Crete is a magical quilt of splendid beaches, ancient treasures and landscapes encompassing vibrant cities and dreamy villages, where locals will share with you their traditions, wonderful cuisine and generous spirit.
Crete is in many respects the culmination of the Greek experience. Nature here has been as prolific as Picasso in his prime. There’s something undeniably artistic in the way the landscape unfolds, from the sun-drenched beaches in the north to rugged canyons spilling into a cove-riddled and cliff-studded south coast. In between, valleys cradle moody villages, and round-shouldered hills are the overture to often snow-dabbed mountains. Take it all in on a driving tour or venture outdoors and trek through Europe’s longest gorge, hike to the cave where Zeus was born, cycle among orchards on the Lasithi Plateau or simply plant your footprints on a sandy beach.
Culture, Cuisine & Character
In the end, though, it’s humans – not bricks and mortar – that create the most vivid memories. Crete’s spirited people champion their unique culture and customs, and time-honoured traditions remain a dynamic part of the island’s soul. Meeting regular folk gossiping in kafeneia (coffee houses), preparing their Easter feast, tending to their sheep or celebrating during their many festivals is what makes a visit to Crete so special. And if you’re a traveller on the gourmet trail, you’ll delight in the distinctive farm-fresh and organic cuisine served in tavernas across the island. In fact, the Cretan diet is among the healthiest in the world. Be sure to pair your meal with an excellent local wine and, to cap it off, a fiery shot of raki.
Rich Historical Tapestry
Crete’s natural beauty is equalled only by the richness of its history. The island is the birthplace of the first advanced society on European soil, the Minoans, who ruled over much of the Aegean some 4000 years ago. You’ll find vestiges of this mysterious civilisation all over, including the famous Palace of Knossos. At the crossroads of three continents, Crete has been coveted and occupied by consecutive invaders. History imbues the air in the old towns of Hania and Rethymno, where labyrinthine lanes – laid out by the Venetians – are lorded over by mighty fortresses, and where gorgeously restored Renaissance mansions rub rafters with mosques and Turkish bathhouses. Hundreds of chapels, churches and monasteries – often with Byzantine roots – attest to the influence of the Orthodox Church. Many still sport magnificent frescoes, especially the Church of Panagia Kera in Lasithi, while others, such as Moni Arkadiou near Rethymno, played key historic roles during the Ottoman era and WWII.
Need to know
The west of Crete stands apart in so many ways. Full of big mountains, grandiose legends and memorials to great battles past, it is presided over by the preening (but slightly melancholic) port city of Hania, once Venice’s jewel of a capital and full of arty boutique hotels, galleries and great eateries.