In the prefecture of Rethymno there are many interestingly located roads that are worth driving, if of course you plan to rent a car during your holidays. Unfortunately, recently car trips have become quite an expensive form of exploring Crete. The cost of car rental has soared, while the availability of small cars, which are the cheapest (which does not mean cheap), has decreased. However, if, regardless of the cost of renting a car and cosmic petrol prices, you decide to explore the island by car, we can suggest you some interesting roads in this part of Crete.
However, we warn you in advance that if you are a freshly baked driver or you are not experienced in driving on Cretan mountain roads, some of them can be quite a challenge. These interestingly situated roads tend to be winding, narrow, sometimes steep and sometimes devoid of security. However, those who do not risk it do not see the true face of Crete.
Of course, our list below does not exhaust the topic of interesting routes in the prefecture of Rethymno. Moving along the local roads, you will certainly find many other interesting points. But exploring Crete on your own is the best way to get to know the island.
The roads and routes described below have been placed on a special map, which we provide below. Due to the limitations of the Google map, the Coastal Road of Agios Vasiliou route has been marked in the form of separate points that are distinguished by a beach umbrella icon. In the side panel it is possible to disable and enable individual routes and roads.
Kourtaliotiko and Kotsifou are two of the most famous gorges of Rethymno Prefecture. There are also asphalt roads through both, so you can see these beautiful places in a very comfortable way. Both canyons are classified as very windy gorges because even a small wind gains momentum here and sometimes literally breaks off the head. More stunning is the route through the Kourtaliotiko Gorge. An unforgettable impression is made by almost vertical walls rising up to a height of 600 meters in places.
The road leading through the Kourtaliotiko gorge
However, in our opinion, the narrow roadway running under the overhanging rocks of the Kotsifou Gorge is also impressive. An added attraction just off the road through this canyon is the Chapel of Ag. Nikolaos picturesquely built into the rock. If you spend your holidays in the prefecture of Rethymno, then driving through these two gorges is, in our opinion, a must-have point of your holiday plan.
In its current fully asphalt form, this road has been operating for a relatively short time. Driving it you will have the opportunity to reach most of the most important beaches of this region of the island. Just a few months ago, asphalt sections of this road alternated with a gravel surface. Recently, however, the asphalting of a 60 km section was completed, which was even used by a KTEL mini bus in the 2022 season. Therefore, nothing stands in the way of traveling this route by car, especially since this road is mostly led along a very picturesque part of the coast. If you decide to go on this route, it is worth bearing in mind that it is quite demanding in places. Especially in the section after the Preveli bridge where the road was led around the rocks and along the steep rock slopes. This fragment leading to the Ammoundi beach is really amazing, and the lack of any security barriers adds an additional flavor.
One of the fragments of the entire Coastal Road of Agios Vasilios route
The whole route starts on the road by Agia Marina beach and continues through the beaches of Polyrizo, Korakas, Souda, Plakias, Damnoni and then through the village of Lefkogeia from where you can go to the beach of Skinaria and Ammoundi. The next point on the route is the Preveli bridge, Ammoudi beach located next to the famous Preveli. The route continued along the road at Anatolika beach and then turned towards the village of Agia Paraskevi. The next stage is Triopetra, Agios Pavlos, Prasonissi, Agios Georgios and finally the beach in Agia Galini. Along the entire route, there are characteristic information boards, thanks to which you should not have any problems finding it.
Characteristic route marking
Outside the village of Zoniana, the previously decent asphalt route turns into a real mountain narrow road and then climbs higher and higher. On this over twenty-kilometre stretch, the views start to take your breath away, although some people can also get goosebumps. This raw and wild landscape is a mixture of unusual sensations consisting of: space, height, lack of railings, abysses in which you can see car wrecks, birds of prey circling high in the sky, and sometimes also rare Cretans who also look so wild This is one of our favorite roads, but we still remember how electrifying the impression it made on us when we ventured here for the first time. However, there is no other way to get to the amazing looking plateau and to look into the Ida Cave. This is also where one of the trails leading to the highest peak of Crete begins.
If you get to the vicinity of the Idajska Cave, it is worth taking another mountain road located in this area. At the top of Mount Skinakas there is an astronomical observatory, but the road leading to it is quite an attraction. It is even narrower and wilder than the one leading to Nida. After reaching the top, if you are lucky and the air is clear enough, you will have the opportunity to look at the surrounding tops of the Idajskie Mountains. This space and the surrounding emptiness make an amazing impression. There are only mountains around and somewhere far away on the horizon looms the blue of the sea.
Staying in the vicinity of the Psiloritis massif, it is also worth paying attention to the road leading to the Lakkos Migerou plateau. After passing Zoniana, drive to Livadia and then look for the Lakkos Migerou exit. Behind Livadia begins a winding mountain road where you will meet more goats and sheep than people. This is a rarely visited area where you will still have the opportunity to see the "real" wild Crete.
This road leads to a small shelter located on the Lakkos Migeorou plateau, from where the shortest trail to the highest peak of Crete begins. However, do not expect an object you know from the Polish mountains. You will find here a few rooms, sanitary facilities, no tavern. Perhaps someone who was before you left a bottle of water or olive oil, maybe some crayfish. This place is more a kind of shelter for someone who accidentally stays in the mountains in this area, or plans to continue hiking along one of the local trails. Most often, local shepherds visit here. Even so, we highly recommend venturing all the way here, turning off the air conditioning, rolling down the car windows as much as possible, and keeping your cameras ready.
Amari is an area to the west of the Psiloritis massif, which so far is still not particularly popular with tourists. It is a pity because it is full of old charming villages, churches and beautiful views with mountains in the background. We will not give you a single route in this case. It's worth just wandering around this area looking at different places. You will surely discover many interesting corners on your own. It is worth visiting the small church of Panagia Kera, the vicinity of the Fourfouras village and the Potamon dam. In the Amari area, there are also small excavations of Sivrytos, a small ancient city, and Monastiraki from Minoan times. If you would like to combine road wandering with hiking, you will find in Amari an interesting, though not the simplest, Platania Gorge with the cave of St. Anthony.
Potamon Dam located in the Amari area
On the map below, we have marked the entire area of the so-called Amari Valley. This is a large area that is worth exploring on your own.
The region of Rethymno Prefecture boasts some of the most famous and important monasteries of Crete that are worth considering when hiking around the island. Of course, there are many less known chapels and churches, but it is worth visiting them when you notice something interesting. You just have to look around because they can be found in surprising places.