Things to see

Beaches

Preveli beach (67km)

Preveli beach with its palm forest by the river, most of which burned in summer 2010, is one of Crete’s most famous and favorite beaches.

Its name is due to the close-knit historical monastery, which is dedicated to Saint John the Theologian.

It is located on the south coast of the island, about 40 kilometers south of Rethymnon. It is a unique sandy beach, beautiful, with a small forest of palm trees that make it look exotic. On the beach are the final parts of the river Kourtaliotis, which has plenty of water, even in summer. It forms a small lagoon before spilling into the sea. So the visitor who will choose this beach for a swim, has the unique opportunity to swim either in the salty waters of the sea or in the sweets of the lagoon and river! Also a fantastic experience for the visitor is to walk and climb the edges of the river.

The palm trees on the banks of the river provide a rich shade and the soil is smooth and sandy. Because of this image and unusual environment, the beach has been a popular destination for tourists since the 1970s, when many hippies who built huts from grass and branches of palm trees came and camped here.

One can find food and drink, but is not permitted to stay overnight. There have been several umbrellas and sunbeds for bathers in recent years, but because this image ruined the exotic look of the beach it was decided to withdraw these.

The scenery in Preveli is one of the most beautiful in Europe!

Other beaches in the area

Matala: Carefree holidays (7km)
Kommos: The Joy of West Winds and nudists (6km)
Agiofarago: The Sacred Sandy Beach (13km)
Kali Limenes: No winds throughout the year (14km)
Lentas: Seduction and Awe (32km)
Vathy: fjord overlooking the Libyan Sea (14km)
Agios Nikitas: Lunar Landscape (60km)
Aspes: The “secret of the Asterousian Mountains” (62km)
Kokkini Ammos (7km)
Kalamaki (6km)
Agia Galini (22km)
Kokkinos Pyrgos (12km)

Archaeological Sites

Faestos Palace (6km)

Phaistos was a city of Minoan Crete, 55km south of Heraklion and close to Tympaki. The ruins of the city lie on a low hill in the plain of Mesara, with panoramic views of the surrounding area. It is the second largest palace center after the Knossos Palace, occupying an area of 18 acres.

The city was already inhabited since 6000 BC, flourishing alongside the city of Knossos, until the 1st century BC. Its palace is a visitable archaeological site with thousands of visitors each year. The palace was destroyed in 1700 BC by a strong earthquake, but it was immediately restored and remained the most important worship center of southern Crete. After the disaster of 1450 BC, Phaistos was restored, cut its own currency and returned to its prosperous state. This lasted until the 1st century BC, when it was destroyed by the neighboring Gortyna, which was made during the Roman occupation and the new capital of all of Crete.

The buildings that one can see today belong to the period 1700-4150 BC and have not been restored. Excavations at Phaistos started in 1900 by the Italian Archaeological School.

Gortyna (25km)

The archaeological site of Gortys is located 45km south of Heraklion, next to the village of Agioi Deka and crosses the road that connects Agioi Deka with Mires. The city was spread out over a large area along the Metropolitan River (or Lithaios), a major tributary of the Geropotamos, still drowned in the olive groves.

The area had been inhabited since 3000 BC, and during the Minoan era it became one of the largest cities in Crete. In fact, in the 3rd century BC it overtook Phaistos in power and took control of Matala, while maintaining its port, Levina (today’s Lendas). The flourishing of the Roman city took off when the Romans transferred the capital of Crete and the Cyrenean (area of present-day Libya) to Gortys. The city, after nearly 10 centuries of prosperity, was permanently destroyed by the Arabs in 828 AD.

The city of Gortyn is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. The first investigations in Gortyn began in 1884, when the Great Inscription of Gortyn was discovered. The first excavations began in 1898, which continue to this day.

Other sites in the area

Knossos Palace (59km)

Places

Spili village (46km)

Spili is located 30km south of Rethymnon, at an altitude of 430m. The village is a transportation hub for southern Crete and is the capital of the province of Agios Vasilios.

In the center of the village, on the square with the centuries-old plane trees, is the Kefalovrisi, as the Spilians call it. These are a series of 25 taps in the shape of a lion’s head from the mouths of which flow 330 m. rich in iron every hour. One of the sights of the village is the many traditional watermills that are preserved and mainly one of them still in operation, while the European Union designated E4 “Spili – Gerakari” path is also picturesque. Also near the village begins one of the most beautiful canyons of Rethymnon, the Kourtaliotiko, ending in the famous palm forest of Preveli.

The name Spili was probably taken from the many caves located in the area and mainly from the cave located in the northwestern part of the village, in the area of Peristeri. It is even mentioned that in this cave there was the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary painted on a rock, which unfortunately is not saved today.

Zaros lake (Votomos) (23km)

The artificial lake of Zaros or Votomos is located on the south slopes of Psiloritis, 1 km north of Zaros and 45 km southwest of Heraklion. The lake before 1987 was a small wetland formed by the crater of the Votomu spring. It took its present form in 1987, after a refurbishment carried out by the Forest Service, creating an artificial lake where the spring waters are held.

Around the lake, in terns, trout and salmon are raised. There is also a place with benches and tables where you can picnic. The walk around the lake is very short, and its banks are full of green grass and trees.

Also, from the lake begins the path that leads into the gorge of Agios Nikolaos and ends after 5 km into the magnificent Ruinas forest.

Useful Information

Monasteries

Panagia Paliani Monastery (38km)
Vrontisiou Monastery (28km)
Odigitria Monastery (7km)
Koudouma Monastery (59km)
Agios Georgios Epanosifis Monastery (48km)

Airports & Ports

Heraklion International Airport N. Kazantzakis (60km)
Chania International Airport I. Daskalogiannis (135km)
Heraklion Port (60km)

Events

Matala Beach Festival (see here)

English