Crete, a land of ancient myths and civilization is an island that once visited is never forgotten. Even the mighty Zeus, king of all the Greek gods and goddesses, was smitten by this wonderful landscape of high rocky peaks, fertile plateaus, and wonderful beaches, all bathed in an average of 300 days of sunshine that almost guarantees the visitor a blue sky to match the colors of the Greek flag.
The largest of the Greek Islands, Crete is approximately 260 kilometers (162 miles) from west to east and at its widest point, almost 60 kilometers (37 miles) from north to south is too large to explore fully in just a few days. The north coast is where you will find many of the more popular destinations and resorts, whilst the south coast has more opportunities for those wishing to find a little more ‘off the beaten track’ holidays. Crete is also home to Europe’s longest continuous gorge, the Samaria Gorge.
The Samaria Gorge runs for 16 kilometers from the Omalos Plateau (1227 meters) down to sea-level and the beautiful coastal village of AgiaRoumeli. This is a tough trek, but this does not deter the thousands of walkers who come to catch a glimpse of the infamous Cretan Ibex – the KriKri, rare orchids and wildflowers, and the towering Iron Gates at the narrowest part of the gorge at a mere three meters wide. With no roads in or out of AgiaRoumeli; you must either walk down the gorge or arrive by ferry from Sougia, ChoraSfakion or Paleochora, it means that it has not lost its charm since the first visitors arrived many years ago. It also means that if you can stay behind when all the walkers and day-visitors leave in the late afternoon you will truly experience the Cretan hospitality at its best.
For those wanting a more relaxed vacation then the beaches of Crete are constantly being voted as some of the best in the World. From Vai with its golden sandy beach fringed by palm trees in the very eastern tip of the island, to the pink sands of Elafonissi, the pirate cove of Balos and Gramvousa or the ancient port of Falarsana in the west, you have an abundance of choice to dip your toes into the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea whilst topping up your tan. For the ultimate getaway beach, why not enquire about hiring a boat and skipper for the day to take you to one of the hundreds of hidden coves where you can enjoy a secluded spot away from the maddening crowds. Prices are very reasonable and some charters come fully stocked with the bar, fresh produce and even a BBQ on the beach of your choice thrown in.
If you are more for nightlife and partying then you are also in for a treat. The capital, Heraklion, boasts some amazing clubs and bars where you can dance the night away until you watch the sun rise over the clear blue sea. Chania, the second largest city of Crete is also a haven for those seeking out great nightspots with world class DJ’s enjoying the cosmopolitan scene within the surroundings of this ancient city which has a modern twist. Rethymno, the next largest town is more laid back and has a vibe all of its own, but don’t be fooled into thinking that only the cities have any nightlife. From any of the small coastal towns, you will be able to find a place to enjoy the great atmosphere, great music, and stunning locations, unlike any other destination.
One last thought to entice you to Crete…did you know it has a history of winemaking going over 4,000 years? Then perhaps you may not also know it produces over 300,000 hectoliters (look it up, it’s a lot!) of wine a year of award-winning varieties from local producers.
So what are you waiting for? Kick your toes in the sand, enjoy a wonderfully chilled glass of Vidiano and take in the spectacular scenery of Greece’s most varied island – Crete.
An experienced freelance writer who has produced articles that have appeared in both traditional print publications as well as found across many websites in a huge variety of genres and specialist niches. He is also the author of a gritty and thrilling series of crime novels featuring DCI Peter Carter of the Homicide & Serious Crime Unit of the London Metropolitan Police.