Crete is 260 km long and only 60 km wide but surely can win a beauty contest, if it were to compete with other Greek islands. Although many travelers come here for then sea, sun and sand, the island has a lot more to offer : the fertile plains, the rugged mountains, the bustling cities and the sleepy picturesque villages. Many remains of the Roman and Turkish buildings can still be visited on the island.
Although it’s an island, don’t assume you can see everything in one trip. But that’s ok because you can plan for another vacation here (or stay longer).
If you have limited time on your hands, here are some attractions to visit and things to do in Crete:
Some of the things to do in Crete include:
- visit the Minoan Palace at Knossos: it is the most important archaeological site on the island. Some of the rooms have been recreated so you can feel the grandeur of the place. The first palace was built here in about 2000BC but has been destroyed by an earthquake. Around 1450BC a bigger palace was built but it , too , has been destroyed (it is believe by the Santorini volcano eruption).
- explore the Minoan Palace at Faistos: the ruins are just as famous as the ones at Knossos. The view is superb and the area is not that crowded.
- Malia Palace is excellent too: it’s the third largest Minoan palace on the island and it’s not as crowded as the other two. It was built around 1900BC but it has been destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt in about 1650BC.
- soak up the sun on one of the beaches: if you are brave enough you can try two of the best nude beaches in Greece – Red Beach and Filaki Beach.
- explore Ayios Nikolaos: it is one of the prettiest towns in Crete, really well known for its twin harbors. You can also visit the Archeological Museum.
- visit the Arkadi Monastery: it is one of the most important monasteries on the island. In 1866, it became the symbol of the Cretan struggle for independence. Don’t miss visiting the ossuary, where the skulls and bones of those killed in 1866 are preserved.
- visit the archaeological site of Gortys (or Gortyn) : it was a Greco-Roman city. Its ruins spread over fields of olive groves. An old church and the Agora are the most important ruins to explore.
- explore the Venetian fortress in Rethymnon: the third largest city in Crete is home to a superb fortress built in the 1570s. The museums are also worth your time.
- see the frescos at Panagia Kera: this little church is the most famous in Crete thanks to the frescos which cover ever inch of the walls.
- see the ruins of Gournia: it presents the live in an ordinary Minoan town. The site dates to 1500BC and you can see the houses and workshops. Do keep in mind that only a quarter of the ancient city has been discovered.
- a romantic time at the Venetian harbor in Chania: the city is the second largest on the island and many travelers consider it the most charming on the island. Spend a romantic time checking out the Venetian harbor, do some shopping and visit the museums. After all, Crete is one of the most romantic Greek islands
- walk the Samaria Gorge: it is the longest gorge in Europe. The length of the hike is 18 km and it can be done by anyone reasonably fit. It can get overcrowded during summer.
- experience the laid-back atmosphere in Sitia: the north-coast town still keeps the Greek charm. The good is amazing and the waterfront offers a relaxing atmosphere.
- take a ferry to one of the near-by islands: when you visit a Greek island it’s a shame to leave without hopping on a ferry and exploring some of the places near-by. Gavdos is a very good choice.
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