10 Things to do in Crete (other than lazing on the gorgeous beaches!)
Greece is well known for its sun soaked islands, gorgeous beaches and the sparkling Aegean sea and Crete is the largest of Greece’s islands and, not surprisingly, is also one of the most popular due to the sheer amount of interesting things to see and do.
A holiday in Crete offers so much more than just lazing on the beach; add dramatic landscapes, hospitable locals, proud cultural traditions and not forgetting the fresh, zingy taste of a classic Greek salad. And this is Greece, so you can’t go far without stumbling over some impressive, crumbling ruins that whisk you right back to the glory days of Ancient Greece.
Crete has been described as “the culmination of the Greek experience” for this is an island that really offers something for everyone with gastronomic delights, history and culture, outdoor adventures all ripe for exploration.
Here are 10 things to do in Crete that will tempt you away from the beach
Hike Samaria Gorge
Europe’s longest gorge offers a spectacular journey through stunning scenery as well as the chance to see wild goats and wild flowers. Start early to beat the heat and after a 6 hour challenging trek you are rewarded by finishing at the beach for a refreshing, much needed cooling dip and a cute taverna before catching the boat back around the coast.
The popularity of Samaria Gorge means that it does get busy so if you want an easier, crowd free, gorge trek try Mili Gorge near Rethymnon where the winding track takes you through an old abandoned mill village, past tiny, cute churches and ends at a fabulously hospitable little taverna where the elderly owners offered us more free food than we could possibly eat.
The legendary 3,500 year old Minoan palace of Knossos is known as the oldest city in Europe. Knossos has been reconstructed in places making it easier to imagine King Minas in his palace but it’s still recommended to get a guide to show you around to bring the legend of the Minotaur to life and be wowed by tales of the Minoan’s advanced civilization.
Explore Spinalonga Island
The old Venetian fortress on Spinalonga Island was once a leper colony. Take a short boat trip from Plaka or Elounda on Crete’s east coast to explore inside the walls of the old fortress where crumbling old Venetian and Ottoman stone houses have been witness to fascinating history. To bring the experience to life make sure you read Victoria Hislop’s novel ‘The Island’ first.
Discover Zeus Cave
Rugged Crete has over 3,000 caves but the Dikteon Cave, near the the village of Psyhro, on the Lassithi Plateau is the most famous and most important because, according to legend, it was the cave in which the ancient Greek God Zeus was born and hidden from this father, Cronos, who apparently ate his offspring. The caves is also is dripping with interesting stalagmites and stalactites and the windmill covered Lassithi Plateau offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in Crete.
Visit Preveli Beach
Crete has many stunning beaches but Preveli Beach is perhaps the best loved and most picturesque. As you descend the steep stairs cut into the cliff the uniqueness of Preveli Beach comes into view. Preveli Beach is also known as Palm Beach due to the palm tree lined river that cuts through the soft black sand beach lapped by the turquoise waters of the Libyan sea. There is also a cliff top monastery nearby for an added dash of culture.
Explore Heraklion Archaeological Museum
This outstanding museum in Crete’s biggest town Heraklion (also called Iraklio) is one of the most important museums in Greece with a broad range of artefacts bringing to life the impressive and influential history of Greece and focusing on Crete’s amazing history and culture, especially the sophisticated Minoan civilization.
Laze on Elafonisi Beach
On Crete’s west coast lies the heavenly tropical paradise of Elafonisi Beach. Its fine white and pink sands and clear turquoise waters feel more Caribbean than Mediterranean. If you’re lucky you may even spot dolphins frolicking off shore in the crystal clear waters.
Wander around cute historical towns
Crete’s rich history is showcased in its eclectic mix of Venetian harbours and fortresses, Ottoman architecture, Turkish mosques and Byzantine churches. Explore Hania’s grand Venetian harbour, visit the imposing fortress and wander the atmospheric lanes of Rethymnon’s quaint old town, browse for handicrafts, sample the cuisines in traditional tavernas and visit the many good museums.
Taste Cretan Wine
Wine making starting in Crete over 4,000 years ago by the Minoan civilization. Soak in the glorious views of lush hills blanketed with sun blushed vines and enjoy tasting unique indigenous Cretan wines like award wining Lyrarakis
Chill out and take a siesta
Under the bright Cretan sun the way of life slows right down. Join the locals and escape the heat of the afternoon by taking a long siesta or just find a hammock in the shade and read, listening the ever present chirp of the cicadas.
Sometimes the best thing to do, is to simply do nothing!
Have you been to Crete? What was your favourite thing to do?