5 minutes reading time Greece
Surely, everyone dreams of one day visit Greece. Many wish to visit Greece to enjoy their honeymoon, explore the ancient civilisation of the once great and powerful Greeks, or simply revel in the numerous exquisite beaches and bathe in the burning sun. Truthfully, Greece is always a good choice for a vacation or holiday. Not only can you experience cosmopolitan cities like Athens and Thessaloniki, but you can also enjoy island life. Today though, we will introduce the largest island of Greece, Crete.
As mentioned above, Crete is the largest island of Greece and the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. I would say even if you only visit Crete rather than Athens, or other parts of Greece, you will still be able to experience everything the country has to offer. In fact, Crete contains one of the oldest civilisations in Europe, which is the Minoan civilisation. When in Crete, you will experience civilisation that was the beginning of what today we call the European civilisation. Furthermore, Crete has incredible landscapes to explore. Beautiful mountains, majestic beaches, and numerous breath-taking valleys and canyons.
Top 5 Beaches to Visit
1. Elafonisi Beach
Elafonisi beach is in the southwest part of Crete. It lies right in front of Elafonisi island, thus its name. The beach is mostly famous for its white with pink hues sand. When the tide is low, you can walk to the islet of Elafonisi without getting wet. The water is relatively shallow, so it is perfect for young children. In addition to the beach, the islet of Elafonisi offers fantastic views. Although it is only a mile long, you get to explore various landscapes and vegetation. For nature lovers, the multiple coves and unique rock formations are a great addition to the beach.
2. Balos Beach
As you arrive at Balos beach, the view of the lagoon you get from the rocky hills is stunning. The combination of the brilliant turquoise waters and white sand of Balos beach creates a majestic picture. It is no wonder every year, thousands of people visit the beach. Furthermore, the area is a protected natural reserve, so you can explore the rare sea life while snorkelling, or if you are lucky, see monk seals and longheaded turtles.
3. Agiofarango Beach
Agiofarango beach is at the end of the Agiofarango gorge. Thus, you can get there either by hiking the gorge or catching a boat from Matala, Agia Galini, Kokkinos Pyrgos, or Kali Limenes. The beach is surrounded by rocky cliffs creating an arch. The waters are usually very calm and crystal blue.
4. Falassarna Beach
Falassarna bay consists of five beaches with the two in the centre as the most popular. Falassarna beach was voted as the best beach of Crete and one of the top 10 in Europe. Indeed, the white sand and turquoise waters of Falassarna beach are not to be missed. Additionally, it is known that at Falassarna, you can experience the best sunset in all of Crete.
5. Stefanou Beach
The beach of Stefaou is a well-hidden gem. It is a tiny beach situated at a narrow cove, and the only access to it is a narrow, steep path that starts from the car park. So, when you arrive at Stefanou beach, it would be safer to wear sneakers or hiking shoes. The beach itself is beautiful scenery with fine pebbles, crystal clear blue waters, and white marble cliffs that protect the beach from the strong winds.
Top Historical Places to Visit
1. Minoan Palace of Knossos
The Minoans were the first advance civilisation of Europe, and Knossos was the most important city in Crete. It was also the seat of the Minoan King whose name was Minos. Minos, in fact, is a title rather than a name, much like the Pharaohs in Egypt. Although the palace went through various destructions both by nature and humans, it still preserves the ancient architectural style of the Minoans. As you explore the numerous rooms and areas of the palace, you can see the rare wall paintings in the queen’s chamber, corridors, and other spaces and see the throne room and ceremony room.
2. Rocca a Mare Fortress
Rocca, a Mare Fortress, which means the Fort of the Sea, was constructed by the Venetians when Crete was under their rule during the medieval times. It was built as part of the fortification project to protect the island. Currently, it still stands tall and proud near the modern harbour of Heraklion. The fortress serves as a museum, and it offers beautiful views of the harbour and the city.
Spinalonga is a tiny island in the northeast part of Crete, and you can get there by boat from Elounda and Plaka. The island is fortified with Venetians Walls. However, the village of Spinalonga is now abandoned and uninhabited. Spinalonga was, in fact, one of Europe’s leprosy colonies until the 1960s. For over a half-century, the island was closed to the world. Nowadays, it is one of Greece’s most famous attractions, and you get to explore the empty streets and houses of the abandoned village. You are blessed with majestic views of the sea.
4. Monastery of Arkadi
The Arkadi monastery is the most important in the whole of Crete. It was built in the 12th century, but its importance came much later. During the struggle of the Cretans for their freedom, the monastery became a source for educational, national, ethical, and monastery support. Furthermore, because of the fortification of the monastery, it attracted the Cretan rebels. It became a shelter for the rebels and the beginning of the liberation of Crete.
5. Diktaean Cave
Rather than historical importance, Diktaean Cave is significant in mythology. Zeus, the king of all Gods, was born and raised in this very cave. Rhea, his mother, to save her son from his father Cronus, lied to him that she already gave birth to Zeus by giving him a bundled rock which he swallowed much like his other children. Later, Rhea hid in Diktaean Cave, where she gave birth to Zeus and raised him alongside the Dikatean Kouretes, the goat Amalthea and the nymph Melissa.
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