No other destination in Greece offers such variety and the ability to tick all your boxes whatever your passion or interest.
The island is divided into 4 regions – Lasithi, Rethymno, Chania and Heraklion, the last two being the more widely known vacation destinations, especially among the US travelers. This does not mean that Lasithi and Rethymno lack amazing experiences, quite the opposite. Here are my recommendations for Crete, listed by region, leaving out the obvious choices like the tour of Knossos Palace.
Apart from Elounda, which is famous for its resorts, tourism hasn’t overtaken this region yet so you will still be able to find unspoiled nature and stunning beaches without crowds. One of those beaches is Vai – the beach widely known by locals for its palm tree forest. And if you’re into snorkeling, this area gives you the chance to explore a real sunken city – Olous.
Best activities/day trips:
Lasithi Plateau – also known as the plateau of windmills. It is one of the few areas in the Mediterranean with permanent inhabitants at an altitude over 800 meters and offers great photo opportunities and is home to the legendary Dikteon Andron, the cave where Zeus is said to have been born.
Kritsa – One of the oldest and most scenic villages in Crete where the women are famous for their weaving, lacemaking, and embroidery. On the way, you should stop to see the wonderful Byzantine frescos in the church of Panagia Kera and the ancient ruins of the Dorian city of Lato.
Spinalonga – an island fortress that has been used through the centuries first by the Venetians then the Ottomans and lastly, in the first half of the 20th century, as a leper colony. Spinalonga was also made famous by Victoria Hislop in her novel The Island
Chrissi Island – this uninhabited island is renowned for its pristine waters and is great for a day of relaxation in beautiful surroundings. There are 2-3 boats daily that leave from Ierapetra but we are more than happy to organize private boat transfers.
This region combines charming old towns, mountains, luxurious resorts, and stunning beaches so it is no wonder it is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. Great beach experience – Preveli lagoon, a palm forested river with an amazing beach.
Best activities/day trips
The village of Margaritas – nestled among lush rolling hills, this village is famous for its pottery making and a great place to witness the centuries-old tradition alive in modern-day. Personally, I recommend a tour that combines Margaritas with two other postcard-worthy Cretan villages – Arkadi and Eleftherna
Hike through Samaria Gorge – The White Mountains, only National Park in Crete, centers around the Samaria gorge. Not only is it the most impressive gorge in Greece, but it is also the longest one in Europe.
Kournas Lake (in the title image) – a beautiful lake near Rethymno suitable for swimming or a leisurely walk in nature.
Patsos Gorge – located near Rethymno, it is a great option for walkers of all levels, requires less stamina than the Samaria Gorge hike
Matala – famous for its cave dwellings while the surrounding area has some fantastic beaches
Visit Loutro – About 70 kilometers south of Chania is an Instagram worthy yet very cosmopolitan fishing village of Loutro. Just picture whitewashed houses next to a turquoise green and blue bay, with the harsh mountains rising behind them. Since it is accessible only by boat it means there are no large hotels, no crowds, and no cars!
Elephant Cave – The submarine Cave of Elephants is in the Drepano area of Akrotiri and is a refuge for the protected species of Mediterranean Seal. Local diving centers organize tours in the cave and the trip is a unique experience that gives you a chance to see fossilized elephant bones embedded in the rocks of the cave.
The oldest olive tree in the world- Located in the village of Ano Vouves of Kissamos in Chania this olive tree has roots that are 12m in perimeter Thought to be between 3,500-5,000 years old, it is considered the oldest olive tree in the world, and it still bears fruit!
Largest region and the capital of Crete, with numerous resorts, vivid nightlife, archaeological sites and museums that are listed in almost every tour guide available. Knossos Palace and Venetian fortress are on everyone’s bucket list but here are some off the beaten track activities in the area
Tylissos Ruins- If you have seen the Knossos palace but still want to quench your thirst for archaeological discoveries, I suggest the Tylissos ruins. Even though there’s no palace, it still offers a fascinating insight into the Minoan life from 1700 -1450 BC.
The archaeological site of Gortyn – Evidence found at the site shows that the area was inhabited in the Neolithic days of the 7000 BC. Gortyn took its name in the times of the Minoan civilization when a flourishing Minoan settlement stood here in the fertile plain of Mesara, Central Crete.
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-By Travel2Greece by Travelive