What to see in Greece
Tourist attractions Crete
In the southern corner of the Aegean Sea, 500 kilometers from the Greek mainland, lies Crete, the largest Greek island. A travel destination that perfectly captures the spirit of Greece as a whole, a vacation to Crete reveals a paradise of seductive beaches, jaw-dropping archaeological sites and charming mountainside villages. Crete is the Greece of your imagination.
The island is awash with historic sights and most famously, it was the center of the ancient Minoan civilization, dating back more than 4000 years. The treasured remains of Minoa are scattered throughout Crete, most notably at Knossos, one of Greece’s most famous archaeological sites. More than just a beach vacation destination, Crete is a treasure trove for keen sightseers or anyone with an interest in history!
Breathtaking landscapes characterise Crete. Take the dramatic White Mountains, snow-capped for most of the year, and the awe-inspiring Samaria Gorge, for example. Natural wonders, windswept caves and pristine beaches are sure to leave you enchanted at every turn. Thrill-seekers are well catered for too, with an array of watersports, mountain climbing and outdoor activities to enjoy.
As you can see, Crete is famed for many things and its warm hospitality is just another reason to fall in love with this island. Whether you’re raising a glass of raki at a lively taverna in Heraklion or sampling the fresh local produce in a remote rural village, Cretans know how to welcome visitors! As with the rest of Greece, food plays a pivotal role in daily life. A foodie paradise, on a vacation to Crete you can fill your boots with what is said to be the ‘healthiest cuisine in the world’ in the birthplace of the Mediterranean diet.
Crete has its own international airport but is also connected with both the mainland and other islands by a network of ferries. As the island is pretty vast, it’s best to explore the sights by car or use the well-connected public bus system if you want to take in the sights on your trip to Crete.
Owing to its size and its historic legacy, there are countless things to see and do in Crete. Of course, one highlight stands out: Knossos Palace! Just a stone’s throw away from modern Heraklion, Knossos is one of Greece’s most famous archaeological sites. Here you can see remnants of the royal palace, partly reconstructed in a vibrant red color, and admire ancient frescoes and Minoan artwork. This site was once the capital of the Minoan civilisation and it’s easy to feel humbled by the 4000-year-old ruins of the immensely sophisticated Minoans. Not only was Knossos the site of the Minoans grandest palace, but it was also the place when the legendary Minotaur labyrinth was constructed. If you visit Knossos Palace today you can admire the decorative wall art, see everyday items from the era and discover many secrets about this civilization that predated Ancient Greece. Without a doubt one of the best things to see in Crete.
Nearby Heraklion is the island capital and the jumping-off point for most tours of Crete. Here you can find some of the best museums on the island, including the Archaeological Museum, which houses a collection of the most precious relics of Knossos. This port city is a great base for sightseeing and understanding the local culture. Although it might not be as picturesque as Crete’s smaller towns and villages, it offers heaps of restaurants, bars and shops. In the Old Town, you can admire impressive Neoclassical buildings and Byzantine-era architecture, showcasing the legacy of Crete’s complex history.
One of the best places to visit in Crete is Chania, perhaps the most popular destinations for a beach vacation. With its famous Venetian Lighthouse and atmospheric Old Town, Chania encompasses all the magic of Crete into one compact destination. Chania is located in the west of the island and the region is dotted with authentic Greek villages and immaculate beaches such as Balos, Elafonissi and Falassarna, to name a few. If you visit Chania Town you’ll be treated to a beautiful mix of architectural styles, including Turkish, Venetian and traditional Greek influences.
Another of the most popular things to see in Crete is the town of Rethymno, on the northern coast of the island. Smaller than Chania, it has much of the same charms including a charming Venetian harbour, a beautiful Old Town and cobblestone alleyways flanked by tavernas, cafes and shops. Nearby you can visit Melidoni Cave, an ancient sacred place of worship.
Finally, if you visit Crete with a longing for spectacular landscapes, head to UNESCO protected Mount Ida, roughly halfway between Heraklion and Rethymno. The highest mountain in Crete, this towering landmark is surrounded by a natural park home to a number of hiking routes through dramatic scenery. Keen hikers can climb the 2,456-meter peak to enjoy spectacular views out across the island and the Aegean Sea. On the slopes of Mount Ida is Idaion Antron, a cave said to be the birthplace of the Greek god Zeus!
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