Rethymnon’s excellent museums - besides an Archaeological Museum, and there is a Folklore and Historical Museum in a lovely Venetian building. Crete’s Contemporary Art Museum is also in Rethymnon- this is an excellent place to become acquainted with modern Greek art from the 1950s to the present.
A meal of fish and seafood in the picturesque marina makes a wonderful cap to your day exploring Rethymnon.
Day 2 - Arkadi Monastery, Ancient Eleutherna, and Margarites Village
This compact region offers a lot of famous sightseeing within a comfortable distance. Start at the Arkadi Monastery, Crete’s loveliest. Besides being a splendid example of the elegant architecture of the Cretan Renaissance, the Arkadi monastery is a place of tremendous historical interest. The Arkadi monastery played an important role in the Cretan Revolt of 1866. Over 900 people lost their lives here, and it is an enduring symbol of bravery and sacrifice of the Cretan people.
The city-state of ancient Eleutherna - also sometimes called Apollonia - was colonized by the Dorians in the 9th century BC. Strategically located, it was on a steep ridge for natural protection. It had control of the nearby ports, as well as being between Knossos and ancient Kidonia (where Chania is today). Eleutherna was a prosperous city until a devastating earthquake in the 4th C AD and continued to be inhabited until the end of the 8th C, and so has traces of various civilizations - Dorian, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian. At Eleutherna, there is an archaeological park and museum in a setting that itself is a protected woodland area.
In addition to being a charming traditional Cretan village with lovely stone architecture, Margarites village has another attraction- this village has long been famous for its pottery. A source of natural clay of excellent quality is nearby, and generations of artisans in Margarites have perfected the craft. There are many workshops to visit and beautiful, useful objects. This is also an ideal village for some traditional Cretan food.
Day 3 - South Rethymnon - Preveli Monastery and Preveli Beach
One of the most beautiful drives you can imagine, through dramatic mountain passes, brings you to the coast of the Libyan Sea. Here, you can visit the historic Preveli monastery, which commands a glorious view of the Sea. In addition to being a site of pilgrimage, this monastery - like many others in Crete - has played an essential, material role in the conflicts of Crete, serving the people with bravery both in conflicts against the Ottoman and as well as during WWII.
Near the monastery are steps - many of them - descending a great cliff to Preveli Beach. Far below, there is a view of the Libyan Sea, the beach below, and the palm forest along the banks of the stream flowing into the Sea. It’s so lovely you might wish the hike down was even longer.
On your way home, stop at the Pyrgos Restaurant for traditional Cretan dishes like Kalitsounia and Dakos, and enjoy them with sweeping views of the gorge.
Day 4- A Day of hiking, Food and Wine in the Mountain Villages
Thronos, a mountain village near the site of Ancient Syvritos, is an excellent place to come not just to eat, but to learn how to cook some classic Cretan dishes. You can have an outdoor cooking class while you take in the scenery of the valley below. While you are here, visit the 14th century Church of the Assumption with its extraordinary frescoes, and imagine the enormous 6th-century church that once stood here.
A lovely drive through the unspoiled countryside will bring you to the Kourkoulou Winery. This very young winery is a perfect example of Crete’s current wine-making culture. Many vintners are reviving and embracing indigenous grape varieties. These are well-suited to the mountainous terrain and rocky soil and produce exceptional wines.
Not far from the winery is the Patsos Gorge. On an easy hike through a lush forest, you’ll find an ancient shrine to Hermes and also a later shrine-Cave/temple to St Anthony, in an opening in the rock.
Day 5 - Loutro and Chora Sfakia
Crete is also famous for the beauty of its rocky landscape, and this is nowhere more dramatic than at the south coast of Rethymnon. The terrain is so wild that there are few roads -it’s best explored by boat.
The road to Chora Sfakion is a lovely one. The village itself - a small traditional port town - is a great place to visit for a seafood meal and a stroll.
But from Chora Sfakion, you can catch boats that run along the south coast going west to Loutro and then Agia Roumeli. Loutro is enchanting. Built around a sparkling cove, it is reached only by boat or on foot. Without cars, it is as though time has stopped in this tiny seaside village.
The boat continues to Agia Roumeli, which is the end of the trail for the Samaria Gorge, a world-famous hike.
Day 6 - Argyroupoli and the Cretan Gastronomy Center, and exploring Kournas Lake
Built on steep mountain slopes is gorgeous Argyroupoli, which is also the site of Ancient Lappa. During its height of prosperity under the Romans, this was a city of luxurious villas with mosaic floors - some of which even now are being uncovered. The Ancient Lappa Taverna is a wonderful place for Cretan dishes.
In Argyroupoli, you’ll also find the Cretan Gastronomy Center. This is not just a cooking school, although it is an excellent one. It is also an educational Center and a place preserving traditional Cretan foodways. You can have an insider’s experience of authentic Cretan Cuisine here. Explore the village by hiking down the “Calderimi” - these are old donkey paths - then walk through the surrounding woods and follow the sound of waterfalls.
Day 7 - Day Trip to Heraklion: The Palace of Knossos and the Archaeological Museum
Nearby Heraklion, the capital of Crete, has a beautiful harbour. Like Rethymnon, here you’ll find many traces of Crete’s Venetian heritage.
