Crete's grandest carnival is celebrated in Rethymno Town, a vibrant showcase of Greek culture that incorporates art, theatre and dance as well as traditional Greek customs, games and activities. The highlight is, of course, the Grand Parade.
The three-week carnival period kicks off with treasure hunts, a graffiti festival featuring artists from all over Greece, theatre and dance events and fancy dress balls. On Shrove Thursday, there is a huge open-air party. Another party is organised on the day before the main parade, where many live sketches are performed.
After a rehearsal of the big day, the entire town erupts with colour and music for the Grand Parade as carnival teams present their spectacular floats and flamboyant masks. The celebrations also encompass surrounding villages as old customs, games and traditional events like kite flying are revived.
Every July, the Municipal Garden hosts the Cretan Wine Festival to the delight of all imbibers.
It's not just about getting drunk on free Greek wine from various vineyards. Wine is abundantly consumed since it is free. The visitor will find choices of wine from the largest wine producing companies of Crete, and he is given the opportunity to try almost all the flavours and varieties of the famous Cretan wines. A rich programme including traditional Cretan and Greek folklore music groups is offered, thus illustrating the Greek way of entertainment every evening to the large number of local and foreign visitors.
Each summer, Rethymnon hosts a Renaissance Festival, with a programme of theatre performances, music, dance and visual arts. Over the years all the works of Cretan playwrights have been performed at the festival, along with plays by Shakespeare, Moliere, Goldoni and others. Musicians from all over the world perform a wide range of music, from the period of the Renaissance to the present. Dancing performances, exhibitions of paintings, speeches and cinema fill the rest of the menu.
The most popular organisation in respect of participation is the Treasure Hunt of Rethymno. It is the favourite game of the locals of all ages and takes place two weeks before Carnival. During this marathon game, which lasts for one day, your brain, your body and your nerves are tested. The grade of difficulty has reached an unbelievable level, which makes it almost impossible for somebody who is not initiated to take part. However, it is a great experience to watch a group in action.
The Treasure Hunt helped the young people of Rethymno to achieve a profound knowledge of the town's history, to come close to its monuments and to trace every single detail of historical periods. It is worth mentioning that the way the players accomplish a task in this game has become an invariable component.
A similarly important event is the "Children's Treasure Hunt", which takes place a week earlier.
Finally, the Association of Hotel owners in co-operation with the Municipality of Rethymno organises a treasure hunt each summer in the framework of the "International Day of Tourism". Visitors to the town are invited to participate and the winners are awarded 'all included' holidays in Rethymno.