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Greece

16 Things to do in Crete

The pictursque port of Sitia, Crete, Greece at sunset. Sitia is a traditional town at the east Crete near the beach of palm trees, Vai.

Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and it is an incredible place. The island has so much to offer such as gorgeous beaches, ancient ruins, and some of the best seafood in the world. If you are thinking about visiting Crete for your next vacation, you are in for a treat. Part of the Greek islands, Crete is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Greece. The island has several resorts, towns and villages that are worth visiting. If you are looking for a place to relax and enjoy some sun then Crete is the ideal holiday destination.

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Things to do Crete

Crete is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places and it is definitely worth exploring. There are plenty of things to get up to. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and relax on a beautiful beach, Crete has that. If you are after culture, adventures and history, Crete has that too. Crete is an island full of history and culture. There are many ancient ruins that have been preserved through the years and you can still see them today.

The island is full of restaurants, bars and shops. If you love to eat, Crete has some of the best restaurants in all of Greece. You can go out for a meal at night and then enjoy the local nightlife when the sun goes down. There are plenty of bars around too that serve great cocktails and other drinks. You will be spoilt for choice on this magnificent Greek Island. The below contains a roundup of fun and unforgettable activities that you can do during your stay in Crete, Greece.

Balos Beach

Balos Beach is located on the northwestern tip of Crete. This incredible beach has an amazing crystal clear blue sea and white sandy shoreline that stretches out for miles. The water is warm enough for swimming and there are plenty of facilities to keep you busy including a beach bar! Crete’s unique turquoise sea and white sand make it a dreamy spot on the island that tourists flock to. Be wary that this beach can get very busy in the summer months. Balos Lagoon, formed by the proximity of the Gramvousa Peninsula and Cape Tigani—a big square mass of land located right in front of Balos Beach—offers an exotic feel.

View on the an amazing scenery of Balos costal, beaches and turquoise sea on Crete island in Greece

Gramvousa Peninsula

Balos Beach may be in this area but Gramvousa Peninsula has so much more to offer. This area is great for wildlife watching and hiking. The Peninsula is home to one of the only colonies of monk seals in Europe, as well as being an important nesting site for sea turtles. The area is a protected biotope because of its natural beauty and the diversity of flora and fauna. There are 400 different plant species on this land with 26 of them endemic to Crete! A herd of wild donkeys live here too, surrounded by 98 bird species. There are many hiking trails around the area which offer coastal views.

Sea view on the coast of the Gramvousa island with fortress on the top, Crete, Greece

Samaria Gorge National Park

Samaria Gorge is a national park on the island of Crete. The area was declared a national park back in 1962. One of the main reasons for this was to provide refuge for the rare kri-kri, a Cretan goat. The park is home to many other animals and plants, making it a great place to explore. The area is also quite popular with bird watchers.

Hiking is one of the most popular activities through Samaria gorge. The hiking trails are deemed very difficult and are not for the faint-hearted. The Samaria gorge is an amazing place to visit. The scenery is breathtaking and the hiking trails offer a memorable day out.

National Park Samaria Gorge, hiking trail. Crete, Greece

Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos is a seaside town in the northeastern part of Crete. The town is known for its beaches and nightlife, but there is much more to Agios Nikolaos than that. The town has a history of fishing, tourism and agriculture. This coastal town has a sleepy laid back feel where you can enjoy the pleasant weather. However do not let the laid-back atmosphere fool you, there are many things to do here.

There are beaches, marinas and streets lined with souvenir shops. There are also many restaurants and cafes that serve traditional Cretan food such as moussaka and souvlaki. You can also see the ruins of an ancient city, watch a traditional Cretan dance show or visit the local museum. In Agios Nikolaos, you will find a wide range of accommodation options. There are hotels, apartments, villas and studios to choose from.

Agios Nikolaos, Greece - Morning view of Agios Nikolaos and its harbor, Crete, Greece.

Knossos Palace

This palace is located in the north of the Island, just outside of the capital city, Heraklion. The Knossos Palace is said to date back to the bronze age (2000–1580 BC) and is actually the largest Bronze Age archaeological site in Crete. It has been named Europe’s oldest city and is full of history. This palace is said to have been built by an ancient civilization that we call the Minoans. During your visit, you can travel back in time and learn about Minoan culture through interaction with archaeologists who will teach you about their findings at the site. This Minoan palace is a must if you are visiting the island of Crete and love architecture and history.

Knossos, Greece - Crete landmark, ruins of Minoan Palace

Lasithi Plateau

The Lasithi Plateau is a large, flat area in the centre of Crete. It sits on top of the largest mountain in Crete and the area contains many villages and towns. If you visit here you will get an experience of rural Crete and how the locals live their everyday lives. It is a great place for walking, hiking and exploring as there are many green fields scattered with fruit orchards and the remains of old windmills. At one time Lasithi Plateau was home to 20,000 metal mills with white canvas sails but now many of them are no longer in use.

Old-style windmills on Lasithi Plateau. Crete, Greece

The Dikteon Cave

Located on the Lasithi Plateau, the Dikteon Cave (or Dikteon Andron or Dictaean Cave) is one of the most famous of Crete’s 3,000 caves and Greece’s 8,500. This cave is an important religious site for the ancient Greeks. It is believed to be where Zeus, the king of the gods in classical mythology was born, making it a sacred place. The cave has winding passages and staircases throughout its intimate chambers. In 1883, villagers discovered the cave accidentally—now it is open to all who wish to visit.

Ancient Minoan sacred Psychro cave where god Zeus was born. crete Greece

Greek Mythology Thematic Park

The Greek Mythology Thematic Park is a great place to learn about the legends of ancient Greece. It contains replicas of important monuments and sculptures such as the Temple of Zeus at Olympia and the Acropolis in Athens. There are also many interactive exhibits that show what life was like in ancient Greece. Visitors can experience the myths first-hand. It costs 8 euros per person for entry and this includes an audio tour.

