The Arkadi Monastery has history, architecture, garden, and views to keep alive the meaning of this important relic of Cretan resistance against the Turks. In the 17th-century Venetian style, the church has a certain charm; since there are wonderful brass chandeliers, an impressive altar screen, and a few very fine icons (no photos allowed). There are lovely gardens and equally lovely perspectives from one area to the other. The new museum is exceptionally well done: presentation and labeling.
About the ride
The Holy Monastery of Arkadi was 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.
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 use at least 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.” The pasha also offered to the Christians a special guard for the Monastery of the next village, Amnato.
Later in the 19th century, 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 the cannonball stuck in the perennial cypress on the right of the church. Arkadi has been declared a European Monument of Freedom by UNESCO.
Rethymno Old Town
The old town of Rethymno is built exactly on the site of ancient Rithymna and covers the area between Fortetsa and Dimakopoulou and Gerakari streets. The town has preserved its old structure formed during the Venetian sovereignty. 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.
During the following centuries, the citizens decided to build the city of Rethymno there. The Castel Vecchio, the small fortified settlement dating back to the Byzantine era, was preserved until the middle of the 16th century. In 1540, they began building new walls 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 the 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 in 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 regarding 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".
Enjoy your travel to a maximum
You will be picked up by a personal driver at a convenient place and time
Enjoy your trip in a nice air-conditioned vehicle with Wi-Fi
Pick the stops and the time you spend on each one
Spend less time finding locations and waiting, and more time enjoying your travel
We hand-pick the best, friendliest and most knowledgeable drivers in the city
Our customers rate us excellent on Tripadvisor and other platforms
Included in the price
- Hotel pickup and dropoff
- Well-maintained car with an English-speaking driver
- Fuel and tolls
- All taxes, fees and handling charges
- Water and snacks
- Entrance fees for all attractions
- Official tour guide (you can include one after the booking)
- Lunch, other beverages and meals
- Tips and gratuities
Frequently asked questionsExpand
What happens after I book?
Once you complete your booking you will receive a confirmation email. Feel free to reach out to our customer service team at firstname.lastname@example.org for any specific questions regarding your booking.
What is the cancellation policy?
100% cancellation penalty applies when service is cancelled 24 hours or less prior to service delivery date or in case of no-show.
Comfortable Clothes & Shoes Fortress Fortezza
We recommend that you wear comfortable clothing and good walking shoes since certain areas, such as the walking around to Fortress Fortezza contains many steps and may have uneven or rocky ground. Please note that religious sites require modest attire- knees and shoulders must be covered.
In the summer months, the sun is especially strong (even on cloudy days) so we recommend that you wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself. Also, be sure to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Photography is permitted in most historical sites unless otherwise mentioned.
We recommend you always keep local currency on you (euro) as many local merchants do not accept cards as payment.
Accessibility & Special Needs
Should anyone in your group have special needs or have advanced accessibility requirements, please specify upon booking and we will make sure to accommodate your needs and customize your tour accordingly.
Admission fee to Arcadi Monastery: €3
Admission fee to Rethymnon Fortezza Fortress: €3
Free admission days:
- 6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
- 18 April (International Monuments Day)
- 18 May (International Museums Day)
- The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
- 28 October
- Every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st
- Greek citizens and citizens of other Member - States of the European Union who are over 65 years old, upon presentation of their ID card or passport for verification of their age and country of origin
- Students of University - Higher Education Institutes, Technological Educational Institutes or equivalent Schools of countries from outside the European Union, upon presentation of their student ID cards
Terms of serviceExpand
- Please note that the Welcome Drivers are not licensed to be your official tour guide at the local attractions and therefore will not accompany you into the sites. You may, however, hire a professional tour guide at an extra cost.
- Your Welcome Driver will provide you with their local knowledge and personal recommendations between stops. Since your safety is Welcome’s top priority, please refrain from distracting the driver during demanding driving conditions.
- Your Welcome Driver will drop you off and pick you up as close as possible to your stop whilst always respecting local traffic laws.
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