The Crete travel guide for first-timers
Crete is a diverse and vibrant island packed with ancient ruins, buzzing cities and sun-drenched beaches. Not only is it the largest of the Greek Islands, but it’s the fifth biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The mythological birthplace of Zeus never fails to bewitch travellers. Crete holidays tick all the boxes promising stunning scenery and plenty to keep the whole family entertained, as it is home to a wealth of diverse cities and resorts to choose from, including multicolored Heraklion, medieval Rethymnon, atmospheric Lassithi and beachy Chania.
Many people visit Crete for the sun, sea and sand yet the best things to do in Crete include much more than the standard package vacation. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with the remnants of brilliant civilizations, splendid beaches, striking mountainscapes, fruitful valleys and steep gorges.
Beaches: When you think about Crete holidays, powder-white soft sand, pristine waters, and stunning sunsets spring to mind. With more Blue Flag beaches than any other island in Greece, you are spoilt for choice. Elafonissi, Balos, Matala, Vai, Falassarna, Preveli, Xerokambos, are some of the best beaches, but the island has a beach to suit every taste; Crete’s super-size means it’s got 650 miles of coastline to go around and have fun.
Gastronomic culture When it comes to the island of Crete, it is impossible not to mention the gastronomic culture, focused on good quality olive oil, seasonal fruits and wild herbs, homemade or locally produced dairy products, as well as fresh fish and seafood from the Aegean and the Libyan Sea. The core element of the traditional Cretan diet, which became the basis of the “Mediterranean diet”, is one of the oldest and most delicious kitchens in the world.
The Spirit “The mystery of Crete runs deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force coursing warmly and beneficently through their veins, sensing their soul beginning to grow”, wrote Nikos Kazantzakis, Crete’s most celebrated author, in Report to Greco. Crete captivates and enchants everyone who visits it, as it is filled with an open-hearted and vivacious spirit; Cretans are fiercely proud of their homeland, known for their vitality, and their hospitality is impeccable.
History: Exploring the island of Crete is a journey through time and more than 8,000 years of human history; evocative remnants of the Minoan civilization, Renaissance mansions and Byzantine monasteries can still be found nowadays. Knossos is the capital of the legendary king Minos and the principal centre of the Minoan, the earliest of the Aegean civilizations. Gortyna was the administrative and religious centre during the Roman era. The Byzantine religious heritage on Crete is as special as the over 800 Byzantine churches are scattered all around the island. The Venetian rule left both Chania Old Town and Rethymnon Old Zone, with buildings, fortresses, harbours and churches designed to resemble Venetian towns. Arkadi monastery is a place of special historical interest, known for the events that took place during the Cretan revolution of 1866 against the Ottoman invasion.
Villages: The charming Cretan villages are an ideal starting point for an acquaintance with the wonderful Cretan hinterland to experience the true Cretan lifestyle. Sfakia, Anogia, Paleochora, Loutro, Vamos can be characterized as a paradise for thrill-seekers, hikers and nature lovers, where the sense of time is completely lost.
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