Arkadi Monastery

The Arkadi Monastery, located 23 km southeast of Rethymnon on the island of Crete in Greece, is an Eastern Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 16th century. The current catholicon—or main church building—is marked by Renaissance architecture and its interior features mixed elements from classical antiquity and Byzantine art. Seven monks live and work in the monastic cells surrounding the church. This monastery has a long, rich history as well as splendid architecture that is now considered to be a living museum.

Arkadi, Greece - The historic monastery church in the famous Arkadi Monastery on the island of Crete, Greece

Seitan Limania Beach

Seitan Limania Beach is located on the north coast of Crete and is one of the most popular beaches in all of Greece. This small remote beach is surrounded by rock formations and shallow waters making it an ideal place to go swimming or snorkelling. The beach is covered in white sand where you can lay out your towel and enjoy views of the sea. The narrow gorge and beautifully blue water make for an extremely picturesque combination. Seitan Limania Beach is one of the most Instagrammed sites on Crete and with good reason.

Beautiful beach called Seitan limania on Crete, Greece

Elafonissi Beach

Elafonissi Beach is a beautiful beach on the west coast of Crete. It is a protected area and has been awarded a Blue Flag (a sign of cleanliness). The beach is framed by pine trees and long-stemmed reeds that sway in the wind, creating an idyllic scene. The pink sand beach is soft and clean and it feels good under your feet as you walk along this stretch of coastline. It is popular for families with small children because the shallow water is safe for swimming. There are many Elafonissi Beach tours that will take you to Elafonissi Beach that include extras such as seeing the nearby Agia Sofia Cave which contains a historic church!

Aerial view of Elafonissi beach, Crete, Greece

Heraklion

Heraklion is Crete’s capital city, with a population of over 200,000 people. It is a bustling hub of geographical, historical and cultural importance. The city has a large number of museums, churches and archaeological sites that are worth exploring. A hot tourist destination, the city is also a great place to shop and eat. The city is well-known for its nightlife, with many bars and clubs open late into the night. The beaches of Heraklion are some of Crete’s best; they are sandy and safe for swimming.

The main port of Heraklion, with many cruise ships docking there, also has the Venetian Port. Popular for its centuries-old structure, it is a wonderful place for walks and sunset views. It is sheltered by a Venetian coastal fort that was built to protect against invading pirates. The city is well-connected to the rest of Crete by road and rail. The airport is only a few kilometres away and there are frequent flights to Athens as well as other parts of Europe.

The medieval city with Basilica of St Titus, the Patron Saint of Crete during the medieval times, in the sunny morning, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum houses the most important collection of Minoan art in the world. It is located in the centre of Heraklion, Crete’s capital city and was opened in 1958. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a great place to explore the Minoan civilization that inhabited Crete. The collection includes artefacts from all eras of Cretan history/prehistory—including frescoes, figurines & tombs! There are many interesting exhibits within the building, including a collection of ancient Greek pots and vases.

Knossos palace of the Minoan civilization and culture at Heraklion without people, Crete, Greece

Rethymno

Rethymno or Rethimno is one of the most well-preserved Venetian towns on the island of Crete. Its 16th-century buildings are stunning examples of Venetian architecture and provide the town with a medieval air. A fantastic area within Rethymno is its Old Town. The picturesque maze of narrow streets lined with restaurants and tavernas will keep you busy for hours. There is also a stunning long beach situated here that stretches to the east. Whilst visiting this city, make sure you check out tourist attractions such as the Rimondi Venetian Fountain, Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete and Rethymnon Municipal Garden.

RETHYMNO, GREECE - Tavernas and restaurants in old town in city Rethymno in Crete island at Greece

Venetian Fortezza Castle

Rethymno’s Fortezza, a fortified city centre built by the Venetians in the 16th century is situated on Rethymno’s Paleokastro hill. The fortress was created to increase its defences. Rethymno’s 16th-century Venetian citadel offers panoramic views of the town and port. Impressive yet lovely, this part of Venetian history is a delightful place to visit during evening hours. The Castle holds plays, dances and cultural exhibits inside where you can learn about the history of Crete. Behind the fortress you will be able to catch the sun setting behind the ocean, the bright orange shines out from above the waters, creating great photo opportunities.

The venetian fortress of Fortezza on the hill at the old town of Rethimno, Crete, Greece.

Crete Wine and Olive Oil Tour

Treat your senses to the ancient flavours of Crete on a full-day wine and olive oil tour from Chania. Travel through the mountains and traditional Cretan villages to reach two family-run wineries, where you will not only taste award-winning regional wines but also be treated like kings and queens as you stroll through vineyards during this majestic experience. Here you will get to sample Cretan, Greek, and international wines with snacks whilst learning about the wine production process.

The second part of the Crete Wine and Olive Oil Tour includes an olive oil factory tour where you will get to try the extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is a prized Cretan product and is rated as some of the best in the world for its high purity levels.

Sackcloth bag full on fresh olives. Olives harvesting in Crete, Greece. Harvest of fresh olives from the tree for the production of extra virgin olive oil.

Conclusion

Crete is a beautiful island with a ton of amazing places to see. If you are looking for an adventure then Crete may be the place for you. The island has a lot of history, and it is amazing to see what Crete used to be like with many historical landmarks and sites to explore. It is also great for relaxing with your friends or family and enjoying the beautiful beaches that surround the island. The island is a great place to visit, and you will not be disappointed. Will this become your favorite greek island?

Recommended tours in Crete

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Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious! With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!