"A beautiful island, which combines a rich history, delicious food, a thriving nightlife and spectacular natural scenery to create the perfect holiday."
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete combines spectacular natural scenery, with a fascinating history, incredible folklore and stunning culinary tradition, to create a holiday experience to excite and delight in equal measure. Its golden beaches and azure waters are an obvious draw and it is ideal for people who want to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday. However, Crete, is so much more than just a beach destination, it is bound by the myth being the birthplace of Zeus and home of the Minotaur. It is also the birthplace of the famous Minoan culture, which dominated the area until disaster struck and caused the Bronze Age Collapse.
Western Crete is dominated by the stunning White Mountains, home of the famous Samaria Gorge, and the Omolos Plateau. On the north-west coast lays the very pretty, unspoilt town of Chania. Chania is the greenest of the four prefectures and has a number of excellent beaches. Heraklion, the island’s capital lies almost at the centre of the north coast. This has all the lively entertainment, shops and nightlife one would expect of a large city as well as Greece’s most-visited historic sites (Knossos). To the east of Heraklion is the town of Hersonissos, offering some of the best beaches in Crete. Not far from Hersonissos is Sissi, a small, quiet resort with an attractive harbour, and further east respectively, lies the picturesque fishing villages of Elounda, and Ayios Nikolaos. Elounda, the smaller of the two, retains plenty of character and charm and boasts some excellent fish tavernas, ideal for family and romantic holidays. A worthwhile boat trip from here is to Spinalonga Island, once a leper colony. Its neighbour, Ayios Nikolaos is rather livelier in the high season. Crete is also famous for its amazing food, steep mountains and unique flora and fauna. Crete is a holiday destination that will surely appeal and dazzle its travellers and caters to each and every taste.
Crete Travel Guide
At A Glance:
The largest of the Greek islands it covers an area of 8939 kilometres and has a population of 621,340. It is situated in the southern part of the Aegean and is famous for its mountainous terrain. It is split into four distinct regions, Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion and Lassithi. The island is totally isolated from the European mainland, meaning that it has unique flora and fauna, along with unique animals like the Cretan goat.
Famous for its temperate and sunny weather, which lasts throughout the year, the island is hot between May and October, with temperatures averaging an impressive 24 degrees. When summer hits Crete it is ideal for sun-worshippers, with temperatures in July and August averaging 29 degrees. There is also a cool breeze that blows across the island, giving some relief from the hot sun in the summer months. The winters are mild, with temperatures of 17 degrees in November and a, reasonably, pleasant 14 degrees in December.
History and Culture
Considered the birthplace of Zeus, the most important of the Olympians, Crete played an important role in mythology. It was later the home of King Minos, whose refusal to sacrifice a bull to the gods, enraged Poseidon, punishing him by making his wife fall in love with a bull. This led to the birth of the minotaur, who was imprisoned in the labyrinth built by Dedalus, whose ill-fated flight, with his son Icarus began from the island. Eventually, Theseus, king of Athens, and one of the most famous Greek heroes, slew the minotaur with the help of Adriane. Crete was also the birth place of the Minoan civilization, which reigned between 2600-1150 BC and was one of the most important civilizations in the entire ancient world. Its most famous city was Knossos, whose ruins can still be seen on the island today. The Minoans were ended by natural disaster, when a volcano erupted in 1450 BC, leading to an invasion by the Dorians. Crete was quiet for the following years, being occupied by the Romans, before passing into Byzantine hands, which is when much of its vast wealth was created.
Renowned for its incredible diet, which is both healthy and delicious, it was the subject of the scientific study that recommended the Mediterranean diet, as a way of living longer. Things like olive oil, citrus fruits and grapes abound, while the local wine is excellent and the popular tsikoudia (Cretan firewater), are must tries during your stay. Fresh fish is also a staple of the Cretan diet, along with apaki, a delicious pork dish, which takes 3 days to cook.
Families will have plenty to do during their stay in Crete. Foremost are the many golden beaches, which offer a range of exciting watersports for everyone to enjoy, there is also a plethora of educational fun to be had, with ancient ruins like Knossos, both fascinating and entertaining. The Aqua Plus Water Park is situated on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the sea, and provides a range of aquatic fun, while the Amazonas wildlife park is a great place to introduce children to a myriad of exotic birds to surprise them on their family holiday.
Tours and Attractions
Full of exciting activities, visitors are sure to enjoy exploring the charming island. Discover the many stunning beaches, like Elafonissi, which is famous for its pink sands and the Balos lagoon, renowned for its turquoise waters. The Aquaworld aquarium is ideal for an educational day out, while no trip to Crete would be complete without a trip to the ancient ruins of Knossos, the remains of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.
Events and Festivities
Carnivals abound in Crete, with the most popular ones taking place in Rethymno and Heraklion (both take place between January and February). The Houdetsi Festival is a four-day festival, celebrating music, food and art, 23 kilometres south of Heraklion town and takes place in early August each year. The Matala Festival is a hippie celebration that occurs in June and celebrates the best that the 1960’s and 1970’s had to offer, whilst there are also plenty of wine festivals that take place in the many villages that populate the island.
With a diverse nightlife, Chania Town is filled with bars, with the waterfront ones offering beautiful views of the sea. Rethymno is also good for those who enjoy cool bars and clubs, while the best parties can be found in Malia and Stalis. There is also a large selection of tavernas and bars for those who like a quieter scene.