The alluring beaches of Rethymno may be considered by many tourists the main attractions on this part of the island, but if you want to adventure to the very heart of this land, you’ll find far more fascinating landscapes, with striking wilderness. These are the gorges of Rethymno, some with steep rocky walls, difficult climbs, and breathtaking views.
Their diversity, convenient locations with easy access, and idyllic scenery, will convert you into a mountaineer if you weren’t already. If you hike the Kourtaliotis canyon, following the river, you will end up at Lake Preveli, famous for its palm forest. But all along the way, sometimes unnoticed by travelers, there are many caves, inhabited by a variety of animals. You’ll probably see vultures here, the proud protectors of the heights, and if you are luck to notice it, as you deep your feet into the water, the waterturtle, one of the protected animals of the area, calls this gorge home too. The spectacular hike is only 3 km long, but worth every step you take. Don’t miss the Church of St. Nicholas and the springs of Kourtaliotis, both popular attractions along the way. Kourtaliotis is 22 km from Rethymnon, starting at the village Koxare, and running between the mountains Kouroupis and Xiro Oros.
If you make it to Preveli, you may want to explore another beautiful sight nearby: the Swallows’ Canyon. Not many tourists are familiar with this route, as it is not a designated area, but the hike will take you from Drymiskos to the Drymiskiano Ammoudi beach. The Swallows’ Canyon is easy to find: on the way to the monastery of Preveli you will find an arched bridge. Turn left on this road, and follow it to Drymiskiano. If you reach the beach, it will not take long for you to visit the village, too. An interesting attraction here is the Church of Panagia and St. Constantine, with its stunning frescoes. Other than this landmark, the village is typical Cretan, with several traditional tavernas, where you can try local raki, and specific cuisine.
Karines is a village only 35km from Rethymnon, and although it is lush and green, and popular with Cretans from larger helmets nearby, it is not well known with tourists. Do visit it: the scenery is breathtaking, and about two kilometers northwest of the village you will find one of the most beautiful gorges of Rethymnon. Kariniotiko is at the heart of one of the largest oak woods in Crete. Along the gorge you will also see many plane trees, specific vegetation, and, if you visit in the spring, even beautiful waterfalls.
Although there are many other amazing gorges in the regional unit Rethymno, we’ll end our recommendations with another secret location: the Mesa Gorge on Platys Potamos River. The river runs through the Amari valley, all the way to the sunny Agia Galini beach (pictured above). You’ll find the gorge somewhere between Agia Paraskevi, Vyzari and Petrohori, but be advised: you’ll need to get wet to cross it. A spectacular waterfall marks the entrance of the gorge. The main attractions of this canyon are its blue pools, which are perfect for swimming in the summer.