Near Heraklion is a world-class archaeological site. The Palace of Knossos was the main Palace of the Minoans. This was an advanced and glorious civilization that flourished over a thousand years before the Golden Age of Athens. Excavated at the beginning of the 20th century by Sir Arthur Evans, Knossos - with its vivid recreations of original murals, columns, and other architectural details - excites the imagination. This is where Thiseus of mythology fought the Minotaur.
Your enthusiasm for learning more about this fascinating culture will be satisfied at the superb Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, where you will see a wealth of original findings from the excavation, including originals of the familiar mosaics recreated at the site.
Day 8 - Hiking plus a Beach Day at Plakias
After so much exciting sightseeing, it’s time to enjoy what Crete is perhaps most famous for the fantastic beaches. One great destination is Plakias, Crete’s south coast. The beaches on the Libyan Sea have many advantages. The beaches are more unspoiled in Crete’s remoter regions.
Plakias, a crescent-shaped cove with a beach and charming town on the south coast of Crete, is a fantastic day-trip destination. Near Plakias are some famously friendly hikes, including the Gorge of Kotsifos and the Kourtaliotiko Gorge.
After a hike, you can refresh yourself with a swim in the clear waters of the Libyan Sea, and lounge on the long, soft sandy beach. Plakias has many lovely tavernas and cafes to enjoy a full day at the beach.
Day 9 - Enjoying the Culture of Crete
One of Spain’s most famous artists is famously not from Spain: the great painter El Greco is, in fact, Domenicus Theotokopoulos, and he was from Crete. You can walk around his charming village, Fodele, and visit a museum dedicated to him.
Near Foldele is the gorgeous beach Agia Pelagia, where you can refresh yourself with a swim in its crystal waters. Then, you can drive inland to one of Crete’s most storied villages, high on the slopes of Mt. Psiloritis. Anogia is famous for the bravery of its inhabitants, particularly for their role in the Cretan Resistance during WWII. This mountain village is also famous for music - some of Crete’s most famous musicians, both past and present, come from Anogia, and traditional Cretan music is very stirring. Here you can enjoy authentic Cretan cuisine. In the mountains, the Cretans eat goat and lamb rather than seafood, along with delicious cheeses and pies. Join them for a memorable evening.
Day 10 - Bali Beach by Day, Traditional Culture by Night
Bali beach resort counts among Crete’s most famous beaches. Inside a deep cove and facing west, the waters are generally calm, protected from the famously strong winds that sometimes visit the northern coast. There are four beaches here to choose from, each of them well organized for a comfortable and stress-free beach day.
In the evening, see if you can find a “Panigyri.” In the summer, there are many panigyri throughout Crete - these are celebrations in honour of the feast day of a village’s patron saint. Ask locals where one might be. At a panigyri, there will be fantastic Lyra music, traditional Cretan dances, and of course wonderful food and plentiful wine and raki. It promises a memorable evening.
If you cannot find a Panigyri, then you can have a fantastic authentic Cretan experience at “To Spiti tou Poliou“ (Poliou House). This is a personal and beautiful family museum where you can have a picture of precisely what traditional Cretan village life was like. To Spiti tou Poliou is also a classic taverna - in the evening, there is often music, traditional dancing, great food, and again plenty of local wine and raki - in short, everything you would enjoy at a panigyri.
Day 11 - Spili Village
This mountain village is one of Crete’s most refreshing destinations, famous for its extraordinary fountain. From the mouth of 25 stone lions gushes fresh, sweet mountain water. Enjoy the shade, and stroll through a traditional village with charming architecture and beautiful handcrafts. This is an excellent place for a home-style lunch.
Day 12 - A Taste of Farm Life and Culture, and a leisurely visit to Rethymnon
Agreco Farm is an exceptional destination that has a lot to offer any group. You can be a “Farmer for a Day” and experience authentic Cretan farming life through participating in a host of satisfying activities like harvesting vegetables, milking goats, and gathering eggs. Then you can prepare foods and make bread to bake in a wood-burning oven, for a real farm to table experience. Children will love specialized activities and a visit to the mini-zoo. There is a taverna offering traditional Cretan cuisine featuring the farm’s own organic produce. There is also a shop.
For the later afternoon and evening, you can enjoy another visit to Rethymnon Town. Having seen the main sights, you can just enjoy getting lost in the charming alleyways and doing some shopping for mementoes and souvenirs. You are sure to find some traditional handcrafts to bring as gifts and enjoy yourself. Make time for a coffee or a raki at a traditional “Kafeneio” or even another festive seafood dinner on the marina.
Day 13 - Enjoying your Private Villa
Use this last day to enjoy relaxing in your private villa. You can soak up the sweet sunshine and perfect a healthy summer glow. After packing, you can have a festive farewell dinner right in your own villa, enjoying the best of Cretan products and a true sense of place.
Day 14 - Departure
Rethymnon provides such a full and varied experience. Although it is hard to say goodbye, a few holidays can leave you as fulfilled as two weeks in Rethymnon can. You will be refreshed and recharged.