In the center of the Mediteranean sea lays a wonder of nature. A marvelous island that hides natural wonders, cultural treasures, myths and legends, tastes and flavors that will surprise the most demanding visitor.
Crete is a majestic island in Greece where travelers can combine a beautiful beach with a lovely cooling cocktail, a silent gorge, a local restaurant with a surprising flow of flavors, or a trekking route that leads you to a rural village where people welcome you with a smile a glass of raki. So pack your bags and let’s explore the possibilities Crete has to offer.
Crete is the largest island of Greece and covers a total area of nearly 9,000 km. In addition there are the mountains of Idi and Dikti.
Some of them include the National Park of the Samaria Gorge, which is a 16 km long trekking route in the White Mountains on the South West end of Crete, the only natural palm tree Forest of Vai on the East coast of the island, as well as, the E4 European Long Distance Walking Path of 320km that starts from Kasteli Kisamou from the West and ends in Kato Zakros to the East. However all these routes are not always pleasant in the heat of summer so be careful when you choose an outdoor excursion.
If you are the beach type of person then the long coastline of Crete has a lot to offer. Accessible beaches are all over the island. Overall you must have in mind that the North coast has more sandy, easier accessible, children friendly, and organized beaches, where the south has more rough, rocky, and secluded beaches that are ideal for campers, scuba divers, and nudists.
In Crete, 97 beaches have been awarded with a Blue flag, which is an international award for most beautiful beaches. Some of them include Kavros, Xrisi Akti, Kalamaki, and Agia Marina from the municipality of Chania, Skaleta, Bali, Agia Galini from the area of Rethimnon, Matala, Fodele, and Potamos from Iraklion, and Istron Bay, Mirtos, Agia Fotia, Elounda, Makrigialos from the area of Lasithi. If you have the urge and you are the exploring type though you will be able to find a lot more beaches which will surprise you on their natural beauty and crystal clean waters.
During the tourist season (mid April-end of October) and especially during the summer months all major cities of the island are full of life. The biggest cities of Iraklion and Chania have nothing to de jealous of from other cosmopolitan urban centers of the world. Shopping is easy in the centers where visitors can find old markets full of local products that vary from fruits and vegetables, to spices, to tourist souvenirs, and of course clothes and shoes. In other words shopping possibilities are endless.
What will amaze all visitors though is the way within which these cities combine the old with the new. A walk around the cities will unfold a piece of their history and tradition. Crete has always been the center of attention for several different empires due to its strategic position. Arabs, Venetians, Ottomans have all left their mark in the architecture of the cities and people of Crete have kept the memories and added to it the modern way of life. Having a drink between the Venetian walls or with the view of the old port does not sound such a bad idea after all.
Suggestions on where to go and what to do are available on almost every tourist blog, magazine, brochure, and guide that makes reference to Crete. What we suggest is that you get out of the hotel and explore. The island is vast and the variety of sceneries and locals will amaze you. The vibes of the cities will drug you along and hospitality is considered a sacred duty for the people of Crete. The author of Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis once said that for the people of Crete, every foreign visitor is a small god. Do your best to escape the touristic resorts and go to the small villages where the spontaneous character and the vividness of the expressions you will see from the people you will meet will make Crete a destination you will not forget.
People of Crete escort their life events of every nature with food. You will be amazed with the variety of fresh products you will find available in any market. What is even more surprising is the imagination used in the kitchen so the result is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Every household will welcome you with a glass of raki and a dakos or even a glass of wine. Do not be afraid to explore flavors outside the mousaka and the tzatziki. Local cuisine is largely based on seasonal ingredients and herbal aromas which will enrich your pallet with a variety of flavors.
Take your time and do not rush things. It is better to take things easy and enjoy the most of what is accessible to you rather than be in a hurry in order to see everything. Crete is a very big island and it will be almost impossible to see everything. So plan your routes and make the most out of them. You will definitely not run out of choices and possibilities. There are a lot of things that are happening on the island, especially during the summer seasons, like big traditional festivals, culinary events, music shows of an ethnic nature, religious festivities and so on that are not mentioned in any travel guide. Talk to locals and they will give you advice on the best there is to know.
Guest post contributed by Giorgos Maltezakis of Tasting Crete.