Monday, November 7, 2011

Things to Do in Crete

Located in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of the Peloponnese, there is no place on earth that is quite like Crete. It is the largest of the Greek Islands, and many people say that it is also one of the most beautiful. Its landscape is certainly diverse, from rugged mountains to fertile coastal plains and picturesque hillside villages. As you make your way through Crete, you will be greeted by the warmth of the friendly locals and will see many fascinating remnants of Turkish and Roman times.

Although the Greek Island of Crete is small, there is a lot to see and do. Here are some of the most intriguing attractions on the island:
  • Most visitors to Crete spend some time in Iraklion, the capital. It is a lively and vibrant city, and there are many things to do, such as a Historical Museum, an Archeological Museum, several ancient churches, and plenty of delicious local restaurants.
  • Go exploring the ancient ruins of Malia. This Minoan Palace was built in 1650BC and its reddish tinged stone is visually stunning. Malia is usually less crowded than some of the other ancient ruins so you will have more time to explore.
  • Go hiking along the Samaria Gorge, which is the longest gorge in Europe. It is an 18km journey, but it can be attempted by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. You will begin high in the White Mountains and will finish your journey at the Libyan Sea.
  • The Arkadi Monastery is a fascinating historical building with plenty of stories in its past. Many Cretans were killed there in 1866 by invading Turks, and their bones have been preserved and displayed at the monastery as a symbol of the Islander’s struggle for independence from the invaders. The drive to this monastery is very scenic, as it winds along a twisty mountain road.
  • Go out for a meal in Hania. This is the second largest city in Crete, and it has a beautiful Venetian harbor featuring many great restaurants where you can enjoy some traditional Greek food or a few drinks with friends. This town also has some good shopping, luxury hotels, and several interesting museums and art galleries.
  • Take a day trip up to Gortys, which was once a busy Greco-Roman city. Nowadays all that is left of the city is several well-preserved ruins that can be found within lovely fields and olive groves. Be sure to take a look at the church of Ayos Titos from the 6th century, and the huge stone blocks from 500BC that have the first Code of Law in Europe etched on them.
These are just a few of the fantastic experiences that you can have even just moments off your flight to Greece, and begin adventuring the Greek Islands.

Simon Grant is a writer, blogger and frequent traveller who contributes to Time To Wander.