The stunning landscapes, flora and fauna of Crete make it a top eco-holiday destination. Check out a few cycle routes in the lovely prefecture of Rethymno. Crete is one of the Mediterranean’s most popular tourist destinations but the island is more than just a beach mecca for those seeking sun and sand. Head off the beaten track and there is a history and culture to be found that has changed little in generations as well as some impressive countryside. One of the best modes of transport to experience this side of Crete is by bike and some of the best cycling routes are in the prefecture of Rethymno.
There is a dense network of roads across the prefecture and cyclists can plan dozens of routes with varied levels of difficulty. Dirt tracks and narrow rural roads open up trips that ascend mountains and meander through dense olive groves before opening up to breathtakingly stunning views. Traditional villages dot the landscape and are a welcome spot for cyclists who can admire the beautiful scenery while enjoying a break at the picturesque cafes.
Here is a list of a few of my favourites. Rethymno – Argyroupoli – Rethymno: 48km
This route follows the coast to the bridge of Petre before heading south towards the village of Karoti. From there it continues to Episkopi and Argyroupoli, a settlement with impressive Venetian monuments. There are many Byzantine churches located in this beautiful natural environment.
Rethymno – Kastellos : 27km
A short ride takes in a lovely stretch through a protected forest of cultivated oaks, the restored monastery of Peter and Paul and post-Minoan burial ground at Armeni as well as lovely mountain villages
Rethymno – Arkadi :47km
Heading from Rethymno, the route takes in the tourist village of Platania before climbing south through wild and rocky landscape and pretty villages with Venetian manors. Arkadi is an impressive restored monastery and an icon of local resistance.
Rethymno – Plakias: 42km
This route is an adventure into the interior of the prefecture winding through the villages of Ano Varsamonero, Ano and Kato Malaki and Kali Sykia. The stunning Kotsfos Gorge is the next wonder before the cyclist arrives at the village of Myrthio, a lovely village perched on the edge of a cliff. Cyclists can relax in one of the many tavernas while enjoying the stunning panoramic views. From here it’s an easy spin down to Plakias, a low-key tourist centre with wonderful beaches.
Around Plakias: 54km
Some of the most beautiful countryside and significant religious monuments of the prefecture are to be found around Plakias. This route takes in several monasteries while the sparkling Libyan Sea is nearly always in view.
Platanias – Arkadi – Eleftherna: 53km
Byzantine Churches, monasteries and archaeological sites can all be explored on this beautiful route. Passing through picturesque villages, the road climbs to the Monastery of Arkadi before continuing to the ancient city of Eleftherna, parts of which have been excavated. The road then descends towards pretty Margarites before reaching the Old National Road for the return journey.
Cycling in Crete is best enjoyed in spring when the mountains are covered in glorious wildflowers and the weather not too hot. Pack a raincoat for any unexpected showers and always wear a helmet. Make sure that you always have water and food, and leave a note of your proposed route with someone.
The roads, particularly rural tracks, are used by locals who do not always follow road traffic rules.
For more information on cycling, walking and other sports in Crete go to:
Maps of these and other cycle routes are free from the Tourism Office in Rethymno.