Greece is known for its sun-drenched, historically significant islands. But perhaps the most famous and popular is the large island of Crete, a varied, culturally captivating destination that in ancient Greek mythology was the birthplace of Zeus. Book a holiday here and you’ll find so much to see and do — here are six fantastic activities to get you started;
Visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Only recently reopened after a long renovation period, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of Crete’s most popular tourist attractions. The 1930s building is home to thousands of exhibits, some of which date back to the Neolithic period, and is a key center for Greek antiquities.
Wander through Knossos
The Palace of Knossos is 3 miles south of Heraklion. It’s the largest Bronze Age site on Crete, and may be the oldest city in Europe. Excavated in the 1870s, the site is made up of a ruined complex of rooms and courtyards and was the setting for the Minotaur myth. It’s particularly popular with tourists so for the best (and quietest) experience, it’s advised that you visit before 10 a.m or later in the afternoon after many of the tourists have departed.
Take a boat to Spinalonga
The intriguing island of Spinalonga was once part of Crete. But during the Venetian occupation of the island, Spinalonga was separated from the mainland for defensive reasons. A large fort was built there, and the island later became home to a leper colony, which only closed in the 1950s. If you’re planning on visiting this intriguing spot, head to Elounda or Agios Nikolaos where you can take a ferry to the island.
Stroll through Chania’s Venetian Harbour
There is plenty to see and do in the Cretan city of Chania, but one thing you shouldn’t miss is a tour of the Venetian Harbour. The narrow lanes and pastel-fronted buildings make for an elegant and inviting atmosphere, and the nearby historic Venetian lighthouse is a definite must-see.
Sunbathe on Elafonisi
Elafonisi is another tiny island off the coast of Crete, but unlike Spinalonga, Elafonisi is accessible by foot. The tip of the island is connected to Crete by a sandbar, and the warm shallow waters and gorgeous golden sands make it a little slice of sunny paradise.
Marvel at Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge is a biosphere reserve and a national park. It’s located in southwest Crete and is famous for its 10 mile hiking trail. The area is also home to some unique wildlife species, including the endangered kri-kri goat. A trip to Samaria Gorge is definitely a must if you’re into your outdoorsy activities, but just don’t forget to bring sturdy walking boots.
The beauty of a trip to this wonderful island is that you can adapt your stay perfectly to your budget, timings and interests. Crete holidays are popular for a reason!