Things To Do In Crete
The Iron Gates are spectacular walls of rock in the Samaria Gorge, on the Greek island of Crete. This is Europe’s longest ravine, on one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea. When you come to the last part between the high cliffs, climb all the way up and have a tremendous panorama of the sea and the city. Crete is a beautiful island, despite the steep mountain paths there are many sites to visit: the Elafonissi, Gramvousa, Balos, and Matala are among the most special. The Old Venetian Harbor has a unique view of the lighthouse of Chania. You can wander for hours and admire the ancient architecture. Visit the port where many taverns invite you to taste the local cuisine, preferably the traditional Pescaille and crustaceans cooked in olive oil. It is happiness for those who love Greece!
When To Go:
The perfect time to visit the city of Crete is during the season of fall (September to November). The Mediterranean makes for an extraordinary getaway regardless of the season, and this island is no exception because all year round the climate is mellow and tolerable. You'll discover a lovely atmosphere, idyllic beaches and yes, lower hotel rates in the event that you arrange your Cretan holiday during the spring or early fall season.
In the fall months, normal temperatures stick to the 80s through September before sinking to go into the high 60s in November. Regardless of the possibility that you might miss the opportunity to bathe in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete's stunning noteworthy attractions and vivacious festivals are still worth exploring during this time of the year.
The summer months of July until August is dry and humid, but the tourist arrivals reaches its peak during these warm months because it is school vacation time and the ideal months for families to book a tour around Crete. Despite the fact that the hotel rates are much higher, all the major attractions are teeming with locals and foreigners eager to explore one tourist spot from another.
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If you don’t like a rainy holiday in Crete, avoid travelling here during the cold winter months from December to February.
These are the things to do when in the island of Crete:
From the coastal road of Phalasama, drive through the serpentine road of Scaletta to reach this marvelous beach in Chania. See its turquoise-colored waters, fine sand dunes with shells and coral debris, sea lilies and the secluded lagoon. At the shores of the Elafonissi Beach, you can admire exceptional panoramic views of the sea and the surrounding mountains. The beach is equipped with umbrellas, sun loungers, showers, toilets, and ample parking space. You can also cross the island and head to the other side, which is equally impressive.
Arrive early to enjoy the beach while it still looks deserted, because it gets dramatically crowded and swarms with tourists after 11:00 am. Some parts of the beach have pink-colored sand because of the abundance of corals bordering the shore, but the best part of this beach is the combination of dark volcanic rocks and the blue sea. The water is not deep which makes it very ideal for children to swim.
Samaria Gorge National Park
The Samaria Gorge National Park is the perfect excursion place for outdoor enthusiasts. You have to hike about 17 miles on a lovely mountain trail to reach this famous gorge in Crete. It is mandatory to wear a good pair of footwear, also to bring food and plenty of water. Each stage of the route is provided with toilets, and the trails are provided with railings to make the hike to the top easier to accomplish. Samara is a beautiful nature reserve where you can find lush vegetation, flowing streams, greens, rocks, and animals.
On the grounds at the entry points there are well-marked trails where you can hike or stroll calmly along the flat sections. There is a covered shelter here that is considered as the oldest settlement (now abandoned), and used as a stop-over point for tired hikers to stay. There you can drink cold water from the running springs.
The hotels near this place usually organize the tours. Before 4:00 pm you must reach the end part of the trail that leads to a beach where you can swim after the physically challenging excursion. The tour is not recommended for young children, or people who have problems with their legs and knees. It is advisable to have a water bottle along, and a good hearty packed lunch -- and snacks that can withstand heat, to get a little extra energy when necessary.
Balos Beach and Lagoon
The Balos Beach and Lagoon is the brightest place and one of the best beaches in Crete. It is accessible via ferry ride that departs from the island of Kissamos. The lagoon looks magical because of its amazing sand with different colors. It is also accessible by land, but the road is long and hard enough to travel by car -- and then go from the mountain down to the beach for a long time. But the mountain offers spectacular views of the entire bay. On the beach there are two small cafes, showers, and changing cabins. For children there is a shallow (knee-deep) white cove with white soft sand, where they can run and frolic in the warm sea water. This beach is a favorite spot for photographers, especially along the road that winds along the edge of a large rocky promontory from which you can see stunning views of the ocean. In general, if you want to enjoy an excursion in Crete, a visit to Balos Bay is required.
A holiday in Crete is not complete without a visit to the town of Hersonissos. The narrow street leads to the waterfront, souvenir shops, boutiques, and cafes. But the greatest impression of this small town is the Aquaworld Aquarium. By area, it is not particularly large, but the content is well organized. At the entrance, you are met by a nice lady who will invite you to enter.
And once you enter into the underwater world, you can see its inhabitants: sea urchins, tropical fish, starfish, lobsters, turtles, and If you're lucky, you can even watch how the clever octopus acquires a small fish treat. The place is also home to iguanas, turtles, boas, and other reptiles. A portion of the entrance fee is collected for the upkeep of the mini-zoo. You can help feed the animals, pet them and have your picture taken beside them. The site is very educational and it is interesting to observe the wild inhabitants of the Mediterranean and learn about their behavior.
