Caught in between 2 seas, Aegean Sea and Libyan Sea, one more beautiful than the other, lies Crete, the largest, most romantic, Greek islands. I have experienced Crete during one of the happiest times of my life: I was proposed into marriage there, so it might be that my view on the island is a little biased but until the end of the article, hopefully I would have convinced you that it is a dream of a lifetime for any tourist.Credit: By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The island has its part of touristic development, especially in the central part, but it still keeps intact many vestiges of its rich history, from Minoan palaces, Ottoman mosques, Byzantine monasteries, Medieval Castles and Venetian towns. Apart from its culture, Crete offers to its visitors some of the most beautiful beaches and picturesque places to visit in Greece.
The island is divided into 4 administrative regions: Heraklion and Lassithi on the eastern side, which is more touristic and packed, and Chania and Rethymno on the western side. Though you will find they are not so much developed in tourism, you will be able to find accommodation and equipped beaches on any northern coast of these last 2 regions. The southern coasts, on the other hand, are more secluded and wild, mainly because of the landforms. But the trip from north to south will definitely make your day and worth the while as you will discover, well hidden from the usual car driver, spectacular beaches, a different kind of color blue, as from another world and, if you are lucky enough, you will stumble on pink sand beaches that change their shape every hour.
When you plan your holidays to Crete, take into account that it offers a large variety of accommodation, including hotels, villas and studios. It’s very easy here to find accommodation by the seaside but I would recommend to rent a car and explore the region. Go to a different beach everyday and enjoy the authenticity of the little villages further from the sea, in the mountains.
Places to visit in Crete
Villages of Crete
The villages of Crete are known and valued for the lovely architecture and the warm hospitality of the locals. The largest towns are located on the northern side of the island. These are cities that go way back in history, with ancient roots. They are built in Venetian and Ottoman styles and have beautiful old ports and “old towns”, with paved paths, stone bridges, elegant castles, churches and mosques. In the same style, you will see in every city port a charming, old lighthouse and pier.
Credit: By User:Nikater (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsIn the mountainous villages you will come by stone house with red-tiled roofs, narrow streets, with fences and houses’ walls flooded with bright colored flowers. In the centre of the village you will always find a church and a stone paved square where locals sit and drink their coffee and chat with each other in the charming, traditional style. If you have the luck to find a restaurant in a village it will most certainly be one for locals and will serve savory traditional Cretan food.
Beaches of Crete
Credit: By ÎÎ¯ÎºÎ¿Ï‚ Î‘. ÎšÎ±Î½ÎµÎ»Î»ÏŒÏ€Î¿Ï…Î»Î¿Ï‚ (Own work (www.diafragma.gr)) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsBeing the largest island of Greece, Crete’s coastline of 1,046 m (650 miles) provides hundreds of picturesque beaches. Located between the southern side of Aegean Sea and the northern side of the Libyan Sea, with a complex landscape, Crete is the perfect environment for creating lovely, diverse beaches from very large and wide ones (as Falassarna beach, Matala beach, Platanias beach) to the romantic, idyllic ones (as Geropotamos beach, Balos beach), from the town beaches (as Rethimno) to the secluded ones, reachable only by foot (as Preveli beach) or by boat (as Glyka Nera beach).
Credit: By Olaf Tausch (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsOn the north coast line you will find mostly long, sandy beaches, often affected by winds. During the summer the winds are not strong, you’ll rather find yourself craving for the breeze, so there will be no inconvenience to visit any of them. The beaches here are more popular, and thus well equipped, especially due to the fact that they are easily accessible and closer to the accommodation sites. You should also keep in mind that in Greece you always pay your sun beds.
If you decide to go and find the southern beaches, you are in for an amazing adventure. To get to the pristine beaches of incomparable beauty especially in the south, you will need to first cross the island from north to south by car (passing through beautiful, idyllic small villages) and then you might need to leave the car and take a hike through wild gorges or over/ around high mountain peaks. The more difficult to reach a beach, the more beautiful it is and you will enjoy every step of breathtaking views to the surreal blue shade of the Libyan Sea.
Historical & archeological sites in Crete
Credit: By Yqqy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe History of Crete goes back by 9 millennia, more than 4 millennia before the ancient Minoan civilization. The Minoan civilization was the first civilization that lived in Europe and you can find Minoan vestiges scattered all around the island, beginning with the palace complex uncovered at Knossos. After the Minoan civilization was devastated by the Thera (Santorini) eruption (one of the most devastating eruptions ever known on earth, which happened on the Santorini island in 1570 BC), Crete developed an Ancient Greece-influenced organization of city states. Along its tumultuous history, it successively fell into the domination of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Ottoman Empire and the modern state of Greece. All these diverse, rich cultures left their print on this little cross-road island and you will be able to find traces of all civilizations, testimony of bygone times.
When is the best time to visit Crete
Being at 35 degrees north latitude, close to Africa, the weather is warm all around the year and it almost never rains here. You can also enjoy a bath all around the year, but if you don’t like chilly water than go to Crete any time from May to November: the water temperature stays above 20 degrees Celsius during this time of the year (68 degrees Fahrenheit).
In conclusion, whenever you decide to visit Crete, just take into account that you have a lot of places to choose from and you most certainly will not be able to reach them all in a one-two week vacation. You will need a guide and a Crete map and you should at least make a rough plan on whether you want to comb a region and see all that it has to offer or you will hop from region to region with only the hottest places in scope.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that Greece has many touristic options to offer. In case you need to explore information on the other islands, the following may be of interest:
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