Fall in love with island life when you take a trip to Crete. This tranquil pocket of Greece has its own distinct identity, with equal measures of striking scenery, fascinating history and delicious cuisine.
As the largest Greek island, adventures lie in every direction. There are the Venetian ports of Chania and Rethymnon in the west, hidden coves and gorges to the south, vibrant resorts to the north and fishing villages and authentic tavernas in the east.
The question is, what to discover first? Here are seven of the best things to do in Crete:
- Chania Old Town
- Elafonissi Beach
- The Palace of Knossos
- Chania harbour
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum
- Samariá Gorge
1. Chania Old Town
Unlock the charms of Chania, a gorgeous port city on the north-west coast of the island. A breathtaking old town is at its heart, with a warren of narrow streets lined with Venetian and Ottoman architecture and decorated with blossoming bougainvillea. Amble around to seek out the Byzantine city walls and see if you can spot the Minoan ruins hidden among the passageways.
2. Elafonissi Beach
Spending a day at the beach is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Crete. But if you’re going to visit any, make it Elafonissi, counted as one of the best beaches in the world according to TripAdvisor. Close your eyes and conjure up an image of paradise – this vision is a reality at this achingly-beautiful spot in the south-west of the island. Pink-tinged sands and shallow turquoise waters create a truly magical setting to relax in the sun.
3. The Palace of Knossos
These Minoan ruins on the outskirts of Heraklion date back to nearly 2,000 years BC and are both mesmerising and mind-boggling. The Palace of Knossos was excavated by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans at the beginning of the 20th century, who went on to spearhead a restoration of some parts of the complex. Meander around the archaeological site and explore the grand labyrinth of apartments, royal rooms, ancient frescoes and colourful columns.
4. Chania harbour
The 14th-century Venetian harbour at the port city of Chania is as pretty as they come. Think brightly-painted houses, bustling restaurants and tables blanketed in gingham. Stroll to the 16th-century lighthouse at the mouth of the harbour and admire the views from the sea walls. Afterwards, stop off for a bite to eat along the waterfront. Freshly-caught fish is the order of the day, washed down with a glass of fiery local raki.
5. Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Trace the island’s lineage at this intriguing museum, one of the best in the country. A treasure trove of Minoan, Roman and Neolithic artefacts fill the exhibits across two storeys. There are vases, statues, frescoes and pieces of jewellery to see that date back more than five millennia, creating a rich tapestry of history.
Take a boat out from Elounda to this tiny island and learn about its harrowing history – the tale will tug at your heart strings. First it served as a Venetian fortress in the 16th century, before becoming a leper colony in 1903. Spinalonga was abandoned in 1957 after a cure for leprosy was found, but you can still wander the eerie streets of the island and get a feel for what life was like here.
7. Samariá Gorge
Pack your walking shoes and set off on an expedition through Samariá Gorge. Descend into this bewitching beauty spot and enjoy a trek along the 16km trail which winds through Europe’s longest canyon. You’ll pass Alpine forest, vivid wildflowers, springs and narrow gorge walls along the way. Don’t forget to pack a picnic – you’ll be hungry after all the walking!
Experience all the top things to do in Crete and more when you book a getaway to this beautiful island with Jet2holidays.
Posted: 7th Mar 2023.