The Palace of Knossos
This is the place that spawned the wonderful myths of the Minotaur, Ariadne and Theseus. Architecturally, the Palace of the Knossos is built like a maze -- where wall paintings and molding on the walls are still perfectly preserved. It is an interesting and beautiful place where you can step back in time and imagine how people lived during the Minoan era.
Although the site, which dates back to 1900 BC, was almost completely destroyed by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and war, it is worth visiting the remains which were brought to light at the beginning of the last century by Sir Arthur Evans. All the frescoes on the walls are replicas; the original works can be found in the Museum of Iraklion. At the end of the corridor there is the famous fresco of the Procession of the "Prince of Lilies," while in the central skylight there is the crowd favorite "Blue Ladies of the Court.” The entrance ticket costs six Euros.
The Heraklion Museum consists of a long tour in the historic Minoan Age. It is easy to follow and the exhibits are well organized in an excellent chronological manner. The tour is best done with a guide to fully understand the story of the museum. Do not miss the original frescoes of Knossos; The Parisian, the fight with the bull (Taurokathapsia) and the "Goddess of Snakes".
A jewelry exhibition depicting two bees on a drop of honey is one of the highlights of this ancient museum. You will also find the famous Phaistos Disc. Two exposed captions, one in Greek and the other in English, accompany each work. The exhibits are shown in vivid detail; in every room of the museum, there are two guides who are attentive to every question of the museum’s visitors. One part of the museum is dedicated to the numerous collections of colorful pottery and coins, silver jewelry, small objects in bronze, and terracotta. If you are into history and archaeology this place is a must.
Rethymnon Old Town
Located 48 miles west of Heraklion Chania, the Rethymnon Old Town is one of the most important cities of Crete. The old town with its huge influence of Venetian origin is located inside the fort. From the square Petichaki of Rethymnon, you will reach the Venetian harbor where the street is full of taverns and bazaars. The lighthouse can be found in the narrow jetty that protects the harbor from the sea.
Most of the old houses date back to as far as the 1400’s. There are winding streets where you can stroll, and despite the many tourists and commercial establishments, the city has retained its traditional charm. You will notice this every time you pass under a trellis of vines or flowers.
The archaeological museum is closed on Mondays, but there are open Orthodox churches and mosques / minarets that can be visited anytime of the day. The streets have special wooden balconies, very colorful with intoxicating scents provided by the line of taverns located here. Various shops that sell simple souvenir merchandise about the city of Crete have invaded the most central part.
Sacred Monastery of Arkadi
The Sacred Monastery of Arkadi is one of the main attractions of the island and is located in the prefecture of Rethymno. The church is easily accessible by car and by public transport. If you go to the monastery from the north coast, the road is very picturesque and you will see the countryside filled with olive groves, vineyards, and small villages.
From the high walls of the monastery you can see the entire city. This place is especially beautiful in spring when the surroundings are covered with so much greenery. There is a souvenir shop and a commercial store where they sell honey, olive oil and wine. The church in the monastery is very old, and presented without any frills; it obviously requires restoration, but the overall atmosphere and antiquity of the religious attraction is still awesome.
The Spinalonga or the Kalydon is a 14th-century fortress located on the uninhabited island of Spinalonga at the entrance to the Gulf of Mirabello. You can get there as an excursion if you buy a ticket on a boat in Elounda. This fortress comes with lots of interesting stories from the embattled defensive structure up to the creation of the leprosarium. The fortress contains important landmarks that survived the ancient Turks war like the Venetian Fortress and the Ottoman facades.
There are no facilities here (toilets, drinking water, snack kiosks or a cafe). Bring a hat, water, and comfortable sports shoes because there are very rocky climbs and steep descents. Besides the beautiful views, the incredible blue of the sea, and the huge space -- the island is striking in its history. Especially memorable is the story of the fortitude of people exiled to the island, to live out their days while infected with an incurable disease at that time -- leprosy.
From Spinalonga you can sail and have enough time to explore the gorgeous Gulf Of Mirabella. Here, the water is clear and has a very unusual color. Then you can travel by land and drive to Agios Nikolaos, where there is an opportunity to walk around the scenic city and visit the Vulizmeni freshwater lake, which according to legends is where the goddess Athena bathed.
The Venetian Fortezza
The Venetian Fortezza is conveniently located in the city center; within its walls there is a nice promenade and a mosque whose huge dome is visible from afar. The view is what makes the Venetian Fortress in Rethymnon worth visiting. The old fort has well-preserved ruins of the walls, small buildings, and military bastions.
A visit is best done early in the morning because at noon, the scorching sun and the humid air from the sea become unbearable. The most important thing at this attraction is the absolutely stunning view of the sprawling Rethymnon and the sea. The high-altitude viewpoint gives a really stunning image of the city. At night, the main grounds transform into a musical attraction with scheduled concerts and cultural events to amuse the people and visitors of Crete.
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