Secret Tunnels of Rethymno

The Secret Tunnels of Rethymno

The Secret Tunnels of Rethymno represent one of Crete’s intriguing urban legends woven into the city’s historical fabric. With its rich history of several civilizations, including the Venetians and the Ottomans, Rethymno is rife with tales of hidden passageways and underground networks.

Historical Background

  • Venetian and Ottoman Eras: under Venetian rule from the 13th to the 17th century and subsequently under Ottoman control, Rethymno was a city of strategic importance. The Venetians fortified the city, building massive walls and other defensive structures.
  • Architectural Legacy: The city’s architecture from these periods includes a blend of Venetian and Ottoman styles, with many buildings having historical and cultural significance.

The Tunnels’ Legend

  • Origin: The legend of the secret tunnels in Rethymno is thought to have originated during the Venetian period. These tunnels were purportedly built for strategic purposes, such as moving troops and supplies unseen or as escape routes during sieges.
  • Expansion and Usage: It’s believed that these tunnels were expanded or further utilized during the Ottoman era, possibly for similar strategic reasons or to control the city.

Discoveries and Evidence in Rethymno

  • Partial Discoveries: Over the years, renovations and construction works in Rethymno have occasionally uncovered sections of these tunnels. These discoveries lend some credibility to the legends, although a comprehensive network has yet to be fully mapped or explored.
  • Archaeological Interest: The discovery of these tunnel sections has sparked interest among historians and archaeologists, leading to speculation about the extent and purpose of the tunnels.

Cultural Impact

  • Local Folklore: The secret tunnels have become a part of Rethymno’s local folklore. Stories about the tunnels are popular among residents and are often shared with visitors, adding a layer of mystery to the city’s appeal.
  • Tourism: The legend of the tunnels contributes to Rethymno’s allure as a tourist destination, with visitors often intrigued by the possibility of exploring or learning about these hidden passageways.
secret tunnels

Modern Perspective

  • Preservation Efforts: There is interest in preserving and studying any discovered sections of the tunnels as part of Rethymno’s cultural heritage. However, urban development and safety concerns can complicate these efforts.
  • Potential for Further Exploration: While some believe that many sections of the tunnel network remain undiscovered, practical challenges such as urbanization and the safety of old structures pose limitations to exploration.


The Secret Tunnels of Rethymno are a fascinating aspect of the city’s historical narrative. These tunnels capture the imagination, whether as strategic military constructions or a testament to the city’s ability to adapt and survive through various occupations. They represent a potentially significant archaeological and historical site and a living part of the city’s folklore and charm, contributing to the mystique and allure of Rethymno’s storied past.

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