Crete is a place renowned the world over for the legendary Cretan food, the long lasting history and traditions, the unique nature, the exotic beaches and the hospitable spirit. So, if wondering what to see in Crete during your visit, you might reconsider as the right question to ask would be what to see in Crete the first time you visit. Being the cradle of European civilization, Crete has so many sights, attractions, landscapes and beaches worth discovering that it would definitely take more than one visit to see them all.
One of the very first things to do in Crete before you begin your Crete sightseeing would be to try the local food produced by the rich goods of the Cretan land proven to increase longevity. Then you may visit some of the best Crete attractions such as the Lassithi Plateau, the Monastery of Toplou, Milatos Cave, Spinalonga, Chrissi island, Ha gorge and the waterfall of Mylonas. For swimming, diving and snorkelling head to the gorgeous beaches in south Crete including Vai, Agia Fotia, Myrtos, Agios Nikolaos and Elounda.
Some of the best places to go in Crete are situated in the wider area of Ierapetra. Encircled by the Libyan sea, the town of Ierapetra still stands as a reminder of its former glory with remains of the Genovese fortress also known as Castle of Gerpetra. The Turkish mosque and the Church of Metamorfosis are also worth the visit. Some of the best things to do in Ierapetra during your stay include visits to the Diktaeon Cave, the Minoan Water Tanks, the archaeological sites of Azoria and Gournia, the folk art Museum of Agios Nikolaos and the archaeological collection of Ierapetra featuring valuable archaeological findings such as the Clay sarcophagus, the Red-figure amphora and the honorary inscription.
Crete is one of the places that one can say that the myth is like history and history is like a myth. It was the birthplace of the first European Civilization, the Minoan, that flourished between 3000 BC & 1200 BC mainly on the Central & Eastern side.
Even today, the imposing palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Zakros, Tylissos, Archanes, Monastiraki, Galata, Kydonia reflect its splendor through the masterpieces of architecture, pottery, silversmiths & painting.
Because of its strategically geographic position, located at the crossroads of 3 Continents, it became an apple of feud for many who tried to conquer it. The island was colonized by a few.
Achaeans, Dorians, Romans, Byzantians, Arabs, Venetians, Turks, Egyptians & Germans are some of them. Also for a long time pirates of the Mediterranean have been ravaging Cretan shores. The fortifications & fortresses you can find in almost all the cities of Crete still bear witness to its endless adventures.
All of the above give the visitor the opportunity to see and hear thousands of narratives and to wander through myths and history, giving him a unique and unforgettable experience.
The splendor of Cretan nature, from the mountainous to the lowland and coastal areas of the island, is revealed through the continuous alternations of the landscape that preserve many surprises for the traveler. The landscape changes are impressive. Rough mountain peaks, wild canyons, pristine rocky islands covered with sand dunes & cedars, wetlands & forests, countless beaches of infinite beauty, create rare ecosystems that spread all over the island and offer countless nature tours.
Its endemic flora is the basis of Cretan Nutrition. The fauna of the island is equally impressive. Endangered species such as the Caretta – Caretta turtle, the Monachus seal, as well as the Vulture eagle that exist only in Crete are some of the rare species one can encounter during his stay.
The folk tradition of Crete is an inexhaustible modern cultural entity with customs, materials and spiritually traditional elements, ancient customs that have shaped the core of modern Cretan life and remain over the years.
Cretan dialect is considered the longest existing dialect in Greece and has been the subject of study and research. Dozens of words have purely ancient Greek or archaic roots, while there are many linguistic influences of the Arabs, the Venetians and the Ottomans.
The people of Crete, hardened by the difficulties of life, but always genuine and smiling, rejoice when they share their feelings and their hospitality with their guests.
The word “hospitality” comes from the two Greek words “friend and xenia” and means to become a friend with the stranger.
As true descendants of Cretan Xenios Zeus, god of gods, god of people and hospitality, the Cretans are famous for their hospitality.
Crete is indissolubly linked to myths and legends that spring from the depths of the ages. Originally, in this particular placethe birth of Xenios Zeus from Rea, the father of gods, people and hospitality, took place. The Caves of Psychro and the Idaiou are interwoven with his birth and upbringing.
