A holiday in Crete guarantees a lot of things – relaxation, gorgeous vistas, wonderful sands, and a healthy dose of Vitamin D. And even though the beaches are most definitely some of the best things to do in Crete, there are plenty other activities and landmarks to make the most of. This gorgeous Greek island caters for two types of holidaymaker – the active adventurer and the beach-dwelling bookworm. And regardless of which one you are – we’ve compiled a list of what to see in Crete.
As the largest island in Greece, it goes without saying that the Cretan coastline is a sensational one. Crete offers everything a visitor could possibly want from an island holiday, and exploring its dramatically beautiful vistas should be high on your list of priorities. The beaches here can cater for any number of holidaymakers: There’s an array of water sports such as snorkelling, wind-surfing, paddle-boating, water-skiing, sailing and kayaking, while there are also plenty of beaches more suited to relaxing.
Leaving the sands for just a moment, we’ll talk about some of the other great things to do in Crete.
Lovers of history and culture unite on their way to Knossos Palace. Found just a few miles outside the city of Heraklion, and considered to be Europe’s oldest city, this Bronze Age palace is one of the best things to do in Crete. It was the capital and centre of Minoan civilisation from around 6000 BC and has huge archaeological significance.
With excavations revealing its throne room, queen’s bedroom, storerooms, painted frescoes and pillars, it offers a unique and interesting look back into the past. Even though these rooms are mostly reconstructions, they still give an idea of the magnificence of Minoan culture. Most of us know the tales of the labyrinth and the Minotaur, but seeing where these stories originated adds a fascinating new layer of experience.
If you haven’t had your fill of historic culture, the Phaistos is also worth seeing. But whatever you do, don’t miss the new Archaeological Museum in Heraklion. Go later in the day to make sure you don’t compromise potential beach time, and to take advantage of the thinning crowds.
A history lesson masquerading as a city, Chania boasts a Venetian port with no less than Ottoman, Byzantine and Egyptian influences on show – talk about a culture clash! A great place to watch the sun go down and make the most of fresh seafood, it makes a great final destination when you embark on a walk through the old part of town.
A stroll along the walls is a virtual history lesson in itself, while a walk to the lighthouse should also be high on your to-do list. Some locals have even organised a special accompanied walk through the oldest parts of the city. Not only is this fun and fascinating, it’s also free – the three f’s! And the best part is that once you reach the finish, you can celebrate with a glass of wine or beer as you enjoy the sunset.
The Samarian Gorge is not just one of one of the most famous places on the island, it’s also one of the best places in Crete. Don’t panic when you discover it’s the longest gorge in Europe: As long as you get to the top, it’s downhill all the way. Make sure you remember a hat and strong walking shoes if you’re planning to walk the whole route. When you get to the end, you’ll find the black-sand beach of Agia Roumeli waiting for you. And if you want to extend your journey a little bit further, you can hop on a boat to Sougia or Hora Sfakion.
Crete is studded with monasteries, some in ruins, some closed, and some still working - a visit to one or more of them is a unique experience in a holiday full of unique experiences. Aga Triada is undoubtedly the most beautiful and famous of these monasteries. Found just a short distance from Chania, Agia Triada, or Holy Trinity in English, was built in the 17th century on top of a pre-existing church, and quickly became the most important religious centre on the island.
Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, the monastery is open to visitors every day. It’s possible to explore its chapels and main church, as well as a small museum. Aga Triada also has a shop selling its own award-winning organic olive oil as well as honey and wine.