Reviewed on Aug. 26, 2020
Reviewed on Oct. 8, 2020
Reviewed on Oct. 31, 2020
Sunbathe on white sands beneath ancient pine trees, walk through Europe’s longest gorge and explore hillside olive groves on Greece’s biggest island. The narrow island of Crete, the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, has a landscape inscribed with ancient Minoan history stretching back thousands of years. Discover the captivating cities along the island’s northern shores and explore the white-sand beaches that line the south coast like a string of pearls. Check out historic Venetian architecture, discover archaeological relics and travel through pristine national parks that stretch from mountaintops to pink-sand beaches.
Crete’s biggest city, Heraklion , is a sprawling metropolis with a picturesque old town along its historic port. Find out about Crete’s fascinating heritage at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum or the Natural History Museum . Make your way west along the coastline to find the breathtaking historic towns of Rethymnon and Chania . With its Venetian mansions, labyrinthine alleys and beautiful waterfront, Chania is the ideal spot to unwind and enjoy some of the island’s fantastic dining.
Explore western Crete to find the rugged beauty of the White Mountains, a gleaming mountain range that towers over the townships of the south coast. Hike down the 10-mile (16-kilometer) trail that follows the deep ravine of Samaria Gorge and reach the charming fishing town of Agia Roumeli. Catch a boat to the neighboring town of Lissos to walk among ancient ruins dating back to the 4th century B.C.
At low tide stroll to Elafonisi island where the beach has a shoreline of pale pink quartz sand. Many Cretan beaches are equipped with lounge chairs and sun umbrellas. Rent a chair and relax with expansive Mediterranean Sea views.
As you travel between townships, you’ll see pretty hillside groves of olive and citrus trees. Stop at a roadside taverna to enjoy fresh local produce and Cretan specialty cheeses. Many restaurants offer a local brandy, raki, to be enjoyed after meals.
Reach Crete by flying into the major airports in Chania or Heraklion. Alternatively, catch a 9-hour ferry from Athens. The climate is warm and dry between mid-May to October, with a peak in tourism between July and August. Visit in spring to see a flourish of wildflowers across the mountainous landscape.