Rethymno and the Monastery of Arkadi are a perfect combination for a daytrip. You can do this trip also with a tour operator and by bus. Click the KTEL-Logo for the latest up to date schedules, choose "with departure from Rethmno" and look for Plakias-Rethymno and Rethymno-Arkadi.
By car I suggest the following route (this includes a scenic drive through the Amari Valley and over the mountains to the picturesque village of Spili and the abandoned village of Old Mixorrouma):
Plakias - Rethymno
Drive east out of Plakias via Lefkogeia and the Kourtaliotis Gorge towards Rethymno. When you hit the national road, pass the viaduct and turn left onto this highway. After 2km take a right U-turn at a chaotic intersection (you pass the Lidl supermarket). You drive into Rethymno and take a left turn after 2km towards the sea (there is a convenience store on the corner with fruit and vegetables stalled outside). You pass the bus station an park your car at the parking on your right (see thumbnail below). It is a short walk from here to the Fortezza and the Venetian Harbour and not too far from the Old Town and the Thursday morning market.
Tip: On Thursday mornings there is a market right across the Guora Gate at the Old Town Rethymno
Rethymno has a lot of history because of the various occupations of Crete. The old architecture is a mix of Venetian and Ottoman style. There are the Venetian Harbour, the charming Old Town with its small alleys, the old gate (Guora Gate), tavernas and souvenir shops, an Ottoman Mosque and the Fortezza.
The city also houses a lot of museums, like the Archeological Museum, the Paleontological Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and History and Folk Art Museum, just to mention a few.
The Fortezza is a big citadel built by the Venetians and later conquered by the Ottomans. There are a number of buildings on this walled citadel and great views over Rethymno. It is definitely worth a visit!
Opening hours: 08:00-19:15 June-September and 10:00-17:00 October-May
Entrance fee: €4,00 (2019)
Click on the thumbnail on the right for a large version of the city map, including the landmarks.
Rethymmno - Arkadi Monastery
You drive back the way you came in and turn right onto the highway (where you were before at the awkward intersection). Drive on the highway for almost 14km and get off the highway, turn left, pass the Inka supermarket and take the first right. On your way to Arkadi Monastery you pass the villages of Chamalevri, Asteri and Amnatos. You can park right in front of this beautiful monastery.
The church of the beautiful Arkadi Monastery was built in 1587, and the buildings surrounding it in the following years. The church's forefront has clear renaissance architecture and was designed by 2 Italians.
The monastery has been a centre education and the printing of manuscripts. The needlework embroidered with gold that was made here was famous far passed the monastery's walls.
The most famous part of its history took part in 1866 when Konstantinos Giambouakis set fire to the gunpowder barrels in the powder room when the Ottoman Turks arrived at the door and the Cretan fighters were defeated, killing not only many hostile soldiers but also a lot of women, men and children who were hiding there.
On the left of the church you'll see a tree with a bullet in it from the 1866 battle.
There are still a few monks inhabiting the monastery today.
Opening hours: April- May 09:00-19:00 June-August 09:00-20:00 September-October 09:00- 19:00 November 09:00-17:00 December-March 09:00-16:00 Entrance fee: €3,00 (2019)
Remember that when visiting an inhabited monastery your clothing should be appropriate, your shoulders and knees should be covered.
Arkadi Monastery - Spili
A very scenic drive back to Plakias via the gorgeous Amari Valley, passed the Psiloritis (with 2456 meters the highest mountain on Crete), over the mountains to the picturesque mountain village of Spili.
Continue on the road you were on to Agia Fotini, in the Amari Valley. From here you drive to Spili via the villages of Apostoli, Pantanassa and Patsos. When you come down to the main road turn left for the village centre and you will find a big parking on your right hand.
Spili is a picturesque mountain village which is famous for the small lionhead water fountains you will find in the centre of town, surrounded by cafes and tavernas. There is steep walk up right behind these fountains for some amazing views over the town.
One of the souvenirs shop is famous for its wide selection of herbs, ointments, honey and chemical free soap with the smell of everything from chocolate to lemon.
Spili - Plakias
On the short drive back to Plakias you will pass Ano Mixorrouma. When you enter the town you can visit the abandoned village of Old Mixorrouma by taking the second left turn. Park your car at the old washing place and walk into the village on the road to the left.
This abandoned village is situated in lush green surroundings and nature is taking over the houses which gives this place a unique feeling to it. The church is still in use and some of the old houses are being renovated in the past years.
The story is that the inhabitants moved a few 100 meters north because of the new road there.
From here it's back to Plakias via the Kourtaliotis Gorge.