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One of the largest of the Greek islands, it would be easy to spend weeks on Crete and never get bored. This enchanting isle offers a little bit of everything, making it an ideal choice for first-time visitors to Greece. There are beautiful beaches for soaking up the sunshine and swimming, soaring mountains, dramatic caves, Minoan ruins, charming villages and so much more. It also offers plenty in the way of amenities, including a wide range of restaurants, shops, accommodation options, and lively nightlife.
Crete At A Glance
Population of Crete 635,000
What to See in Crete Visit the Palace of Knossos, the ruins of the Palace of Malia, Spinalonga – the famous leper colony, Heraklion Archeological Museum, hike the Samaria Gorge in the south of the island, marvel at the Venetian charm of Rethymnon and Chania Old Towns
Towns or islands to visit near Crete Spend the day on Chrissi Island, visit Santorini for the day or island hop from Santorini to the other Cyclades Islands such as Mykonos, Paros, Naxos & Milos
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When to go: April to OctoberMost Popular
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Things to do in Crete
Visit the Palace of Knossos
Take a step back into ancient times in Europe’s oldest city of Knossos where between 1700 and 1450 BC, the Minoan civilization was at its peak. It’s home to the Palace of Knossos, a magnificent complex that local folklore says was once the home of the minotaur of King Minos. View the gorgeous frescoes and massive columns while discovering more about the unique history of the region.
Witness the Ruins of the Palace of Malia
Just a couple of miles east of Malia is the Palace of Malia which dates back to about 1900 BC, built about the same time as the Palace of Knossos. The original palace was rebuilt following the earthquake in 1700 BC, leveled again by an earthquake 250 years later. Most of what can be seen today are the ruins of the second palace, where many Minoan artifacts have been found, like the famous gold been pendant.
Explore the Heraklion Archaeological Museum
One of the top museums in all of Greece, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum showcases artifacts that span 5,000 years of history, with everything excavated exclusively from archaeological sites on Crete. It includes an extensive collection of Minoan art, with some of the highlights the Phaistos Disk, a clay tablet with markings that have yet to be deciphered, and a miniature statue of a snake goddess.
Spend the Day on the Pink Sands of Elafonisi Beach
There aren’t many places in the world where you can spend time on a pink beach, but Crete is one of them. Its pink-colored sand is the result of thousands of crushed shells which create a stunning contract against the brilliant waters of the Mediterranean. Spend the day here relaxing or swim across the shallow lagoon to the small, uninhabited island that’s home to a historic lighthouse and chapel.
Hike the Gorge in Samaria National Park
Samaria National Park is a great place to get out for a hike, exploring one of Europe’s longest canyons, the 11-mile Samaria Gorge. The trek begins at Xyloskalo, the entrance to the park. Along the way, watch for creatures like the spiny mouse, Cretan badger, and the endangered kri-kri, a goat that’s native to the island
Take a Stroll through Rethymnon Old Town
You may want to spend a day in Rethymnon, wandering the alleys of the picturesque Old Town. This neighborhood by the sea dates to the 11th century and is filled with Venetian Renaissance architecture, with splashes of Turkish influence. There are a dizzying array of shopping and dining options, including tavernas serving Greek delicacies and iced coffees, throughout the maze of streets. You’ll also find countless photo-ops, like the Venetian harbor, Platanos Square and Our Lady of the Angels.
Our Favorite Restaurants & Bars
One of the top restaurants in Heraklion, 7 Thalasses (‘seven seas’ in Greek) is located in the Thalasses Boutique Hotel, offering one of the city’s most interesting and tasty culinary experiences. Located just steps from the sea, it offers one of the most romantic and breathtaking settings while dishes are focused around the fresh bounty combined with the flavors of traditional Mediterranean cuisine. The presentation is a work of art itself, with popular items like sushi, calamari with pesto, lobster pasta and grilled fish cooked to perfection. All are followed by complimentary fruits and a decadent dessert.
A local favorite, Kouzineri’s owner and chef Nikos Kourinos creates mouthwatering gourmet fare in a contemporary space with a cutting-edge design in the center of Heraklion. The menu, paired with an excellent list of outstanding wines, features multicultural dishes like churrasco and paella, although it’s focused on chops and steaks, like Black Angus, which some have called the best they’ve ever eaten. You really can’t go wrong with anything here; the only mistake would be not to make a reservation.
A traditional Greek ouzeri/taverna in the heart of the action on the waterfront in Heraklion, Ippokambos offers simple, delicious fare with just a few tables providing a variety of options, inside and facing the sea. Enjoy an authentic taste of Greek gastronomic delights with veggie, meat and fish options at affordable prices, including homemade specialties. A wide range of meze (small dishes) are offered so you can sample as many as possible. It’s always filled with locals, as one of the most popular spots in town for fresh fish.
Avli defines sophisticated Cretan dining, paired with a wonderful ambiance that harmoniously blends with the Venetian-influenced old town in Rethymnon. It sits on the ground floor of a cluster of graceful buildings that date back to the 16th-century, with outdoor tables set along the cobbled pedestrian lanes. Expect exquisite flavors in dishes like lamb stuffed with aromatic herbs and gruyere cheese served with lemon roasted potatoes, along with a magical ambiance and wait staff that happily attend to every guest.
Mylos tou Kerata
One of the oldest restaurants on the island, Mylos tou Kerata serves traditional Cretan fare in Plantanias as it has for nearly six decades now. It offers a lovely setting, located in an old water mill with a duck-filled pond and a courtyard filled with flowers, plants and trees, while all dishes are impeccably prepared using the highest quality ingredients cooked in extra-virgin olive oil. The menu and wine list are extensive, including an impressive range of grilled chicken, beef fillets and lamb.
Our Hotels in Crete
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