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From its wild south coast to a historic capital beside golden beaches, Rethymno offers a treasure trove of experiences. Watch the world go by from a taverna on Rethymno town’s Venetian harbour. Or escape to the countryside, where gnarled olive trees give way to sweeping landscapes of mountains and gorges. Then, as evening draws in, unwind in the luxury surrounds of your boutique hotel. 

Buzzing towns, pristine beaches and time-honoured traditions in Crete’s cultural heartland

Things to do

From Venetian mansions to Ottoman minarets, Rethymno town tells of the many cultures that have called Crete home. Drop by the artist workshops in the Centre for Byzantine Art. Climb the Venetian Fortress for far-reaching views, then back down to catch a performance at Neratzes Mosque, now a concert hall. To learn about rural life, head for the Historical & Folk Art Museum – or simply explore the island’s traditional villages.

Just outside Rethymno town lies miles of golden sands, where some of Crete’s most popular resorts can be found. Each summer, partygoers share the beach with the sea turtles that come to lay their eggs. The south coast is an easy journey from the northern beaches, but feels a world away. Here, tiny fishing villages cling to rocky cliffs and peaceful coves beckon to be explored by boat.

Lace up your walking boots and head south from Rethymno town to Myli Gorge. Along with fruit trees and flowers, tumbledown watermills line the river – a reminder of the community that once lived here. The trail winds its way past pretty churches that are well worth poking your head into. Or why not stop off at one of the natural springs for a swim?

Go underground on a tour of Sfendoni Cave. Here you can explore atmospheric chambers full of illuminated stalactites in surreal shapes – and spot bats

Top tip from SLH




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