Crete is a beautiful island full of culture and history. It is the largest island of Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. Admire the ancient ruins and learn from the remnants of the old civilization. It’s beaches, mountaintops, valleys and vineyard are awe-worthy. Here’s how to make the most of the island with your Crete travel plans.
Get to know Crete
Chania, on the western side, is dominated by the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) and its famous national park. Chania retains its character from Venetian rule till date. Explore the Old Town’s maze-like alleys with their beautiful Venetian mansions, fountains and churches. Admire the different architectural styles while exploring the historical route of the city. Taste the famous Cretan cuisine with a glass of excellent Cretan wine. Visit wineries, enjoy the local gastronomy and welcoming Cretan hospitality.
Rethymno is Crete’s smallest prefecture located between White Mountains and Mt Psiloritis (also called “Idi”). Think gorgeous mountainscapes, beaches, tsikoudia spirit served with “ofto”, legendary caves, historic monasteries and monuments and traditional mountain villages.
The largest, most densely populated region in Crete is Heraklion (pronounced Iraklion). Nestled between two imposing mountain ranges – Idi (Mt Psiloritis) and Dikti (Lasithiotika mountains)– Heraklion boasts exceptional archaeological treasures, coastal settlements, pretty villages, valleys with olive groves and vineyards and the best organised tourist infrastructure.
Lasithi is the easternmost and least mountainous region of Crete with four semi-urban centers: Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mythical palm tree forest of Vaï, the Gulf of Mirabello, windmills on the Plateau of Lassithi (the largest in Crete), beaches with crystalline water make it very inviting.
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Crete has the best scenery for hiking and trekking. There are a number of places you can go including beaches, canyons, and mountains. Paliokastro Beach is one of the most beloved beaches in Crete and offers three trekking routes. The ocean is deep and bright blue, and is also a great place to relax and listen to the water crashing.
Also, the history of the beach is quite amazing. It’s believed that the beach used to be a fortress that protected the area from its enemies. The ruins of the castle is believed to be built on top of the acropolis of ancient town Kytaeon. And that there are tunnels funneling through between the castle and the shore, an exit plan if needed.
Another great trek is in the Gorge of Cha, which begins on top of Thrypti and ends in Ierapetra. From here you can go for a scenic drive and then stretch your legs with a little trek. Keep in mind, trekking through parts of the gorge does demands good equipment and experience.
Crete is rich with ancient history. Crete is believed to the birthplace of Zeus, according to Greek mythology. The capital Heraklion, is renowned for its Archaeological Museum. The Fountains of Krista, three community springs, are located on the island. The fountains are historical monuments, as they are extraordinary examples of architectural traditions. The Cave of Psychro is another important site in Cretan history. Pilgrims have offered many figurines of humans, animals, and gods at the site and in the late 1800s, inhabitants have found many artifacts in the Cave.
Greek dances and music were first created in Crete, passed down by the Mothers of Gods, Rheas. The most famous dance is Pyrrhic. Traditional dances are done by men and women in colorful costumes. It can go fast and slow, but is always vivid. The dance is accompanied by a lyre or violin. Typically each region has there own traditional styles, but most keep a circular pattern! The dance and music is energetic and upbeat, so it’s an experience waiting to happen!
A traditional, unique Creatan diet is healthy and tasty diet. It consists of seafood, bread, grains, fresh vegetables, and wine. Snails, or Chochlios, are a huge trademark in Creatan diet! Olive and olive oils are obvious when it comes to Greek cuisine. Vineyards are also a staple. Wine is never drank alone, always with a group of friends and family. According to Greek Mythology, wine was a gift from Dionysos, the God of joy, life, and company. Modern wines are created with modern technology and traditional recipes. Weather and climate has made Crete one of the best places for vineyards.
Find out more about Crete travel, head to the official tourism board website.