Crete is not just Greece’s largest island but arguably its most diverse. Its remarkable history is evident across the island, from the ruins of the Minoan palace of Knossos to the Venetian fortresses of Rethymo; from old mosques and Byzantine monasteries to the cave that is the legendary birthplace of Zeus. Spectacular mountain ranges dotted with caves are sliced by dramatic gorges that spill out to sea, and a rugged interior is interspersed with vast plateaus and fertile plains. The island is big enough for independent travellers to venture away from the package tourism trails and find quiet beaches and mountain villages to explore. The lower coast of Crete with its lovely beaches and isolated coves is where you can sense an older, truer, more timeless Crete, whilst the east boasts Europe’s only palm-tree forest beach. Cretans are proud and hospitable people who maintain their culture and customs, particularly their strong musical tradition, and throughout the island you will come across traditional settlements unaffected
by tourism, plus the odd flock of sheep with shepherd in tow.
There are scores of monasteries, churches and archaeological sites on Crete and just a few kilometres outside the town of Agios Nikolaos, is Crete's greatest ecclesiastical treasure, the 13th century church of Panagia Kera. Head to Knossos, just outside Heraklion, to discover a complex of Minoan ruins, unearthed by the British Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans in the early 1900s. There isn't much left of Phaestos, one of Crete’s most important sites, but the stone foundations are largely intact and allow you to picture in your mind’s-eye the layout of this ancient Minoan palace. From the periphery of the site, the panoramic views across the plain are splendid and you can also catch a bit of the sea breeze. Just across from the bay of Elounda, the island Spinalonga, which translates to ‘long thorn’, was controlled by the Venetians until the 17th century, when it fell to the Ottomans, before becoming a leper colony. The island has been uninhabited since 1957, but today you can visit and walk around the ruined fortress, emblematic churches and colourful reconstructions of store fronts.
Whilst in Crete, enjoy the simple, delicious meals that the Mediterranean is famous for. With virtually every family owning at least a few olive trees, olives and olive oil are a staple part of any Cretan dish. Most villages have an olive pressing factory and it’s possible to visit, during the season, to see the liquid gold being produced. The region beyond Sitia is covered in vineyards that produce highly commendable wines, especially whites, whilst the mountains above Neapoli, open onto the enormous fertile Lasithi Plateau, where family farms produce the rich yoghurts that enliven Cretan cuisine. You’ll enjoy simple, delicious meals, many of which are aubergine-based, almost a staple food in Crete. An age-old institution in Crete is the kafeneion (coffee shop), which forms the hub of all villages – if you find yourself in such a village do stop for a coffee, or else a cool beer, a Raki or an Ouzo.
Crete is well known for its lovely beaches, ranging from small stone shingle beaches to long sandy stretches, accompanied by stunning gorges rising dramatically from the sea. However, its interior landscape is just as beautiful; mountainsides are populated with vineyards, olive groves and fields of artichokes, whilst other areas are densely forested and even desert-like, filled with cacti and palm trees. If you’re a keen walker, you may wish to attempt the Samaria Gorge walk within the Samaria National Park. Generally the gorge is open from May to October and is approximately sixteen kilometres from the starting point 1,250 metres above sea level down to the sea shore in Agia Roumeli. An early morning start is recommended.
Our Travel Consultants can advise on, arrange and pre-book many things to enhance your holiday. This includes everything from spa reservations and dinner reservations, to a range of special experiences available in our featured resorts that you may not know about.
On The Water
Take a trip on Blue Palace, A luxury Collection Resort & Spa's traditional Caique fishing boat, from the resort’s own jetty and sail through the crystal clear waters around the Mirabello Gulf, enjoying the sun set as you sip a glass of Champagne.
May to September enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate with hot days and warm, pleasant evenings. Winters are mild but do expect rain.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Crete.
London Gatwick to Heraklion, Crete: 3 hours, 55 minutes. Other UK Regional flights are also available.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.