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If you are planning a trip to Crete, then you are in for a treat! This jewel of the Med has so much to offer with ancient ruins, fantastic museums, idyllic beaches, soaring mountains and some delicious local produce. With so many things to do in Crete, it can feel a bit overwhelming to know where to start, but with our advice you will get a great overview of what this fabulous island has to offer. We will explore Crete’s wine culture, its ancient past and two of its unmissable natural wonders. Read on and start planning your trip to this Greek paradise!
Wine has been produced and consumed on Crete for over 4000 years. Over that time the reputation of Crete’s wines has fluctuated, but is currently on the up with a burgeoning wine renaissance producing some fantastic, high-quality wines. The island’s climate is perfect for growing vines and has a number of flourishing native varieties, such as Kotsifali, Mandilari, Thrapsathiri, Vilana and Dafni. Today’s producers combine these varieties with modern ones from Europe, such as French Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, to create unique flavours.
Whether you are a wine connoisseur or simply enjoy a good tipple, it is well worth spending an afternoon tasting some wonderful local wines in the company of an expert producer. One of our favourites is family-run Dourakis Winery located in the foothills of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) in the historic village of Alikambos. Founded with the vision of Andreas Dourakis in the 1980s this award-winning winery produces 17 varietals which are transformed into a assortment of delicious wines.
You can learn all about the production of the wines during a tasting experience at Dourakis. There are a number of different options to choose from, but you can visit the vines, take a tour of the production area and explore the storage cellars before the best bit – tasting the wines! Tastings are informative and include some typical Cretan snacks, including fresh olives from the garden. This is an experience that you do not want to miss!
Crete has a long and fascinating history dominated by the ancient Minoan civilisation that flourished on the island during the Bronze Age. Over 1000 years this civilisation became the most advanced in Europe, built colossal buildings, creating stunning works of art, complex writing systems and a huge network of trade stretching across the Mediterranean and beyond. The island is also the setting for some of the best know Greek myths, such as Theseus and the Minotaur and Daedalus and Icarus.
While you can and should visit the ancient remains of this civilisation at Knossos and Malia, nothing quite brings the history and myths of the island’s past to life like Chania’s Minoan World! Take a step into the past in this fun immersive experience that includes a 3D museum and a 9D cinematic extravaganza. Walk through the museum, hear about the mythical tales of the island and interact with the life-like statues with your phone for some truly memorable photo experiences. Next it is onto the multisensory 9D film where you can encounter the minotaur, fly with Icarus and visit the ancient monuments of the Minoans. Be prepared for cinematic thrills, as bubbles, fog, rain, earthquakes, lightning, wind, snow combined with a 3D film that brings the past of Crete to life!
For a memorable beach experience, head to one of the world’s best rated beaches, Elafonisi with its gorgeous pink sands.
Located on Crete’s southwest coast, Elafonisi is an island separated from the main island by a shallow lagoon and can be reached by a sand bar that is only submerged up to 1 metre at high-tide. This island is a nature reserve that is home to many rare species of plants and animals, many of which cannot be found elsewhere. It is a quiet Mediterranean paradise with soft pink sands that are formed from the pink shellfish that inhabit the lagoon. Elafonisi is a beautiful place to sit back and relax and, in the evening, it is one of the best places to watch the sunset into the sea!
The best time to visit is either side of the peak summer period as the mainland beach gets extremely busy. Unlike on the mainland beach, there are no chairs or umbrellas on Elafonisi and no other facilities, so you will need to make your way back across the sandbank to use the toilet or to get refreshments. Keep in mind that it is ap protected reserve!
Crete was home to Europe’s oldest civilisation, the Minoans, who lived on the island between 3000 and 1450 BC. It was a hugely successful and influential civilisation with artefacts found across the Mediterranean from their extensive trade network. The wealth generated by trade made the Minoans a powerful empire and they left behind them some magnificent monuments. This includes huge palaces at Knossos and Phaistos that were up to 4 stories high with had plumbing systems and elaborate wall murals.
You can find out more about the history of the ancient Minoans in Heraklion’s fascinating Archaeological Museum. It houses many of the artefacts found during the excavations by Sir Arthur Evans in the early 1900s and since and is considered one of the best museums in Greece! Here you can follow the growth of the Minoan civilisation from the Neolithic period until its decline during the Greek Dark Ages. There is pottery, jewellery, armour, weapons, whole frescoes from the palaces and the famous ivory figurine of a man jumping over a bull.
Other must-see artefacts are the Phaistos Disc which is carved with an untranslated script that still baffles experts to this day and the Arkalochori Axe inscribed with 15 mysterious symbols.
For an active adventure in Crete with some unforgettable views, put your hiking boots on and begin the trek through the breath-taking Samaria Gorge.
The hike begins at the Omalos Plateau where the mighty cliffs soar 300 metres high and is 16 km long along a ravine. The walk is rocky and difficult in parts but is worth the effort for the staggering scenery as you make your way along the trail. At points the ravine will narrow to just 4 metres across in an area known as the ‘Gates’ or the ‘Iron Gates’, which looks like a scene right out of a Lord of the Rings film!
The gorge is also a national park and a protected UNESCO Biosphere with rare plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else. Along the way make sure to keep an eye out for the elusive, endangered kri-kri mountain goat. This fleet footed creature makes climbing and descending the steep cliffs look like easy!
These are just some of the many things to do in Crete, but will give you a fantastic overview of some of the best places to visit during your stay.Back to overview
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.