Crete may be a small island, but it manages to cram a complete country’s worth of must-see attractions into its charming coastlines. On the largest island of Greece, there is a plethora of sights to take in, ranging from the pulsating ancient beauty of Hania to the profoundly symbolic monastery at Moni Preveli.
Be sure to see the Palace of Knossos, which is one of the most important ancient sites in the world, and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the island’s hundreds of beautiful beaches. The Palace of Knossos dates back 4,500 years. Oh, and while you’re inland from the shore, you can also visit some excellent wineries and vineyards.
Best Places to Visit in Crete
No matter how you feel, there are plenty of stunning places to stay in and around the eight locations that we recommend most highly on the island of Crete.
1. The Sands and Shores of Crete
When most people travel to Crete between the months of spring and fall, one of their most anticipated activities is spending time on one of the island’s breathtaking beaches. There are differences between the several beaches in this area.
There are beaches on Crete that are made up of pebbles, but there are also beaches that are among the most magnificent soft-sand beaches in the world, with water that is so clear that it glows a vibrant shade of turquoise under the warm Mediterranean sun.
The two best-known beaches on the island are Elafonissi, which stands out for having white and pink sand, and Balos, also known as the Balos Lagoon. Both of these locations can be reached quickly and easily from Chania.
2. The Palace of Knossos
The archaeological monument known as Knossos is considered to be Crete’s most significant. The Minoans were the first maritime force in the Mediterranean, and their culture flourished during the pre-Greek Bronze Age.
They got their name from the mythical King Minos. It is thought that King Minos’ palace was located in the region of Knossos, which is close to the city of Heraklion.
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The Minoan palace is a colossal residential complex that is centered on a wide courtyard. It is believed that this was the location where they staged “Bull-Leaping,” an activity that required sprinting towards a bull, grasping it by the horns, and somersaulting over it.
3. Saint Nicholas’s Church
Agios Nikolaos is a delightful, tiny city located on the north coast of eastern Crete, approximately 65 kilometers east of the capital city of Heraklion. Gorgeous beaches surround it, and Mirabello Bay is in the distance.
Even though it is obviously a destination for tourists, it doesn’t feel quite as touristy as other places, such as Chania.
A trip along Lake Voulismeni, with its many waterfront cafés and restaurants, and the surrounding port area, facing out to sea, are both highlights of a visit to this location.
If you take a walk around the point from the harbor to Kitroplatia beach, you will see two famous statues and have breathtaking views out across Mirabello Bay to the high mountains of eastern Crete.
4. Creta (Chania)
It wasn’t until 1971 that the capital of Crete moved from Chania to Heraklion, but Chania is still the most important town in the western part of the island.
The Aegean Sea and the White Mountains, which are snow-covered in the winter, and surround the old town, are views that date back to the centuries that Venice was in power (1204–1645). Walking around Chania is one of the best ways to get to know the city.
The town stretches to a charming fishing bay and features a labyrinth of charming streets together with pastel-colored homes encircled inside the remnants of defensive walls constructed in the 16th century.
5. The Samaria Cleft
The Samaria Gorge is considered to be the most impressive of Crete’s many impressive gorges. Crete is famous for its gorges. UNESCO has designated this area as a biosphere reserve, and it may be found inside Samaria National Park.
For travelers who are interested in getting some exercise while they are in Crete, one of the most popular things to do is to walk the famed 16-kilometer route that runs through the gorge.
The gorge travels a distance of 1,250 meters from Xyloskalo, which is located just outside the mountain settlement of Omalos, all the way down to Agia Roumeli, which is located on the sunny south coast of Crete.
Heraklion, the island’s capital, is a destination that pleasantly surprises travelers who are there for the first time. The Old Town is comprised of a labyrinth of charming pedestrian streets that are lined with restaurants and stores.
The squares are filled with enormous trees that cast a generous amount of shade, making them ideal places to have a cup of coffee at one of the many outdoor cafes.
Heraklion makes an excellent starting point for excursions to Knossos and other destinations in central Crete. It got its modern layout under the Venetians, who reigned from 1204 until 1669.
This was a period that witnessed significant cultural flowering on the island, generating artists such as El Greco, who was from Fódele, which is located near Heraklion.
7. The Rethymnon
The beautiful old town of Rethymnon is located in the center of Crete, halfway between the cities of Chania and Heraklion.
The majority of the buildings in this area date back to the Venetian era, although there are a few examples of Turkish architecture, such as the tall minaret, that remain.
Rethymnon is an ideal destination for a day trip from the resorts located along the north coast of Crete because it has all of the amenities that are required to justify spending a day away from the beach.
8. Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is an excellent place to visit if you have an interest in the history of ancient Crete. The exhibit spans a time period of 550 years and is spread out across 27 separate halls.
It is important to keep a lookout for the stunning frescoes from Knossos, which date back 3,500 years, as well as the glazed porcelain Snake Goddess, which dates back to 1600 BC.
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The Phaistos Disc is yet another significant artifact. It was made of clay and dates back to the year 100 BC. It bears a mysterious spiral of symbols.
9. The Monastery of Preveli
The Preveli Monastery, which dates back to the 17th century and is located close to the peak of a mountain and provides expansive vistas over the Mediterranean Sea, is a wonderful destination for a day trip from adjacent towns and cities such as Rethymnon and Georgioupoli.
The courtyards and terraces, the mountain spring, and the modest, air-conditioned museum that houses a variety of religious relics are some of the highlights of the attraction. In addition to that, there are several sociable cats in this location who are just ready to meet and greet guests.
What was once a sleepy fishing community on the southern coast of the United States has evolved into one of the most laid-back and pleasurable beach towns there is to visit.
Plakias, in contrast to many of the northern beach locations, which have been heavily developed, has managed to preserve its small-town atmosphere and is home to some of the most delicious restaurants in the surrounding area.
Crete is unlike any other island in Greece since it has more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline, breathtaking beaches, and mountains that peak at more than 2,400 meters. Crete is also the largest island in Greece. It is the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the largest island in the Greek archipelago.
Crete is home to important Minoan archaeological sites, dramatic gorges, lovely cities with Venetian harbors and fortresses, and small coastal towns where you can escape to a more leisurely pace of life. However, the island’s most popular draws are its incredible beaches with golden sand and the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
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