Arkadi Monastery, Rethymnon


A visit to Arkadi Monastery in Rethymno is an experience you should take advantage of on your Crete trip. It is a beautiful place yet deeply marked by the Cretan struggle for freedom. Arkadi Monastery is a helpful instrument for understanding Crete, its people, character, and history.

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General Information About Moni Arkadi

Arkadi Monastery, Rethymnon, Crete -The gardens.
Arkadi Monastery, Rethymnon, Crete – The gardens.

The Holy Monastery of Arkadi in Rethymno is one of the places that I strongly recommend you include in your Rethymno itinerary, even if it’s a short one. The monastery has long been integral to Crete’s history and fight for freedom. It is located in the Rethymnon region and is one of the key historical sites you can visit on the island. Let’s see some important information to get there:

How to Get to Arkadi Monastery from Rethymnon

Arkadi Monastery - map
Road Map Rethymnon – Arkadi. Map data © 2024 Google.


Buses to Arkadi Monastery depart from Rethymno’s Public Bus Station twice or three times daily. The trip lasts about 40 minutes. You can visit the website and check the schedules here.


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 of 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 takes 30 to 45 minutes. A large (free) parking lot is at the monastery’s entrance.

> This guide with tips for driving in Crete has essential info about renting a car and driving on the island.

Which car rental service is the best to choose? If you want to rent a car for your trip, consider Discover Cars, a worldwide car rental booking service.

How to Get to Moni Arkadi From Chania

Chania - Arkadi map. Map data © 2024 Google.
Road Map Chania – Arkadi. Map data © 2024 Google.

It’s very easy to reach the Arkadi Monastery in Rethymno from Chania. The trip is easy, mostly on the National Highway, and the landscape is breathtaking. Plan plenty of photography stops!

Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi Monastery.

Reaching the monastery from Chania will take about one hour and a half. Remember that if you’re driving during the high season, roads might be trafficked, and you might need some extra time behind the wheel.

Besides, Arkadi is an important religious place on the island that is commonly crowded, not just in July and August.

How to Get to Arkadi Monastery From Heraklion

Arkadi Monastery
From Heraklion to Arkadi – Google Maps 2024.

The journey from Heraklion to the monastery might take approximately one and a half hours on the coastal road. If you have time to explore more, try discovering some traditional villages. Places like Anogia, Axos, or Zoniana can be a good idea. You can learn about these and other villages here.

Arkadi Monastery Opening Hours

  • April – October: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • November – March: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Entrance fee: €3 (full ticket), free for local citizens.

Get your copy now and unlock Rethymnon’s secrets like a local!

Plan the Visit: What to See in Arkadi Monastery, Rethymno

The Church of Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery
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.

Moni Arkadi Museum

The museum, which develops at different levels, includes a rich collection of religious icons, manuscripts, books, and engravings. It also displays a selection of impressive religious clothing and a section dedicated to the fights against the Ottomans.

The Refectory

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 wood oven, a fireplace, and some pieces of pottery that the monks used to prepare the meals.

Arkadi Entrance
Arkadi Monastery.

The Ossuary

The octagonal building that houses the ossuary is outside the monastery’s walls, 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 Turkish Occupation of Crete and Arkadi

Arkadi Monastery Rethymno, Crete
Arkadi Monastery.

After any trace of Venetian occupation was erased from the island, by the end of 1648, most of Crete was under Ottoman control. This conquest was followed by incredible destruction.

The Turks 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.

Back church in Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi Monastery.

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 locals tried to resist several times, but strict countermeasures and oppression inevitably followed.

The History Behind Arkadi Monastery

Gunpower storage room, rethymnno's moni Arkadi, Crete
Gunpowder storage room, no roof remaining.

The need for a revolution felt stronger and spread throughout the area. Arkadi was its soul, and it became the center of the Cretan revolution.

At the same time, the Ottomans vandalized 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. They only replied upon the request to surrender, We’d rather have war.”

Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi Monastery

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 struggle, 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.

Tree with bullet in Moni Arkadi, Rethymno, Crete.
Arkadi Monastery.

The walls of Arkadi enclose the monks’ cells, a well-kept garden, and the magnificent Baroque church with an impressive bell tower. Inside, there’s a collection of icons and paintings belonging to the Byzantine school and the Cretan Renaissance.

Bullet inside the tree in the monastery of Arkadi in Rethymno
Arkadi Monastery, Rethymno (Crete).

You can also visit the museum, which has many interesting exhibits related to Crete’s fight for independence, the monastery’s kitchen, and the historic refectory.

Once outside, you can also take a look at the Ossuary containing the rest of some of the people who perished in this massacre.

The Importance of Arkadi Monastery in Crete’s History

Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi Monastery

It’s worth remembering that even though many years still had to go by until Crete would find itself free from Ottoman rule, the massacre of Arkadi had remarkable importance and probably initiated the liberation process.

During those days, in many European countries, different movements appeared willing to support Crete in ending Turkish domination.

Organized Tours to Visit Arkadi Monastery

Although the road to Arkadi is quite straightforward from Rethymnon, you may not feel comfortable driving in Crete. For that reason, I’ve gathered below two of the best tours of Arkadi, which also include transportation.

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking this guide to plan a trip to Crete. Remember to explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and helpful insider secrets. This comprehensive Crete packing list ensures you have everything you need.

When it’s time to plan, explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, and be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches. If you are exploring specific areas like Rethymnon or Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Rethymnon

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.

Don’t Leave Before You Pin!
Insider’s Guide to Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi Monastery

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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