Panormo and Surrounding Area

Athena's Hideaway is centrally located on Isle of Crete!  Panormo is an ideal starting point for excursions all over the island, as it is centrally located on the North coast, between Heraklion and Chania, just 20 minutes east of Rethymno. Panormo is a coastal village that has recently developed into a pretty holiday resort The warm and friendly inhabitants welcome you amidst whitewashed buildings gleaming in the mid-day sun, a mini-maze of back streets sloping gently down to the small harbour and pretty beaches. The traditional village square, with numerous tavernas, kafeneio, and ouzeris provide dozens of dining and drinking options. For shopping, the village has mini markets, a bakery, butchery, gift shops, post office, car hire, and several ATM’s.  In and around Panormo you'll find small beaches with smooth sun-warmed pebbles, sandy coves, some with water sports, fishing, diving, etc. 

Venturing outside of Panormo, you can visit dramatic gorges, monasteries, picturesque villages with ancient churches, the south coast Libyan sea, or the spectacular mountains of Psiloritis and Lefka Ori (White Mountains), for Panormo provides an advantageous pivotal point on the island, allowing you to holiday across Crete with enough to discover for weeks!  

Just 20 minutes west of Athena’s Hideaway, Rethymno is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Greece. Venetian fortification works mingle harmonically with orthodox and catholic churches, mosques, majestic mansions of Venetian architecture, arches and cobbled paths which create a magical atmosphere.  The Fortress dominates the city and makes Rethymno very photogenic with its pedestrian streets below and charming old buildings, and domed mosques reminiscent of the Turkish influence of days past.  Numerous shops for souvenirs with countless local products, trendy fashions and gorgeous, handcrafted jewelry fill the streets of the old town, combining the old and the modern to make a colourful and buzzing town.

Rethymno's vibrant old-world charm is the perfect place to explore with a stroll along the postcard-perfect Venetian harbor by day, or kick-back at night with drinks and dinner at any one of the chic restaurants located on along the seafront. Although Rethymno is the third largest town in Crete, it has a provincial air; a place that moves gently while its Venetian and Ottoman inspired architecture stirs romance and adventure.

Before leaving Rethymno's seemingly endless, powdered sandy beaches, we should mention the turtles. Turtles are regular visitors along the beaches of Rethymno and return each year between June and August to lay their eggs, creating the tiniest, wriggling spectacle and treasured holiday memories!

Surrounding Area & Sights

Arkadi Monastery. Originally built in the 14th century and re-built in the 16th century, it is positioned up on a beautiful hill, 22 km south-west of Panormo. In the center of the complex stands the Byzantine church. It is well known as one of the most important centers of the Cretan resistance against the Turkish occupation and is a symbol of their fight for freedom. In November 1866 the Turks sent 15,000 men to besiege the monastery. After two days siege and when the entrance was bombed by the Turkish canons, Cretans chose not to surrender and set fire to the store of gun powder, blowing themselves up. Shot and sword marks can be seen on the door, walls and the table inside the refectory. Monastery, ossuary and museum are open daily. 

Eleftherna. Continue just 7.5km east from the Arkadi monastery and Eleftherna is the most important archaeological site in the Rethymno prefecture and one of the most interesting current excavations being conducted by the Archaeological section of The University of Crete. Inhabited from the ancient years till the Byzantine era, it is the only site in Crete that can give valuable information to archaeologists on how a settlement developed during the years. The ruins of dwelling complexes, sanctuaries, cemeteries, the ancient wall, the aqueduct, the huge cisterns and the bridges and an early Christian basilica will amaze and intrigue the history buff within. Eleftherna is not yet an organised archaeological site.

Margarites village. Continuing from Eleftherna, a characteristic Cretan village with a long tradition in hand-made pottery. Visit the dozens of shops and see the artisans actively creating their pottery on the wheel!  Beautiful and picturesque, Margarites village is a shopper's paradise for those vying for something unique and truly Cretan.  

Axos vilage. A small village, 28 km south east of Panormo on Idi mountain, at the site of the ancient settlement of Axos, you will find the refuge of the Minoans as they sought protection from the Dorian invasion. During the venetian occupation the population moved to Anogia. Many byzantine churches can be explored here.

Bali. 8 km west of Panormo, Bali is the second main resort on the north coast of the prefecture of Rethymno. Very picturesque, with wonderful bays and port, it is built in the ancient site of Astali.  If lovely Greek beaches are part of your holiday plans, Bali is a must-see on your Cretan vacation itinerary. 

Anogia village. One of the most famous Cretan villages for its tradition in the Cretan way of life and music. 8 km after Axos, it is a starting place for visiting the very impressive Idi (Psiloritis) mountain (elevation 2452 m) and the cave of Ideon Adron, an ancient place of worship and where according to mythology Zeus grew up.  The Nida plateau (elevation 1500 m) and, during the winter, the ski center can be found here.

