- Departure from the port of Heraklion or a predetermined point
- Stop at Rethymno city
- City tour
- Stop at Arkadi Monastery
- Return to Heraklion
Notes: The predetermined positions may change according to your wishes. The tour can be combined with shopping at Rethymno city.
Rethymno is the central city of the municipality of the same name, and the capital of Rethymno County (27,868 residents in 2001). It is located in the north of Crete and specifically on the east side of Almyros Gulf. Rethymno is the third most densely populated city of Crete, after Heraklion and Chania, and the administrative, commercial and transportation center of Rethymno County.
The city of Rethymno is a very interesting tourist destination. The picturesque and well organized city is a paradise for every visitor wishing relaxed vacations, a walk along the picturesque pathways or wanting to enjoy the routes among the historical and natural monuments of the area. The old city of Rethymno still preserves its old urban structure to a great extent, formed during the Venetian period and later reformed during the Turkish occupation and continuously inhabited until the present day. It has been declared a protected historical monument and a traditional settlement.
The Municipality actively contributes to the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the old city and promotes its cultural characteristics, tourist development, and tries to offer a high quality of life for its citizens through the proper management of socio-economic activities. A number of projects have been realized, or are under realization, covering all aspects of city life linked to its history, culture and architecture.
Rethymno City Old Town
The current old town is built exactly on the site of ancient Rithymna and today covers the area between Fortetsa and Dimakopoulou and Gerakari streets. In general, the city has preserved its old urban structure, formed during the Venetian sovereignty, while only a few blocks were added during the Turkish sovereignty. Overall, the characteristics of these two periods are evident to the tourists from the first moment of their tour in the old city. The main streets of the old city are Ethnikis Antistaseos Str. (Megali Porta), Makri Steno (Nikiforos Fokas Str.) and the seaside street of Ammos (Arkadiou Str.).
The Venetian fortress of Fortetza was built on the hill of Paleokastro, in the west of Rethymno. In the past, the acropolis of the ancient city of Rithymna and the Sanctuary of Roccaea Artemis was located on the hill of Paleokastro, a fact that it is evident by the carvings found on various spots of the hill. The settlement was most likely located near the harbor. However, there is no evidence of the structure of the settlement, the shape of the acropolis and the sanctuary.
During the following centuries and exactly on the same spot, the citizens decided to build the city of Rethymno. The Castel Vecchio, the small fortified settlement dating back to the Byzantine era, was preserved until about the middle of the 16th century. In 1540, they began building new walls so as to protect the settlement which had spread around the Castel Vecchio. However, the Turkish invasion in 1571 and the destruction of the city forced the inhabitants to build new walls, as the terrestrial wall did not fully cover it. In 1573, they set the foundation stone of the Fortetza, on the hills of Paleokastro. The initial purpose of the structure, which was not accomplished, was to fortify all the houses of the city. After the end of the Turkish threat, the citizens of the city began to rebuild their houses.
The building procedures were completed around 1580. The only ones who stayed in the castle were the Venetian guards, as the area left for the construction of private houses following the completion of the public buildings was ultimately too small. In any case, the area where the castle was built was very limited. This had additional consequences to the overall organization of the fortress. The rocky ground, the absence of a moat and the small free area in front of the fortress, made the Fortetza very vulnerable as regards defense. Even the form of the four bastions was incomplete, as they did not have the appropriate characteristics of a full bastion. However, some of its weaknesses were compensated for by correct organization of the interior. There were no buildings near the precinct and the south side, that most exposed to attacks, was protected by cavaliers. The ammunition depots were placed on the north side, while all the necessary buildings for the siege were placed in order on the south side.
After 1646 and the siege of the city by the Turks, the Fortetza did not undergo any further great changes. However, there were some changes in the embankment fill and the fortress yard. There was also an increase in the number of houses built inside the castle. In the early 20th century, the interior of the Fortetza was almost fully built. Gradually, the Municipality of Rethymno began transferring the inhabitants outside the fortress and began demolition of the dilapidated buildings. In the meanwhile, the Municipality, the Archaeological Service and the Greek National Tourist Organization started expropriating these areas.
Today, the fortress of Fortetza is the most important monument of Rethymno and the trademark of the city. Many cultural events and exhibitions take place in its restored buildings, while at the bastion of Prophet Elias, there is a small Municipal Theatre, called “Europhile”.
The holy Monastery of Arkadi is a historical Monastery of Crete, established during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Arkadis. It had a very strategic position, connecting the provinces of Rethymno, Mylopotamos and Amario. It is 23 km from the city of Rethymno and its first complete fortressed shape was created during the last period of the Venetian sovereignty. The main temple is dedicated to Agios Konstantinos and Agia Eleni and has two aisles.
In 1669, after the fall of Crete to the Turks, the Conqueror Pasha (Kiprisly) forbade the Christians to ring the bells of all the region’s churches and monasteries. However, the deacon of Arkadi Monastery, Neofitos Patelaris, who knew Turkish, decided to visit the pasha at Tympaki, the base of its huge military camp, offer gifts and ask him to allow, at least, the use of the Arkadi bell. The conqueror accepted the gifts, appreciating the only priest who had the courage to visit him and allowed the use of the monastery’s bells. From then on, the monastery was also known as “Tsanli-Manastir”, which means “the only monastery’s bell with the right to ring” during the various rites. The pasha also offered to the Christians a special guard for the Monastery of the next village, Amnato.
After the holocaust in 1866, it was fully reconstructed and restored to its previous shape. Today, the only signs of the bloodshed of 140 years ago are a half-burnt temple on the left of the Holy Altar Table and a canon ball stuck in the perennial cypress on the right of the church.
On March 3rd 1866, Cretan revolutionaries began gathering at the monastery and by November the monastery housed 259 warriors and 705 women and children. On September 24th, Colonel P. Koroneos of the Greek Army arrived with a few volunteers and was declared head of the army. Although Koroneos strongly believed that the position of the monastery was not suitable for defense, Abbot Gavril refused to abandon his monastery. So he improved defenses and appointed Lieutenant I. Dimakopoulos as chief in his stead and left to recruit warriors from the provinces.
The Turkish army, under the leadership of Moustafa Naili Pasha, consisted of 6,000 infantry, 200 cavalry and 1,200 Albanians and was supported by 30 cannons. When they attacked the monastery, Moustafa Pasha asked Abbey Gabril to surrender, receiving, of course, a negative answer.
The attack began on November 8th and many men fought with great courage: Dimakopoulos, Spiros Olympios, Kouvos, Denianakis and Galinakis. However, the following day, the Turkish forces broke through the outer defenses and killed Abbey Gabriil. As a consequence, they entered the monastery enclosure, finding Cretans exhausted and certain of defeat. Having all this in mind, Konstantinos Yiaboudakis from Adele village in Rethymno suggested to some other warriors that the women and children be locked into the powder room.
The demolition of the Monastery and the death of many Greeks and Turks was caused by the explosion of the powder barrels by the Greeks themselves. The explosion was so thunderous and fierce that it was heard in Heraklion. After the explosion of the powder room, Dimakopoulos continued fighting against the Turks-Albanians within the enclosure of the Monastery. Finally, on November 9th, he decided to surrender to the enemy, but only after he had received guarantees for the lives of the last defenders. However, the following day, they were all executed by beheading.
Arkadi has been declared a European Monument of Freedom by UNESCO.