I'm in love with Crete! Of all the Greek Islands I have visited, this is my favorite. In Greece there are more than 6,000 islands and Crete is the largest of them all. It measures 265 km long and between 10 and 56 km wide. The distances are somewhat long and therefore, if you are thinking of traveling to Crete, I recommend that you plan a route and stay in different parts of the island. At least, you will need about 5 or 6 days to see the essential places to see in Crete. Although if you can add some more, the better.
In this post I tell you about the 20 essential places to see in Crete and I add several links to related posts so you can prepare your trip to Crete.
20 ESSENTIALS TO SEE IN CRETE, GREECE
1. Visit Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa Island
Balos Lagoon is one of the most incredible places in the world. In a paradise of white sand that stands out with the intense light blue of the sea. It's really beautiful.
The best way to get to the lagoon is by renting a car. It is the most comfortable way to get around Crete. The beach has a paid parking lot, it costs around 4 euros and once you manage to park, you will have to walk about 15 minutes until you reach the lagoon.
You can also get to the Lagoon by boat. Boats leave daily from the port of Kissamos. The journey is beautiful, in addition to seeing the lagoon from the sea, you will be able to contemplate the natural environment of this part of the Cretan coast.
And finally, you can also book an organized excursion. This excursion includes boat transportation, food according to type and guide.
2. Chania, an essential city to see in Crete
Chania is a very special and charming city. Without a doubt, it is the most beautiful city to see in Crete. The port is an area full of small restaurants that offer traditional Greek cuisine on the shores of the sea, its waves breaking just a few meters from the tables. The colorful houses give Chania a postcard look. The city has many things to see and it is worth staying for at least 2 nights. I recommend taking a guided tour of Chania to see all its emblematic places and learn more about its history.
Posts from Chania that may interest you:
3. Samaria Gorge
Samira Gorge is the longest canyon in Europe with a total of 16 km. It is a beautiful and essential natural environment to see in Crete. This canyon descends from the highest mountains of the island, at an altitude of 1230 meters to sea level. You can do many hiking routes, get close to several of its viewpoints and even if you are a little lucky, you will be able to see the Kri-kri goat, a native animal of the island.
4. Visit the city of Herklion and the Sea Rock Fortress
The city of Heraklion is a must see in Crete. The Roca del Mar fortress, which dates back to the 13th century, is the most important place to see in the city. Although you cannot miss the historic center, the cathedral of Agios Minas (which I tell you about in the next point), the archaeological museum that houses a large collection of Greek archeology, the church of San Titus...
5. The Agos Minas Cathedral
The Agos Minas Cathedral, located in Heraklion, is an essential place that you cannot miss in the city. It is an Orthodox Cathedral inaugurated in 1895. It impresses with its two large towers and its beautiful dome.
Inside the cathedral, the dome is full of brightly colored frescoes. Do not miss it! This Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Minas, the patron saint of Heraklion. Right next to it you can see a small temple dedicated to the same saint.
6. The Minoan Palace of Knossos, a must see in Crete
Near Heraklion, just 5km away, you will find the remains of the Palace of Knossos, a must-see in Crete. This striking Palace was built in approximately 2000 BC. It was the cultural and political center of a Minoan civilization.
Knossos is considered the oldest city in Europe. And it is estimated that at its maximum splendor the city had around 100 thousand inhabitants.
Today, you can visit the ruins of the Palace. These ruins were discovered in 1878 and since then, several archaeologists from around the world have dedicated themselves to reconstructing some of the 1,200 rooms at the site.
The Palace has suffered due to an earthquake, the eruption of a volcano... which is why it has needed several renovations over the years, the last one dating back to 1450 BC.
If you still don't have a hotel in Crete, at quehoteles you have a wide variety of accommodation, different categories and great offers.
7. The Minoan Palace of Phaistos
The city of Phaistos was of great importance during the Minoan era. Today, the remains of the Minoan Palace of Phaistos can still be seen. At the site you will be able to see that this palace was not as striking as the Palace of Knossos, it has a much simpler architecture.
In 1908 the Phaistos disk was discovered in the Palace. It is a clay disc with inscriptions on both sides.
8. The historic center of Rethymnon
Rethymnom is the third largest city in Crete. It is worth including it on your travel route through Crete for its beautiful historic center. Its stone buildings, small restaurants and cafes, interior courtyards and balconies full of flowers, make the historic center of Rethymnon a special place to see in Crete.