Zoniana Cave (Sfedoni). On the slopes of Psiloritis mountain, at an elevation of 630 m, is the intriguing Zoniana Cave.  Just 10 km west of Anogia, 28 km west and south of Panormo, the cave has 14 chambers and covers an area of 3000 sq. meters.  The walking route is manageable at only 270 m.

Amari. The old country road from Rethymno to Agia Galini, passes many picturesque characteristic Cretan villages and stunning scenery. If you have your own car, Prassies, the Potamoi area, Thronos with the archaeological site of Sivritos, Pandanassa, Patsos and the wonderful gorges of Agios Antonios, Meronas, Amari, Ano Meros, Agios Ioannis, Fourfouras, Kouroutes all offer a visually captivating drive, away from the common tourist attractions.  

Melidoni village. A typical Cretan village, most known for its cave, has been inhabited since the Neolithic years and was a place of worship during the ancient times. During the Turkish occupation, 370 people were killed by Turks inside the cave after refusing to surrender peacefully. The Melidoni Cave is 140m long and has 6 chambers!  With its many stalactites and stalagmites the cave is a thrilling, family fun, learning experience. 

Argiroupoli. 44 km west and south of Panormo, in the mountains, you will first pass the ancient neighboring town of Lappa, which prospered during the Roman years. Before entering the village, on the right, the road turns to the sources of the The Holy Power, where the springs of the mountains, running fom everywhere, join in small waterfalls and powerfull streams. The sound of the impetuous water, the greenery and the freshness make this place a small oasis during the summer heat. From inside the village, a foot path 2 km long, brings to the site of the ancient Necropolis, with hundreds of tombs.

Georgioupolis. Is a lovely, sizable village on the north coast and has grown to become a tourist resort over the last years. 45 km west of Panormo the  long sandy beach that started 12 km west of Rethymno spans until Georgioupolis. 4 km south, there is the picturesque village of Vrisses and 5 km west, the village of Vamos with a special interest in Cretan tradition. Try horseback riding at Zoraida's for a fun and relaxing way to spend a 1/2 day.

Kournas lake. 48 km west of Panormo and only 4 km from Georgioupolis, Lake Kournas's blue, emerald, and turquoise waters are stunningly beautiful as it is surrounded by The White Mountains.  The only sizable lake in Crete, Lake Kournas has numerous eating places along its edge and cafes above from which to gaze at the view. Enjoy the lake itself in a paddle boat and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Late Minoan Armeni cemetery. Taking the road to the south, 7 km from Rethymno and 2 km before Armeni village, is the large burial site with many rock chambers. Many of the findings of decorated earthenware, seals, jewellery and tools are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Hania.

Mili Gorge. To the south, up on the hills, Mili Gorge makes for an idyllic one-day tour for those who like to walk in the country. A real paradise, a place of purifying harmony, beauty and peace, the splendour of nature. A walk to another world, unspoiled and uplifting, untouched from progress or tourism, between trees and plants, along little steams, under the songs and sounds of the birds. Old and now deserted watermills, along the stream, were supplying Rethymno with flour during the last centuries, giving the name to the old and the new settlements. Taking Theotokopoulou street, passing from Evligias hill, with the pine tree forest, the road comes to the Nunnery of Agia Irini. It was founded in 981 A.D. and it is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. It was completely destroyed by the Turks at 1896 and it was restored on 1989. Continue 2 km and there is the new village of Mili from where you can get down to the gorge and the old settlement. Taking the gorge to the end, it leads back to the coast of Rethymno.

Balos Beach. The famous lagoon of Balos is located approximately 56km northwest of Chania and 17km northwest of Kissamos and is surely the most photographed beach in Crete. It is no coincidence that Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited Balos with their private yacht many years ago.  Balos is famous for its turquoise waters, the wild natural beauty and its beautiful striking scenery. During the summer, Balos is visited by thousands of people, who arrive mostly by the ferries running from Kissamos via Cretan Daily Cruises. The lagoon of Balos has white sand and vivid blue and turquoise waters. The sea is very shallow and warm making it ideal for young children.

Santorini. Want to go to Santorini?  Visit one of the many local tour shops in the village of Panormo, such as Bali Travel Agency and book your trip.  Or go on your own by taking a Ferry to Santorini or any of the other magical Greek islands as Crete is the perfect place to spring-board to all of the other Greek islands!

Greek Island Pass by Eurail. Start checking off your Greek island bucket list!  If seeing the sun rise over the crystal blue waters of the Aegean as it bathes the whitewashed, seaside villages of Mykonos, Paros, or Kos, then the Eurail Greek Islands Pass by ferry is your answer. Choose from 53 unique islands and plan your perfect trip through the Greek isles. Operated by Superfast and Blue Star Ferries (two of Eurail’s carriers), the ferries make island-hopping easy through the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Sporades, the Saronic Islands, the Northeast Aegean Islands, and of course Crete!