To fall in love with Crete you only need a few days of vacation spent on its beaches with azure water, through its historic cities, or through palm forests with rivers flowing directly from the beach into the sea.
And I already have a tradition: no summer without Greece! So if you want to discover one of the most beautiful Greek islands, where you can combine lying on the beach with hiking through spectacular canyons or visiting historical sites, then put Crete on your list of holiday destinations.
Although most people who choose a holiday in Crete do so for the beach and the sea, I say it would be a shame to arrive on the island and limit yourself to just that. Being the largest island of Greece, Crete means more than that, which is why I'm going to tell you about the most beautiful places we visited during a week's holiday on the island.
1. The Venetian harbor and the old center of Chania
Chania is the second largest city in Crete, and if you choose to land here, this will be your first contact with the island.
Chania is a good place to start exploring and the Venetian harbor is not to be missed. Here you will find bits of history and the lively atmosphere of Cretan cafes and taverns. The picturesque streets behind it will complete your overall picture, so I recommend you to walk them and admire the architecture of the houses, which combine Venetian and Ottoman styles.
2. Not to be missed on a holiday in Crete – Balos Beach
Balos is definitely the most spectacular beach in Crete! You will find here the finest sand and water with the most beautiful color. Exotic and wild at the same time!
The road to Balos beach is more difficult, but the truly special places are not always easily discovered.
The area is considered a protected area, that's why there was no intervention on the infrastructure, but even so, Balos is one of the representative places of the island, which should not be missed.
More about the ways you can get to Balos and what you can do there, I wrote here.
3. Active holiday in Crete – Samaria Gorge
After a few lazy days at the beach, a hike through the biggest canyon in Crete goes great. That's after you first assess what crossing the Samaria Gorge entails and figure out whether or not you're up to it.
The route through the Samaria Gorge is 16 km in total and basically consists of a descent from the altitude of 1230 meters to sea level.
The scenery is gorgeous and worth all the trouble, and the experience is one you won't soon forget.
If you want to find out more details about the route and read about our experience in the Samaria Keys, you can find an article with the whole adventure here.
4. Lake Kournas
Lake Kournas is the only freshwater lake on the island and a lesser-known place. You can sunbathe on its shore, and if you want to explore it more leisurely, you can take a boat to cross it.
On the opposite bank, you will find lots of turtles and colorful fish. And if you're feeling brave, you can swim across the lake or go kayaking.
5. Vacation in Crete - Rethymno city
Rethymno is my favorite town on the island! I love its narrow and colorful streets, which it would be a shame not to walk when you get there.
The old center has a special excitement and several sights that are worth discovering, from the lighthouse in the harbor to the Fortezza Citadel. Not to mention the surroundings, where you can visit the Arkadi Monastery, the Mili Canyon, or a lot of special beaches.
6. The palm forest on Preveli beach
My soul place, where we spent a few quiet hours on a summer morning, walking among the palm trees along the Kourtaliotis river. A wonderful experience that I would love to repeat.
In fact, the whole combination between the green color of the river, the exoticism of the palm trees, the slightly stony sand, and the blue of the Libyan sea is extraordinarily beautiful and makes this place one of the most appreciated on the whole island.
7. Elafonisi Beach
Elafonisi is the "pink star" of the island of Crete. It is one of the largest and most crowded beaches where tourists come to see with their own eyes the pink color of the sand, given by the colorful shells and crushed corals that the water brings to the shore.
And really, it's not something you see on every beach. And depending on the time of day, the sunlight, and the concentration of corals, in some areas, the pink of the sand is quite intense and particularly beautiful.
Elafonisi is among the beaches with a smooth entrance to the sea, so it is also recommended for families with small children. In the article I mentioned above, you can find more details about Elafonisi, and how and when it is recommended to go there.
8. Church of Georgioupolis
Georgioupolis is a small resort located near Rethymno, and the white church at the end of the cobbled pier is among the most romantic places on the island.
The location is perfect for a photo session, especially at sunset, when the sky turns pastel. And for a dinner by the sea, I recommend Arkadi Fish Taverna. The food is good, the prices decent, and the view... a spectacle.
9. Local hospitality
Greek hospitality is known all over the world, and the Cretans do not discount from it, on the contrary, they seem to bring something extra through their generosity and the pleasant way in which they welcome their visitors.
Water, desserts, or Raki offered by the house in restaurants and terraces, souvenirs as a memory received at the accommodation, and respect, and kindness from the locals. This was our experience in Crete.
10. Reasons to love Crete: the local cuisine
Cretan cuisine is simply excellent. If you love Mediterranean food and olive oil, then you've come to the right place.
In the category of favorite Cretan food, dakos, a rustic salad made of grated peeled tomatoes, fresh cheese, and croutons or toast, all seasoned with spices, wins hands down. A delicacy that you can eat at any time: in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening.
I also add seafood, moussaka, and loukoumades, a good all-around dessert or in other words, a Greek version of doughnuts.
11. Easy access from any point in Europe
In just two hours by plane, you can land at one of the two airports that serve the island: Chania or Heraklion.
Heraklion is the capital of the island, located in the northeastern part, and Chania, the second largest city after Heraklion, is located in the northwestern part of the island.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and in a week's stay you can't finish it, so depending on which part of it you want to explore first, you also choose the airport where you land.
12. Good deals on flights even in the height of the tourist season
Crete was not on my list of highly desirable locations, but because I kept seeing offers for cheap and advantageous flights, I took the opportunity and flew to Chania round-trip at the end of July, that is, in the middle of the tourist season, with 50 euro. Good price, I say!
Crete is one of the most beautiful islands of Greece, which you can easily reach by plane, so it would not hurt to take it into account when planning your next stay in Greek lands.
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