Crete is one of the most spectacular islands in the world to visit and even though it’s a Greek island the Cretans have a spirit that’s entirely their own. Here we whittle down the choices of things to do in Crete so you can make the most of Crete holidays.
1. Visit the Palace of Knossos in…Knossos
Image via @Ania Mendrek
Knossos was the capital of Minoan Crete and was inhabited for several thousands of years. The palace is connected with such mythology as the Labyrinth with the Minotaur. Knossos is easily reached by bus from Heraklion.
2. Visit the old leper colony on Spinalonga Island
Image via @bebepeloula
Located in Elounda Bay in Eastern Crete, this island has a fascinating and very diverse history. It was once a Venetian fortress that was then occupied by the Ottoman Empire. In 1903 it became a leper colony, made famous in Victoria Hislop’s novel “The Island”. After a cure for leprosy was found the island was abandoned. The island is now open to tourists who come to marvel at the architecture and hear stories of the lepers that were exiled there.
3. Step into a kafeneion
Image via @Christos Tsoumplekas
The Kafeneion is the centre of village life in many Cretan villages. If you’re in a small village get a taste of life there by stopping at a kafeneion for a coffee during the day or something a little stronger in the evening.
4. Get a true look at traditional Cretan hospitality
Image via @Allan Wellings
If you find yourself in a small village, take an evening meal at a taverna, not only will dinner be cheaper than in the tourist hotspots but you’ll get a glimpse into how Cretan’s really live.
5. Go Horseback riding on a beach
Everyone’s been to a beach but not everyone has been horeback riding on a beach. There are many companies in Crete offering this unique experience.
6. Look for ancient and sacred trees
Image via @Rick Eisenmenger
A unique way to explore the island is to tour the island’s ancient trees – some which date back over 2000 years.
7. Eat olives to your hearts content
Image via @Avi Paz
Crete is covered with olive trees and many families have their own trees to produce their own olives and olive oil, so don’t miss the chance to taste some Cretan olives and olive oil.
8. Try Cretan honey
Image via @Jess Davies
You’ll also find bee hives dotted all over Crete with many families making their own pure honey. A great treat is Greek yoghurt, topped with nuts and honey. The only question you have to ask yourself is if you will be sharing or not!
9. Ditch the feta, try traditional Cretan cheeses
Image via @feministjulie
There’s Graviera – a hard cheese which can vary from being a bit spicy to salty and sweet. Myzithra (featured above) is a fresh cheese made from ewe’s milk, tasting similar to fresh goat’s cheese. Another one to try is Anthotiros; a mild, soft spring cheese that is closest in taste and texture to Mascarpone.
10. Iraklio Archeological Museum
Image via @Dimitris Agelakis
This is one of the largest and most important in Greece, so take a break from the sunbathing and head into the shade to see artefacts that span over 5500 years of history. It’s famous for its Minoan collection and any visit will enhance your knowledge and appreciation of Crete.
11. Chania Old Town
Image via @Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho
Get mixed up amongst the Venetian and Ottoman architecture in Chania. The Ventian lighthouse and the old mosque frame the quaint harbour that is lined with restored Venetian mansions that now house hotels and restaurants. Head away from the harbour to weave in and out of the alleys and cobblestoned streets.
12. Hike the Samaria Gorge
Image via @Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho
More than 17,000 people walk the gorge each year and fear not it attracts both serious hikers and those who are new to hiking. Samaria Gorge at 16km long is supposedly the longest gorge in Europe and is home to large number of endangered species like the Cretan wild goat, known locally as the kri-kri. A hike through the gorge is really an experience to remember.
13. Balos Beach & Lagoon
Image via @BMcIvr
The blue lagoon here is simply astonishing and the waters in the lagoon are a great temperature too. The white/pinky hue of the sand will make you think you’ve drifted all the way to the Caribbean.
14. Preveli Beach
Image via @Theophilos Papadopoulos
Preveli Beach is one of Crete’s most celebrated beaches due to its stunning surroundings. The Megalopotamos River meanders through the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, where the canyon meets the beach and the river flows into a lagoon thats surrounded by soft sand and the shimmering Mediterranean sea.
15. Dikteon Cave
Image via @Dominique Marques
A major site in Lasithi is the Dikteon Cave, found just outside the village of Psyhro. According to legend it is here that Rhea hid the baby Zeus from Cronos, his child-gobbling father. The cave covers 2200 sqm and features stalactites and stalagmites.
16. Ponder the myths of Lake Voulismeni
Image via @Simon Aughton
In the centre of Agios Nikolaos you’ll find Lake Voulismeni, the Cretan equivalent of Loch Ness. Over the years it’s been the talk of much speculation. Some people think that Athena once bathed in its waters, others say that the German army abandoned weapons in the lake during World War II and some think that the lake is bottomless.
Image via @Konstantinos Mavroudis
Archanes is a mountain village full of Minoan ruins, Byzantine churches and best of all great local wine.
Image via @bebopeloula
The modern and ancient sit side by side in Heraklion. You’ll find fancy restaurants sitting side by side with simple tavernas. You’ll also get the chance to see the old Venetian fortress, Koules which is a great place to visit for the views. The 25th August Street is a paved pedestrianised street, home to many neoclassical buildings which sit side by side with souvenir shops, cafes and jewellery shops. End up at Lion Square where you can marvel ath the Morosini Fountain.
19. See windmills on the Lasithi Plateau
Image via @ArminFlickr
The Lasithi Plateau sits some 850m above sea level and is surrounded by the Dikti mountains. Over 10,000 metal windmills were used to irrigate the crops and stone windmills were used to grind the cereals grown. The scenic drive to Lasithi Plateau itself offers unparalleled views .
20. Get down with the locals in Hersonissos
Image via @Mario Sainz Martinez
In the old village of Hersonissos, frequently in the square you will find traditional dancers and traditional Cretan music.
Well I hope we’ve inspired you for your next holidays whether it is in Crete or not. Tell us, what would you like to visit most in Crete? Or, if you’ve been tell us more about your holidays in Crete, what did you enjoy the most? Where did you stay? We love hearing from our readers about their holidays.