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Crete:
The Island with the Unique Culture & History

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Discover Crete

Crete, the largest island in Greece, is considered the cradle of European culture, as it was here that the Minoan civilisation, the oldest advanced society in Europe, arose and flourished 5000 years ago.

The mythological birthplace of Zeus and the home of Nikos Kazantzakis and El Greco is a place of incomparable natural beauty with unique and diverse landscapes and striking contrasts.

Crete has it all: important archaeological sites and luxurious tourist resorts, traditional villages and modern cities, imposing fortresses and humble fishing villages, exotic beaches and rugged mountains, tropical vegetation and the scent of Mediterranean herbs, care-free relaxation and off-road adventures. It is an inexhaustible kaleidoscope of myth, history and nature for lovers of freedom and exploration.

It is also a place with a unique culture of hospitality and a strong gastronomic identity. Few destinations on the tourist map can offer visitors of all ages such a range of choices and ideas for an unforgettable vacation. And even fewer can promise what seems like a world tour on a single island!

Discover them by choosing one of the ferry tickets to Crete.

6 memorable experiences on Crete
  1. Exploring the unspoiled island paradises around Crete: Gavdos, Europe’s southernmost point, with its magical sunsets; exotic Gaidouronisi (Chrysi), opposite the town of Ierapetra; and enchanting Koufonisi, the “Delos of Crete”, opposite the town of Sitia.
  2. If you choose one of the itineraries to Crete, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the impressive Venetian castle in Frangokastello, in the area of ​​Sfakia.
  3. Discovering the mysterious Mountain Desert, a lunar landscape in the heart of the White Mountains, which is known as the “Antarctic of Crete”.
  4. A visit to the museums dedicated to Nikos Kazantzakis in Myrtia and El Greco in Fodele.
  5. Watching the sunset from the hill of the legendary Chrysoskalitissa Monastery, looking out over the vast Libyan Sea. There is rumoured to be gold treasure hidden beneath one of the 90 steps leading to the monastery.
  6. Travelling back in time to Roman Crete among the wonderful ruins of ancient Gortyna. See the stunning Church of Saint Titus, the Roman Odeon and the Great Inscription, the oldest and most complete code of law in Greece.
Beaches of Crete

From the tourist beaches of the northern coastline to the unspoiled paradises of the south and the tropical locations of eastern Crete, the number and natural beauty of the island’s beaches stagger the imagination. Discover:

  • The famous and oft-photographed Balos Lagoon, an exotic landscape on the Gramvousa peninsula at the north-west tip of the island.
  • The enchanting Elafonisi, with its golden sand and shallow waters, in a setting reminiscent of the Caribbean.
  • The long white stretch of sand at Falasarna, with the most romantic sunset in the Mediterranean.
  • The dreamlike Preveli and Agiofarango each situated at the mouth of a rugged gorge overlooking the Libyan Sea.
  • The intoxicating exoticism of the magical Kedrodasos and Vai.
  • The pine-covered beach of Ierapetra, with views of the tropical paradise of the island of Chrysi.
  • The legendary Matala, beloved of hippies in the 60s and 70s, with mysterious caves carved out of its cliffs.
Postcards from Crete: 10 things not to miss

Knossos
The largest and most splendid Minoan palace on Crete fully conveys the grandeur of the first advanced European civilisation. The huge palace complex, the home of the mythical king Minos, dates from the 2nd millennium BC and astounds with the excellence of its architecture and construction. The Throne Room, the Piano Nobile and the magnificent murals that adorn the royal apartments and the halls elicit awe and wonder.

Phaistos
The second most important Minoan palace on Crete was built 4000 years ago on a plateau with incomparable views of the Messara Valley. This was the kingdom of King Minos’ brother, Rhadamanthys. The views of Mount Psiloritis to the north are breathtaking.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum
One of the leading European museums and a vast repository of Minoan artefacts, housing the world’s most important collection of prehistoric antiquities, including treasures such as the iconic “Phaistos Disc”, one of the greatest archaeological riddles in the history of mankind.

The Mountain Villages
The Cretan mountains are full of delightful villages characterised by wonderful architecture, age-old customs, and an authentic way of life. Discover the famous Anogia with its long musical tradition; rebellious Sfakia, like the wild west transplanted to the steep slopes of the White Mountains; charming Archanes, with its superbly restored houses and tradition of winemaking; the enchanting Vamos, a jewel of stone and ochre surrounded by olive groves; and the historic Theriso, famous for its role in the 1905 Cretan Revolution.

Samaria Gorge
Europe’s longest and most famous walkable gorge is a spectacular rocky ravine that runs the 16 km from Omalos to Agia Roumeli. Its narrowest passes reach a majestic 500 metres in height. The Samaria National Park has been designated by UNESCO as a "unique biosphere reserve".

Arkadi Monastery
Crete’s most historic monastery is built in a stunning location at the top of a gorge, surrounded by vast olive groves and vineyards. In the centre of its courtyard is the 16th-century church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, an excellent example of Cretan Renaissance architecture with an ornately decorated facade. The monastery contributed decisively to the 1866 Cretan Revolution against the Turks and has been declared a “European Monument of Freedom” by UNESCO.

The Dictaean Cave
The sacred cave of Zeus, located in the village of Psychro on the Lasithi Plateau, is said to be the mythological birthplace of the father of the gods. It is impressively decorated with stalagmites and stalactites in strange formations, such as the "Mantle of Zeus" hanging over its lake.

The Fortress Towns
Aristocratic, atmospheric and timeless, the island’s fortress towns offer visitors a fascinating glimpse of medieval Crete: the fairytale Old Town of Chania, the “Venice of the East”; the Venetian Old Town of Rethymnon with its strong Renaissance ambience; and the imposing old Heraklion, with the strongest walls in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlooking the iconic Koules Fortress.

Agios Nikolaos
Built around the beautiful Mirabello Bay, the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos is one of the most attractive and popular places on the island. The walk to the harbour with the elegant mansions around Lake Voulismeni is unforgettable.

Spinalonga
Known internationally as the “island of outcasts”, the legendary Venetian castle situated opposite the cosmopolitan resort of Elounda was a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. Its eerie beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Tastes of Crete

Synonymous with the famous Mediterranean diet, Cretan cuisine is rich in gastronomic treasures made with locally produced ingredients and traditional recipes that reflect an entire philosophy of life. One of the most typical dishes served at the Cretan table is dakos, a double-baked barley roll topped with grated tomato, xinomizithra (sour cream cheese) and olive oil. 

Popular mezes include apaki (smoked pork), pickled artichoke, PDO (protected designation of origin) Cretan graviera cheese, fennel pies, octopus with olives, and artichoke omelette. You should also try snails “bourbouristi” (fried until they start making a popping sound); kaltsounia (small fried pies); skioufichta pasta with red sauce, tsigariasto (goat or lamb cooked in a clay pot), antikristo (spit-roasted goat or lamb); and last but not least, the local wild greens, such as stamnagathi (spiny chicory), askolimbros (a kind of thistle), or askordoulakos bulbs, which are used like shallots. 

For dessert, discover traditional treats such as lychnarakia (tartlets filled with cream cheese) or yogurt pie. Finally, no Cretan meal is complete without the famous tsikoudia (raki) or excellent wine from the island’s age-old vineyards. 

MAP OF CRETE
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