City Guide to Crete, Greece

Author: | Last Updated: 19 Apr 2019

The biggest of the Greek islands, Crete is home to many spectacular beaches and has a rich history dating all the way back to the Minoans: the first European civilization, who settled on the shores of this island. This dream Greek destination is full of rugged landscapes and is bursting with natural beauty for the perfect holiday escape. Crete is also the fabled home of Zeus from Greek mythology, bearing the giant Mt.Ida within it’s shores.

Best time of the year to visit Crete:

The best time of the year to visit Crete is either late spring or early fall, when the weather is warm enough to enjoy the brilliant beaches without being too busy. The tail end of spring, in May specifically, brings agreeable temperatures of 75F during the day and 59F at night. Likewise, September and the start of fall, offer a pleasant average of 81F during the day and only dropping to 66F in the evenings. As for rain, you can expect an average of 10 or 11 days of rain for both late spring and early fall.

Knossos

Start the trip with this fascinating archeological site, dubbed the oldest city in Europe and home to the ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization. Providing a rare opportunity to see a relatively intact Neolithic period palace, Knossos is an intriguing insight into the lives of a long-lost civilization. A unique window into perhaps the most sophisticated city of the ancient western world, the once-impressive city used to be surrounded by lush scenery which still exists today in the form of grapevines and rows of olive trees. A peaceful people, who unlike other ancient civilizations didn’t seem to have defences set up to fend off invaderPosts, dedicated themselves to creating the most ornate of earthenware and jewelry. This penchant for the pretty is evidenced by the bright and colourful murals inside the palace which are a joy to behold.

Elafonisi

As far as unique beaches go, Elafonisi in Crete is up there with the best of them. Technically a separate island from Crete, this incredible beach is reachable on foot when the tide permits. What makes this beach special isn’t just the crystal clear blue water surrounding it, but the striking pink color of the sand. An internationally classified nature reserve, Elafonisi beach is free from beach chairs and umbrellas, if you’re lucky the island allows for private bathing in your very own paradise. There are also over 100 rare plants on the island and wild rock formations with make up its wholly unique appearance. It is also home to the loggerhead sea turtle, if you come at the right time you might just be able to see one of these rare creatures.

Spinalonga

The island of many islands, Crete is also host to an offshore fortress called Spinalong. Interestingly, the fortress didn’t use to be on an island, but when the Venetians decided to separate the coast for defence purposes it became its very own piece of land. This island, unlike Elafonisi, is not reachable by foot but instead you have to catch the ferry from Elounda. A true floating fortress, Spinalonga naturally offers the most incredible panoramic views of the surrounding clear blue sea and some of the most memorable opportunities to take a plunge. Stop off at the local bar for a coffee, then walk around and explore this rare fortress in the sea.

Samaria Gorge

Continuing with the theme of spectacular natural phenomena (Crete has them in abundance), the Samaria gorge is more than worth a visit and day hike if adventure is what you’re looking for. Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, Samaria gorge offers unforgettable hiking for the intrepid explorer. One of the longest gorges in Europe, this Cretan national park, 1,250m at it’s highest point snow is a common sight atop the white mountains. Starting from the peaks of these mountains, you will slowly work your way down, and potentially bump into some mules which are used to help lost hikers out along the trail. As well as the lush and vibrant nature, you can also expect to find small churches along the trail open for you to explore.

‘Liquid gold’

It’s a well-known fact that a staple of Greek cuisine is olive oil, which is referred to as ‘liquid gold’ on the island of Crete. Home to over 1.5 million olive trees, the Cretan people are passionate about olives and olive oil, so it’s worth taking the time to find out why they value it so much and how they use it. Head over to the Cretan olive oil farm on the western side of the island to learn more about the olive culture here and how to use olives and especially olive oil in cooking. Not just focussing on the world of olives, the farm teaches you all about typical Greek food with demonstrations and entertaining talks.

Cretan cuisine

If you want to try this special olive oil, you’re in luck, as most of the island’s cuisine revolves around this ‘liquid gold’. Try some ‘dakos’ for example, tomato, cheese, herbs and olive oil on top off crusty bread, at taverna Itanos. Or maybe you’d prefer a nice, fresh Cretan salad in the sun. Essentially a Greek salad but replacing feta with a soft cheese and of course, topped off with their delicious local olive oil, try this refreshing plate at restaurant 2Rou. Make sure you wash it all down afterwards with the Crete equivalent of Italian grappa liquor – made from what’s left of pressing grapes – raki will prove the perfect palette cleanser.

Cretan nightlife

As the evening rolls around after a long day exploring and adventuring around the island, you will probably appreciate the opportunity to take the weight off your feet and sit down to enjoy some authentic Cretan entertainment. If you want to sit back and enjoy a lovely meal listening to some local live music, then you’ll want to head to Chania in Crete and go to Adespoto music taverna. With a charming, open courtyard full of vibrant flowers and columns with character, this live music venue-cum-restaurant is a great option for a night of fun and good food. However, if you can’t stand being away from the amazing beaches, you might prefer New York beach club. A bar during the day and a venue for DJs and music in the evening, this beach bar will blow you away with the stunning views and live music

City: Crete

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