Crete is more like a small country than another Greek island. It’s not just Greece’s largest island, but arguably its most fascinating and diverse. Its remarkable history is evident across the island, from the ruins of the Minoan palace of Knossos to the Venetian fortresses of Rethymo; from old mosques and Byzantine monasteries to the cave that is the legendary birthplace of Zeus. The Venetian port of Hania in Western Crete is one of Greece’s most evocative cities and the capital, Iraklio, is a dynamic city, the fifth largest in Greece.
Crete is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse landscape. Spectacular mountain ranges dotted with caves are sliced by dramatic gorges that spill out to sea. The rugged interior is interspersed with vast plateaus and fertile plains. The east boasts Europe’s only palm-tree forest beach and the south coast has some of the most stunning beaches and isolated coves.
Cretans are proud and hospitable people who maintain their culture and customs, particularly their strong musical tradition. Throughout the island you will come across traditional mountain villages and agricultural settlements unaffected by tourism. The young might drive four-wheel-drives but you will still pass shepherds tending their flocks and come across men in traditional dress.
An abundance of fresh produce and the distinct Cretan cuisine – renowned for its life-prolonging qualities – adds an interesting culinary dimension.
Crete has the dubious honour of hosting nearly a quarter of Greece’s tourists. Much of the north coast has been commandeered and spoilt by hotels and cheap package tourism, but the island is big enough for independent travellers to venture off and find quiet beach settlements and mountain villages to explore.
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Best places to stay in Crete
Right by the beach: great places to stay on the world's loveliest islands
Don’t waste precious travel time dragging your flip-flopped feet to the beach. We’ve rounded up ten places to stay on some of the world’s most beautiful islands – and they’re all a stone’s throw from the beach.
Crete destination guides
Starry night: top five art hotels
In the words of Oscar Wilde on his death bed: 'Either this wallpaper goes, or I do.' If art matters to you, then the hotels you choose to stay in probably do too. Here's our pick of the world's best hotels for art lovers, and some suggestions of what to see while you stay there.
Best of Greece
When you saddle a trip with a moniker as lofty as 'Best of Greece', you’d better make sure it lives up to the hype. This one does. Compiling the top moments from our best-selling trips in the region, this comprehensive tour through the cradle of Western Civilization brings the distant past and vibrant present into sharp focus.
Full Day Tour to Samaria Gorge
Enjoy this excursion to the prized national forest of Crete, the Samaria Gorge - the longest and most beautiful gorge in Europe. Walk through the gorge, approximately 11 miles (18 kilometers) which begins at the plateau of Omalos.Cross through the White Mountains and finish at the tiny village of Aghia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea.
A guide to the eateries of Greece
Where to eat and drink in Greece? Perhaps the question should be 'where not?' Greeks live to eat and drink. They dream about it and talk about it in bed when others are addressing other appetites.