The island of Crete has a long, long history. It was once home to the ancient Minoan civilization, which predates the Greek civilization and was once one of the most influential in the region. Growing up, I was fascinated by the Minoans – I even did a special history report on them in 9th grade! Crete holds a special place in my heart because that report and the fact that the capital of Knossos has some impressive ruins. More than ancient ruins, though, Crete has beautiful beaches, excellent hiking, quaint little historic towns, delicious food and wine, and friendly, welcoming locals. I love the island and it’s size ensures you can visit and find little places to escape the crowds of tourists (this travel guide can help!).
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Crete
1. Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
2. Visit Loutro
3. Visit Chania Town
4. Visit Knossos
5. Hike Samaria Gorge
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Check out the Yakinthia Festival
This is an annual festival of music and dance that features presentations on Greek mythology. It’s a festive party that locals really get into. Don’t miss it.
2. Visit the Castello del Molo
For a 5 EUR entrance fee, you can explore this ancient castle and ruins on a self-guided tour. The view from on top of the fort is worth the trip in itself. You get to see the lovely hills that dot the island.
3. Visit ancient Aptera
A wonderful day trip and opportunity to try local wines and cheese. Besides indulging in food and drink, you can walk through the ancient town and explore the underground water reservoirs.
4. See the Lassithi Plateau
If you enjoy Greek mythology, come here. Rumored to be the birthplace of Zeus, it’s a fascinating sight and also another low-cost way to spend your day.
5. Eat at Waves on the Rock
This little restaurant serves the freshest and tastiest seafood that you can ever hope to find. It is tucked away and slightly difficult to find but recommended by anyone who knows about it. There are even rooms for rent above the restaurant for those that want to hang out in the area for a few days.
6. Explore Dikteon Cave
One of the major sights of Lasithi, this cave system covers over 2,000 square meters. Surrounded by ancient Greek mythology, there have been various discoveries that indicate this cave was once a place of cult worship. Additionally, there are tons of various stalactite and stalagmite formations.
7. Visit Rethymnon
Located in the northwest part of Crete, this city is most famous for its spectacular, 11-km long beach and the Venetian fortress. After you have had your fill of beach days, head over to the fortress for an engaging afternoon. It is the largest Venetian castle ever built.
8. Take a trip to Spinalonga Island
Long before this island was a leper colony, the Venetians built a fortress on the island, and then it was taken over by the Ottoman Empire.