A visit to Arkadi Monastery, in Rethymno, is an experience that shouldn’t miss on your Crete trip. A place so beautiful and yet so deeply marked by the Cretan struggle for freedom. Arkadi Monastery is a helpful instrument to understand Crete, as well as its people, character, and history.
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Travel Resources to Visit Arkadi: General Information About Moni Arkadi
The Holy Monastery of Arkadi in Rethymno is one of those places that I strongly recommend you include in your Rethymno itinerary. The monastery has long been an integral part of Crete’s history and fights for freedom.
The Holy Monastery of Arkadi, or also Moni Arkadi, is located in the regional unit of Rethymno.
Opening Hours: April – October: 9.00-18.00 | November – March: 9.00-16.00
Entrance fee: 3.00 € (full ticket), free for local citizens.
RESOURCES TO BOOK YOUR TRIP TO CRETE:
FLIGHTS: Use Skyscanner to compare prices before booking a plane ticket.
FERRIES: Check out Ferryhopper for convenient ferry tickets.
ACCOMMODATION: Look for hotels and rental homes on Booking.com.
PRIVATE TRANSFER: Welcome Pickups offers local English-speaking drivers, flight monitoring, and a very convenient (flat) pre-paid fee
CAR RENTAL: Use Discover Cars to find an affordable car to rent.
TOURS: Live unforgettable adventures and cultural experiences with Get Your Guide.
INSURANCE: If things go wrong, you’ll get coverage against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I recommend Safety Wing for peace of mind.
Best hotels in Rethymnon
Affordable: Ilian Beach and Summer Drem in Rethymnon Town.
Mid-range: Archipelagos Hotel in town or Veneto Boutique Hotel.
Luxury: Avli Lounge and Rimondi Boutique Hotel in the old town. Or read my review of this top old-town boutique hotel.
Check also Rethymnon Accommodation Guide and Rental Homes and Airbnb in Rethymnon.
How to Get to Arkadi Monastery from Rethymnon
By car: Those staying in or near Rethymno should get on the Main National Road and drive in the direction of Heraklion (East) for no more than 6 km until the exit Tsesme-Platania (or Adelianos Kampos).
Once there, switch to the Old National Road and drive for 16 km more, until reaching the monastery, the whole drive is from 30 to 45 minutes. There’s a large parking lot (free) at the entrance of the monastery.
By bus: Buses to Arkadi Monastery depart from Rethymno’s Public Bus Station, 2-3 times a day. The trip lasts about 40 minutes. You can visit the website and check the schedules here.
Check this guide to driving on Crete with tips about renting a car, overtaking on the highway, and more suggestions for a perfect road trip on the island.
How to Get to Moni Arkadi From Chania
It’s very easy to reach the Arkadi Monastery in Rethymno both from Chania and Heraklion, in general, the roads are not difficult and the mountain landscape when accessing the site is breathtaking. Plan plenty of photography stops!
It will take you about one hour and a half to reach the monastery from Chania, always take into account that if you’re driving during the high season, roads might be trafficked and therefore you might need some extra time.
Besides, being Arkadi such an important religious place on the island, it’s common for it to be crowded not just in July and August.
How to Get to Arkadi Monastery From Heraklion
Another beautiful road trip, that might take you approximately one and a half hours on the coastal road. If you have time to explore a bit more, try discovering some mountain villages on your way. Stopping in villages such as Anogeia, Axos, or Zoniana can be a good idea.
You might also want to check out the best rental homes in Rethymnon.
The Turkish Occupation of Crete and Arkadi
By the end of 1648, most of Crete was under Ottoman control. A conquest followed by incredible destruction. They looted buildings and churches which were later converted into mosques.
The destructive rage of the conquerors didn’t stop there, targeting roads, houses, and local businesses. Many islanders escaped avoiding execution or imprisonment, while others fled to the mountains.
Ottoman rulers and settlers forced the shrinking Christian population into further misery and despair, imposing high taxes and confiscating lands.
The local uprising took place on several occasions but they were inevitably followed by strict countermeasures and oppression.
You might also want to read about The Most Beautiful Monasteries in Crete.
The History Behind Arkadi Monastery
The need for a revolution felt stronger and spread in the area. Arkadi was its soul. It became the center of the Cretan revolution. Anger made the Ottomans vandalize the area, forcing the villagers to seek refuge behind the walls of the Monastery of Arkadi.
Almost a thousand refugees, mostly women, and children underwent an Ottoman attack. Upon the request to surrender, their only reply was “We’d rather have war.”
The Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery was a tragic symbol of the Cretan struggle for independence. Hundreds of women and children were locked inside the gunpowder store blowing it up and taking hundreds of Ottoman soldiers with them to the grave.
After years of struggles, the Ottoman forces were expelled in 1898 and the Cretan Republic was declared independent. The union of Crete with Greece became a reality in 1913.
The walls of Arkadi enclose the cells belonging to the monks, a well-kept garden as well as the magnificent Baroque church with an impressive bell tower. Inside, icons and paintings both belong to the Byzantine school and the Cretan Renaissance.
It’s also possible to visit the museum, where there are a lot of interesting exhibits related to Crete’s fight for independence. Also, pay a visit to the kitchen and the refectory.
Once outside, you can also take a look at the Ossuary containing the rest of some of the people that perished in this massacre.
Plan the Visit: What to See in Arkadi Monastery, Rethymno
These things should be on your list of places to see when visiting Arkadi…
The Church of Arkadi Monastery
Also known as catholicon, the church stands in the central court of the monastery, and together with the whole complex, it is surrounded by a thick, fortified wall. It was built in the 16th century with strong Baroque and Roman components, quite typical of the Cretan Renaissance.
The Museum of Moni Arkadi
The museum, which develops at different levels, includes a rich collection of Icons as well as manuscripts, books, and engravings. In the museum, it’s also possible to see a selection of impressive religious clothing.
The impressive space devoted to the monk’s meals dates back to 1687. Under its vaulted ceiling, it’s possible to see the old, original furniture still bearing the marks of the bullets and swords belonging to the Ottoman attacks.
From the refectory, you can reach the kitchen to admire the big oven and fireplace, as well as some pieces of pottery used to prepare the meals.
The octagonal building that houses the ossuary is located outside the walls of the monastery, right in front of the parking lot. The site remembers those Cretans who chose to die rather than surrender to the Ottomans (1866).
In this small construction, dozens of skulls and other bones bear the marks of the battle made by the Turks. Finally, an inscription commemorating the massacre reads Nothing is more noble or glorious than dying for one’s country.
The Importance of Arkadi Monastery in Crete’s History
It’s worth remembering that, even though still many years had to go by until Crete would find itself free from the Ottoman rule, the massacre of Arkadi had remarkable importance.
Back in the day, in many European countries, different movements appeared intending to support Crete in getting rid of Turkish domination.
Have you ever visited Arkadi Monastery?
Let me know in the comments below!
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About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last six years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing for several travel blogs.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.
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2 thoughts on “Unique Experiences in Crete: Your Unforgettable Day Trip to Arkadi Monastery, Rethymnon”
Love your blog. I hadn’t heard about Arkadi until this post. You’ve shared your throng experience very well:)
Thank you so much for such a nice comment. Happy you like it!