Holiday Destinations / Europe / Greece / Travel Guide / Crete, Rhodes, and the others
Crete, Rhodes, and the others
Crete is a record-breaking island: the largest Greek island, the southernmost and for many the most beautiful. Its size and the variety of its attractions makes it an ideal destination for holidays that combine sea, nature, and culture. The top attractions of Crete are its enchanting beaches and the Palace of Knossos (the mythical palace of the Minotaur), but the list of things to see is very long and includes archaeological museums, lagoons, palm groves and mountain paths. Do not miss some splendid islands of the Dodecanese such as the splendid Rhodes, Kos and Karpathos; Skiathos and Skopelos in the Sporades, and Samos in the North Aegean.
The island of Crete is full of paradisiacal beaches, archaeological sites, monasteries, and many other natural beauties that make it the ideal destination for a truly special holiday.
Land of myths and legends, cradle of some important ancient civilizations, island with beaches and natural landscapes unique in the world, Crete is the ideal destination for an unforgettable holiday. The island is the custodian of a historical, archaeological, and architectural heritage unique in the world that combines with breath-taking natural beauty. From the Samaria Gorges to the famous Balos lagoon passing through the famous archaeological sites of Knossos, Phaistos, and Malia: the island of Crete presents itself as the ideal destination for a relaxing, nature and history holiday.
The western part of the island is the most touristic and the best equipped while in the southern and eastern part you can still relax in quiet free beaches and admire cross-sections of daily life in small villages. Many cities, such as Chania and Heraklion, present themselves as dynamic and multicultural where you can admire the historical and architectural heritage left by the Venetians alongside that left by the Turkish domination.
Do not miss a visit to some of the most important monasteries on the island, such as the Arkadi Monastery and the Toplou Monastery, places that have written important pages in the history of Crete because they were a refuge for part of the population who rebelled against Turkish rule. With beaches where famous DJs play live and cities with an active nightlife, the island of Crete is also the ideal destination for all those who want to spend a fun-filled holiday. Locations such as that of Malia and Hersonissos are ideal if you love beach parties and clubs open until late at night.
What to see in Crete
The island of Crete hosts not only archaeological sites, beaches with crystal clear water and pristine bays but also hiking itineraries through valleys, canyons, and woods.
A thousand-year history combined with a wild natural beauty: this is the island of Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. Cradle before the Mycenaean civilization and then of the Minoan one, the island of Crete was the place of occupation of many peoples who left their architectural and cultural heritage. In Crete you can find some of Greece’s most significant attractions such as important archaeological centres, historic religious buildings, magnificent cities, and interesting museums.
All this combines with a unique natural environment, not only for the crystal-clear beaches and its pristine bays but also for its hiking itineraries that cross valleys, canyons, mountains, and woods. The island can satisfy even the youngest and party-lovers as several locations prove to be the ideal destination for those who love nightlife, beach parties and clubs to dance until late at night.
In Crete there are also many religious buildings including churches, mosques, and monasteries. Just the latter often reveal themselves as truly special places because they are in isolated environments, far from city centres and in unique contexts. The monasteries have played a very important role in the history of the island because they were often a place of refuge and last bulwark of resistance during the Ottoman invasions.
Nicknamed the Venice of the East, Chania is a real gem on the north western coast of the island of Crete. The city has a truly unique historical and architectural heritage, in which mosques, churches and Venetian-style buildings coexist in harmony. The oldest part of the town ” old Chania ” winds around the port and is made up of a labyrinth of alleys where you can get lost among shops and small taverns. Do not miss the area of Tabakaria , the district of the island that once housed the tanneries of the city and now houses small shops selling leather crafts.
Heraklion, also called Heraklion is the capital of the island of Crete and the largest city. Its airport is the busiest on the island, while in summer the port is connected daily to Piraeus and the main Cycladic islands. It is one of the island’s entertainment centres, as well as one of the most popular tourist resorts, thanks also to unique attractions such as the Palace of Knossos. Do not miss the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which houses objects that tell more than five thousand years of Cretan history with a section dedicated entirely to the Minoan civilization.
Most of the finds found in the archaeological sites of Phaistos, Knossos, Malia, and other places are now kept in this museum. Here are also preserved the famous Phaistos disc, a terracotta disc dating back to 1700 BC found at the Phaistos Palace, and the beautiful frescoes that decorated the walls of the Palace of Knossos
What To Do In Crete
The island of Crete is a destination that has a lot to offer, not only for its beautiful beaches but also for its many attractions, such as museums, monasteries, and archaeological areas. A stay in Crete is a perfect trip that knows how to combine different interests: from relaxing on the beach to trekking on the gorges, from visiting archaeological sites to walking in small towns.
The Palace of Knossos, together with the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, are two stages not to be missed during a trip to Crete. Knossos is located a few kilometres from the historical centre of the city of Heraklion and visiting it will be like taking a step back in time. It is incredible to think how thousands of years ago they were able to build a complex as impressive as it is fascinating.
The Balos Lagoon is a protected area that is located on the easternmost island of Crete and looks like one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. It can be reached either by ship or by car by crossing the Gramvousa nature reserve and then having to travel a last stretch on foot. Balos shows a golden sand mixed with the pink of the shells and corals that over the millennia have been brought to shore by the waters and have given this colour to the sand. The sea has clear, crystal clear waters with shallow waters, but to enjoy this beach in peace, it is best to go there early in the morning before the tourists arrive.
Together with Balos one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, Elafonissi, nicknamed the Caribbean of the Mediterranean, is characterized by fine sand and clear and warm waters. Right in front of the main beaches stands the small island of Elafonissi , where you can find free beaches and small bays where you can sunbathe in peace.
If you love trekking and nature you cannot miss this beautiful itinerary to the Samaria Gorges which are located within the National Park. About 16 km long, the route starts from the city of Omalos and reaches the beach of Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea. The itinerary first crosses a luxuriant forest and then continues inside the actual gorge, where you can also cross “wide” points just 3 meters.
The history of the Arkadi Monastery is intertwined with one of the most tragic events that took place on the island of Crete and for this reason it conquers all its visitors. The monastery museum tells and preserves evidence of the siege that the Ottoman army made on this place which had become a refuge for many revolutionaries who opposed Turkish rule.
Beaches of Crete
Lapped on the north by the Mediterranean Sea on the south by the Libyan Sea, the island of Crete has beautiful sandy coasts , where paradisiacal bays and tourist cities hide, alternating with small villages that still live following the traditions of the past. The most famous bathing areas are the so-called pink beaches, Elafonissi and Balos , two corners of paradise located in the westernmost part of the island and characterized by golden sand with pink shades and a sea with warm and clear waters. Not only fine sandy beaches, the island also has areas with stones such as Glyka Nera, a beach on the southern coast of the island characterized by the presence of fresh and drinkable water that comes from an underground source and that flows out of the pebbles of the beach.
Other beaches not to be missed in Crete are:
- Vai: also known as Palm Beach, due to the presence of one of the largest palm forests in Europe, it has a turquoise sea with a seabed of rocks that becomes deep in a few meters.
- Malia: beach equipped with sunbeds and umbrellas and favourite destination for those who love beach parties and late-night parties.
- Preveli Beach: 38 km south of Rethymno is a lagoon surrounded by palm trees with sand mixed with pebbles and emerald green waters, where the Kourtaliotis river flows.
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