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Top 10 Things to do in Crete


Our Top Ten things to do in Crete - Don't leave until you've experienced the best Crete has to offer

Whilst Crete is part of Greece it has a history and culture all of its own. There are many things that the tourist must do such as visiting the centre of the Minoan civilisation at Knossos and walking the Samaria Gorge. But for those who just want peace and quiet and a relaxing holidays, the atmosphere of the towns and villages are perfect for that too. Here are ten things to do whilst on holiday in Crete:
1 Ancient Knossos
Ancient Knossos
European civilisation began in Crete, 9,000 years ago. Little remains of that civilisation but it was superseded by the great Minoan civilisation that rule Crete and the surrounding Mediterranean between 2700 BC and 1450BC. The centre of their civilisation was the city of Knossos with its huge Minoan palace. This was the legendary home of King Minos and the source of the tale of Theseus who slew the minotaur, half man, half bull, in the labyrinth. The site was excavated by the British archaeologist Arthur Evans in 1900 but the standard of his team’s work is a concern of Minoan archaeologists to this day. Whilst there, have a photograph taken next to the statue of the bull’s horns

2 Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge
At 16km in length Samaria Gorge, at 16km in length is one of the longest in Europe but must count as the most beautiful. Found in South West Crete, near Chania, it is a national park and has stunning wildlife and plants. The start of the walk through the gorge is at altitude, 1250 metres up on the Omalos plateau in the White Mountains. Tragedy in the past has meant that the gorge is closed in winter because of the risk of flash floods but in summer, the 6 hour walk is incredible. The walk ends at the sea near Agia Roumeli and you can then catch a ferry and bus back to your start point.

3 Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is currently undergoing renovation so the full collection is inaccessible. However, to avoid disappointing visitors who want to find out more about the Minoan civilisation, a temporary exhibit hall has been constructed next door. In some ways this is preferable as they have selected the most beautiful or important pieces from the reduced collection meaning that you don’t have to trawl through hundreds of objects to find items of interest.

4 Chania Old Town & Harbour
Chania Old Town & Harbour
Probably the most beautiful resort on the island, Chania was briefly the island’s capital. The old town which spreads out from the harbour is a favourite with tourists for its narrow cobbled streets and stunning Venetian architecture. Here you’ll find many quaint cafes and tavernas at which to enjoy a drink or meal. The town is built over the ancient city of Kydonia, at its peak in Roman times. There’s a museum housing artefacts from this time near the harbour. A great way to see the town and the surrounding area is by horse drawn carriage which you can board from near the harbour.

5 Lake Kournas
Lake Kournas
For natural beauty it’s hard to beat the view out over Lake Kounas, surrounded by lush fields and forests and with the stunning White Mountains as a backdrop. Kounas is the only natural freshwater lake on Crete. There are a number of tavernas lining the shore of the lake and you can take a refreshing swim here in the summer months. Nearby is the ancient site of Lappa where the Romans built baths. There’s also a Roman aqueduct in Upper Lappa.

6 Lassithi Plateau
Lassithi Plateau
The Lassithi Plateau is a huge fertile plain covering around 25,000 square kilometres and found in the Diktian mountains.  The plateau is famed for the hundreds of white windmills which help to irrigate the patchwork of fields. For those interested in mythology, further on in the mountains id the Diktion Cave or Cave of Psychro reputed to have been the birthplace of Zeus. The cave is found high up on the side of a mountain above the plateau. You can reach the cave by a steep path which takes about 30 minutes to climb leading to the narrow entrance of the cave. Once inside the path follows a steep descent to reach an underground pool and various smaller caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

7 Anogia & Zoniana Cave
Anogia & Zoniana Cave
Anogia has a sad history for here in World War II the occupying German army razed the village to the ground and killed all the men of the village in retaliation for the kidnap of the German leader on the island. Today, a memorial in the village marks the tragic event. The village is also famous as the birthplace of Nikos Xilouris a legendary Cretan musician who died in 1980 at the age of 43. Each year the village hosts the Yakintha Festival in July in memory of Xilouris. The festival is dedicated to the celebration of music, theatre, and art. Nearby is another fascinating cave, the Zoniana Cave which is the best one on the island for stalagmites and stalactites.

8 Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is another pretty town and popular holiday resort. It has a picturesque harbour where you can watch the local fishermen land their catches. For a harbourside town it’s unusual in being built around a lake that is connected to the sea by a short canal. There are a number of tavernas on the lakeside for a drink and meal and an attractive sandy beach called Kitroplatia almost in the town centre. The whole town has a cosmopolitan atmosphere and is good for families as many of the amenities are close together.

9 Spinalonga Island
Spinalonga Island
Spinalonga Island is a fascinating place just off the coast of Elounda. 800 years ago the Venetians built huge fortifications here to guard the entrance to Elounda. These still dominate the sky line of the north of the island. In later years, the island was home to a leper colony and lepers from all over Greece were shipped here. The colony closed in 1957 but has been immortalised in Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island. There are many boat trips out to the island taking as little as half an hour to get there. Pathways will help you to circumnavigate the island through the old village and past the fortifications.

10 Loutro
For an unusual and very peaceful day out, take a boat trip to Loutro village. The village isn’t accessible by road but the fit can walk to it too. It’s a typical Greek village with white and blue painted houses and the lack of motorised transport gives it a set back in time feel. There’s not much to do there apart from enjoy the tranquillity, sip a drink and swim from the pebbly beach but you’re on holiday so that should be plenty!

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