The largest and the most southerly island in Greece,
is one of the most popular and well-loved islands of the Mediterranean.
It was home, from 2800 to 1450 BC, to the Minoans, who are considered to have created the first evolved civilisation in Europe: the palace of Knossos is the most important symbol of the Minoan civilisation. The very mild climate of the south coast of Crete makes swimming possible from April to November.
The most important city, Heraklion, is located in the centre of the north coast, which is the main area of tourist development, while the southern and western areas of the island are still relatively untouched.
The beaches in Crete
The island offers a wide variety of beaches along its entire coastal perimeter. The large sandy beach of Amoudara is located near the capital Heraklion and the beaches of Hersonissos, Gouves, Malia, Elounda, Aghios Nikolaos, Almyros and Sitia are found to the east; Vái is without doubt the most photographed and celebrated beach of the island. Located on the east coast, it is famous for its dense palm forest which extends to the shoreline. The beach of Matala, celebrated for its caves dug into the rock, is found in the south.
From Matala it is easy to reach the nearby archaeological sites of Phaistos, Hagia Triada and Gortyna, while the more secluded beaches of Kokkinos and Red Beach lie across the rocks. Chryssi island, just of the coast near Ierápetra, is a paradise of fine white sand.
Beach of Chryssi island. Photo: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
One of the most interesting excursions for lovers of unspoilt nature is to the island of Chryssi along the southern coast of Crete, approximately 13 km from Ierápetra. Known also as Gaidoronisi or the golden island, it has wonderful beaches, a small cedar wood and shallow, crystal-clear waters.
The beaches of Georgioupolis, Gramvoussa andFalassarna instead lie to the west of Heraklion. The beach of Elafoníssi with its rose-coloured sand is found on the far south-eastern tip of the island. The islet of Elafoníssi is separated from the shore by a lagoon of warm, turquoise-coloured water. The lagoon is shallow at low tide making it easy to wade across the knee-deep water to the island.
Minoan Palace of Knossos
Don’t miss a visit to the ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos, which stands on the outskirts of the capital Heraklion. Residence of the legendary king Minos, it is also site of the famous myth of the labyrinth of 2000 BC and was the political, economic and religious centre of the glorious Minoan dynasty.
Minoan Palace of Knossos. Photo: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
The Roman Amphitheatre and the Paleo-Christian Basilica of St. Titus dating back to 450 BC can be found Gortyna, the ancient Roman capital on the island.
Roman Amphitheatre of Gortina. Photo: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
The Cretan evening is an occasion for discovering the traditions, costumes and gastronomic specialities of the island. During an entertaining evening in a typical restaurant in a Cretan village, traditional Greek dishes are served accompanied by excellent wine with traditional music and dancing.
Crete keeps many of its rich folk traditions alive and preserves its cultural heritage. The Cretan dances (pentozalis, haniotikos, maleviziotikos) and the “madinades” and “rizitika” songs are still very much part of everyday life.
Text by Federica Fusco
Updated text by Nicolò Villa
Avion Tourism Magazine
Photo: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
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Where to sleep in Crete
Crete is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.
Hotels for stars, differentiated by type of services:
Hotels in the districts
Hotels in tourist areas