If you’ve ever been, then you’ll know that Crete is unlike anywhere else in Greece. In fact, many visitors say it feels like a distinct country in its own right. And rightly so, for it is the unique hospitality of the people that makes Crete a real jewel in the Mediterranean.
Big is beautiful
It’s the biggest island in Greece, so ideally you’ll need a car if you want to see it all. For that reason, it’s a good idea to hire a car before you arrive. If you’re coming by air, you’ll probably be arriving at one of three airports. The island’s main airport is at Heraklion and has been named after the famous Cretan author of Zorba The Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis. There’s also an airport at Chania in the West and a smaller one at Sitia in the East. If you’re already in Greece, you might be arriving by ferry at the port of Heraklion – a key ferry hub for boats around Greece. If you do arrive at Heraklion, then it’s a good idea to visit the Historical Museum of Crete
in the harbour area, which, incidentally, also has several rooms dedicated to Nikos Kazantzakis. There are plenty of good tavernas along the shorefront to have lunch. Drive south and you’ll come to the ruins of Knossos, where the Minoan civilisation flourished between 2700BC and 1450BC. Legend has it that this was the home of the Minotaur and is probably the most popular attraction on the island.
Travelling westwards along the coast, you’ll come to Rethymnon. The old town here is a great place to get lost while strolling the maze of back streets for bargains. Further on, you’ll come to Chania, the second biggest city in Crete. Like Heraklion, it’s quite industrialised, but the pretty Venetian harbour is well worth a visit for the many artisan and craft shops in the area, as well as the harbourside restaurants. Beach lovers and movie buffs will be attracted to Stavros beach, famous for being the main location for the movie adaptation of Zorba The Greek that featured Anthony Quinn in the starring role. South of Chania you’ll find the Samaria Natural Park and the Samarian gorge, probably the most walked footpath in all of Greece and home to some 450 species of flower. You’ll need to be reasonably fit as the walk takes around six hours to complete. Add on another hour and you’ll come to the lazy hamlet of Agia Roumelli where you can enjoy a much-needed swim in the inviting waters of the bay. Talking of swimming, there are many great beaches on Crete, with Elafonissi thought to be one of the best in all of Greece. Red Sand Beach in Matala is another popular choice. Finally, if you’d like to find out more about the island’s main produce - olive oil - the Terra Creta Olive Oil Experience
in scenic Kolymbari will educate you in the art of olive oil production.