Crete is an island of stunning natural beauty that bedazzles every visitor. It’s situated in the southernmost point of Europe, in the crossroads of 3 continents and 5 seas! It has always been a meeting point for various peoples and cultures, between Europe, Asia and Africa, while it is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. It enjoys an extremely privileged geographical position, and a rare climate that offers its residents and visitors ideal living and holidaying conditions. There are many people who actually come to Crete for vacations and then decide to become permanent residents. Crete has four prefectures: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi.
Heraklion is a beautiful seaside town that got its name from the Temple of Hercules. It’s a place directly associated with the mythical Minotaur and a friendly city with multistory buildings and a maze of scenic narrow streets.
The Chanioporta, dated back to the second half of the 16th century, the city’s Fort with the imposing Venetian 3km long walls, the Eleftherios Venizelos Square, which is the city’s main square with the 4 iconic lions in the center and incredible reliefs in the basins of the fountain, the Venetian church of Agios Markos and the cathedral of Agios Minas, one of the most impressive churches for its size, location and the wooden carved temple with icons from the 18th century. You should also visit the History – Ethnography Museum, the Archeological Museum – Museum of Minoan Civilization, the Museum of Cretan Ethnology and the Municipal Museum of the Battle of Crete.
The palace of Knossos is just 5km southeast of the city of Heraklion. It was the biggest palace complex of ancient times, with 1.500 chambers and boasting an area of 20.000m2. It was famous for its intricate architectural and construction design (Labyrinth).
Phaistos is located approximately 60 km from the city of Heraklion and was the second in size and importance religious and economic hub of ancient times, after Knossos. The famous Phaistos Disc was found in this exact area. Its two sides are decorated with symbols from an unknown to-date writing; something that has raised the international interest of scholars, archeologists and historians.
The wonderful city of Chania is located on the northern coast of the island, approximately two and a half hours from Heraklion. The Old Town with the mazy scenic paved streets and the Venetian walls is simply incredible and ideal for walking and exploring. In town, visitors will find the Cathedral, the church of Agios Nikolaos in Splantzia, the church of Agia Magdalini, the Lighthouse (the city’s trademark), Neoria, where the Venetian ships were docked and maintained, the Mosque of Hassan Pasha, the city’s market, etc. Other attractions include the Tombs of the Venizelos family, with a panoramic view to the city, the Monasteries of Chryssopigi, the archeological site of Aptera, and the incredibly beautiful area of Agioi Apostoloi. The city also boasts many museums, such as the Archeological, the Historical, the Naval, the Folklore and the War.
Rethymno is just an hour from the city of Heraklion, has a magnificent Old Town and boasts incredible monuments. Byzantine and Venetian churches, mosques, fountains, old houses with porches, narrow streets and arched alleys, all creating a unique setting that combines the aesthetics of the aristocratic Venetian architecture, the oriental charm and the distinct couleur locale.
It’s by far the most impressive and longest gorge in Europe, with a total length of 18 kilometers. It has been declared a National Park in order to preserve its rare flora and fauna, and it takes about 6 to 8 hours to be crossed. The gorge starts from Xyloskalo and follows the riverbed, through a beautiful forest with tall trees and a spectacular view. The loveliest part of the route is the so-called Sideroportes, where the two sides of the gorge are only 3 meters from one another and raise as high as 600 meters!
The famous caves of Matala are located 71km southwest of Heraklion and were created by people of the prehistoric era. Various tombs from the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian era were found inside the caves, which were later used by hippies.
Mythology – History
Innumerable are the archeological findings in Crete, demonstrating human presence at least 8.000 years ago, during the Neolithic Era, which was succeeded by the Minoan Period that got its name from King Minos. This period lasted for approximately 1.500 years and was the Golden Age of Crete, with magnificent buildings and an architecture that literally reached perfection. Prime examples of this architecture are the Palaces of Knossos, Phaistos and Malia, which are all well preserved until nowadays.
After the fall of Constantinople, many scientists and scholars found refuge in Crete. And this is how the island became a hub for arts and sciences, with influences from the Italian Renaissance, the principles of Classical aesthetics and the Byzantine worldview. The internationally acclaimed iconographer Damaskinos studied together with El Greco, while only few of the island’s most prominent personalities of the Cretan literature include Georgios Hortatsis, author of Erophile, and Vincenzo Kornanos, author of Erotokritos. Cretans have a proud, rebellious and insubordinate soul and preserve their own customs and traditions unaltered for centuries now.
The prefecture of Lasithi is the easternmost of Crete. The beautiful town of Agios Nikolaos is the capital and its terrain is mostly mountainous. Another characteristic is the presence of many olive groves and gorges, which often lead to stunning beaches.
The Lasithi Plateau is justifiably one of the most beautiful locations in Crete, visited every year by thousands of people. It’s an incredible setting, uniquely combining the natural beauty, mythology, history and the Cretan traditional lifestyle.
Agios Nikolaos is located on the northern coast of the island and on the west side of Merabellos gulf. Its name comes from the homonymous Byzantine chapel built in the bay of Agios Nikolaos. You should take a stroll in this scenic town, visit the park and the Archeological Museum. The area lives off tourism, the cultivation of olives and free farming.
The lake is basically a small lagoon in the city center and is associated with many legends. Some believe it’s a volcano crater connected with that of Santorini, some that the Germans dropped military equipment in its bottom when they left, and some that this is where Artemis and Aphrodite were bathing… All in all, this location surely has a magical beauty, especially before sunset and sunrise.
It’s an islet of 21 acres, across from the bay of Elounda in the Merabello area. Due to its strategic location it has many fortifications, while up until the 20th century it was a quarantine for people suffering from Hansen’s Disease. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour to this famous islet.