Crete’s holiday attractions & list of great places to visit is never ending, as long as you have the time and energy to explore one of the most fascinating corners of the earth! The incredible island of Crete will seduce mountain and sea lovers alike, nature fans and culture hounds, food connoisseurs and antiquity admirers. Rent a car and plan day tours or even a round trip of the island from your base at Oscar Suites & Village hotel in Agia Marina Platanias. Here are just some suggestions of the best attractions & places to visit in Crete:
The 16 km long Samariá Gorge, created by a small river running between two mountains, is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves and one of the most famous sites of western Crete. At one point, the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and climb up to almost 300 meters. The gorge became a national park in 1962. Not all visitors manage to complete the five to seven hours walk down the gorge from the Omalos to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea.
Falasarna is a dreamy, endless golden beach with incredibly clean, almost crystalline blue waters. It is located on a valley filled with olive groves, scattered with a few tavernas and even fewer rooms to let. Be sure to check the weather before making a day trip to Falasarna– often the fierce wind is impossible to endure.
Elafonisi (“Deer Island”) on the southwest, is a protected natural reserve and features one of the most unusual and naturally beautiful landscapes in the whole of the Mediterranean. The beach has lagoon like, sheltered turquoise waters. Walk across the sea from the mainland to the uninhabited deer island and look for the spots where the crushed corals mix with the sand and give it a surreal purple-pink colour.
Visit the real Crete in the ancient town of Paleohora on the south, about 70 km from Chania. Swim in the Libyan sea looking at the White Mountains, walk along the romantic lamp promenade to the east or visit the tamarisk-lined Oriental Bay Beach. Dolphin and whale watching trips are organized every day. Paleohora is bustling with cafés, bakeries, tavernas and bars.
Sfakia is a mountainous wild village in the south west, famous for its brave, untamed inhabitants who, unlike the rest of Greeks, never surrendered to a foreign invader! Spectacular sea views and a rugged landscape are not to be missed.
A few km away from Sfakia you can visit Frangokastello, a small seaside village famous for its Venetian castle by the same name. There are beautiful, tranquil waters to swim in and many picturesque corners to sit at and dine.
Kissamos – Kastelli
Take a look at how local Cretans live their everyday lives in the quiet, unspoiled town of Kissamos, 40 km west of Chania. A long beach stretches east of the town.
Gramvousa Island – Balos Lagoon
Take the boat excursion from Kissamos to Gramvousa island – Balos Lagoon, north west of Chania. Fine white sand, blue and green waters, serene atmosphere and stunning mountain views will reward you on yet another must-see beach.
Milia is a small old village surrounded by chestnut trees, birds and butterflies and a brook running through the main road. Houses are few and the prevailing sounds are those of the wind and the sheep bells. Milia’s unsurpassed charm is that it looks exactly like it did 200 years ago. Accessible via a 2,5 km dirt road, the route, in the midst of mountain peaks, is unforgettable.
Take a trip back in time in the old town of Rethymno, in the heart of the modern town, 60 km from Chania. A well preserved Renaissance port, established during the Venetian occupation in 1204, Rethymno serves as a mid-stop between Chania and Heraklion.
About 5 km southeast of Heraklion, visit the ruins of the palace of Knossos, the centre of the legendary ancient Minoan civilization, which dominated the Aegean during the Bronze Age, ca. 1380–1100 BC. The unique collection of the Minoan art is at Heraklion’s museum.
Explore the Mediterranean sea world at the Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonissos, 14 km from Heraklion. Aquaworld specialises in showing live exhibits of local sea life and reptiles.
Make the trip to Vai, the largest natural palm forest in Europe, with the large sandy beach at its foot. Vai is located at the far eastern corner of the island.
Photo: Njal Arnar Johansen, www.njaljohansen.com