On the borders of Europe and the Orient, facing Africa, Crete is mythical on many levels. In Greek mythology, Minos was born there, fruit of the union of Zeus and the beautiful Europe, who went to relax under a plane tree in Gortyne…
This wild and mountainous island offers sometimes austere landscapes, dotted with rocky peaks boiling under sunlight and warm African winds. Is the south coast of Crete not bathed by the Libyan Sea? This oriental dryness is lessened by the opaque green mantle of olive trees.
In valleys or atop hills, orthodox monasteries and white chapels transcend time on pristine sites. Here, beaches shine in their solitude of pebbles and sand. And have we mentioned some of Europe’s most beautiful abrupt canyons, and the plethora of caves (almost 3000!) ?
Venture away from tourist centres of Crete and onto smaller roads to discover little forgotten valleys and traditional mountain villages, with their kafenia (Greek café) and their lot of moustached old wise men. Upkept by their famous “Crete diet”, the elders peacefully sip on their raki (an unsweetened aperitif) and seem to slow time down.
Tempted yet? Get booking for your flights, hotels and rental cars with a lastminute.com Promo Code, and go discover what was once the cradle of the occidental world. There are so many unforgettable experiences to be lived, places to be seen, foods to be tasted, activities to be tried…
Nose up! Wander around the old districts of Rethymno
Stroll around the narrow streets of the old neighbourhoods of Rethymno and admire some beautiful Venetian façade houses; absorb the history of the city through its museums and mosques.
Hike in the gorge of the Aradena
Less famous that the Samaria one, the Aradena canyon is less crowded but also harder to access. You can also visit the abandoned village of Aradena by taking the bridge that leads straight to the village and offers a superb view over the canyon. A magical site at nightfall.
Get a taste of Crete’s culinary traditions
Sample a healthy cuisine, known for its benefits. No moderation is required for Cretan olives and olive oil. If olives are not actually a specifically Cretan specialty, the tree, sacred since Antique times, is omnipresent. As for olive oil, it has preventive virtues against cardiovascular diseases. Sample classic and dry vegetables, wholemeal cereals, fish and fruits as well. The best Greek yoghurts in Crete can be tasted in the village of Vrysses.
Live to the rhythm of the Messara villages
Take some time to live to the rhythm of the Messara plain, this farming region known as “Crete’s granary”. Follow the straight roads crossing at right angles in the middle of olive groves. On these lands between sea and mounts, shepherds and their flocks sometimes reclaim the roads.
Sink your teeth into a pita
Satisfy your munchies with pitas, little filled flatbreads, a Cretan specialty. You can find feta stuffed ones (tiropita), spinach filled (vlita), olive oil and lemon… You can also find sweet pitas, with eggs and cinnamon: kalitsounia are the traditional Cretan dessert.
Dive into the pink and turquoise lagoon of Elafonissi
The water on the Elafonissi peninsula, a few dozen feet from the beach, is exceptionally clear. To enjoy the wild beauty of a deserted landscape, it’s best to visit off-season.
Spend a day in the little village of Loutro
Loutro is a small Cretan village with an almost Cycladic style of architecture. Stroll among the blue-shuttered white houses, in streets where cars have no right of way. Bathe in the limpid waters of the tiny beach, and sample a raki under the tamarisks.
Explore the stunning palm garden of Vaï
In the little paradise that is the palm grove of Vaï, thousands of palms line a sandy clearwater beach. To make the most of the beach, best arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and head to the right of the beach, where some stairs in the rock lead to a straw shelter.
Savour Greek coffees or “frappe”, and raki
After a nice meal, savour a Turkish coffee (with the ground at the bottom of the cup), called here Greek coffee, or cool off with an iced coffee called “frappé”. Coffee is usually served with a glass of water.
Try some Cretan raki as well (or tsikoudia), without anis. At almost 40°, it can be reminiscent of Italian grappa.
Have a go at scuba diving
Explore the Cretan seabed during a scuba dive. Crete offers optimal conditions for diving: clear waters and weak currents. The waters of the Mediterranean are full of octopus, moray eels, sea hares, newts and other rays. You can mostly admire them in the summer when the temperatures are at their highest, near a cave or a rock. Aim for the sports on the north-west coast.