The largest island of Greece, Crete is not wrongly thought to be paradise on earth. With its breathtaking nature and amazing culture, this is one of the places in Greece that will have you coming back for more. Cretans are exceptionally hospitable as you’ll find out for yourself once you get there.
Wherever you’ll stay and whatever you’ll do, bear in mind these 10 things you should definitely do in Crete.
A Guest Post by Maro Akamatra of Akamatra.
Take a Long Walk in the Old Town
I could pinpoint many places for you to see in the wonderful city of Chania, but you’d miss the point. Chania is a city to be felt. Walk down the roads of the old city and you’ll soon realize why Greeks think it’s one of the best places to live.
Raise your head to see the marvelous architecture of the houses with the ochre stones and the colorful bougainvilleas. Put your hand through the basil plants in the pots around the small yards and breathe deep the smell of summer. Sit on a bench and watch the play of the sea near the lighthouse. Shop around the small vibrant tourist shops for herbal teas and olive oil soaps. Let yourself be happy. That’s the way to do Chania if you ask me.
Trek Down Samaria Gorge
One of the most beautiful natural paths you’ll ever get to cross. You can reach it by bus from Chania to Omalos where there’s the gorge’s entrance. With a length of 17 kilometers, this isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll need trekking or at least sports shoes, a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water which you can fill from the facilities there. Don’t forget your snacks since it will take at least 5 hours for you to get to the other side.
You will start climbing down some stairs at the beginning of the gorge until you reach the plateau of Samaria’s old houses. You will get to walk through the ancient forest and if you are lucky you will see the wild goats residing there.
There a vast geological interest in the area and when you see it up close you’ll realize why. The geological formations derived through centuries of pressure are stunning!
By the end of your walk, you’ll be blissfully able to take a swim in the cold waters of Agia Roumeli’s beach and give your tired muscles some reprieve.
Also Read: 7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Mykonos.
This is a treat kind of like a donut, only better. It’s made of dough which is then deep fried and immediately thrown into sweet honey syrup.
They are served with cinnamon and if you don’t taste them, you’ll regret it!
Go Swimming in Preveli
One of the most famous beaches and lakes in Crete, this is a must see if you like palm trees and lots of people. The natural beauty of the blue lake turning into the sea along with the palm trees, paint an inviting portrait for tourists and locals alike.
There are many ways to reach this beach depending on your mood (and fitness level).
You can take a small boat from Plakias, take your car and then hike your way down the beach from the Monasteri, or go through the lake and walk down a shorter distance.
Either way, the waters are magnificent and if you are looking for something to fill your Instagram feed, look no more! The nearby tavern is a family owned business with delicious food.
Spend a Day at Petres Bay
In the road that connects Chania with Rethymno, 15 kilometers away from the latter, there is a wide beach that’s called Petres. It’s an amazing place for kids and adults to swim and sunbathe. It’s usually calm but be aware of the windy times. Then there are bound to be large waves which may be fun to play with but need caution nonetheless.
There are many beach bars and whole day bars located there. You can spend the day lounging and swimming, then go for lunch in the nearby taverns and let your kids play in the playground.
Eat Snails and Other Delicacies
Ok snails are not for everyone that’s fair enough (although if you fancy them try them fried with oregano and olive oil!) However, there are a lot of great things to feast on in Crete and Rethymno has some of the best places to do so. If you are a meat lover you should definitely try the lamb and if you are a vegan there is a huge variety of fresh veggies for you to try, like okra with tomato sauce, rice stuffed vine leaves, and amazingly tasting mushrooms!
Don’t forget to taste the wines!
Visit Spinaloga Island
If you’ve read the book “The Island” by Victoria Hislop this should be at the top of your list when visiting Crete. A small island that used to be a leper colony that was used as inspiration to one of the most heartbreaking storylines ever to be made in a best seller.
Your visit to Spinaloga island will give you a glimpse of the life of people suffering from Hansen’s disease during the 40s’. Wear your hat and your sunscreen, take your camera and open your mind and heart to welcome the feelings this visit will provoke. You’ll see the ruins of the houses and their small community, their shops and pharmacy where tests were made to fight the disease. While you are walking through this ghost village, try to empathize with the souls that stayed there while their loved ones were just a swim away. There is an admission fee to the island (8€) and you can reach it with a small boat from the village Plaka (also 8€).
Have a Drink
The mountains of Crete are famous for the generous offering of herbs. Don’t miss the chance to taste their pure essence and get some for back home too. If you are a coffee lover, the famous Greek coffee, slowly boiled in the ember is a must try. And when the weather is hot, it’s definitely time for a cold frappe.
Did you know there are several small refreshment brands in Crete? Try one of those instead of the huge brands for a change!
Dive into CretAquarium
This is one of the best places to spend half a day when you are in Crete. You’ll get to see a wide variety of the sea creatures residing in the Mediterranean waters, learn their names and take a lot of photos. Try to get a photo of Nemo the clownfish in his anemone and don’t get spooked by the sharks!
It’s open throughout the day during the summer months and those will be 9 euros well spent!
Take a walk in the Neolithic era and learn about the way our ancient ancestors lived. The Knossos palace will amaze you with its frescoes and the genius use of water and drainage systems.
Visit the throne room with the famous griffin fresco and the alabaster throne. Book a guide and let him/her tell you all about the Minotaur myth and the legends of the time.
Crete is the largest island in Greece and it has much to offer to all kinds of visitors. Whether you are here with your family or solo, the Cretans will make you feel like home, only better! If you’re ever in Rethymno, drop me a message on my Facebook or Instagram and I will show you around!
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