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
Crete travel guide
Crete is a patchwork of splendid beaches, ancient treasures and landscapes.
Europe's six surprise islands
Europe’s most popular holiday islands draw major tourist crowds to its well-known charms - everyone knows Ibiza as Party Central - but with a bit of insider info, you can hit these islands and manage to have that castaway, lush-mountains-and-entire-beaches-to-yourself kind of holiday. A real island getaway...
Crete Hike & Kayak
Hike through rugged forest, kayak to picturesque fishing villages and uncover the natural beauty of Crete on this compact trip jam-packed with adventure. Trek along trails deep into Samariá Gorge and witness the views at Agia Irini. Paddling your kayak past magnificent scenery to secluded beaches, you'll have plenty of chances to dive in and savour the turquoise waters.
Crete - Planning (Chapter)
Your journey to Crete starts here.
A guide to the eateries of Greece
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Greece's best beaches
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.
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Greek Islands - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to the Greek Islands starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when and how much to budget.
Finding the right Greek island
With more than 2,000 islands, ranging from tiny atolls to the veritable continent that is Crete, maritime Greece is unmatched for sheer variety. Beaches, history, walking, cycling, water sports, festivals, food ecology: chances are if you want it, they've got it...
Rethymno (reth-im-no) is Crete’s third-largesttown and one of the most picturesque, with a charming harbour and massive Venetian fortress. The delightful Venetian-Ottoman quarter is a maze of narrow streets, graceful wood-balconied houses and ornate Venetian monuments, with minarets adding a touch of the Orient.
Discover Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands, on foot