The Arkadi Monastery is a sight not to be missed for its history and grandeur

The Arkadi monastery in the hilly country of Rethymno province, comes out at you dramatically like some dusty Mexican mission in a western movie set. Its reddish- brown 16th century walls sit massively on a dry plateau amid vineyards and pinewoods.

The monastery won its fame in 1866 when the abbot, rather than surrender to the attacking Turks, torched the powder magazine and blew himself up along with many local defenders. You can see the place where it happened, still roofless.

The current monument bears every mark of Renaissance architecture, an obvious influence of the Venetian rule on the island. Apart from the Katholikon (main chapel) which stands at the centre, the monastery complex includes the monk cells and ancillary buildings, clustered around a central court yard.

This was an extremely wealthy monastery, an important center of copying Greek manuscripts and a workshop of church embroideries. There’s a KTEL local bus service to Arkadi from Rethymno and some of the route is exceptionally scenic.

How to get to Arkadi Monastery in Rethymno Region