A great day tour of Rethymno should certainly include some time in the mountains. You can combine booth a morning city tour with an afternoon visit to a monastery, and then finish the day with an adventure in the mountains. Among the many things to do in Crete with kids, a trip to the valley of Amari is a good idea. You can enjoy an authentic Cretan afternoon at the base of Mount Psiloritis learning everything about local traditions.
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Essentials for your Adventures in Crete!
Getting to Crete: Nothing like sailing from one island to the other. Check Ferryhopper to book your ferry tickets in advance.
Where to stay on the island: It’s always wise to compare, check Booking.com for the best accommodation deals.
Top-rated tours in Crete: If you’re a fan of our beaches, then don’t miss this Cruise to Balos or a Day Trip to Elafonisi. If you came to the island seeking adventure, then hike the Samaria Gorge. Finally, for those interested in Crete’s past and history, don’t miss a visit to Knossos Palace.
Explore Crete on wheels! I use Discover Cars to go where my old jalopy won’t take me.
Show me the money! Need cash? Wise is the best online money transfer service with a debit card accepted all over Greece.
Always have with you: A daypack for excursions, the Lonely Planet Guide, or my West Crete digital guide!
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Where to Stay in Rethymnon
If you’re coming to Rethymnon for your vacation, and to discover the best that the old town has to offer, then book a place in the center, this way, it’ll be easy to walk everywhere without stressing about transport.
These are some of the places to stay in Rethymnon that I recommend. Budget hotels have prices ranging from €40 to €60. Mid-range hotels range from €70 to €90 per night. Upscale accommodation can be booked for more than €100 a night. I’ve also written a complete guide to the best hotels in Rethymnon and a guide to the best holiday rental homes in the area too.
Small budget: You can spend the night in Rethymnon without breaking the bank. When the budget is tight, I recommend either Atelier or Kallithea Studios.
Mid-range accommodation: Spend a little more and enjoy a stay in Archipelagos Hotel or Bellagio Luxury Boutique Hotel.
Boutique places: For a more luxurious stay, check the beautiful premises of Pepi Boutique Hotel for adults only or Avli Lounge Apartments.
Things to Do in Rethymnon
The Amari Valley
General Information about Amari
Rethymnon is a region full of surprises, the Valley of Amari is certainly one of them. Located about 30 km from the center of Rethymnon, driving through the region to visit the villages that dot the valley is a perfect day trip to plan on your own and spend a day in full contact with nature.
The valley is located about 500 meters above sea level, between the ranges of Kedros and Psiloritis, Crete’shighest peak.
Thanks to its unique and strategic position, connecting the northern coast of Rethymnon to the Messara Plain, the area witnessed several historic moments during the years of the Turkish domination on the island. Among the many things you can visit, don’t miss one of Crete’s biggest dams, Potami, but also Byzantine churches, forgotten villages, such as the tiny and beautiful Thronos, with the church of Agia Panagia, but also Minoan settlements, and the beautiful Patsos gorge, among other sights.
For those who are curious about hiking the E4 Walking Path, this famous European trail is at its best in the area, gentle routes surrounded by olive groves and fragrant bushes adorn this special portion of the walking path.
Natural Crete for Kids
Our scheduled trip to Amari Valley with Crete Urban Adventures included a close encounter with Cretan traditions. We spent a day in Thronos, at the foot of the magnificent Psiloritis. We were hosted by the owner of Aravanes taverna, Lambros, with a tasty lunch abundant in local delicacies.
Aravanes is no ordinary place, it faces the magnificent views of the Amari Valley. We see impressive peaks, wild goats, and a wonderful blue sky.
My kids soon exchanged being at the table for baby goats and all kinds of games in the open. It was a rather hard task to keep them focusing on lunch when playful baby animals are less than a stone’s throw away.
Tastes of Amari, Rethymnon
Our table included dishes full of fresh grapes and glasses of wine to start our lunch feast. Dishes that followed were typical staples of the local tradition: Not only gemista and moussaka; but also different cuts of meat and vegetables, to end with a terrific homemade galaktoboureko.
Fragrances of local herbs surround us. They are drying, spread on a table next to ours. It’s inebriation.
Surrounded by Nature!