9. The Arkasi Monastery, a key place during the revolution against the Ottoman occupation
The Arkasi Monastery is an essential place to see in Crete. It is located near Rethymnon, so you can visit them on the same day. It is almost 8 centuries old. It was an important and key place during the revolution against the Ottoman occupation in 1866. Almost a million people chose this place to take refuge during one of the battles. After three days of battle, when everything was against the inhabitants of Crete, they decided to bombard the monastery and sacrifice themselves, before surrendering to the Ottomans.
10. Lake Kournas, a natural wonder to see in Crete
Lake Kournas is located in the center of Crete, surrounded by a beautiful natural environment. It is the only freshwater lake on the island. It is beautiful and you can do several activities, including renting a boat and taking a ride, renting a kayak or even paddle surfing.
11. Visit Spinalonga Island, a great activity to do in Crete
Spinalonga Island was used as one of the last leper colonies in Europe and was closed in 1957. Currently, the island is a “ghost island” with ruined buildings abandoned since the closure. It has a certain charm and is a great activity to do in Crete. You can take a boat from the Port of Agios Nikolaos to the island that leaves daily.
There are several excursions that go to Spinalonga Island and several of them combine visits with other places of interest.
Excursions to Spinalonga Island:
12. Loutro, one of the most charming towns to see in Crete
Loutro is a picturesque town with barely 50 inhabitants. It is an essential place to see in Crete. To get there, go to the port of Chora Sfakia and take a ferry that takes around 20 minutes. It stands out for its postcard image full of white houses on the cliff, surrounded by mountains and beautiful beaches of intense light blue.
13. The Lasithi Mills
The Lasithi Mills are located on the Lasithi plateau. It is an area with small towns and many mills that surround them. In the past they were used as an irrigation system thanks to the energy produced. Although, nowadays they are no longer in use and are a traditional and curious sight to see in Crete.
14. La Gortina, an essential Neolithic ruins to visit in Crete
Gortina is a must see in Crete, without a doubt. It is a historical complex with ruins from the Neolithic, ruins from the Minoan era and later ruins from the Roman era. In the complex is the Basilica of Agios Titos, built in the 7th century, in the Byzantine style. As a curiosity, this was the place where Saint Titus was martyred.
15. The city Agios Nkolaos
Agios Nkolaos is a city located in the east of the island. It is more of a beautiful large fishing town. It is quite touristy and if you travel in high season it can be a bit overwhelming, but it is worth visiting. The city also has an interesting archaeological site to visit, the Gournia archaeological site. You also cannot miss the Kremasta monastery located between mountains.
16. Lake Voulismeni
Lake Voulismeni is located in the city of Agios Nikolaos and is a lake that connects directly to the sea. The city surrounds this lake and along the shore you will find a fishing port full of shops, cafes, restaurants and some hotels.
17. The Cave of Zeus
One of the facts that caught my attention the most is that Crete has more than 3000 caves. Come on, it's practically full of holes. This cave is located near the town of Psychro and stands out among the others for its legend.
According to legend, the Titaness Rhea, daughter of Uranus and Gaia and wife of brother Cronus, gave birth to Zeus, which is why she is named that way. Although it is not the only version, as in any story, there are always many stories. The most popular among locals is that Titanide Rhea hid her son there to protect him from his father, the fearsome Cronus, who wanted to swallow the baby.
Whatever the reality, the cave is beautiful and interesting to visit. In it you will be able to appreciate stalactites and stalagmites of all sizes through a tour.
18. The Island of Gavdos
Gavdos Island is a beautiful island that you can visit from Crete. She has always been related to the nymph Calypso. The island is full of beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters, small towns including Ampelos, Vatsiana and the town of Kastri. You can get there from the ports of Chora Sfakion and the port of Palaiochora.
19. Falasarna, one of the most beautiful beaches to see in Crete
Falasarna beach is one of the most beautiful in Crete. The sand is a tan color that stands out with the little vegetation of the mountain behind it, with the black stones and the intense light blue. It is a quiet and quite large beach and is a good option to spend the day in the sun, snorkeling…
20. The most beautiful beaches in Crete
Although Falasarna I think I could say that it is one of my favorite beaches in Crete, it is not the only one. Crete is a true paradise in Europe. You can find beaches of all kinds; further away, virgin, with rocks and white sand, toasted sand... and all of them stand out for the beautiful intense turquoise blue color of their waters. In the post the most beautiful beaches in Crete I explain more about which are the best on the island, how to get there...
POSTS FROM CRETE THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Crete and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue readingmany more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!