I must admit that writing about the island of Crete is challenging. How can this endless beauty fit in one or two pages? This land is simply amazing, as it has multiple personalities. Beautiful beaches, culinary adventures, fun, history, culture and of course, stands out for its hospitality. I have visited many of the island’s cities and I must tell you. Crete is unique!
Let’s get started!
Why visit Crete?
- For the amazing beaches. Elafonisi, Gramvousa and Balos, Falasarna and Seitan are only a few of the must visit ones.
- For the rich gastronomic experiences. Cretan diet is among the healthiest worldwide and how couldn’t it be? Pure local products by a fertile land. (Stay tuned, later on I am listing all the must taste local specialties).
- For discovering the history and the remnants of magnificent civilizations.
- For experiencing local culture and music. You will often meet musicians playing ‘lyra’. Crete is also known for its regional dances.
- Because the biggest island of Greece offers luxurious choices and vibrant life, while at the same time is known for its quiet villages.
- For living the dream of Cretan hospitality. The locals will welcome you and try to ‘put’ you in their life the best possible way!
What to eat in Crete:
- Dakos salad, made of paximadi (rusks) lightly soaked in water, accompanied with tomato, olive oil and mizithra cheese.
2. Kaltsounia, mini pies served with honey or filled with cheese.
3. Sfakiani pita (pie from Sfakia). It may seem like pancakes but trust me, it’s far better.
4. Gamopilafo, the famous Cretan wedding rice and apaki, the smoked pork.
5. Hohlioi boubouristoi (fried snails) and lamb with stamnagathi, the wild leafy green, which grows only in Crete.
6. Cretan cheese. Every part of Crete has its own version of cheese. Nevertheless, the most famous are graviera, (a hard cheese made of sheep’s milk), anthotiro from Sfakia (white and soft cheese made of goat’s or sheep’s milk), ksigalo from Sitia (creamy textured cheese with rich and slightly sharp taste). There are many others, as well, that can be found in many places throughout Greece, but were primarily produced in Crete, such as mizithra, kefalotiri, staka, pichtogalo of Chania.
7. Tsikoudia or raki, the famous Cretan spitit.
The second largest city of Crete (after Heraklion) is a great place to unwind. Chania consists of the new and the old city. By wandering at the the Old Town you will discover Venetian and Turkish remnants. The Venetian square is vibrant and Chania in general is the meeting point for visitors who want to hike Samaria Gorge.
It’s also the best place to access Elafinisi beach. The crystal clear blue water and white sand create an idyllic scenery. Do not miss a daily trip to Gramvousa and Balos, places of pure beauty. I should, of course, not leave behind Falasarna and Seitan Limania.
Where to eat: Maridaki is one of the best choices for fresh fish. Try the fish soup and the house wine. For local delicacies try the Koutourouki, a hidden alternative place.
Where to stay in Chania: See various choices of quality villas for every budget here
Siteia in Lasithi prefecture
Siteia is not one of the most popular Cretan destinations. But it’s definitely the ideal place for relaxed holidays, away from mass tourism. The main coastal road of Siteia is a blend of rakadika (tavernas that offer local delicacies with raki) and coffee shops.
You should visit the Palm Forest of Vai, one of the largest attractions of the island of Crete. It’s a natural palm forest, accompanied by a nice beach, where you can relax and enjoy a tropical swim!
Erimoupoli (or Ermoupoli) is a landscape that combines perfectly two faces: the wild and the pure. Natural beauty at its best!
Where to eat: In the Vai Palm Forest you will find a tavern under the same name. The food is amazing and the view unbeatable. Try any local delicacies; Greek salad or ntakos, dolmadakia, ksigalo, little cheese pies. In the heart of Sitia, at the main coastal road, visit Enodion. Try again the local food or let the kind owner bring you the best! Lastly, in Mitsakakis you will find the best desserts (try galaktobureko and lukumades).
