Released: Tue Jul 19 2022
Crete — 10 Top Highlights for 2022
Sun, beach and a lot of history — that’s what the largest Greek island offers you. Where pirates once ate dates, you can now soak up the sun and explore a monastery that has been declared a Greek national shrine. Before you set off on a hike through untouched nature, discover hidden lagoons or taste regional delicacies, check out our excursion tips for Crete. To make sure you are perfectly prepared for your next vacation on the sunny Mediterranean island, we have created an overview of the most popular sights of Crete.
Ruins of Knossós
The famous ruins of Knossós originate from the impressive palace of the Cretan king Minos and are the most important excavation site of Crete. Despite, or perhaps because of, its controversial renovation methods, the once five-story splendorous building now shines almost in its former glory.
Interesting guided tours with locals and skip-the-line-tickets can be found here.
Turquoise sea, fine white sand and gently curving shores — the Lagoon of Balos exudes almost Caribbean flair and is one of the most visited natural beauties in the west of Crete. As a nature reserve, it may not be built on — and has thus preserved its idyllic beauty for decades. Private boat excursions can be booked in advance here.
The historic city center is the main attraction of Crete’s capital Heraklion. The old port was once one of the most important seaports of the Venetians, Crete’s museums tell about the island’s culture, flora and fauna and Ekaterini Square houses, among other things, the Agias Minas Church, one of the largest cathedrals in Greece.
National Archaeological Museum in Heraklion
The Cretan capital Heraklion is home to the National Archaeological Museum, one of the most important museums in Europe. The focus of the extensive collection is on the Minoan culture on Crete, which developed under King Minos into the first advanced civilization in Europe. Skip-the-line-tickets can be booked in advance here.
Vai Palm Beach
Cretan travelers will also find Caribbean flair for the perfect beach vacation on Crete at the Palm Beach of Vai. Here, Europe’s largest naturally grown palm grove provides pleasant shade. According to legend, the seeds of the Cretan date palm were once left on the beach by pirates from the Middle East. In the meantime, several thousand trees thrive on the approximately 300m long beach!
For many Crete vacationers, the Samaria Gorge is the number one destination on the island. Although not the longest gorge in Europe (as often mistakenly claimed), but one of the longest, it offers 13 kilometers of impressive hiking between imposing cliffs to the coast of the Libyan Sea. Experienced local guides know the trails by heart and can be booked here.
Next to Balos Lagoon, Elafonissi Beach is often called the most beautiful beach in Crete. The calm sea and the spacious beach with its shallow sand dunes are ideal on the otherwise rugged west coast, especially for families with children. Day trips can be booked in advance here.
Panagia i Kera Church
The Panagia i Kera church, extremely inconspicuous from the outside, is one of the most important churches in Crete. Behind its typical snow-white walls, colorful murals are hidden under the dome, which is unique in Crete. The artistic frescoes could be largely renovated and are among Crete’s greatest Byzantine masterpieces.
Inconspicuous holes in the rock: the caves near Matala have exerted a magical fascination on people for thousands of years. In Greek mythology, Zeus, the father of the gods, once brought the kidnapped princess Europa ashore here. Caesar’s son Brutus is also said to have been here.
And in the recent past, dropouts from all over the world turned the caves into Crete’s largest hippie commune, with celebrities such as Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan as members.
Arkadi Monastery is one of the most visited sights in Crete, not because of its art treasures, but because of its historical significance. One of the biggest mass suicides in Cretan history took place here in the middle of the 19th century during the war of liberation against the Turks. The drama of Arkadi went around the world at that time and made the monastery a famous national monument. Combine a bike tour with included lunch and visit the monastery on an excursion.