Later, Zeus in the form of a bull, grabbed the beautiful nymph Europe from Phenicia and transferred it to Crete. Zeus and Europe under the evergreen plane tree of Gortyn, which is still present ,created Minos, the king of the first brilliant European civilization, the Minoan, and the continent of Europe took its present name.
It was here, for the first time, that the elaborate craftsman Daedalus built the famous Labyrinth, where he detained the Minotaur, and later ignored the law of gravity, flying away with his son Icarus. In the same place, Theseus killed the Minotaur, using the Ariadne mite.
The bronze giant Talos, the first robot in mythology, as a vigilant guard, traveled Crete three times a day to protect it from the invaders before the Argonauts neutralized it.
Even today there are legends such as Drosulites, shadows walking in the early hours of the dawn between May and June outside the fortress of Frangokastelo. They are the souls of soldiers who have lost their lives there in a battle with the Ottomans.
The island has a long and rich musical tradition, with deep roots in antiquity, heavily influenced by Byzantine music and enriched by the musical culture of the wider eastern Mediterranean. Through the small and big celebrations in which they participate, the inhabitants come in contact and become “initiates” of the particular musical culture of Cretan music.
Mantinades, small twin poems, reflect the feelings, thoughts and life of the Cretan people and express the complain, the love, the attitude towards life and every feeling that comes from the sensitive Cretan soul.
The Greek dances and music first appeared in Crete. It is said that the mother of the Gods, Rhea, taught them to the Kourites to be purified. The most famous Cretan dance was the Pyrrhic. The present Cretan dances, well-known all over Greece, are the echoes of the Kouretes dances.
Each region of the island has its own traditional dances, many of which preserve their original circular typology and are danced systematically even today. The main dances are the pentozal, the pidihtos, the susta, the siganos syrtos and the Chaniotis Syrtos.
The Cretans have always loved the arts and events where they can come in contact with their fellowmen and share their feelings.
During the summer evenings in various cities and villages of the island are exhibitions of arts and festivals of theater, music, cinema and dance. Many concerts take place in stages, in archaeological sites, in city walls or in small country theaters.
Even the feasts of the saints are always framed with great festivals accompanied by Cretan lyre and dances, in village squares or in churches, bringing to the surface customs that keep from Minoan Crete.
There are many festivals that have been associated with a product of a village and are always the occasion for a great feast. Feast of potato, raki, zucchini, bread, wine, mizithra, graviera cheese, snail, cherry, apple are few of the feasts accompanied by free trial of the traditional products of each region.
The visitor of Crete today can come in contact with the customs and customs of Crete, through a large number of museums and collections that aim to highlight the folklore and ethnological tradition on the island.
The Cretan diet hides within it a philosophy of life where food encompasses an entire culture.
Crete has one of the oldest and most delicious cuisines in the world. It is the continuation of the tradition of flavors, perfumes, materials and styles that have its roots in the Minoan era and it reaches to this day. From the finds of the archaeological excavations, it seems that even the ancient Cretans, 4,000 years ago, consumed almost the same products as the current Cretan. In the Minoan palace many large jars for oil, wine, cereals, legumes and honey were found. Meat is on the table relatively rarely, especially due to the large fasting periods.
The island over the centuries has received many gastronomic influences, since there have been invaders who occasionally tried to conquer it. The ability of the island to maintain its personal character, despite the changes and adversities, has created a tradition that is now very valuable, given that the international scientific community speaks not only about Cretan cuisine but also about its “miracle” Cretan diet”!
The endless coastline of Crete that centuries have created hundreds of beaches sculpted by the waters of the seas that surround it in combination with the bright sun, the blue sky and the alternation of the colors of the water from deep blue to light blue and from blue to aquamarine, is able to give the visitor a unique experience.
Crete, located in the 35th parallel and just 2,100 miles from Ecuador, has one of the best climates the visitor can find in the world.
With nearly 6 months of summer, 9 months of sunshine, with an average annual temperature of 18.5 ° C for the environment and 19.4 ° C for water, the island is considered to be an ideal holiday destination throughout the year.