“The people of Crete unfortunately make more history than they can consume locally”, British writer Hector Hugh Munro (aka Saki), once wrote. From the mythological origins of Zeus and the mysterious Minoans with their labyrinthine palaces, through Venetian and Ottoman control, to the daring deeds during the German occupation, what makes Crete truly stand out is the depth and breadth of its history. While all this drama and turmoil might have been trying (at best) for its people, it has also made Crete one of the most fascinating destinations on the planet. Read on for the not-to-be-missed historic places to visit in Crete:
Knossos and Phaistos
One of the oldest cultures of the Bronze Age culture and the first maritime power in the Mediterranean, the Minoans were named after their legendary King Minos. 5km outside of Heraklion, Knossos, a monumental residential complex, is believed to have been his palace. Despite its largely speculative, somewhat controversial restoration by Sir Arthur Evans and artists Piet de Jong and Emile Gilliéron in the first decades of the 20th century, Knossos with its impressive central courtyard, is undoubtedly one of the most interesting places to visit in Crete. Similarly, adjacent Phaistos has the most beautiful setting of any of the Minoan Palaces, with Messara plain to its east and Ida mountain to its north. Phaistos also is significantly more quiet than its more famous counterpart, Knossos, and everything may be seen from up close.
Combine this trip with a visit to the magnificent Heraklion Archaeological Museum to admire the world famous frescoes of proud and slender young men and women in vivid shades of terracotta, yellow, and blue, as well as the cult figurines, jewellery and pottery collected from various Minoan sites.
Neuralgic centres of resistance and shelter during the troubled times of the Ottoman rule and World War II, Crete’s medieval monasteries are among the top places to visit in Crete, for both historical and aesthetic reasons.
10 Km east of Sitia, Toplou is 14th- century fortified monastery, which dazzles with its architecture and setting. Among its treasures is an intricate 18th-century icon with scenes from an Orthodox prayer.
An originally Byzantine monastery, Arkadiou, 23km southeast of Réthymno, played a fundamental role in the 1866 Cretan rebellion, as nearly a thousand revolutionaries, civilians and monks barricaded within its walls to protect themselves against the Turks. Though there was a massive explosion (ordered by the abbott who recognised that the position of the besieged was hopeless), most of the monastery survived, and was for years featured on the (now obsolete) 100 drachma bank note.
On the south coast, 40 km from Rethymnon, you’ ll find the famous monastery of Preveli, overlooking the Libyan Sea. It consists of two building complexes, with a distance of 1,7 kilometres between them.Nowadays deserted, Kato Monastiri is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, while Piso Manastiri, to St. John the Divine. During the heroic battle of Crete in 1941, the Monastery of Preveli provided valuable shelter to a large number of English, New Zealand and Australian soldiers from the Allied troops. Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Crete, the monastery has erected an international memorial dedicated to peace and remembrance, which affords a stunning, panoramic view.
The island’s former capital and arguably most picturesque town, Chania is certainly among the must places to visit in Crete. Venetians and Turks fought for eons persistently for its occupation, leaving their indelible marks in the form of imposing old buildings, statuesque lighthouses, great walls, and fortifications. A sight for sore eyes, Chania is ideal for exploring on foot.
A few kilometers away, at the cosmopolitan beachside resort of Platanias -another of the great places to visit in Crete– Oscar Suites & Village, is a family style, cosy hotel that blends immaculate aesthetic with ample functionality. All of its rooms and apartments boast private balconies with a garden, pool or mountain view, state of the art amenities, as well as fully equipped kitchenettes, allowing you to live as independently as you wish in self catering style; while the luxurious private Jacuzzi suite, with its very own sizeable balcony, outdoor Jacuzzi bathtub and breathtaking sea vistas, offers the ultimate in indulgent living.
With its laid back atmosphere, distinct brand of hospitality and beautiful surroundings Oscar Suites & Village is the ideal base from which to enjoy the marvels of Crete. Visit the website and start planning your dream holiday in Crete!