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Crete, Greece: History, Adventure, and More

Did you know that Greece has more than 6000 islands with only 227 of them inhabited?  Crete is the largest Greek island and is something of a wonder.  It is a mountainous island with three large mountain groups, but it also has beautiful beaches worth enjoying along its coast as well as rich history and archaeology to explore.  Take a hike through a gorge or lounge on gorgeous beaches.  No matter the style of vacation, Crete is a destination that won’t disappoint.

History
Crete was first inhabited by the Minoan civilization during the Bronze Age.  One of its more famous palace-states was the Palace of Knossos which was a center for ceremonies and politics.  This people group and culture thrived 2600BC – 1100BC but died out due to natural disasters and invasions.

Heraklion, the capital city, was originally founded under the rule of the Arabs before the Venetians started to build new cities and conquer existing cities.  One of those cities that is very popular to visit still is Chania.  You can still visit the Venetian port and lighthouse today.

Crete was the target of many revolutions and takeover attempts throughout history.  Crete was conquered by the Ottomans in 1669.  After many Christian uprisings, Crete later became an autonomous Cretan State under Ottoman Empire in 1898.  It wasn’t until 1943 that Crete became part of Greece.

For the fan of Greek mythology, it is said that Diktaean Cave at Mount Dikti is the birthplace for Zeus.

Climate and Landscape
Located on the southern side of Greece, Crete is surrounded by the Aegean Sea to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south.  The island is very mountainous with three large groups of mountains: the White Mountains, the Idi Range and the Dikti Mountains.  Within these mountains are many valleys, caves and gorges like the famous Samaria Gorge.

The climate of Crete ranges from mild, rainy winters to sunny hot summers.  Vacationers that prefer hiking and historical tours will enjoy traveling in spring.  Vacationers that want more time on the beach will enjoy the summer months.  Peak summer months will see temperatures reach about 84⁰F, but the yearly average is about 66⁰F.

Language, Culture and Currency
The official language is Greek, but many locals speak English as they want to make you feel comfortable.  In Greece, family is especially important.  The elderly is highly respected.  Friends and family will embrace but strangers typically shake hands.

The official currency is the Euro.  Remember that bargaining is only accepted in certain flea markets, so plan to pay asking price when shopping.  Also, as you travel across the island and stop in smaller towns, be prepared with cash in a variety of denominations or notes rather than credit as many small shops will not take credit.

Must See or Do

History/Archaeology

The palaces and archaeological sites are impressive even to those that don’t typically explore this kind of thing.  Crete has three different Minoan palaces to see with Knossos being one of the most known.  And just a few miles down the road from Knossos, you can spend a warm afternoon going through the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

You can also visit at least two different monasteries and their museums.  Please just remember to visit with a sense of reverence.  For example, the Arkadi Monastery functions as a monastery run by seven monks that live on site, but it also operates with the regularity of the Orthodox Church.

If you are in the northwest part of the island, be sure to explore the Chania Venetian Harbor where you can visit the lighthouse and Firka fortress.

Active/Adventure

Crete has much to offer for the active traveler.  The island offers three different hiking areas in the White Mountains, the South Coast, and the gorges which Crete is most known.  The most famous gorge is the Samaria Gorge located in the Samaria Gorge National Park that takes you across a total distance of about 10 miles of stony terrain.  Be sure pack plenty of snacks and water as this is a full day activity.   And you may want to consider visiting in Spring to experience the is best vegetation and temps.

Beaches/Water Sport
In addition to its beautiful mountains, Crete is an island that offers a great beach vacation.   You can do classic water activities like paddle boarding and snorkeling.  Enjoy Balos beach near Chania or Matala beach near Heraklion.  For those interested in marine life, consider planning a day to visit the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Center.

Food/Drink
What is more quintessential than experiencing the food and drinks of Greece. Crete is no exception! From an olive tasting tour to a wine tasting tour, the fresh flavors of Greece can take your vacation to a new level.  Maybe you want your own private foody tour that covers all the flavors of Crete including trying to find the perfect wine to pair with the classic tiropita, a cheese baked pie, or maybe a dessert liquor to go with the xerotigana pastry.   

Final Thoughts
These four types of experiences are just some examples of how you could enjoy Crete.  There is so much to see and do that you could easily plan a two-week holiday to experience it all.  No matter how many days you have to visit, I am certain you will make wonderful memories and leave wanting to experience even more.

Have you been to Crete?  What was your favorite thing to experience?  Drop a comment below and share.

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Dell Adventures Travel Agency
PO Box 3651, Grapevine, TX 76051

817-291-7841

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