The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Crete

Crete is the largest of the thousands of Greek islands and is a famous tourist destination in the Mediterranean region, with a wide range of historical sites, scenic attractions, beaches, cuisine and accommodation options. This article will introduce the most not-to-be-missed attractions in Crete, including ancient architectural sites, heavenly beaches, and the magnificent gorge, plateau and lake, recommend hotels that enrich your travel experience and restaurants with authentic Greek cuisine, and explain how to get to Crete when to visit Crete, how long it takes in Crete, and how to get around Crete.

1. Lighthouse of Chania

This fascinating lighthouse, one of the oldest in the world, was originally built by the Venetians in the late 16th century and is one of the landmarks and most famous sights in Chania. It is the finishing touch to the whole harbor. It not only lights up the beauty of the whole harbor but also the sea in the darkness outside the harbor.

The lighthouse at night is the most popular among tourists. When night falls, small stalls are set up around it to sell local food, and you can enjoy the food while watching the dances there, or if you are interested, you can join in and feel the enthusiasm of local people.

2. Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge is a hiker's paradise. Samaria Gorge is the largest gorge in Europe, with a total length of 16 km and a width of 3 to 150 meters. Its hiking route is built naturally according to the terrain and the rivers so that visitors can get close to nature. Numerous rare plants and animals are living in the gorge, including the kri-kri, the endangered wild goat that can only be seen in Samaria.

The hiking route takes about 6 hours and starts in the highlands of Omalos and ends in Agia Roumeli facing the Libyan Sea. 3 km from the exit of the gorge (with yellow signs every kilometer and rest stops along the way) is Iron Gates, the most famous mecca in the gorge, which is the narrowest part of the route, only about 3.5 meters wide, and flanked by cliffs on both sides.

Further on you reach the small seaside village of Agia Roumeli, where most hikers arrive at around 3 pm. Relax on the sandy beach and soothe your weary feet in the warm, clear water. There are free showers, taverns serving food and beer, and some simple accommodations.

3. Knossos Palace

Dating back to around 2,000 BCE, Knossos Palace is one of the most important archaeological sites in Heraklion. It is a symbol of Cretan civilization and is located at the foot of a mountain by the river, surrounded by fertile land.

The palace has more than 1,500 rooms. With its dense floors, complex staircases and corridors, numerous patios and asymmetrical arrangements, the palace was called a "maze" in Greek mythology. Visitors can see the magnificent Minoan palatial structures, the ancient water supply and drainage systems, two very large stone paved courtyards, numerous storerooms and individual rooms. The walls of the palace are decorated with frescoes in vibrant colors and exquisite compositions, with subjects taken from everyday life or nature.

4. Lassithi Plateau

The Lassithi Plateau is lush and fertile, producing healthy and tasty vegetables and premium products such as apples, pears, walnuts, cherries and almonds. There are many quaint restaurants where you can enjoy local tzatziki, wine and goat cheese.

It is interesting to drive on the plateau and enjoy the scenery along the way. Dozens of small villages, nearly 10,000 old windmills, and sheep crossing the road form a unique sight. High up in the plateau there is a cave called Dikteon Andron, where the myth has it that baby Zeus was raised by a nymph.

5. Agios Nikolaos Lake

Agios Nikolaos, in the eastern part of Crete, is a cosmopolitan seaside resort, located under the green hills and beside the blue waters, with warm sunshine, moist air and pebble beaches, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Lake Voulismeni, located in the heart of Agios Nikolaos, is the most popular. The lake runs gracefully through the town and connects to the sea, with striking red rocks on one side. According to legend, the goddess Athena bathed in it. Tourists mostly gather at the open-air cafe by the lake for a strong cup of coffee and a beautiful view of the lake.

To find the most beautiful beaches in Crete, you can first go to Chania. Balos Beach's white sand and Caribbean-like water make it very exotic and one of the top 10 best beaches in Europe. With its pink coral sand, Elafonisi Beach is breathtakingly beautiful and makes visitors feel like they are in a painting.

Vai Beach in Lassithi boasts an emerald green forest with 5,000 palm trees, golden sand, and crystal water, leaving a lasting memory for visitors. Preveli Beach in Rethymno combines some of the features of other beaches with both spectacular lagoon views and lush vegetation and can be reached on foot from Preveli Monastery. Matala Beach in Heraklion offers camping sites and accommodations, and there are small restaurants where you can taste a variety of delicious fish.

Crete is attractive all year round. In spring, Crete is full of trees, flowers, and herbs, and the weather is pleasant, making it a great time for hiking, such as in the Samaria Gorge; it is also a better time to visit the historical sites, avoiding the crowds in the summer, and you don't have to wait in long queues.

Its summer is a bit hot, with an average temperature of 29℃, but with the most sunshine and very little rain, attracting a very large number of beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts. The summer months, especially July and August, are the peak travel months of the year, remember to book your flights and hotels in advance.

Autumn is the best time to walk through the villages, such as on the Lassithi Plateau, when the weather is cool, the olive trees and vines are ripe, with golden and red leaves falling adding a unique charm to the village paths. The local people are harvesting grapes and olives, making the villages especially lively.

No part of Crete is crowded in winter, so you can stop the rush and immerse yourself in local life, participating in local parties, dancing, singing, etc. Around December, the mountains will be covered with snow, and snow climbing is something you can do. In addition, hotels and car rentals cost less in winter.

