As the largest of all the Greek islands, it’s safe to say that you won’t be bored on a holiday to Crete. But what exactly does it have to offer besides its 650 miles of stunning coastline, turquoise waters and lashings of glorious Greek sunshine?
Read on for our 10 things you must try in Crete (raki optional!):
Wander Rethymnon Old Town
If you fancy a complete contrast to the island’s party resorts of Malia and Heraklion, Rethymnon Old Town awaits. Behind the pastel buildings that line the pretty harbour you’ll find a labyrinth of cobbled streets and tiny piazzas. It’s a fantastic place to visit a traditional taverna or pick up authentic souvenirs including handicrafts, olive oil products and unique jewellery.
Image by Romtomtom via flickr
Tour the countryside on horseback
As well as endless beautiful beaches, Crete also has lots of lush countryside to explore. Saddling up for a tour on horseback is one of the best, and most eco-friendly, ways to see the island. The Stables in Finikia offer brilliant treks up into the mountains, through the countryside and along the beaches, followed by a homemade lunch at the farmhouse.
Image by Tilemahos Efthimiadis via flickr
Spa yourself silly!
Crete has become one of the top spa destinations in the Greek islands and there are hundreds to choose from catering to all budgets. Our favourites lie near Elounda on the east coast, where the views from the infinity pools to the cobalt Aegean Sea are to die for. The perfect place for a girls’ holiday and to relax and indulge.
Sip cocktails at a beach bar
You’ll find no shortage of cool clubs and swanky cocktail bars in Crete – why not take advantage of your island position and choose one with a sea view? The New York Beach Club or Palm Beach Club are both places to be seen in party hard Hersonissos, while those who want to escape the neon nights on Malia strip should head to the relaxed Beachcomber Bar five minutes away in Stalis. If you’re in Chania and fancy doing your drinking and dancing somewhere a little bit different, the Kibar, set in an atmospheric old monastery, mixes modern and traditional vibes for a memorable night out.
Image by Thomas Strosse via flickr
Party at a waterpark
If it’s just not a summer holiday without a trip to a waterpark, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Crete. Acqua Plus, Watercity and Limnoupolis Water Park all bring as many slides and splashes as you can handle. Star Beach Water Park in Hersonissos also offers waterpark action for the kids during the day, with a party vibe for the grown-ups after dark!
Image by limnoupolis.gr
Try a traditional mezze
You can’t go to Crete without ordering a traditional Greek mezze at least once! The huge array of small plates usually includes fresh feta, olives, stuffed vine leaves, dips, salads and homemade breads and can be ordered at any taverna on the island. For a truly authentic mezze experience you should head to a bar rather than a restaurant. This is because mezze, meaning small plates, actually originated when small dishes of food were given out free with alcoholic drinks. Seek out a Kafeneion or an Ouzerie (traditional bars), order a carafe of wine or shot of the local fire water, and see what surprise selection of snacks you’re served!
Image by wikimedia
Go wild at Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge is a real playground for those who like to be active on holiday. The six(ish!)-hour hike along the river is definitely a challenge, but you’ll be rewarded at the end by a welcome drink in a waiting taverna, and a refreshing dip in the Aegean. The views from the mountainside are breathtaking, and you’ll pass wild goats, tiny villages and thick woodland as you go. A trek into true Crete.
Image by Krzysztof Belczyński via flickr
Sail to Spinalonga island
A day on the crystal-clear waters is a must and there are lots of boat tours to choose from. We like the BBQ boat tour, which departs from the pretty harbour at Agios Nikalaos. Sail over to gorgeous Kolokitha Bay for a spot of snorkelling before enjoying a BBQ lunch on board. Then it’s on to historic Spinalonga island. Spinalonga was the last remaining leper colony and this former Venetian fortress and makes a fascinating (if a little spooky) day out!
Image by George M. Groutas via flickr
Go wine and raki tasting – if you dare!
While cocktails in a beach bar or wine on a terrace might be more your usual style, when in Crete it’s almost obligatory to sample the local firewater, raki. Go easy though, at 40 – 65% proof, you won’t need many! Crete also has some fantastic wineries, if you prefer your tipple on the less flammable side! We really enjoyed http://vintagetourscrete.com/, which offers a range of culinary and wine tasting routes.
Image by George M. Groutas via flickr
Take a Segway Tour
For those who find regular walking tours a tad boring, but still want to be guided around the island’s best bits, a segway tour is a good compromise. Available in Chania and Rethymnon, segways are easy to ride and a fun way to take a quick tour of the sights.
Image by Bill Abbott via flickr
Whatever type of holiday on Crete you’re after – relaxing, action-packed, cultured or a bit of everything – this whopper of a Greek island delivers in a big way.