Crete holds the questionable honour of playing host to nearly a quarter of Greece’s tourists. But don’t let that put you off, because its historic, small-town vibe remains happily intact. So amongst the binoculars, cameras and cargo shorts, men roam around in traditional dress, shepherds herd sheep and bus drivers divert from their routes to drop people off at their houses.
Equally unspoiled by tourists is the rugged landscape, from the picturesque village of Tzermiado to the stony, serene Agia Roumeli Beach. Get a taste for the culture by eating your way from the port of Chania to the seaside village of Matala. They say moderation is key, but why hold back when you’re tasting cuisine renowned for its life-prolonging qualities? Unless there’s another reason the guys here are so fond of loose-fitting trousers.
Crete's Top 10
10. Koules Venetian Fortress The rooms have been restored since this place was used as a prison, but at least the inmates had a good view.
5. Chania The old town isan eclectic mix of Venetian and Ottoman architecture that somehow just works.
9. Natural History Museum of Crete Five levels of history, conveniently located smack-bang on the waterfront.
4. Phaestos This Minoan palace has had a pretty hectic life, but it now provides a peaceful lookout.
8. Chapel of Metamorfosis Sotiros The chapel is gorgeous, but the car trip there is satisfying enough on its own.
3. Dikteon Cave Legend has it Rhea hid baby Zeus from his father, Cronos, in these caves. What they contain now is equally fascinating.
7. Historical Museum of Crete Every level displays a different part of Crete’s long and fascinating history.
2. Knossos The ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilisation.
6. Central Court The centrepiece of the palace Phaestos and home to the best views in the city.
1. Archaeological Museum of Iraklio The second-best collection in Greece – a title far more prestigious than it sounds.
- Lebena Ruins - Found on the outskirts of Lendas, this archaeological site began life as a famous health spa.
- Koules Venetian Fortress (Rocca al Mare) - Constructed in the 16th century, this fortress helped to defend against Turkish attacks.
- Rethymno Fortress (Fortezza)/Acropolis - Built in the 16th century, the fortress boasts gigantic walls, inside which stand many monuments.
- Moni Arkadiou (Monastery) - A 16th-century monastery just 22km southeast of Rethymno town.
- Hania Fortifications (Chania) - These medieval fortifications remain a notable Crete landmark.
Crete Art & Culture
- Iraklio Archaeological Museum - The exhibits in this museum include ceramics, figurines and jewellery. The vast majority of exhibits derive from Agia.
- Historical Museum of Crete - Located in Iraklio, this historical museum celebrates Crete’s fascinating past.
- Battle of Crete Museum - This museum provides visitors with an insight into the battle of create.
- Folklore Museum - A museum exhibiting the history of traditional culture.
- Archaeological Museum of Arhanes - This museum is home to a variety of interesting relics and artefacts.
- Kreta Gold - One of the finest goldsmiths in Greece. This store sells beautiful, handmade jewellery.
- Chania Market - A market building draws vendors and shopping in large numbers. The market is the place to purchase herbs and dried fruits.
- Cretan Handicraft - This Mirthois shop is where unusual gift purchases can be found, including coloured weavings and embroidery; the perfect place to find holiday treasures to give to friends and relatives back home.
- Odos Daedalou - This upmarket road is lined with clothes and jewellery shops.
- Boutari Winery - Some of the best wines in Crete can be purchased here.
Gay & Lesbian Crete
- Eros Bar – Crete’s only official gay bar. The bar is a good place to mix with other like-minded individuals.
- Roze Maandag-Kreta - The only gay bar in Hersonissos. A sophisticated yet welcoming bar with European charm.
- Vinnie’s Garden - Located in the village of Koutouloufari, this bar is renowned for serving up some of the greatest cocktails in Crete.
- Agioi Apostoloi Beach - A great beach popular with gay locals.
- Klik - Located in Chania, this bar welcomes both straight and gay men and women.
- Agia Marina Beach - A leading tourist beach in Crete, located around 10km from Chania.
- Golden Beach - A crowded beach popular with tourists and families. The waters of this beach are relatively shallow, rendering this beach one of the most child friendly in Crete.
- Agia Galini Beach - A beach offering a wide range of water sports activities.
- Bali Beach - A beach with excellent facilities and surrounded by eating establishments.
- Platanias Beach - A large beach packed with loungers and brightly coloured parasols.
- Visit the Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium to watch the OFI Crete football club in action.
- Take a trip to the Pankritio Stadium to catch the Ergotelis F.C. play at home.
- Watch the Chania Football Club at the Chania Municipal Stadium.
- Enjoy water sports from the shore at Sitia Beach.
- Visit the small ski runs of Lefka Oroi to watch great skiing.
January means Epiphany in Crete. Houses, shops and offices are blessed and the next day sees huge celebrations.
Easter is a huge deal. Families get together to roast goats, drink wine and eat calzone – something every culture can appreciate.
Like a man in uniform? Independence Day is celebrated in March with military parades taking place in every major town.
Swill and spit during Sultanina,an August festival celebrating the grapes harvest with music, dancing and plenty of local wine.
August takes it alfresco with open-air eating and drinking in each village’s main square for Festival of the Virgin Mary.
When To Go
- July and August are the most pleasant months, with temperatures around 25°C (77ºF) and rain minimal.
- From June to September, temperatures can soar above 40°C (104ºF) – so thank the ancient Greek gods for the ‘Meltemi’ breezes.
- In autumn, the sea temperatures are near perfect.
Lots of roads have recently been widened to two lanes, so be wary of confused locals driving straight down the centre!
Bus timetables are reliable and buses come fairly regularly. Drivers will divert from their route to drop off travellers if asked – just like the good old days.
Taxis are a great way to get around – they’re super-cheap and easy to find.
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