Where to stay: Check all villas in Crete here
The wandering around its alleys gives you a feeling of Venice! Rethymnon is home to many university students, therefore is a totally youth place. You shouldn’t miss watching an amazing sunset under the Fortezza Fortress.
Where to eat: Prima Plora is an excellent choice! Located by the seaside, it offers amazing view and tasty seafood. For the best souvlaki, try Nikos (101 Arkadiou street).
Where to stay: Quality villas for every budget here
The birthplace of Nikos Kazantzakis combines a variety of things and activities. Intense nightlife on the one hand, peaceful villages on the other. You may think that the biggest city of Crete is not the prettiest at first sight, but give it a little time. Behind that face there are interesting discoveries. Great beaches and sea, important antiquities, brilliant food and amazing people.
Malia in Heraklion perfecture
There is a little village in Malia, named Krasi. The oldest plane tree (over 2.000 years) in Crete is situated there and it’s really impressive! There, you can also find the ‘Kafenion tis Lefkis’, a traditional kafenion, and you must try the local bites.
Where to eat: In San Giorgio you will taste the best moussaka and nice grills. Tavena Eva is also one of the best options for local culinary experiences.
Where to stay: Various choices for a pleasant stay here
The most southern part of Crete stays away from mass tourism. Beaches are beautiful and quiet, the nature seductive and the food delighful. Sfakia also offers opportunities for walking and hiking. It is important to mention that the famous Samaria Gorge lies here.
Where to eat: Dialeskari Marmara Taverna offers dakos, Greek salad, lamb, chicken and the best local pie, among other delicacies. Taverna Oasis makes heavenly moussaka and other dishes.
Where to stay: Lefka Ori is one of the few hotels located in the heart of Sfakia. A simple and clean hotel, with prices starting from 70 euros per night. If you are willing to drive, there are many options a bit far from Sfakia, but really worth the stay. One great example is the traditional style Critamo Cottage or Liberta Villas.
Also, you can check all villas in Crete here
Places to see in Crete (besides the ones aforementioned)
Are you familiar with the history of Spinalonga? It’s the island where lepers from Crete and around Greece, were quarantined until 1957. You can totally feel the isolation by visiting it. Nevertheless, the stone houses and the deserted streets create a simultaneous feeling of awe and admiration, of a life that once existed.
Minoan palace of Knossos
The archaeological site of Knossos highlights one of the most sophisticated cultures in the world. If you are interested in Greek history and culture, then Knossos is a must visit.
A natural paradise located in exo Mouliana, near Sitia. The hiking trail is kind of easy to moderate, under the condition that you visit it during summer of spring.
Malia Minoan Palace
Located near Heraklion, Malia Palace is the third largest Minoan palace in Crete.
Preveli Moni and Beach
Moni Preveli is one historic monastery in Crete and has played a central role during the anti-Ottoman resistance.
A very imposing monastery, 18km east of Sitia. Moni Toplou is one of the most significant monasteries in the history of Crete.
This is the second most important Minoan palatial city, located approximately 63km from Heraklion.
This is one of the most famous caves in Crete. According to legend, Zeus was born here, this is why this place was highly important in the antiquity and attracted many worshippers. Nowadays, visitors will find a beautiful scenery of stalactites.
Crete is a destination with so many beauties and local secrets. It is impossible to cover all in this post. Nevertheless, I bet you I gave you an idea of what the island is like. This land has something for everyone, depending on what kind of traveler you are. Adventurous, the one who seeks for relaxing at the beaches or the one who wants cultural drops? The one who wants intense nightlife or the one who prefers to stay on the quiet side? One thing is for sure! Crete has got you covered.
Enjoy and please add to the list any other place/restaurant worth visiting, which I didn’t include. And of course, do not hesitate to contact me for any further info you may need!
*Cretico is a online villa marketplace in Crete, built by local travel experts who have an intimate knowledge of the island and of visitor’s needs. Their aim is to offer high quality hospitality services and to help all visitors find their perfect holiday villa based on their taste. Moreover, you can find all kind of information concerning the island of Crete.
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