Crete is the largest, most populous, and the southernmost of the Greek Isles and is located in the Aegean Sea. The island is extremely mountainous with many valleys and gorges, such as the famous Samaria Gorge, the longest ravine in Europe. It has a temperate climate with fairly mild winters. Crete is known for its wonderful wine and olive oil produced locally and is considered by many as having the best cuisine in Greece.
Chania is the main town in western Crete. It exudes character and charm with its Old Harbor and crumbling Venetian buildings. The city suffered a severe attack by the Germans in WWII and endured earlier occupation by the Minoans, Venetians, Egyptians, and Turks and until 1971 was the capital of Crete. Because it survived so gracefully many islanders still consider Chania to be the true capital and its most beautiful city.
Rethymnon, a charming old port town, is located on the north coast between Heraklion and Chania. ight outside of the town is one of the largest sand beaches in Crete. The town is dominated by Fortezza castle in the center of town that was built by the Venetians in the 15th century.
Heraklion, the capital and largest city, spreads for miles but most of its cultural and tourist attractions are within reach of the city center. The ruins of Knossos are just 3 miles from the city. Knossos, the most visited site on Crete, was once the capital of the Minoan civilization with the ruins dating back to the 15th century BC. It is notable that some of the buildings have been reconstructed.
The eastern part of the island contains some of the island’s best resorts due to its excellent beaches and mild climate. Agios Nicholas, built on the northwestern side of the Mirabello Gulf, is a famous tourist center with a lake linked to sea by a narrow canal. Elounda, once a small fishing village, is now the center of an area filled with large, luxury hotels near or on a wonderful sandy beach. At the entrance to Elounda Bay is the small island of Spinalonga with a Venetian fortress built in 1579 and seized in 1715. Following independence, for many years it was a leper colony. The island may be reached in 20 minutes by boat.
Recommended places to stay:
Things to do:
Hike the Samaria Gorge, the largest in Europe
Tour the Palace of Knossos, the famous Minoan settlement outside of Heraklion
Visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum with its extensive collection of Minoan artifacts
Swim at Marathi Beach, a short drive from Chania
Explore Ag. Nikolaos, a port town near Elounda with a lake in the center
Take a boat to Spinalonga, an island off of Elounda, which was a former leper colony and is covered with interesting ruins