The largest Greek island and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean has been a tourist destination in its own right for ages.
If it will delight seaside enthusiasts for its beaches and resorts which attract millions of visitors each year, or those interested in the ancient Minoan civilization of which it is the cradle, notably the palace of Knossos which remains one of the archaeological sites among the most important in Greece, the island is also a nature destination. Beautiful landscapes, treks and a multitude of other outdoor activities are also on the program.
Located to the west of the island and registered as a natural park, these gorges are among the most beautiful in Europe and remain the unmissable natural site for any visit to Crete.
So you too don’t miss its sixteen kilometers of narrow gorge, up to less than 3 meters wide at the “Iron Gate”, between two steep walls which in places exceed 500 meters high. In a setting of rockeries and forests, your hike will take you from the high plateau of Omalos, at 1,200 meters, to sea level (or the opposite if you prefer to go up) when you arrive at the village of Agio Rouméli on the south coast of the island. Unforgettable !
Seven other must-see nature sites to see in Crete
Gorges of the Valley of the Fallen
These also rather narrow gorges in eastern Crete owe their name to the ancient tombs that were found there and traces of which can still be seen on the cliffside. This being said, they are also called the Zakros Gorges because they lead to the village of Kato Zakros, its beautiful beach and its few remains of a Minoan palace accessible after two or three hours of descent from the starting point of the hiking.
Along with that of Psychro, on the Lassithi plateau, where according to legend Zeus was born, the Sfentoni cave is the most interesting in Crete. You will discover stalactites and stalagmites in abundance.
Not far from there, the mountain village of Anogia is known for its artisanal production, particularly lace.
It is the only freshwater lake in Crete. With a mountain in the background and rather luxuriant vegetation around its edge, its setting contrasts singularly with the rest of the Cretan landscapes. People come here to swim, enjoy the taverns or take a trip to the pretty mountain village of Argyroupoli, not far away, known for its springs, waterfalls and old mills.
This mountainous and desert range in western Crete which rises to more than 2,400 meters is also called and even better known as the White Mountains. It is an area made for lovers of nature and outdoor activities since there are numerous hiking possibilities there. This is also where you can discover several gorges, starting with the famous Samaria gorges.
This peninsula, an extension of the city of Chania, is known for its beaches (Stravos, Loutraki, Seitan Limani, etc.) and its monasteries including that of Agia Triada. The latter with its church, its gardens, its wine cellar and a small museum filled with icons and codices is one of the sites not to be missed in the region.
This fairly vast wild peninsula begins when you leave the town of Kissamos which can also serve as a base for its discovery, particularly during boat excursions. It then continues towards two fairly touristy islands known for their beautiful beaches with turquoise waters and a 16th century Venetian fortress.e century on the eponymous island.
It is also on this piece of land extending into the sea that we will find the beach of Balos with its lagoon considered to be the most beautiful in all of Crete even if it is only reached by a bad track. or by sea.
Here is a pretty plateau at an altitude of 900 meters, to the east of the island, where you can still see hundreds of mills built at a time when they were used to irrigate the fields of the region. Some villages in Lassithi or its surroundings are worth a stop, such as those of Krasi and Mokhos, as well as the beautiful cave of Psychro which, according to legend, was the birthplace of Zeus.
Getting to Crete
With Heraklion airport, Crete has the second platform in the country in terms of air traffic behind Athens. However, as is often the case with summer destinations, traffic is very unevenly distributed and concentrated over holiday periods with almost nothing or almost nothing the rest of the time, except for rotations towards Athens and Thessaloniki through which you must then transit if you arrive from there. ‘stranger.
In addition to Heraklion, Crete has another airport with similar characteristics. It is located in Chania and, there too, flights there are primarily seasonal.
At the maritime level, although Crete does not have any international ferry connections, it does benefit from quite a few direct regular lines to mainland Greece and several other islands. All depart from the north coast, from the ports of Kissamos, Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion and Sitia.
Crete being a large island with quite a few centers of interest located in different places, it will be preferable to be independent in terms of transport. So, renting a car will prove useful for saving time and freedom.
Otherwise, the bus can always do the trick for those who want to save money and have some time on site.
Accommodation in Crete
As the island is very touristy, the whole range of accommodation exists in Crete; whether youth hostels, campsites, apartment rentals, homestay accommodation, pensions, hotels of all categories. Truly for all tastes and all budgets. That said, given the crowds, it is not always easy to find a bed in summer in the most touristy places – at least at a good price – if you have not reserved in advance.
As for the best choice, as for the rest of Greece, everything will depend on the type of trip planned.
If you are sedentary, the all-inclusive formula or, for more freedom, renting a villa or an apartment could be considered. Otherwise, when traveling, accommodation with locals or incidentally camping (rather for motorhomes) is generally the best value.
Where to eat in Crete?
As in the rest of the country, restaurants of all categories are easily found in Crete. There are also street stalls where you can buy the famous “gyros” sandwiches, topped with tzatziki and meats of your choice, not forgetting the fries: enough to last you until the next meal!
The fact remains that, without necessarily being very excessive, restaurants still require a certain budget if you frequent them regularly. So, for a dozen euros for a simple meal you can enjoy a local establishment, and for €20 a more “touristy” restaurant. Otherwise, it is also possible to settle for pizzas, burgers or snacks for €5 to €10.
Another economical solution also consists of choosing accommodation that allows you to cook and enjoy picnics when you go for a walk.
The right time, climate and weather in Crete
Crete has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers, however attenuated by a wind (the “meltem”) which can be quite violent in the south. As for the winters, they are relatively mild and accompanied by some rain, at least on the coast because in the mountainous areas of the interior it can be cold and snowy.
As is often the case, it is the intermediate seasons (May-June or September-October) that are best for visiting and enjoying the outdoors, perhaps only because there are fewer crowds throughout the island.
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