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A place of contrasts, boasting a long and remarkable history as well as untouched places of natural beauty and living traditions, the prefecture of Rethymno is situated on the island of Crete, abutting the Cretan Sea in the north and the Libyan Sea in the South.

The prefecture terrain is mostly mountainous with small but interesting morphological changes such as imposing gorges, a large number of caves, lush valleys and small rivers. The climate is “temperate Mediterranean”.

Archaeological finds point to human presence in the region during the Neolithic period, while the greater number of finds date back to the Minoan period (2600-1100 BC). Continuous development of the area is observed during the period of Antiquity (620-500 BC) at which time works of great artistic value were produced. According to testimony of more recent sources, during Classical (500-330) and Hellenistic (330-67 BC) times, the ancient town of Rithimna must have flourished; it was situated in the same place where the modern capital of Rethymo is today. Christianity expanded on the island during the First Byzantine period (330-824) and a large number of churches were built. From the year 824 through 961, the region, along with the rest of Crete, was governed by the Arabs. During the Second Byzantine period fortification works of the town of Rethymno were started for the first time, while in 1211 the long and interesting period of the Venetian occupation began, remains of which can be clearly seen still on all levels. On 29 September 1646, the troops of Hussein Pasha arrived at the fortified walls of the city of Rethymno that had already been weakened due to a number of earlier raids led by the Turks. The Fortezza of Rethymno was surrendered to the Turks on 13 November 1646. Despite continuous struggles the region continued to be dominated by the Turks until the revolution of 1897, when Crete finally secured its autonomy.

With its central part built on the cape of the northern shore of the prefecture, capital Rethymno stretches along the northern sandy beach with a range of low mountains rising up in the south. This small Mediterranean town enchants visitors with its centre dating back to the period of the Renaissance, its fortress and museums, as well as its beaches. Built during the Venetian occupation, the public buildings of Rethymno were generally magnificent constructions. Situated in the centre of the city, the 16th-century Loggia of Rethymno is a magnificent, well-preserved building where nobility met to discuss political and economic issues. Other samples of Venetian architecture are the famous Rimondi Fountain constructed in 1626 by the Rector of the city, the church of Aghios Frangiskos that belonged to a monastery run by Franciscan monks and the mosque Neratzes which during the Venetian occupation was the Augustinian church of the Holy Virgin. A plethora of churches and monasteries was built in the Prefecture of Rethymno during both the early Christian and the Byzantine periods, displaying splendid interior embellishments such as mosaics and frescoes. Founded in 1887, the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno houses a wealth of archaeological exhibits from the late Neolithic and Proto-Minoan eras through the Classical and Hellenistic periods.

Traditions related to religion, nature and life itself represent a very important chapter in the life of the people of Rethymno. Fragrances and flavours of traditional cooking and special dishes decorate the Christmas and the Easter table. Epiphany is celebrated on 6 January in the ports; carnival and Shrove Monday are celebrated in February or March. Since 1987, the famous Renaissance Festival has been organised by the Municipality of Rethymno each summer featuring works of Cretan play-writers as well as a large variety of plays by Shakespeare, Molliere, Goldoni and others. Musicians from all over the world gather in Rethymno, while street performances of the “Comedia del arte” can be seen in the narrow streets and alleys of the old town. Dancing performances, paintings, speeches and cinema complete the framework of the festival activities. The revival of traditions and customs in picturesque villages of the Prefecture of Rethymno challenges and invites all aficionados of old customs, featuring carnival games, happenings and satires to keep the memories of earlier times alive.

Apart from being ideal for summer holidays, the prefecture of Rethymno is also attracting many visitors who wish to explore the multifarious beauties of the countryside and the mountains, come into closer contact with the every-day life of the locals in the villages and follow the trail of history and civilisation and enjoy the grandeur of nature through the aromatic herbs and wild flowers growing in abundance.

Travel to Rethymno can be accomplished either by choosing one of the many flights through the airports at Chania and Heraklion or by alternatively taking the boat from Piraeus port directly to Rethymno port.