With so many things to do in Crete, it’s easy to see why this gorgeous island is one of the most popular summer destinations. Crete is a place filled with history, stunning landscape and incredible food. Spend some time in Crete and you’ll realize you are spoilt for choice with so many incredible options for you and your loved ones.
Crete is the largest island in Greece and well known for its varied landscape. You’ll find yourself basking in the sun in the morning, then hiking rugged mountains en route to the Ideon Cave, the birthplace of Zeus. The capital offers myriad options for culture, including Minoan artifacts, Bronze Age settlements as well as shopping opportunities and delightful restaurants and bars.
Stay in Heraklion and explore the island from there, with a few day-trips to incredible locations.
Have a romantic time
Greece is honeymoon heaven so why not make your holiday to Crete into a beautiful romantic trip? With so many gorgeous beaches, luxury hotels and warm hospitality, you’re guaranteed to have an incredible time. Stay in a hotel which overlooks the ocean and allow the staff to take good care of you or organize day trips for you.
Culture time at Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Get your history hat on and visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. It is considered one of the best in Greece and the best in the world for Minoan art. The museum has 20 rooms filled with artifacts dating back to 2600BC. The museum is open April–September, Monday 12–7pm Tuesday–Sunday 8am–7pm, October–March daily 8am–5pm.
Have a proper Greek meal
You didn’t visit Crete until you sat down for a proper meal. This is going to revolutionize the way you look at food because, in Crete, food is a religion. The first rule is to arrive at the restaurant with an empty stomach and to pace yourself as you’ll have to enjoy several courses plus wine and local drinks. Seafood, cheeses, honey, sweets and meats, all there for you to love.
Purchase authentic souvenirs
Remember the beautiful memories you made in Crete and get an authentic souvenir to always remember your holiday. Or better yet, grab a few more for family and friends as well. Visit the market of 1866 Str., and get small jars of locally produced olives, raki, oils, Cretan rusks, traditional Cretan knives, and hand made woven which truly represent the Greek culinary heritage.
Take a day trip to Santorini
When you position yourself in the heart of Heraklion, you are just minutes walk away from the port. Take the morning ferry for a day trip to Santorini and marvel at the iconic blue roofs. The whitewashed houses cling to cliffs above an underwater crater. You’ll be spoiled for pretty views and incredible photography options.
Once you return from Santorini, make your way back to the hotel and have a rewarding cocktail to end the evening in style.
Visit the Samaria Gorge
One of the main tourist attractions on the island, The Samariá Gorge is a National Park of Greece since 1962. You can arrange for a driver to take you there so you can spend the day hiking along the small river running between the White Mountains and Mt. Volakias.
Visit the Rethymnon Old Town
Located around one hour and a half away from Heraklion, Rethymnon Old Town is beautiful and atmospheric. It can get a little crowded during the summer months, so it’s best to keep it as an option if you visit Crete during the off-season months.
The seafront looks beautiful and there are several bars and restaurants along the main walking path for your lunch enjoyment.
See how olive oil is made
Ah, the delicious Greek olive oil which tastes so good, it became world-famous. No Greek delicacy comes without a dash of olive oil. In fact, olive oil is so deeply imprinted in the Greek hospitality, that guests are sometimes welcomed with bread, olive oil, salt, and local spirits.
So how is olive oil made? Visit one of the many olive orchards and see the process of making olive oil from scratch. Learn about the history of the olive oil presses and sample a variety of different oils to understand its properties. At the end of the tour, you can always grab a few bottles as souvenirs, to cook traditional Greek food at home, once the holiday is over.
Chill in Balos Lagoon
Balos Lagoon is located around 3 hours away from Heraklion, so to get there as a day trip we recommend hiring a driver for your comfort. The Balos Lagoon is one of the most beloved beaches in Crete with soft sands and marvelous hues of blue. Before heading back to Heraklion, visit Cape Korykon as there are remains of the small Roman town of Agnio with the temple of Apollo.
Shop in Heraklion
Who doesn’t love a bit of a shopping spree during the holiday? Since Heraklion is the capital of Crete, you can meander on its shopping streets in search of fun fashion boutiques. Beyond the main chains and usual shops you may be accustomed to, you’ll also find independent stores with their own unique take on fashion. It’s a great way to purchase something different and support the local economies.
Walk around Chania
Just two hours away from Heraklion, Chania is a lovely city located on the northwest coast of Crete. Visit the 14th-century Venetian harbor and walk Chania’s narrow streets. Have lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants and photograph the mesmerizing 16th-century lighthouse with Egyptian, Venetian, and Ottoman influences. For history buffs, head over to the Archaeological Museum of Chania before heading back to Heraklion for the evening.
Visit a Minoan site
Central Crete is known for its major Minoan sites. The Minoans were a Bronze Age civilization which once dominated southern Europe. Visit the Palace of Knossos, the most well known Minoan site in Crete. Its ruins were discovered in 1900 by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans who spent 35 years excavating and reconstructing it.
Hike to Ideon Andron
Located on Mt Ida or Psiloritis, the highest mountain in Crete, the Ideon Cave is one of the greatest cave sanctuaries in Crete, as important as the major Greek temples. It flourished in antiquity (4000 BC to the 1st century AD).
The Ideon Cave was famous for being the place where Zeus was born. Zeus is the god of the sky, lightning, and thunder in Ancient Greek religion and myth, and king of the gods on Mount Olympus.
However, these claims were contested by the Dikteon Cave, located in the eastern side of Crete. The Dikteon Cave is located at an altitude of 1025 meters on the northern slopes of Mount Dicte, which dominates the Lassithi Plateau. The archaeological finds have shown uninterrupted human presence in the Cave from the end of the Neolithic period onwards.
The most impressive sight of the cave is the lake at the lowest point, surrounded by large stalactites and stalagmites.
Who doesn’t love a good story? Either way, they are both stunning places to visit and you can take a car, or hike the mountains if you visit during the summertime. On your way to these mountains, it is worth enjoying the panoramic views and the refreshing mountain air, scented with Cretan thyme, sage, and other local aromatic herbs.
Rent a car to explore Crete’s mountains
Feeling a little adventurous? Rent a car and explore Crete’s rugged terrain. Visit the small town of Anogia and stop along the way to admire the tall mountains of Crete. If you visit during April, you can still admire some of the snowy peaks along the way. Make sure to dress for the weather as from the stunning and warm beaches in Crete, you’ll meet rain and wind in the mountainous terrain.
Enjoy Elafonisi Beach
Are you a beach bum who loves hunting for the best beaches around the world? Look no further as the Elafonisi Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete. To get to it, it’s best if you hire a car or get a driver for the day, as it is located 3,5 hours away from Heraklion. The iconic lagoon offers stunning shallow, turquoise waters, white and pink sand. Pretty incredible if you ask us.
What will you do in Crete?
Author: Cory Varga | You Could Travel