Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and the largest overall in Greece. It is known for its beauty and its delicious food in addition to its culture, which spans thousands of years. In the words of Nikos Kazantzakis, Crete’s most famous author, “The mystery of Crete runs deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force coursing warmly and beneficently through their veins, sensing their soul beginning to grow.”
If that sounds good to you (to us it sounds amazing!) let’s take a closer look at the island of Crete.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Crete, Greece?
There are two ideal times to visit Crete. The first is from May to June, before the summer rush and when the island’s lovely wildflowers are in bloom among the island’s other already gorgeous natural sights. The second is from September to October, when the weather begins to cool down and the tourists all go back home.
Our Favorite Things to Do in Crete, Greece
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
The Cretan diet is considered to be one of the healthiest diets on the planet. Everything is based on local vegetables and dairy, and everything is absolutely delicious. Dig into Crete’s most memorable dishes like savory cheese pies, fried snails, lamb cooked with egg, lemon, and artichoke hearts, and kalitsounia, a pastry made with sweet cheese. Oh, and don’t forget to take a shot of the locally made tsikoudia, a strong alcoholic drink reminiscent of schnapps.
Go to a Beach (or Five)
There are a lot of beautiful beaches in the world, especially in the Mediterranean, but Crete is on a whole other level. It has so many swoon-worthy beaches that you may not have time to visit them all. Some of the most picturesque are Falarsana, which is hailed as one of the “finest beaches in the Mediterranean,” and Balos Lagoon and Elafonisi in Chania. Agios Pavlos is also worth a look, thanks to its legendary (and gigantic) sand dunes. And this is barely even a fraction of all the beaches there are to see!
Go to A Museum
Walking around Crete is like walking into a history book. Many of its buildings, structures, and monuments have been standing for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Greece we all know from myth and legend. If you want to see artifacts from these places all in one building, though, you can visit one of Crete’s many museums, including El Greco, the Nikos Kazantzakis Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Historical Museum of Crete.
Some of the Best Attractions in Crete, Greece
The Minoan Palace of Knossos
Located outside Heraklion, Crete’s capital city, the Palace of Knossos was built by the Minoans. These Minoans were considered to be the first “civilized” civilization in Europe, making this an even more impressive monument. It served as the group’s political center, and even played a part in such tales as King Minos and the Minotaur.
Lake Kournas is Crete’s one and only freshwater lake. With tree-covered mountains on one side and white-sand beaches on the other, it is an idyllic spot to relax in nature — and is made even moreso by the birds and ducks that live, eat, and play on the surface of the water. If you want to do more than just look at that sparkling water, you can also go swimming or snorkeling, or rent a paddle boat.
The entire city of Chania is a sight worth seeing, so be sure to stop in here to see a bit of everything. Things to put on your itinerary include the beaches of Elafonisi, whose pink sand makes them look like a dream, and the Chrisoskalitissa Monastery, which was built to honor the Virgin Mary. This one also has an interesting story: according to legend, it is called “Chrisoskalitissa,” which means “golden step” because one of the steps leading into the monastery is made of gold. But, only those who are devoid of sin can see the gold step, which makes it a bit difficult to find someone to verify this!
Other Sights Worth a Visit in Crete, Greece
Aside from its ancient monuments, some of the most impressive aspects of Crete are its natural features. Take Mount Ida, for example. This is the highest point on the island, and is rumored to be the birthplace of the god Zeus. There is also Psychro Cave, the other rumored birthplace of Zeus full of impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Hikers will also enjoy Samariá Gorge: it takes around seven hours to reach the end of the hike, but when you do, you can reward yourself with a nice, long dip in the sea.
Whether you prefer man-made beauty or natural wonders, Crete has something for you, which is just one of the many reasons we picked it as one of the best places to visit in Greece. Just be sure to bring your walking shoes!