Things to do In Crete
Guest Post: October 2012
Things to do In Crete.
When taking a holiday in Crete, there are places that cry out for a visit. Crete is one of the most popular Greek islands but it is such a large island that Crete car hire with Argus is a must. Bear in mind that Crete has so many beautiful and interesting sights to see that a single visit will probably not be enough.
The following list of must-see sights should be on anyone's itinerary and we would recommend more than one visit to all of them. Bear in mind that Crete car hire is petty well essential on a holiday to Crete as the top tourist sites are quite far apart.
Knossos Palace and Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The Minoan Palace of Knossos is an absolute must when sightseeing in Crete. Visitors can book tours from most resorts on Crete, but with a hire car you can turn up when you want. The museum is located in the city of Heraklion and the remains of the Palace of Knossos is about 5km south of the city.
The palace complex is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and was the political centre of the Minoan civilization. The Palace of Knossos contains about 1,300 rooms grouped around a central courtyard. The palace has storerooms, bathrooms, private apartments, public rooms, and workshops and is renowned for its advanced building techniques and impressive size.
Try to combine your visit with a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which is second only to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and well worth seeing.
The Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is Europe's longest gorge and probably the most popular excursion destination on Crete. There are two ways to walk the gorge — the full 16km length from the north and the 'easy way' way from the south. Unless you join an advertised tour, car hire is essential to get to either start point.
Once completely wild, the Samaria Gorge is now a national park and it can get crowded in the summer. The full walk starts high in the White Mountains just south of the hamlet of Omalos and takes 4-8 hours over rock-strewn paths.
Walkers are advised to leave those flip-flops behind and put on some stout shoes. The trail is well maintained with water springs along the way as well as litter bins and toilets.
To the west of Crete lies some of the finest beach coastline on the island with wonderful views. It is quite remote so you will probably need a rental car to reach it. The main Falasarna beach is a long and attractive stretch of golden sand, shallow sea and large rock pools.
Its beauty also attracts many boat trippers, so Falasarna is not always as tranquil as the postcards suggest. The ancient city of Falasarna is being excavated and some of the walls and buildings of the city can be seen.
The vast sandy beaches and beautiful ruins of the ancient town and harbour of Falasarna make a welcome change from the busy holiday resorts of Crete.
The dramatic approach to the famous monastery at Preveli is through the spectacular Kourtaliotiko gorge. Again car hire is best for the drive across the Crete mountains.
Preveli monastery is not only noted for its beautiful buildings and scenery, it also played a major role in World War II when its monks sheltered marooned Allied troops before their evacuation from the island in the Battle of Crete.
Plaques and flags testify to the sacrifice made by the monks who suffered 'ferocious' reprisals by the Nazis. Most of the buildings date from the 19th century and there is a tiny museum which houses clerical relics. Below is the picturesque and popular Preveli beach with its long sandbank and fresh water lagoon.
The islet of Elafonissi
No one should take a trip to Crete without visiting the extraordinary islet of Elafonissi in the far south west tip of Crete. The tiny uninhabited islet looks like a desert island paradise. You can wade out to the islet along a reef through a sun-warmed waters that rarely reach more than a metre in depth.
Those visiting by road pass through the impressive Topolia Gorge on the way and the neighbouring mountain villages of Topolia, Elos, Kefali and Vathi are all worth a stop if you arrive by Crete car rental from Argus.
The coast here is littered with coves, bays and rock pool and there are a couple of beach bars that open in the summer. The Elafonissi area is rich in rare plants and animals, including nesting grounds for sea turtles and this is the last European stop for birds migrating to Africa.