Rethymnon is mostly associated as a university town, and the island's third largest, it is thought of locally as the intellectual centre of Crete. A place fashioned by a history of turbulent upheaval, it offers an interesting mixture of ancient and modern, meeting the demands of today's tourism with charm and elegance.
The old town, measuring a compact ¾ ml E to W and ½ ml N to S, shows signs of its Venetian inheritance in its stone archways and fountains but principally in the remains of an extensive 16th-century fortress, which dominates the area and looks out over the bustling waterfront with its palm-lined promenade and bright, multicoloured boats.
There is also a definite Eastern flavour, a legacy of the Turkish occupation of the island, with 3 mosques, including the Neratzes Mosque with its towering minaret, and the wooden Turkish balconies on many of the houses. Beyond the centre, tourist development has extended along the coast on both sides of the town, particularly to the E, where it has incorporated smaller village resort areas. Anyone could be forgiven for mistaking the hugely popular package tour resort town of Rethymnon for a sort of Cretan-inspired theme resort, but the best thing about the town is that its picturesque historic heart is actually genuine.
The old town is just that, old, its winding alleys overhung with pretty wooden flower-bedecked balconies flaunt historic Venetian and Turkish architectural influences. Fortunately a recent mad spate of tourist development has left the old town untouched, so it can now delight the many snap-happy visitors and serve as a bustling venue for tavernas, restaurants and souvenir shops. To the east is one of Crete's longest sandy beaches, which has become the target of developers and is lined with apartment blocks and hotels.
About midway along Crete's N coast. 12 mls E of Georgioupolis. 50 mls W of Heraklion and its airport. 40 mls SE of Chania and its airport. Faces N on a promontory jutting into a small bay. The fertile Amari Valley and Nida Plateau stretch out behind, with olive groves, forests and agricultural plastic greenhouses, and the town is bounded by the rocky mountains which characterise the region.