There’s no better way to discover a country or city than to see it like a local. Meet the local people, learn a little culture and take a piece of it with you. We want you to have the best time possible in this beautiful country. To soak up everything that makes Crete, well; Crete.
Crete’s capital city is Heraklion, a vibrant and charming city bursting with cultural sights, glorious nature, and a smorgasbord of delicious dining. There are plenty of tourist spots in Crete, like the palace of Knossos, Zeus Cave, and the famed island of Spinalonga. But let us show you the hidden gems. Follow us into the unknown and experience Crete from a new and refreshing angle.
Day trip like a Cretan
If you’re visiting from April to November the glorious warm months, there are so many picturesque villages to enjoy a quaint afternoon luncheon in Crete. Balconies with endless views, terraces with calming shade, squares with exquisite architecture. Charming villages like Spilia. Home of the historical Aqueduct Agia Irini Spilia and only 15 minutes journey from Heraklion. Complete with a stunningly built water bridge and a charming church where you can picnic in the grounds.
If you want to get off the beaten path and see some truly beautiful landscape. Karteros gorge East of Heraklion is just a 30-minute drive away and is a nature lover’s paradise. There are 5 main entrances including one from Aitania village (bridge of Aitania). The whole trip takes 3.5 hours and is perfect for families as the terrain is mild and well marked. After hiking to your heart’s content, picnic in paradise among fields of wildflowers. Listening to the calls of more than 44 species of birds that inhabit the gorge.
Another perfect picnic spot is Zoniana village. Home to one of Crete’s most fascinating caves. Located at top of Mount Idi, Sfendoni Cave is intricately beautiful, covered in delicate stalactites and stalagmites. Don’t forget to swing by the Zoniana Museum. One of only two wax museums in Greece full of fascinating wax crafts and curiosities.
How to pack the perfect local picnic
We think the best day out deserves the best snacks, and packing up a luxurious picnic for a day out in Crete is just the ticket. Head to the deli and fill up a basket worthy of a Grecian Goddess. We love the traditional bread made with ‘prozimi’. It pairs perfectly with local thyme honey and butter. A Cretan picnic basket would never be complete without a little Cretan cheese! Gruyere is a cheese matured in wood and has origins from both Crete and Naxos island. You can fill up your basket with nuts of every kind. Smoked almonds combined with Kariki white wine is a taste sensation! Top everything off with homemade biscuits (made of orange and sesame and olive oil).
A sunny day picnic in Crete would not be complete without a refreshing beverage, and we’ve got just the thing to invigorate your senses. A personal herbal tea made with a collection of fresh ingredients. Wander through this sensual shop at your leisure and pick out your favorites. Then grab a big pot filled with water and place in on the hob to simmer. Herbs like lavender, mountain tea, diktamos, louiza, lemonochorto, dried roses and faskomilo come together in harmony to make the most amazing tea you have ever tasted. Store it in a thermos for a warming kick on a chilly day, or chill with ice for a summertime pick me up.
Luckily for us, we didn’t have to search for our basket’s goodies, transport or picnic spot. Everything was arranged by the hotel‘s concierge super team, which included homemade pies, superfood cakes and even picnic blankets!
A day at the beach – local style
When you live on the holiday isle of Crete, every day is a holiday, no?
Day trip like a true Cretan and get out on the water to partake in a little recreational bliss. Sailing to Dia island is a firm favorite among the locals. An unforgettable adventure out into the pristine waters where if you’re lucky, you’ll spot hoards of dolphins riding the cresting waves. Hop aboard a private yacht for €100 per person (minimum of 5, lunch included). Set sail in style and luxury on your private piece of paradise and enjoy the remote Dia Island in glorious tranquillity. Just you, the sand, the sea, and some delicious seafood if you’re up for a bit of fishing in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean.
A little further out, but packed with breathtaking scenery is Sfakia (3hrs from Heraklion). Where you can sail to distant bays of Loutro, Marmara, and the remarkably serene Gavdos island. If you have the time to spend, you won’t regret it. The island is a slice of paradise on Earth. Crystal clear azure waters full of life, surrounded by dazzling sand and the shade of elegant pine trees. So beautiful it inspired Homer to use it as the place where Odysseus was shipwrecked.
