The Arkadi Region is named for one of Crete’s most beautiful and famous Monasteries. The area is full of historical interest, beautiful nature, and exciting diversions.

Everything You Need to Know About Arkadi, Crete

Where is Arkadi, Crete Located?

Arkadi Monastery is on a plateau, on the lower slopes of Mt. Psiloreitis – also called Mt. Ida. It’s near the villages of Margarites and Kapsaliana, about 25 km southwest of Rethymnon.

Mount Ida

How Do You Get to Arkadi, Crete?

Arkadi is an hour and fifteen minute’s drive from Heraklion’s International Airport, and a little under an hour and a half’s drive from Chania’s International Airport. There is a Rental Center Crete pick-up spot directly at each of the airports so you can get on the road in no time. If you are arriving by boat at either Heraklion or Chania, a car can be brought to you. There are also ferries arriving at Rethymnon, about a half an hour away.

Arkadi Monastery

For KTEL bus service from Rethymnon, check here.

The History of Arkadi

This glorious Monastery is not only a spiritual center but also a historic site of great importance.

Arkadi Monastery - Crete

The Moni (monastery) Arkadi itself is thought to date from as early as the 5th century.The origins of the name are also uncertain, with the fact that it was established under the reign of the Roman Emperor Arcadius, who reigned from 385 to 408. Alternatively, like other monasteries in Crete, it could be named after a monk named Arkadios who founded it.

Inner Yard in Arkadi

Findings in throughout the area indicate that it was prosperous during the Byzantine era. Another monastery – Moni Arseniou – is nearby.

Arkadi Monastery - Crete

The Arkadi Region is named for one of Crete’s most beautiful and famous Monasteries. The area is full of historical interest, beautiful nature, and exciting diversions.

By 1648, the Ottomans conquered much of Crete, but the Arkadi Monastery still continued to prosper, under the name Canli Monastir (the monastery where the bell rings). It supported itself through agriculture – travellers of the day marvelled at its wealth of oil and wine.

Interior of Arkadi Basilica Church

After over 200 years of Ottoman rule, and after the Greek War of Independence that liberated Athens and much of Greece, things came to a tragic turning point. The Arkadi Monastery Holocaust brought the Cretan struggle for freedom to the attention of the world.

Arkadi Monastery

In November of 1866, after the rising of tensions, just under 1,000 people – over two-thirds of whom were women and children – were sheltered in the monastery. Of these, just over 250 were armed. After two days of siege, the Cretan’s munitions ran out and many fighters had been lost. The women and children and any other survivors closed themselves into the gunpowder room, and when the Ottoman came, they ignited the powder, sacrificing themselves and killing many Ottomans.

Arkadi Monastery

Skulls of the victims of the Arkadi holocaust are in an ossuary outside of the Monastery.

What to See and Do in Arkadi

Besides the Arkadi Monastery, there are many things to do in the region. The neighboring traditional mountain village of Margarites is famous for its pottery. The clay of the town has been famous for its strength since ancient times. In addition to beautiful hand-painted tableware and serving dishes, you can find ancient and very inventive historic pottery designs.

Margarites Village

Near the village of Skepasti and close to the sea, the Klados winery is a small, family run winery where you can enjoy the scenery and learn about special Cretan grape varieties, like Liatiko and Kotsifali (red), and Vidiano, Vilana, Plito, and Thrapsathiri (white). The winery is about a half an hour’s drive from Arkadi.

Enjoy a Beach Holiday – Gorgeous Beaches Near Arkadi

Crete’s north coast near Rethymnon is dotted with many fabulous beaches to suit every taste, many of them fully organised.

The beaches of the south coast are famed for being rugged and beautiful, and are not much farther away.

Geropotamos beach is just over 20 minutes from Arkadi. This is a wild, secluded beach with no facilities, so it is often uncrowded.

The charming town of Bali has several organized beaches, of which Limani- meaning harbor- is the nicest, close to a picturesque harbor where you can find a nice taverna meal. Bali is a 40 minute drive from Arkadi.

The gorgeous sandy cove of Agia Galini beach is on the Libyan sea on Crete’s dramatic south coast, surrounded by dramatic cliffs. It’s an hour’s drive from Arkadi.

Preveli Beach

Another beach in the south coast is Preveli – it can be visited by car, with a substantial descent by stairs down a cliff, with magnificent views.

Activities Around Arkadi

Starting just north of the Arkadi Monastery and continuing north for just under 5 km, ending in the village of Pikris, is the Arkadi gorge. There are ruins if the Venetian and Ottoman eras, amid examples of lovely Cretan flora. The hike is rated as an easy one.

A more challenging hike can be found a little less than an hour to the south. The dramatic Kourtaliotiko gorge, named for the “kourtala” – a clapping sound made by the wind as it flows through the narrow passage. The gorge begins in the village of Koxare, and follows the Kourtaliotiko gorge that ends in one of Crete’s most famous beaches, Preveli, where the banks are lined with palm trees.

Cultural Excursions Around Arkadi

Arkadi is a grand fortress of a monastery, of great dimensions. The outer protective walls are from 67m to 78m in length, to enclose an area of 5200 square meters. The late 16th century Church is one of Crete’s loveliest, a beautiful example of Cretan Renaissance Architecture, with elements of the Baroque.

Arkadi monastery

The late 16th century Preveli Monastery makes a wonderful visit, especially if you’re on your way to the magnificent Preveli Beach. The monastery, beautifully and dramatically situated high above the sweeping views of the Libyan Sea, is also an important historic monument, known for its active role in the Cretan Resistance during WWII. Preveli Monastery is just over an hour’s drive from Arkadi.

Preveli monastery

Eleftherna was an important city-state of Ancient Greece, colonized by the Dorians in the 9th century BCE and inhabited until a devastating earthquake in 365 CE. Ruins from the era after the Romans conquered Crete (around 68 BCE) attest to its wealth. Even after the earthquake, a splendid church was built here, in the 7th century. This is an interesting archaeological site with ruins from many of Eleftherna’s eras. Eleftherna is 20 minutes from Arkadi.

Eleftherna Archaeological Site

Explore Arkadi

This inland destination in the mountains can make a terrific starting point for exploring this fascinating region of Crete. The drives are absolutely beautiful, part of the pleasure of exploring the island.

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