Could you be wondering where your next vacation will be? Have you thought of Crete Island in Greece? That is the place to be! The island is endowed with incredible sites and nature that is hard to forget. To begin with, there are amazing historical sites that are from the ancient Greece kingdom, a good taste of nature, the best waters for swimming, and beautiful beaches among other interesting places you can visit. With the very many places to visit in Crete, here are top suggestions of places you can’t afford to miss.
The 5 most popular places to visit in Crete
Knossos palace- Lasithi plateau
This is one of those world–class archeological sites that you can tour to learn more about the ancient times of Greece. It is situated on the south–east side of Iraklion city. These are the ruins of the Minoan kings in around 1900 B.C. It was ruined by an earthquake and was later rebuilt.The place has incredible sites such as the great palace which includes four wings forming a central courtyard which has treasuries, storerooms, and shrines. In addition to this, you find the royal quarters and a ballroom.
You will also learn about the history of the mythical Theseus and the Minotaur. After fully exploring the history of the place, drive along the serpentine road and get to the amazing Lasithi plateau. It is the largest plateau in Crete, standing 850 km tall and gives you a view of the incredible White Mountains. Lasithi is located at about 25 km south of Malia. This plateau has agricultural copiousness, with windmills to generate water for irrigation during summer.
The plateau has lots of places you can survey such as the Psychro cave and a sacred Minoan cave which history has it as the birthplace of Zeus, the Greek god. To reach this amazing place, you can choose to go by foot or on a donkey and as you head toward the caves, you get to gaze at the magnificent Lasithi.
The cave is approximately 2200 sq. with well-defined and lit paths, which give you an opportunity to capture every single moment. Inside you find a small hall where important historical artifacts are stored and on the left is the ‘Cradle of Zeus’ which according to the myths, is the exact place where Zeus was born. On the right, there is the large hall which has a lake that never runs dry.
This island is officially also known as Kalydon and is situated on the northeastern side of Crete.It’s an impressive place to be mostly during summer. This uninhabited island is a major tourist site as of today and one that you can’t miss.
A little bit of the island’s history is that the name ‘Spinolanga’ used to be used by the Venetians. It covered the peninsula of Nissi or Kolokytha areas, which is connected to Elounda by a narrow isthmus. In 1526, canals were cut separating Kolokytha from it. It has the abandoned leper colony and fortress. This island is known for its small pebble beach and shallow waters. To get to the island, take a boat ride on the cool waters either from Plaka, Elounda or Agios Nikolaos.
You can get accommodation in classy hotels in Elounda and Heraklion towns which are in close proximity to Spinalonga. From here boat trips are a whole lot of fun to the island where you will engage in a whole lot of activities.
Here you will take a trip around the one-time leper colony, which was an amenity for the ancient Greek leprosy patients. You will also get to see the 17th Century Venetian fortress, which was as a result of the wars with the Ottomans and the Turks.
It doesn’t end there, as you can also go swimming in the shallow waters of the island and later have a barbeque lunch and watch the sun as it sets. After you have had enough, take a boat ride back to your hotel room.
It is a beach located on the northwestern side of Crete, in the regional unit of Chania. This is one of the most interesting beaches in Gramvousa which shelters beautiful thousands of birds.Sandwiched between Gramvousa and cape Tigani, the Balos lagoon is a perfect spot with incredible cliffs and the sandy beach.
Due to its clear waters, it favors multiple water sports like; scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and if lucky, you will get to see sea turtles. Experience the great cruises to the lagoon and even from there to other beaches and islands. If you really like the place then why not hold your wedding there? It is spectacular and will serve as a great venue for such an event.
To capture every single site of Balos from a distance and as well as the vast Mediterranean Sea, hop on a boat ride and be rest assured that it will be epic.
Also, visit the Castle of Gramvousa, which was used as a base for the Venetian army during the war to regain Crete Island. For lovers of nature, there are unique plant species, (steno endemic species) some only found on this particular beach in the world! With over 100 bird species, Gramvousa is the place to be for birdwatchers with the chance to see other animals found there like the leopard snake, Mediterranean monk seal, wild donkeys etc.
Chrissi, an island with dimensions of 7 km length by 2km width, is surrounded by the Mediterranean Libyan Sea. It’s described as a “natural beauty” due to the naturally formed forest and has been termed a wildlife refuge. It has the majority of trees with an age of over 200 years and an average height of 7 meters. Actually, it is Europe’s largest natural forest.
This island is the best place to be for relaxing and having fun, especially during summer due to the turquoise waters in the beach, and the cool breeze from the Lebanon cedar. The place is just perfect for outdoor activities with the whole family. You also have an opportunity to bask on your boat deck as you cruise around.
There are also some port ruins, a lighthouse and a Roman cemetery which are also attraction sites for history lovers. As you enjoy the sight of white corals, you can get yourself unique shells as souvenirs from Chrissi, as it is well-known for the large variety of seashells.
As you sail on the Libyan sea waters, you have an opportunity to see sea fossils and also watch yellow-legged gulls and dolphins. However, for a serene and quiet moment, visit the St. Nicholas church that is nearby.
This is one of the major tourist attractions in Crete Island and is a national park with a unique animal species, kri-kri goats. This tops the list of the places to visit in Crete, with the long walk in the gorge from Omalos plateau along the Libyan sea, as you breathe in fresh air from the surrounding trees.
Get to see the Samaria village which is inside the gorge and now uninhabited and as well as the ancient church in this same village. Great history there. The tourists get organized transport around the gorge but one can always opt for the walk to have a closer touch with the gorge’s nature. Ensure you carry comfortable shoes for the walk.
It is a day’s activity so you need to be really prepared to finish your trip in at most 8 hours. The walk often ends at Ayia Rouméli, which happens to be a small coastal village. From here you can catch a ferry to add to the fun you already had to Loutró and Hóra Sfakion. This is where you find Tara an archeological museum which flourished during Greek roman times.
It will be a long day and the gorge comes with a full package of cool waters for swimming, deep sea diving, delicious lunches, and picnics under the canopies. Apart from the above activities, you can always choose to lie down and enjoy the atmosphere, or you can go on a boat to see the ‘Sweet Waters’ where fresh water pours into the sea. This area is also a good place where you can enjoy beautiful views of cliffs.
Finally, as your trip comes to an end, book a boat trip early in advance to avoid last minute rushes, even though the last trip is usually at 6 pm. It is worth noting that the gorge is normally open from May to October, and this is to avoid flash floods.
Be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people and look beyond what is in front of you.
This is obviously a tip of the iceberg, there is more to the picture painted and the real deal is making Crete your next destination. It comes with a full package of activities like hikes, walks, swimming, boat rides, meals, sun baths, historical and archaeological sites, and all that you need for your vacation to be epic. You need to mark your calendar as Crete is definitely the place to be on your next vacation. You can be assured that you will not regret having taken this trip.