Famously fabled to be home to the mythical Greek creature – the Minotaur, the ancient Minoan Civilization and the Cretan Diet, Crete is a sought after destination for one of the best vacations in Southern Europe.
While you indulge in history, culture and relaxation, you will love exploring the contrasting landscapes; from fertile plains and rocky mountains to white sand beaches – you’re up for a scenic trip.
There are four different regions for you to explore on the island – Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi.
Take two weeks off and hop on a flight from either Athens or Thessaloniki and land at the Nikos Kazantzakis airport in Heraklion. The rest of the 260 km wide island is easily accessible from this city for whatever you want to do.
Not far from the city of Heraklion is home of the Palace of Knossos and the Labyrinth that the character Minotaur was supposedly trapped in before being overpowered by the heroics of Theseus. Dive right into ancient Greek history as you walk through the ruins of the ancient city of Knossos. For centuries it held the seat of power under King Minos.
Psychro Cave (Cave of Zeus)
Head East in the region of Lasithi because it’s time for spelunking. Reach the town of Psychro and you are led straight to the cave of which much has already been written. The psychro cave is said to be the birthplace of the Greek God amongst extraordinary happenings. The God of everything grew up here among nymphs drinking goat milk away from his father, the son eating king. Even if you don’t believe Gods and legends spoken of by mere mortals, you are sure to be left speechless by the stalagmites and stalactites protruding from wherever they are able to.
Rethymnon Old Town
Walk into this aristocratic looking town which has a history interspersed with Minoan, Turkish and Venetian rule, and still somehow wears that avatar today. Visit the Fortezza of Rethymno, the biggest fort on Crete left behind by the Venetian era. Don’t forget to stop by the Neratze Mosque, a product of the Ottomans during their time in the area.
Samaria Gorge National Park
Put on your hiking boots as you head west in the Chania territory of Crete to the Samaria Gorge National Park. Claimed to be the largest gorge in all of Europe, make a day trip through the 12 km gorge. Don’t forget to carry water in case you get too tired.
Take a stroll in the soft golden sand and play in the shallow clean waters of this famous beach. It holds the award for being the best beach in Crete. Check out the ancient Roman ruins in the northern part of the beach and stick around till sun down. The sunset on this beach with rays of light bouncing off of the shallow water are a sight not witnessed by many.
You’ve heard of white sand beaches but this exotic beach has an extra tint of pink in the white along with the turquoise waters. On the southwest coast of Chania, it is famous for snorkeling but leave the place just like it was when you got there.
Creta Maris Beach Resort
Not far from Heranklion is the small village of Crete Maris. Stay at the namesake Crete Maris Beach Resort to experience classic Greek hospitality. Get changed and head to the Almyrah restaurant to have a filling lunch. Relax for the rest of the day and don’t miss the Bouzouki show on BBQ night. The great staff, the food and the unending sand are going to make you want to stay for longer than you planned.
Blue Palace Resort and Spa
Drive East to Elounda and book yourself the private pool suite at the Blue Palace. Prepare to get spoiled at one of the highest rated resorts in Crete. Stay for at least a week to experience Cretan luxury at its best. Swim in the infinity pool of the hotel and for dinner eat at the top notch restaurants. Bite down on some steaks at ‘The Flame’ or gorge on some delicious Italian food at ‘Isola’.
Famed for the Cretan Diet, Crete serves one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. So you don’t have to worry about what’s going in your tummy on this vacation, for once.
Thalassino Ageri (Old Town, Chania)
Leave the touristy restaurants behind and head to this seafood taverna in the old town of Chania for some exquisite fresh grilled sardines along with some beet root salad in the Cretan style. It’s quite a walk away from the town centre but totally worth it.
The Old Phoenix (Finikas Bay, Loutro)
Hop on a boat to Loutra from the quiet harbour at Sfakia then follow the path to Finikas Bay. The Greek Salad with homemade feta and lamb chops is going to make you stay back. So book a room and stay the night. For breakfast, have the pan cake called Sfakiani Pitta as goat’s cheese and wild thyme honey oozes out.
The view is only going to increase the blast on endorphins in your body and you think to yourself, this is the life!