Crete Part III: Not-So Stranded in the Underrated Rethymno
Our plan for our honeymoon was to explore Crete, Santorini, and Athens, and I was eager to recreate a version of that trip.
However, upon researching both ferries and flights from Crete to Santorini, we realized we were in a serious bind. We had plans to meet up with Will’s parents in England by mid-October. However, that was proving to be more logistically challenging coming from Chania.
Will and I went down a rabbit hole on Skyskanner by trying to get creative, wanting to explore another island before England. For some unbeknownst reason, flights from Athens to London were exorbitantly expensive.
After working ourselves into a tizzy, we found a random, reasonably priced ticket from Chania to London. So rather than bending over backwards to follow my own preconceived vision of island hopping, we decided to stay in Crete.
For me, it was a lesson in stop getting fixated on a plan and forcing the issue. So much of this year has been about learning to adjust, being flexible.
And above all, relying on Skykanner’s fly “Everywhere” feature, to find the least expensive dates and destinations to fly.
Crete itself is a bit like it’s own country separate from Greece, with it’s own customs and cuisine. After all, it’s union with Greece is fairly recent, only dating back to the turn of the 20th century. For a change in scenery, we took the bus to Rethymno.
Rethymno feels untouched. It’s not as popular as Chania, though there’s ample to explore.
Some of the narrow streets felt more quintessentially Greek to me.
Plus, it’s easy access to southern Crete, which is arguably to most scenic, naturally stunning part of the island.
In many ways, Rethymno felt like a smaller Chania, with a central harbor lined with cobbled stone streets with shops and restaurants.
We rented a studio apartment for another week.
There was a lovely garden patio view.
And when you really craned your neck, a view of the ocean as well.
One of my regrets this year was not taking photos of our accommodations. This studio was a tight fit, but so sweet.
We quickly found our favorite local spots. Unoriginally, we discovered Bar B.Q. for the best souvlaki in town.
We went a few times for both lunch and dinner, and you really couldn’t go wrong. Everything on the menu was fantastic.
Rethymno is situated on the northern coast of Crete. It has a generously wide, sandy beach.
Fortunately, we got a beach day in before the temperature dropped.
We also made it a point to take a few day trips. One, being the Gorge of Mili.
We asked the attendant at the local bus station if there was a hike nearby. She directed us to a minivan, so we go in, not quite knowing what to expect.
The mountainous road up winded around fields of wildflowers, providing some stunning vantage points.
We were completely taken aback by the manicured, yet rustic, pathway.
It felt a bit like an enchanted forest.
The gorge itself runs along a river bed, yielding water year round.
In the past, two creeks and several smaller mills created a tremendous amount of power for Rethymno.
The first documented use of the mills were in 1643 during the Venetian rule.
However, the ruins from the mills have been abandoned since 1972.
The approximately 30 mills along the river supplied the entire area of Rethymno with flour.
Soon after we started the trek, we met a fellow traveler from Germany, who we proceeded to explore with.
Will made a few other friends as well.
As we carried on along the two and a half mile long canyon, the path became less manicured. Little protection from alleged impending landslides were slightly unnerving.
We discovered a few, small locally run churches off the beaten path.
However, the real reward was coming across a stone path through the brook.
We finally reached the bottom, in which the three of us grabbed some local mountain tea at an eclectic cafe.
Plakias is surrounded by mountains to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south.
We took an early bus about 25 miles, or an hour south, of Rethymno to one of the most stunning coastlines in Crete.
The crescent shaped bay is situated between two wind tunnels, the gorges fo Selia and Kourtaliiotiko.
We took the winding path down to the beach, and were treated to absolutely breathtaking views.
Once we did reach the Prevali beach, it was so windy.
We had our packed picnic lunch, and decided to make it a trekking day rather than a beach day.
Fortunately, directly behind the beach was the walking trail, Palm Forest.
We entered the slightly ominous, flooded trail, and couldn’t stop make comparisons to Jurassic Park.
The path followed a murky river that led to the ocean. Oftentimes, we had to forge our own trail.
However, we reached a stopping point.
At this point the trail was completely flooded with no way to passing, so we were forced to make an about face.
We got back to the beach around 2 p.m., and still had another five hours before the next bus came at 7 p.m.
We decided to walk back to Prevali, another bus pick up location.
There’s not set walking path, but we followed the road—it’s roughly an eight mile trek.
However, the rocky, lush, mountainous scenery was awesome.
And there’s so much we would have missed if we simply stayed put.
Sitting still is neither of our fortes.
The countryside was indescribable. We were able to divert from the main road of traffic.
Majority of the way was walking through olive groves.
We also dipped in and out of scenic mountain villages, in which we were granted a window into local life.
Once we finally reached Preveli, the temperature had seriously dropped. We warmed up with a tahini chocolate dessert and more mountain tea. It’s believed the herbs in the surrounding area have tremendous healing power. Plants such as Cretan Tulip flourish in the unique ecosystem, and make a for a stellar mountain tea.
I’d be remised if I didn’t mention it was Will’s birthday while we were in Rethymno. We celebrated with massages at the Swan Spa, which was a real treat.
Naturally, it was the only day it rained that week, but we cozied up with tea and flapjack cookies.
For dinner, we went out to Prima Plora, an upscale organic seafood and wine bar on the water. Certainly the nicest meal we enjoyed in Crete.
We started with the best olive oil I’ve had in my life, with local breads and a bottle of white.
For dinner, I ordered the cuttlefish risotto, in it’s own ink, and Will had the sun dried octopus.
I surprised him with the chocolate cake for dessert. It was a beautiful celebration and an incredibly tasty meal.
Our time in Rethymno completely caught me off guard. The gorges, the lush green mountains, the olive groves and the endless dramatic coastlines.
For me, Rethymno quickly became one of the most memorable aspects of our time in Crete.