September 30, 2014

Charming Crete: History, Hiking and Hammocks…

Greece’s largest island, Crete boasts a fascinating history, as well as diverse landscapes. It’s no wonder then that the destination is so popular among discerning tourists. While on the island, you can explore ancient ruins, trek over undulating terrain and soak up the sun on Crete’s beaches.

Although Crete attracts nearly a quarter of all Greece’s tourists, it’s still easy to escape the hustle and bustle of your fellow holidaymakers. Step off the tourist trail and you wander into charming traditional villages and quiet coves. Crete’s south coast, for instance, is less developed than the north, while the interior of the island contains the White Mountains, which are ideal for secluded drives and hikes.

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Step back in time

No vacation to Crete is complete without a trip to see some of the island’s Minoan ruins. The excavated town and palace complex of Knossos is a highlight. Located three miles from Iráklio, this is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on the island and is a real spectacle to witness. You should also check out the sites of Phaistos and Agía Triáda. Meanwhile, if you want to truly immerse yourself in local history, you should take a walk around the Archaeological Museum in Iráklio. This contains an array of exhibits, including jewellry, pottery and murals from an array of Minoan sites.

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Explore the island on foot

If you’re feeling energetic, there’s no better way to experience Crete than by setting off on hikes. Cretan mountains form a continuous chain that stretches from one side of the island to the other, and you’ll be spoiled for choice if you’re looking for good walking routes.Despite its ominous name, the ‘Gorge of the Dead’ at Káto Zákros makes for an amazing hike. Located in the north-east of the island, it packed with flora and fauna, and it’s also home to Minoan palace ruins.
The south-west boasts some superb walks too. There, you can tackle the precipitous White Mountains, wander through deep gorges and make your way along coastal trails that meander through peaceful beaches and fishing villages.

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Soak up the sun

When you fancy a spot of relaxation, simply make your way to one of Crete’s beaches. If you’re after a tropical experience, head to Vai on the east coast. Featuring Europe’s largest natural palm grove, this is a real peach of a spot. While you’re there you can also enjoy water sports, including jet skiing, scuba diving and windsurfing.
The suntrap of Mýrtos in the south of the island is another great coastal destination. A hippie mecca in the 1970s and 1980s, this fine-pebble beach is protected from the wind and has retained its laidback, bohemian atmosphere. When it comes to places to unwind, this is the ultimate spot.

Like a small country in its own right, Crete has lots to offer as a holiday destination. Whether you’re there for a week, a fortnight or longer, you’ll be able to find plenty of activities to keep you entertained.

Images by April Weeks, Dan Taylor and Matt Sims used under creative commons license.