Top five things to see and do in Crete, Greece

The largest of the Greek islands and the one to boast the longest summers, Crete is a holiday destination with something to offer everyone who visits. Once home to the ancient Minoans - the earliest recorded civilization in Europe - Crete is enveloped in thousands of years of history.

Crete coastline © Simu Mircea -

It's also famed for its coastline, and you won't be disappointed with the choice of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters on offer. Whether you're visiting the island with family, a partner, or friends there's plenty to see and do, including these impressive five places:

Haniá waterfront © Aleksandrs Kosarevs -

1. Haniá

Haniá (also known as Chania) on the north coast is Crete's second-largest city, and is definitely one of the island's highlights. Winding Venetian streets lead down to the lovely harbour, where old townhouses have been converted into hotels and restaurants. The restaurants here are among Crete's best, and when you're finished eating you can wander around and admire the old city walls and ancient ruins.

Top five things to see and do in Crete, Samariá Gorge © Birger Kühnel -

2. Samariá Gorge

This 10 mile gorge is reputedly the longest in Europe, stretching down to the south coast. It's a long walk, taking around six hours at an average pace, but well worth it as you travel through the White Mountains and forests to finally reach Agia Roumeli where you can cool off with a dip in the sea.

Aquaworld Aquarium, Crete © 4652 Paces - Flickr Creative Commons

3. Aquaworld Aquarium, Hersonissos

Aquaworld in Hersonissos is a brilliant place for a family excursion. It's not a big aquarium, but you can tell that the owners really care for the animals they look after. There are all kinds of local sea life and reptiles, most of which have been rescued from unwanted homes or saved from injuries. You can watch the animals being fed, and even hold some of the snakes, lizards and tortoises.

4. Beaches

Okay, so it's perhaps cheating to mention three beaches under one point, but the variety of Crete's coastline makes choosing one beach far too difficult. Elafonisi beach, located on the southwest corner of the island, has amazingly crystal clear shallow waters - perfect for snorkelling - and white and pink sand.

Elafonisi Beach Crete © costas1962 -

On the northwest coast you will find the beautiful Balos lagoon, which can be reached by ferry from Kissamos port or by car. The drive is a slightly treacherous one up the mountains, but if you start early you can arrive before the first ferry passengers get there. It's a steep hike down to the beach from the car park, but the views are fantastic.

Falassarna Beach, Crete © stanciuc -

The popular Falassarna beach can be found further down the northwest coast, and is often on lists of the top beaches in Europe. The sea is warm, sometimes wavy, and you'll find ruins of the Roman city of Falassarna at its northern end.

5. Knossos

The Royal Minoan Palace at Knossos, just south of Crete's capital Iráklion, is an unforgettable sight. British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans uncovered the ruins of Knossos in the early 20th century, and spent decades excavating and restoring parts of the site.

Palace at Knossos, Crete © Arkady Chubykin -

The palace once had around 1,300 rooms and Greek legend has it that this was where King Minos kept his minotaur. You'll need a few hours at least there to explore the area, and there is very little shade so bring a hat and plenty of water.

Fancy exploring these top attractions in Crete? Check out the latest offers from Jet2holidays and all inclusive guru First Choice, or head over to our holiday deals section for all the latest online savings. You can also find out more about when to visit on Crete's weather page with details including annual averages and the five day forecast.

Katherine Conlon

Katherine Conlon
Posted on Tuesday 4th March 2014 in: Beach Culture Europe Nature

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