For kids, instead, running in the wild, playing with animals, maybe even falling inside the goat’s trough sounded better!
Dirty pants and genuine joy is all you need to spend a great day! Kids were the leading characters of the day, with everything that surrounded them awakening their curiosity and living a completely different lifestyle, in close contact with nature in every possible way.
After a while, it was time for the kitchen to call for bread time. A huge wooden container full of flour and there they went, hands on the dough and strength!
After making the dough ready, my kids leave the dough to rise and we pay a visit to the village. Thronos is a jewel of Byzantine memories, little mountain houses unveil their mystery when we see how they look from the inside.
Secrets of Thronos
Deceivingly small doors hide wide spaces and fresh walls made of stone. We were invited to discover how these tiny mounting houses really look like. A welcoming wooden kitchen and internal patios that one would have never imagined.
Fruits, herbs, colorful nature, and olive trees along the path here and there. We even pick some and eat them on our way to the most sacred place, the tiny Church of the Virgin.
The small sanctuary is in the middle of the village of Thronos, surrounded by stunning views of the Amari valley.
The name of this settlement relates to the episcopal seat of Byzantine origins (Thronos mean throne, seat in Greek).
Traces of the mosaic floors of the basilica can still be seen in the courtyard of the present church. Its only Gothic entrance is normally closed, but Federico, the youngest of the family is granted the ancient key to open the door and visit the magnificent old interiors of the building.
An emotion he will treasure for long. This church strongly links to the collective memory of the Amari region and can be visited by getting in touch with the locals.
If you visit, remember to ask at the local kafenio for the key to the church in order to visit!
Distilling Cretan Hospitality
The walk goes on along the paths of the village until we finally reach a place I’ve been wanting to visit for long, a raki distillery.
A hospitable family welcomes us as longtime friends. They’re gathered near the fire while freshly made raki begins to flow out of the cauldron.
A fire that’s also used to cook inviting pieces of meat. We make our toast and slowly walk back to the taverna, our home for the day. It’s time to bake.
Cooking Lessons in Amari: Time to Bake Our Bread!
Back in our taverna, the kids gave more food to the goats and cuddled newborn rabbits. Soon after, we went gathering wood to feed the fire. Picking the right pieces and throwing them in the oven proved a hard but fun task.
It’s time for patience, for the oven to reach the right temperature and for the dough to finally go in.
The days the family bakes their bread are a feast in the village, friends gather in the taverna to help, but also to share a piece of freshly baked bread and even to take a loaf back home.
And while an inviting fragrance invaded the place, the sunset casting a reddish tone upon Mount Psiloritis. Finally, kids took their bread out of the oven and the joy of eating their own food is incredibly rewarding.
It taught them that hard work and patience are the main ingredients to taste the best results… in bread and in life too.
We took home with us more than just a few loaves. We carried with us secrets, memories, and treasures from our day in the mountains, we took home friendship and lessons, and the taste of Cretan hospitality.
Which of the above things would you like to do in Rethymnon?
Let me know in the comments below!
Travel Plans for Crete?
More Resources to Organize Your Trip!
Start by heading right to my tips to plan a trip to Crete for in-depth details you need to know about Greece. You can also check my post to better know what to pack for a trip to the island or read this info to visit Crete with children!
Get in touch if you need extra help to plan your trip. If you want to tour West Crete, check my guide. Want more? Join my Private Facebook Group to connect with like-minded travelers who love Crete as much as you do!
Make Sure You’ve Got Everything For a Hassle-Free Vacation!
I never move around the islands without my Osprey backpack, a sturdy but light travel partner I just love. For short trips, I carry this little crossbody bag. If I drive, I pack my Nikon D7200 and a good travel guide: Lonely Planet’s Best of Greece & the Greek Islands.
For accommodation, I use Booking.com. Traveling to remote places is easier with Discover Cars. Other times, I join organized tours with GetYourGuide, which features anything from cooking lessons to airport transfer!
Are you coming to Crete any time soon?
Get in touch and let me know!
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Pin This Guide About Amari Valley in Rethymnon For Your Next Adventures in Crete!
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. Here, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in the summer, translating, and working as a tech advisor.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published two travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.
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