The hospitable and sunny island of Crete is one of the most sought-after beach destinations in the Mediterranean. Tourists are waiting for the best beaches in the picturesque bays of the island, the azure and clear sea, as well as the historical antiquities of Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos and Rethymno.
The first civilization originated in Crete several thousand years before the advent of our era. Many historical monuments have come down to us through the thickness of centuries. Today, guests of the island have the opportunity to explore the mysterious labyrinths of the Knossos Palace, admire impregnable Venetian fortresses or look at the ruins of ancient cities.
The swimming season in Crete lasts from the end of May to the end of October. The winter months are ideal for sightseeing, as even in January daytime temperatures rarely drop below 15°C.
What to see and where to go in Crete?
The most interesting and beautiful places for walking. Photos and a short description.
The ancient historical center of the island of Crete, named after the mythological hero Hercules. According to the "Geography" of the ancient Greek thinker, geographer and historian Strabo, the city already existed in the 1st century AD. and was the seaport of the Minoan city of Knossos. Heraklion at various times was owned by Arabs, Byzantines, Venetians and Turks. In the Middle Ages, there was the largest slave market in the entire Mediterranean. The island joined with Greece only at the beginning of the 20th century.
The city is located in the western part of Crete. It was built by the Venetians during their reign on the island. Many sights of Rethymno have perfectly survived to this day, the central place among them is occupied by the Venetian fortress of Fortezza, built at the end of the 16th century. Of the visited and popular places, one can single out the Archaeological and Historical and Ethnographic Museums, the ancient fountain of Rimondi and the Venetian port.
A small town in the north of Crete, a famous and popular tourist destination. The predecessor of modern Agios Nikolaos arose on the site of the ancient Dorian settlement of Lato, but gradually fell into decay. New inhabitants appeared already in the Middle Ages during the Venetian rule. In 1646, as a result of the war with the Turks, the Venetians burned the settlement. Agios Nikolaos was reborn for the third time in the middle of the 19th century.
Water City Water Park
The water park is located in Heraklion, its territory covers an area of more than 80 thousand m². This is the largest water amusement park in Crete. It includes 13 pools and many high-speed slides of different difficulty levels. Also in the water park there are less extreme rides, so every visitor will find something to do. For children, there are separate pools and playgrounds with a variety of water games.
An ancient monument of the Minoan civilization that flourished in Crete during the Bronze Age. According to legend, the Palace of Knossos is the same legendary labyrinth where the terrible Minotaur lived. The monster was defeated only by the hero Theseus. It was the bizarre architecture of the palace-temple with numerous passages, dead ends, rooms and passages that gave rise to the myth of the Minotaur.
The ancient city of Gortyn
The ancient city is 30 km. from Heraklion, founded presumably in the 20th century BC. in the pre-antique era. The settlement witnessed many civilizations: Mycenaean, Dorian, Greek. During the reign of the Roman Empire, Gortyn was the capital of the island of Crete and the residence of the governor. The city existed until the 9th century AD, in 828, during the Arab conquest of Crete, it was turned into ruins.
The sunken city of Olus
An ancient city that went under water around the 2nd century AD. as a result of local displacement of the plates of the earth's crust in the region of East Crete. Finds of archaeological excavations testify that Olus was an independent and developed city, they minted their own coins here and maintained friendly relations with neighboring settlements. Foreigners were allowed to settle in Olus, as evidenced by documents found during excavations.
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
One of the largest museums in Greece, which contains a rich collection of artifacts of the Minoan civilization. Also exhibited in the exhibition halls are exhibits from other periods of the island's history from the Neolithic era to the time of the rule of the Roman Empire. In total, the museum has 20 rooms, arranged in chronological order. During the excavations, new specimens are constantly found, which replenish the museum collections.
Monastery of Arkadi
A unique architectural monument, which was founded in the 5th century AD. The monastery church dates back to the 16th century. The monastery is located on the slopes of Mount Ida at a height of 500 meters. In the 17th century, Turkish invaders plundered the premises and drove the brothers out, but later the monks were allowed to return. In 1866, during the Cretan uprising, the monastery withstood the siege of a 15,000-strong Turkish army.
Monastery of the Holy Trinity
Greek Orthodox monastery of the 17th century. The founders of the monastery are brothers Lavrentiy and Jeremiah, who come from a respected Venetian family. Construction work continued until the second half of the 19th century, as the monastery was repeatedly attacked by the Turks. As a result of such raids, most of the property was looted and burned. Only after the Cretan Revolution the monastery was restored.
Monastery of Preveli
A picturesque monastery of the 16th century, built on the slope of a mountain. The monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople. In the 17th century, the building was destroyed by the Turkish authorities. In the 20th century, Preveli was once again plundered and destroyed by fascist troops. The monastery was closed in 1970, followed by many years of reconstruction. In 2013 the monastery was opened to the public.
Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa
Convent of the XIII century (or X century according to alternative sources). The first written mention of it dates back to the 14th century. The miraculous icon of the Mother of God of the Heart (Kardiotissa), or rather its copy, is kept within the walls of the monastery. The original was stolen in the 15th century and is currently in Rome. It is believed that a copy of the icon also has miraculous properties and is able to cure diseases.
The Venetian Fort in the city of Rethymnon is one of the most significant city attractions. It was erected in the 16th century. Fortezza rises above Rethymnon, it can be seen from any part of the city. The fortress was constantly changing its appearance, during numerous wars with the Turks, the outer walls and buildings suffered. The last restoration lasted almost 20 years, as a result, Fortezza acquired the appearance that it had under the Venetians.
Sea fortress in Heraklion, built by the Venetians in the XIV century. Bas-reliefs depicting a lion, the symbol of the Venetian Republic, are embedded in the main walls of the fort. The name "Kules" was given by the Turks, while the creators of the fort themselves used the name "Rocca al Mar". Which, loosely translated from modern Italian, means "fortress on the sea." The Turks built a small mosque on the territory of the fortification, and also completed the embrasure and space for artillery.
Military Venetian building of the XIV century in the territory of the Cretan community of Sfakion, which was built to protect against pirate raids. In those days, the fortress was called "Castle of St. Nikita", but the name "Frangokastello" was assigned to it, which means "Castle of the Franks". The fort withstood many sieges and assaults, but its walls have survived to this day in relatively good condition.
Island fortress of Spinalonga
Spinalonga is a small island in the eastern part of Crete, located opposite the peninsula of the same name. In the 16th century, the Venetians turned this place into an impregnable fortress, which was supposed to protect the settlements from pirates. On the ruins of the ancient acropolis, a fort so powerful was erected that even the troops of the Ottoman Empire, after the capture of Crete, could not take Spinalonga for another 46 years.
A freshwater lake, around which the Greek "Saint-Tropez" is located - the city of Agios Nikolaos. In depth, the reservoir reaches 64 meters. According to ancient legend, the beautiful Aphrodite and the huntress Artemis took baths in the waters of Voulismeni. Until the middle of the 19th century, local residents believed that evil spirits lived in the lake. Voulismeni is connected to the sea by a canal.
Another freshwater lake in Crete, located in a picturesque green valley. The beaches of Kournas are a great alternative to the seaside resorts of Heraklion and Rethymnon. A variety of birds, turtles and fish live on the banks and in the water depths. The silence and tranquility of the lake are conducive to long boat trips. Once there was a temple of Athena of Coresia, but the building has not survived to this day.
Cave system located within the Dikteysky mountain range. According to ancient Greek mythology, here the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus from her husband, the god Kronos. The child was destined to overthrow the power of his father and become the supreme god of the entire Greek pantheon. The cave bore the name of Zeus for a long time and was sacred to the worshipers of the god of thunder.
A fertile plateau in the eastern part of the island, raised above sea level by 820 meters. The plateau is known as the "Valley of a Thousand Mills" (with their help, water was extracted for irrigation of agricultural land for a long time). On the territory of the valley there are orchards and large plantations of vegetables. The generous lands of the Lassithi plateau have been cultivated since the time of the Minoan civilization.
Natural attraction of Crete, one of the largest gorges on the Greek islands. The length of the tourist route along the gorge is about 16 km. In ancient times, the temples of Artemis and Apollo stood here, as evidenced by the preserved ruins. In the VI century BC. in the Samaria Gorge there was a city of Tarra. Since 1962, the territory has been declared a National Park.
A sandy spit of rare beauty, a few dozen kilometers from the resort of Chania, covered with pink sand. Many tourists consider Elafonisi the most picturesque beach in the entire Mediterranean. The delicate pink color comes from the remnants of coral and small shells that cover large areas of the spit. The water in the lagoon is always clean, warm and clear. The beach is equipped with everything necessary for a comfortable stay.
A beach located in the bay of Messara in the small town of Matala. It is surrounded by rocks in which numerous caves have been carved. It is believed that ancient people originally lived in them. In the early Christian era, followers of Jesus hid from persecution in the caves of Matala. This fact is evidenced by the remains of catacomb temples and burials of believers.
Bay of Balos
The bay is located in the western part of Crete. Here is one of the most popular and picturesque beaches, which is famous for its clean white sand with pink splashes and magnificent turquoise water. Despite the rather large number of people who want to swim in the waters of the bay, there is no tourist infrastructure on its shores. In this way, they try to preserve nature in its original form.
Palm Beach Vai
A beach in the Vai National Park. Here grows the largest palm forest in Europe, consisting of endemic Theophrastus palms. It is believed that the plantations appeared thanks to the Phoenician sailors. The beach is very popular with tourists, so in the high season there are always a lot of people sunbathing and swimming here. Particularly picturesque views of Vai can be seen in the rays of the dawn sun.