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Crete

Crete is the largest Greek island and offers a type of holiday that is truly rich in opportunities: beaches among the most beautiful in the Mediterranean, history and mythology, ancient villages surrounded by nature, a 5-star holiday but also low cost.

Crete is Greece’s biggest island and the fifth biggest one in the Mediterranean sea. It has a surface of about 8300 square kilometers. The island is about 260 km long from east to west and between 15 and 60 km wide from north to south.

The coast is more than 1000 km long and has many sandy beaches and rocky coasts. The high mountains are one of Crete’s typical features and they form 3 different areas, each of which is different from another.

Crete has about 600.000 inhabitants, half of them live in the cities of Heraklion, Chania, Agios Nikolaos and Rethymnon.

The rest of the island isn’t very populated and most of the mountains are just inhabited by shepherds. The island is divided into 4 prefectures: Chania (65.000 inhabitants), Rethymnon (40.000 inhabitants), Heraklion (160.000 inhabitants) and Agios Nikolaos (18.000 inhabitants).

Crete, the vacation you’ve always dreamed of

Meeting point of all the Mediterranean civilizations, Crete has an extraordinary archeological and cultural history.
This island is famous for the important kings that used to govern the island, for the mythological creatures and gods that were said to live on the island and for the great traditional music and food that you will find on this wonderful island.

If you visit Crete you will have the chance to meet the kind and friendly locals and see some wonderful landscapes besides trying some traditional food and living the Greek traditional lifestyle.

The island has many villages in the mountains and on the coast, important castles, archeological treasures, wild landscapes, magnificent peninsulas, isolated beaches and picturesque bays. Crete can offer many things to see!

Map of Crete’s cities

For making the explanation simpler Crete can be divided into three regions: Western Crete, Central Crete, and Eastern Crete. These 3 regions are all unique and slightly different from one to another.

Western Crete

The western part of the island has the most mountains and it is the greenest. The majestic White Mountain or Lefka Ori dominate the landscape and reach almost 2500 meters in height. The mountains extend south until the Libian sea and have many deep gorges, the most famous of which is the gorge of Samaria. In the northern part there are some hills and some plains where the land is fertile and where the locals mainly grow citruses and olives. The northern coast also has some very nice beaches

The nicest beaches in western Crete

If you are staying nearby Chania consider visiting the following beaches:

Balos lagoon is famous for being one of Greek’s most photographed beaches and it is one of the top 10 beaches in the Mediterranean sea. It is located about 56 km north-west from La Canea and 17 km north-west from Kissamos between Capo Gramvousa and Capo Tigani. An interesting curiosity is that Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited this beach on their yacht many years ago. This beach isn’t easy to reach as you will have to follow a dirt road by car before walking 30 minutes to reach this paradise.

Falassarna beach is about 59 km west from La Canea and 17 km west from Kissamos, it is in western part of Capo Gramvousa. On the northernmost part of the beach there are the ruins of the old Roman city of Falassarna.
76 km west from Chania and 5 km south from the monastery of Chrysoskalitisa there is Elafonissi beach.

Elafonissi is a protected Natura 2000 area and it is on a peninsula that is often divided into two parts by the raising water making it look like a separate island.

Preveli palmgrove is certainly the most famous beach in south-western Crete and bring thousands of tourists every summer. In the 60’s and 70’s it was a favourite destination for hippies. On the banks of the Grand River there are the Teofrasto palms that give the region a slightly african atmosphere.

Plakias beach is a famous touristic locality at about 36 km south from Rethymno, just outside a lush valley surrounded by mountains covered in Olive trees. Next to the beach there is the Kotsifos river.

Central Crete

Most of Crete’s visitors arrive at Heraklion, the capital of this part of the island. This big city is an important economical center of the island. The inside of this region is covered by vineyards and it is very famous for it’s archeological importance (the most famous of which is Cnosso’s minoic palace). The central part has 2 main mountains on the eastern part called Ida and Dikti.

In the southern part there is Messara’s plain, one of Crete’s most fertile areas and important agricultural center for the island. Crete’s central part and the northern coast are by far the most important tourist centers with half the structures of the island located in this area.

The nicest beaches in central Crete

If you are staying in Heraklion or Rethymnon consider visiting the following beaches:

Matala beach is famous for its caves and for the many hippies that visited the island in the 70’s. It is located near Festo, the second biggest Minoic palace in Greece. Matala was Festo’s port until the roman age when it became Gortys port.

Agia Pelagia is 21 km west from Heraklion on the western side of a long peninsula with many beautiful beaches.
Agia Pelagia was originally a small and coloured village built by the residents of Achlada village before becoming a famous center for tourists with many hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, internet cafes, cash machines and taxis. You can easily reach it by bus from Heraklion.

Agiofarago beach is at about 80 km south from Heraklion, just outside Agiofarago gorge. To reach this beach you are going to have to cross the gorge with a half an hour walk. On the road for the beach you will see the big caves where hermits from the monastery of Odigitra still live and st. Anthony’s chapel with it small ditch containing brackish water.  The beach at the exit of the gorge is fantastic with rounded pebbles and crystal clear waters.

Eastern Crete

The eastern part of the island is the driest, it has a mountain chain called Thripti that and is 1500 m high and is very wild. 

The area around Agios Nikolaos and Mirambello bay have become a focal point for tourism but the rest of the region isn’t very crowded and visited by tourists.

The nicest beaches in eastern Crete

If you are staying in Agios Nikolaos, Sitia or Ierapetra consider visiting the following beaches:

Belegrina beach, also known as Golden beach, that can be easily reached by boat from Ierapetra on the island of Chrissi. Bright blue water, white and pink sand, junipers that grow in the sand with their big roots are just a few of the few things you will find on this beach.

Xerokambos is an area with many different beaches that can have small or big pebbles, golden or white sand and there is even a beach with clay, perfect for natural skin treatments.

How to reach Crete?

Crete has 2 main airports, Chania and Heraklion, that are both connected with most European city airports. There is also a third airport in Sitia (eastern Crete) where some charter and national flights arrive.

Heraklion airport is the biggest and it is about 5 km east from Heraklion city, it has a lot more tourists going through it each year besides a lot more flights. Compared to the airport of Chania it is also a lot closer to the eastern part of the island. 

Both the airports in Crete have a taxi stop and usually it is very easy to find a free one. Every so often can happen that a taxi driver may ask a higher amount of money but this is easy to avoid as there are prices for every destination written in the airport’s taxi stops, so remember to have a look at it before getting in a taxi.

There are also regular urban busses from the airport of Heraklion to the city center from which you can get any vehicle to reach your destination.

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