After a refreshing day out on the ocean, you’re sure to be feeling the spirit of Greece. Once your feet are firmly planted back on the land, it’s time for a spot of dancing and a cocktail or two. Swing Thing is one of the best cocktail bars in Heraklion and it’s no surprise why. The bartender is a specialist cocktail master and makes amazing and unique specialty cocktails that change every month. It’s truly one of a kind!
Discover the secrets of Crete
Feeling like a bit of culture on your family holiday? Sometimes endless days at the beach can get boring. Spring and Autumn in Crete is the perfect time to explore the inner city and check out some of the fabulous architecture and cultural sights right in the center. A short walk to Cafe Platanos in St Titos Square is the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon. Then sit and admire the exquisite architecture of the Church of Saint Titus while the kids play in the square.
When you’re a local, getting off the beaten path is just the everyday. But you don’t have to live in Crete to find its hidden treasures. A trip to Mochos village (1hr ride away from Heraklion) is just the ticket. It’s far from the madding crowd and offers a plethora of relaxing and fun opportunities in the wonderfully picturesque surroundings of a city with a history that stretches back into the 8th century. The quaint town is filled with picturesque churches decorated with Byzantine icons and courtyards filled with flowers that are especially gorgeous in summer.
If you’re around on the 14th and 15th August it’s the ideal time to enjoy this colorful village for the celebrations of Maria (mother of Christ). The festivals are held all over Greece, but Mochos village is particularly special. After the services, every restaurant and space in the square becomes packed with people laughing and enjoying the festivities. Get among them and have the experience of a lifetime listening to traditional Cretan Lyra music, eating fresh local foods, and dancing the night away with the friendly locals.
Taste local favorites
When it comes to food on vacation, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between where is popular, and where is good! To find the best morsels in Crete, whether it be restaurants, street carts, or delis; it’s best to follow the locals. They live here and know where to find the best dolmades, moussaka, and baklava! If you’re a foodie in Heraklion, there are a tonne of places that the locals love, and we’ll share the secrets with you.
The Greek classic souvlakia is always best served hot and fresh on the skewer, and the absolute best place to try it is from ‘Kalamaki’, the corner store in Lions square. Save a little room though, because nearby café KirKor makes the most magnificently mouthwatering “bougatsa” (custard pie).
If you find yourself wandering in the historic streets of Heraklion in winter, there are small tavernas (and takeaways) that make a heartwarming and delicious soup. Chicken soup, beef soup. Or the traditional Greek delicacy, patsas soup. You have to try it to love it! Order your favourite flavour and head down to the harbour and take a relaxing walk along the Venetian Walls. It’s a serene 40-minute walk from the start of Kazantzakis Grave up to the coast.
The walls are fantastic historical marvels all year round. But they come alive in summer. When you can grab some snacks and catch a free film or concert at the open-air cinema inside Pili Vithleem (one of the doors of the Walls). Or free folk art exhibitions at Pili Vitouri.
Crete’s best biscuits are the Carob biscuits. Delicious and healthier than regular cookies as they’re made with carob powder. It has a very unique chocolatey flavour. You can find them in most bakeries.
Looking for a magical experience? Spells cafe in Heraklion is one of a kind. If you have a special occasion to celebrate whilst in Crete, it’s the perfect place! Choose your favourite fairy tale, and the wonderful staff will make your experience unique and unforgettable. Otherwise, stop by anytime for a coffee and cake in a land of fantasy.
When it comes to doughnuts, many countries have their own speciality. Greek doughnuts are called Loukoumades, and they’re absolutely to die for! Classic loukoumades are made with honey, cinnamon & walnuts, and the best ones in Crete can be found at Mia Zoi Loykoymades by the Demeneopoulos brothers. Sweet, puffed up goodness that will have you wanting to come back time and again for another taste of Crete.
Share local favourites
After all the adventuring, it’s time to head home. But don’t say goodbye to your new Cretan roots just yet. Don’t forget to take a piece of the island home with you.
Fill up the gaps in your suitcase with a little treat for your loved ones, or a precious memory for yourself. The chocolates, ‘ION amigdalou’ and ‘Lacta’ and biscuits ‘Papadopoulou Gemista me sokolata’ and ‘Caprice’ chocolate wafers are a must. They are favorites in Greece and became ours too!