In this Crete travel blog, you'll find all the information you need to plan your trip to Crete. From the best time to visit Crete to what to see, here's everything you need to know.
Why visit Crete
Greece’s largest island, Crete, lies to the south of the mainland. It might look small on the map, but due to its mountainous terrain, it would take you weeks or even months to see it all.
Due to its long history, Crete has no shortage of archaeological and historical sites. The most famous of these is Knossos, but there are literally hundreds of others if you look hard enough.
History aside, the island offers some of the most stunning landscapes in Greece. If you are after beaches, look no further – Crete has hundreds of beaches to suit every taste.
The famous Balos and Elafonissi beaches are really stunning, though you must expect to share them with hundreds of other tourists.
For me though, it's the culture of Crete that makes me want to return time and time again. It could be the great food or the people, the small villages or the laid-back attitude. I'm sure you'll form your own opinions after spending time in Crete!
Best time to visit Crete
As Crete is one of the southernmost places in Europe, it enjoys warm summers and good weather most year round, with the exception of winter months, when it can be surprisingly cold and damp.
In fact, snow is not rare between December and February, and in the past years there have been a number of floods.
The best months to visit Crete are in general the shoulder months, April – June and September – October, but as it’s a big island it is possible to stay away from the crowds even in August.
How to get to Crete
You can get to Crete either by plane or by boat from Pireaus. It is also connected with a few other Greek islands, with itineraries varying depending on weather and time of year.
Regions of Crete
Crete is divided in four prefectures, each of which has a main port town to the north. From West to East, these are Chania, Rethymno, Iraklio (or Heraklion) and Agios Nikolaos.
The two biggest towns, Chania and Iraklio, are the two most likely destinations when you are researching where to go in Crete, as they both have large ports as well as airports.
How to get around Crete
While public transportation on the north side of the island is generally quite good, travelling from the north to the south is considerably more time-consuming. Getting from one place to another by bus will often mean using two or even three different buses. As such, the best way to get around Crete is definitely by car.
Note – I've cycled in many parts of Greece, but not in Crete. Yet. When I do, I'll let you know!
Crete – A brief history
Crete has a very long and tumultuous history. The first settlements on the island date since the Paleolithic period, over 130,000 years ago.
Crete developed extensively during the period of the Minoan civilization (roughly 2700–1420 BC), and also during the Mycenean civilization that followed, brought by Greeks from the mainland.
In subsequent years, there were a number of conflicts and wars among the Cretan city states, but also against outsiders, like the ancient Macedonians and the Rhodians.
Similarly to other regions in Greece, Crete was occupied by the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetians and the Ottomans, to regain its independence as a standalone state in 1897. Crete joined the Kingdom of Greece in 1913.
What to see in Crete
Most visitors will only have time for the Palace of Knossos, which was largely restored and rebuilt in the early 1900s under the guidance of the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.
However, there are many other sites, especially to the south of Crete, such as Faistos, Gortyna, Malia and Zakros, some of which have been extremely well preserved.
At the same time, the island boasts some of Greece’s most impressive Venetian castles, remains of which you can see in the biggest towns but also in other areas, such as Spinalonga, Gramvousa, Fortezza and Kazarma.
The presence of the Ottoman Empire is also quite evident in several parts of the island.
Mountains and Gorges in Crete
Along with the beaches, Crete boasts some of the highest mountains and the most amazing gorges in Greece. Apart from the famous Samaria gorge, there are many others, such as Kourtaliotiko, Ha and Imbros , to name a few.
Access to these is generally restricted in winter. Because of the mountainous terrain, there are also many plateaus and caves, which are worth visiting, and also many rivers.
Food in Crete
A special mention must be made to Cretan food! The Cretan cuisine is one of the most instantly recognizable cuisines in Greece.
Barley rusks, a huge selection of Cretan cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, fantastic olives and olive oil, goat meat, snails and plenty of fish are all part of the Cretan diet, along with Cretan honey and the famous alcoholic drink called raki or tsikoudia.
Locals will have it at any time of the day or night, and they will treat you to a few shots after every meal. It is a strong drink, and goes well with your Cretan vacation. Just remember not to overdo it on the day before hiking the Samaria gorge!
Crete Sightseeing Guides
I've written a few Crete travel blog posts you might find useful. The most important ones are listed below.
Things To Do In Crete - Top 5 Greek Experiences in Crete
Unsure if Crete is the Greek island for you? This Crete blog post on the top things to do is a good starting point to get inspired!Continue Reading
Palace of Knossos in Crete | Visit Knossos and enter the Minotaur's lair!
The Palace of Knossos is the most well known archaeological site in Crete. Legend has it that this was the home of the Minotaur, and that the Palace might even have been the famed Labyrinth itself! Here's everything you need to know about visiting the Palace of Knossos.Continue Reading
Best things to do in Crete, Greece - What to do in Crete on a road trip
A road trip in Crete is the best way to explore this fascinating Greek island. I've taken a couple of road trips around Crete now, and this blog post lists some of the things you should include when planning your own.Continue Reading
Chrissi Island Crete - Travel Tips for visiting Chrissi beach in Greece
As if Crete wasn't enough, there's an even more fabulous island just a short boat trip away from it! Here's how you can visit Chrissi island from Crete, and why you should go.Continue Reading
Plan your trip to Crete
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