Highlights of Crete
Everything you need to know about Crete. All the hot spots of the island for your vacation through the eyes of a local resident.
Crete is the largest island of Greece and the second largest of the east Mediterranean. The island has population of 623.065 citizens and is divided into four regional units:
Heraklion. It is the capital of Cete, has the biggest port of the island and the most bustling airport of the country. In a large city like Heraklion there are many sights, monuments and lots of beaches to visit, the most noteworthy are:
1. Heraklion Archaeological Museum: It is located at a central part of the city and is one of the most significant museums of Europe. Its main focus are finds and treasures of Minoan civilization, the first civilization that was created on european ground.
2. Natural History Museum of Crete: Here you can learn everything about the natural environment of Crete and the animals that inhabit it, as well as the history of dinosaurs. Visitors can experience a strong earthquake in a special room and learn how to deal with it. There are specially configured areas with interactive games for children.
3. Knossos Palace: It is located 5 kilometers out of the city of Heraklion. Knossos was the seat of the first king of Crete, Minos and the excavations in the area brought to light a lot of details for the life of a great civilization.
4. Cretaquarium: It is the best aquarium in Europe. It has 60 tanks with more than 2.000 sea organisms living inside. You can explore the sea world and then relax in the specially configured areas of the aquarium while enjoying the view of the Sea of Crete.
5. Matala: It is famous for its extraordinary beaches with golden sun, but it is even more well known from the ’70s for the different way of life of the people who went and resided in the caves of a huge rock that hugs the sea, the hippies. On the Komou beach you can watch loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) lay their eggs under the protection of the Sea Turtle Conservancy organization.
6. Hersonissos: It is located 26 kilometers east of Heraklion city. It is one of the best tourist seaside attractions and that’s why it attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. It is a place that can accomodate various types of travelers because it combines entertainment till the morning with the relaxation of the beautiful beaches and the graphic villages.
*Also Don’t forget to walk in the historic center of the city of Heraklion and enjoy the old market, the Venetian walls, the Koules Fortress and the beautiful public squares.
Chania: It is the second largest city of Crete after Heraklion. It is divided into two main sections, the old city with the historic center that is worth to walk through and the new city that is outside the walls. Except the historic center of Chania that is the most popular part of Chania because you can see all the civilizations that have passed through the centuries, Chania is mainly famous for its natural riches, like its beautiful beaches and its gorge.
1. Elafonissi: It is the most famous beach of Crete and among the best beaches of the world. It has shallow blue and turquoise water and pink sand and people that have visited describe it as heaven on earth.
2. Balos: It is an idyllic beach with crystal water and magical ocean floor. It is not easily accessible so you will have to travel by car till Kissamos (Kasteli) and either walk for around 20 mins on foot sight seeing more of Crete’s natural beauties or take a boat from Kasteli that takes you straight to the beach.
3. Samaria Gorge: It has 18 kilometers length and is the largest in length gorge in Europe. It accommodates various species of birds and other animals, one of which is an endagered species the Kri-kri. It requires around 3-4 hours of walking to traverse through it.
Rethymno: It is the third largest city of Crete. In Rethymno you will find the most delicious traditional Cretan cuisine with secret recipies that are passed across generations. You can explore the old city of Rethymno and sit in one of the many coffee shops at the port and enjoy your beverage watching the old turkish warships swaying on the water. Rethymno’s biggest attractions are its unique beaches.
1. Foinika beach or Preveli lake: It is the most well known beach of Rethymno. On the shore of the river there is a palm forest and a lake that the river forms before it flows into the sea. We suggest that you walk along the river and admire the vegetation and the animals that are there. Instead of walking you can rent a bike and traverse it.
2. Karavos – Kalypso: It resembles the norwegian fjords but has water like a pool and the wild beauty of Crete. The bay is called norwegian fjord because it is rumored that among the sea cliff pirates found shelter when the winds were too strong. Karavos is mentioned in mythology as the place where Odysseus, was amazed by the place’s beauty combined with Kalypso and as a result stayed for 7 years during his travel to Ithaka.
Lasithi: Crete’s most eastern regional unit. Is is surrounded by the sea from three different sides, where it meets the Cretan, Karpathian and Libyan sea. In Lasithi a traveler can find everything, beautiful natural scenery, history, distinct beaches and night life.
1. Agios Nikolaos: It is considered the capital of the region. It is a very graphic city, you can wander through its alleys, do your shopping, have a nice meal or drink a cocktail aroud the lake that is the center of the city and later on you can get familiar with the local night life. Lake Voulismeni is famous in Crete because of the two urban legends that accompany it. Firstly it is said that the lake has no bottom and whoever dives in it will be lost. Secondly that the lake is connected to the Santorini volcano because during the last volcano explosion the lake water expanded and flooded the surrounding shops.
2. Spinalonga: It is a small island across Elounda. In 1905 it was used as a leper colony where they took the lepers to be isolated and they were forbidden to leave the place. In 1957 it was shut down because since all the remaining people were cured thanks to antibiotic drugs. Since then it functions as a tourist attraction for those who want to get a taste for what people went through at that time who despite their troubles had created their own society and tried to continue their lives normally.
3. Vai Palm Forest: It is a protected natural area because of the specific kind of palm – Cretan date palm, that is known from the minoan era and it is called Theofrasto’s palm. This location is really important not only for its magnificent beach but also for its uniqueness since that specific kind of palm doesn’t exist anywhere else in Europe.
4. Chrysi: It is an island across Ierapetra, that is uninhabited. It is surrounded by many beaches with turquoise water and golden sand that’s why it is called Chrysi (golden in Greek). There is a cedar forest that reach 200 years of age and is the largest cedar forest in Europe. It has been declared an area of intense natural beauty and because of that gathering sand and seashells is forbidden.