It takes at least a week to visit the most popular attractions and beaches in Crete. If you do not want to miss any of the main attractions and want to join more activities such as hiking, boat trips, etc., it is better to have two weeks. If you only have 2 or 3 days of vacation, it is recommended to spend them in Chania or Heraklion, two areas with more developed tourism, to have more experiences in a shorter time.

1. Flights to Crete

To get to Crete by plane, you usually have to first go to Athens International Airport, where there are many flights to Chania Airport and Heraklion Airport. If you are in Europe, you do not necessarily need a connecting flight, as many cities have direct charter flights to Chania Airport and Heraklion Airport. Sitia Airport in Lassithi has charter flights to and from other Greek islands.

2. Ferries to Crete

Piraeus port in Athens has many routes to Chania, Heraklion, and Rethymno, especially in summer when you can take a ferry from there to Crete almost every day. There are a few routes to Agios Nikolaos in Lassithi during summer, and if you are in Kasos or Karpathos, you can take a ferry there to Sitia port.

Buses within and between the three areas of Heraklion, Rethymnon, and Chania are well-established and reasonably priced, with KTEL being the main bus company. Buses follow strict timetables, so remember to get to the bus stop early. If you want to visit other areas of Crete or do not want to be confined by fixed bus routes, it is better to rent a car to get around.

1. Creta Maris in Hersonissos, Heraklion

Located just 25km from Heraklion, as the leading all-inclusive resort in Greece, Creta Maris offers everything you would expect in a trip with a private Blue Flag beach, a variety of restaurants, and bars, swimming pools, a water park, an open-air cinema, a football pitch and many other leisure and sports facilities, as well as a wealth of activities, such as circus shows, cabaret shows, karaoke and so on.

2. Madonna del Mare in Town, Chania

Overlooking the old Venetian harbor and renovated from part of the Monastery of Virgin Mary of Miracles, Madonna del Mare features three distinctive and exquisite suites, named and decorated after Sophia Loren, a symbol of Italian beauty, Frida Kahlo, a great Mexican artist, and Brigitte Bardot, an embodiment of French charm, to convey to guests the attitude of independence and confidence. The suites are designed with modern brightness and comfort, while retaining the classical elegance of the Monastery, creating an atmosphere of relaxation and tranquility. The hotel also offers yacht rentals, sightseeing and massage services, as well as private visits to some stunning beaches.

3. Carme Villas in Adelianos Kampos, Rethymno

If you are traveling with your family, Carme Villas is one of the best accommodation options because it creates a family-like living environment and provides comprehensive facilities. The 12 two-floor villas with their own thematic colors all have two bedrooms, a balcony, a garden, a kitchen, a private pool, and a parking area. It is located in an olive grove not far from the beach, with numerous stores and restaurants nearby.

4. Sitia Beach City Resort Spa Hotel in Sitia, Lassithi

It is a hotel embraced by plants, with a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere, situated right next to the town's sandy beach and only 300 m. Whether you are dining in the restaurant, chatting in the courtyard, swimming in the pool, or walking around, the plants accompany you. From a distance, the hotel looks like a garden in the sky. It is next to the beach and has complimentary facilities for guests. At Hotel's Spa, you can try a professional massage. Different authentic Greek cuisine and wines are offered to guests every day.

1. Peskesi Restaurant in Town, Heraklion

Peskesi Restaurant has always used ingredients from its own organic farm in order to promote sustainable cuisine. Inspired by the ancestors, the farm applies biodynamic agriculture methods to cultivate numerous varieties of organic vegetables and fruits and uses food waste as organic fertilizer or animal feed to achieve sustainable management of resources. The chefs create a variety of elaborate dishes, with salads, grilled meats, and cheeses being very popular. If you want to make your own food, there are cooking classes where professional chefs will share their culinary secrets.

2. Semiramis in Old Town, Chania

It is one of the best choices for dinner if you are visiting the Jewish quarter of the Old Town of Chania. Semiramis is located in a quiet alley in the Jewish quarter of the Chania Old Town, and dining is served in a picturesque courtyard, retaining its old-world charm, with rich and interesting decorations. All dishes are prepared using only certified virgin olive oil. Spaghetti carbonara, monkfish, and meatballs are the main dishes here, and rakia and grappa are very popular drinks. Guests can listen to live, beautiful Greek music while they enjoy the delicious food, making them feel like they are at a friend's house.

3. Lemonokipos Restaurant in Town, Rethymno

A great place to replenish energy after visiting the Fortezza Castle or Municipal Garden. As the name of this restaurant suggests, it exudes the fresh scent of lemon. Visitors will enjoy elaborate dishes and wines of almost all Greek varieties next to lemon trees in a beautiful garden. The restaurant combines traditional Greek cooking methods with modern culinary techniques to create unique inspired cuisines. It is located in central Mikrasiaton Square, with a view of the lively street scene.

The breathtaking beaches and lakes, delicious fresh local cuisine, spectacular medieval architecture, picturesque resort villages, stunning gorges, and the plateau are awaiting you to explore and enjoy. Let Odynovo create a variety of Greece travel plans for you. Odynovo will handle possible hassles for you, so you can enjoy your trip without worries and troubles.

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