Crete Travel Guide

Introduction to Crete

Occupying a prominent position in the Mediterranean Sea, Greece’s largest island is often said to feel more like a country in its own right than just another part of Greece. Famed for its incredible archaeological heritage as much as for its beautiful sandy beaches, Crete over the millennia has been ruled by cultures as diverse as the Minoans, Romans, Venetians and Turks, all of which have contributed to the fascination of Crete today. With plenty of the island still happily free from the effects of mass tourism, this is a diverse and friendly place which will appeal to young and old alike, so book a friendly hotel and relax in beautiful Crete.

Knossos

Knossos

Explore the 4000 year old stronghold of the ancient Minoan civilisation

Rethymno

Rethymno

Relax with a coffee in the beautiful Venetian harbour, or take a pirate ship cruise

Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge

spectacular views and endangered flora and fauna in a dramatic White Mountains gorge (Europe’s longest)

Other things to do in Crete

Whether you’re after seaside relaxation, a walking holiday in the mountains, a cultural break or a combination of all those, Crete has something for you. You can hike in the breathtaking Samaria Gorge National Park one day and soak up the rays on a beautiful sandy beach the next, whilst never being far from a site of enormous archaeological significance.

Among the many important archaeological sites, Phaestos – a Minoan palace similar to that at Knossos – is the most impressively situated, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. On a more modern note, Chania old town is well worth exploring, boasting a charming harbour characterised by beautiful Venetian architecture, including a lighthouse and former mosque. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs, attracting skilled artisans selling their wares, and is also home to an interesting archaeological museum and a colourful market. Hotels in Crete can be found near the nightlife, on the beachfront or away from it all in secluded little streets, catering for every visitor.

Beach lovers should head to Vai, which features Europe’s largest palm forest. If you fancy a boat trip, there are regular excursions to neighbouring islands such as Spinalonga, made famous by Victoria Hislop’s novel “The Island”, or Gramvousa, a small island on the west coast with a beautiful turquoise lagoon. Those in search of nightlife should try Plakias, a dynamic resort town on the south coast, which also acts as an ideal starting point for discovering this part of the island.

Eating and drinking in Crete

The Cretan diet is world-renowned not only for being delicious, but also for being exceptionally nutritious and healthy. Dinner out is eaten late, after 10pm, and there are numerous tavernas serving delicious local dishes washed down with raki, an alcoholic beverage made from distilled wine. Crete is a great place to sample traditional Greek foods such as moussaka, though the local cuisine differs from elsewhere in Greece in its indifference towards Feta cheese. Snails, cooked in a variety of different ways, are a Cretan speciality.

Crete climate

The climate in Crete is typically Mediterranean, with rain very rare during the long, hot summers, and winters which are short and mild.

When to go to Crete

Crete can be visited at any time of year, though the island is prone to showers between October and April. Bargain hunters should go in October, when shops have clearance sales at the end of the tourist season

Flying to Crete

Direct flights to Crete from the UK and elsewhere in Europe land at Heraklion International Airport, a mere 5km to the east of the city of the same name, or at Chania. A good network of buses runs along the north coast, with a more infrequent service to the southern resorts. Car hire is readily available.

 Crete Deals

Hotels in Crete

Car hire in Crete

Images by flickr/Romtomtom