A spectacular coastline, a rich and diverse history spanning millennia, outstanding food and wine, and thumping nightlife; If you’re looking for an authentic taste of Greek island life this summer, you can’t go past Crete.
Chow down in Chania
Located along Crete’s north-western coast, Chania is Crete’s dining hotspot. The island’s culinary history is almost as exciting as its geopolitical one. So healthy is the Cretan approach to food that the island’s culinary culture has survived occupations by the Arabs, Venetians, and the Ottoman Empire.
Head into Chania’s old town for a taste of the real Crete. Choose from cosy tavernas serving staid classics like dakos (a traditional meze similar to bruschetta), to upmarket seafood restaurants grilling the catch du jour. For a snack on the run, tuck into Chania’s take on the famous Greek gyros – a grudging culinary legacy of Ottoman occupation and a simple all-in-one meal. Ask for extra chips in your gyros – you won’t regret it.
Sail on the blue Aegean
After lunch, round up a crew and head down to Chania’s marina – once a Venetian port and a centre for trade across the Mediterranean. Depending on the number of friends you have (and your budget) choose from a group style tour on one of the larger island hoppers or relax back in luxury on a privately-owned cruiser or yacht. Before you leave port, you may just catch a glimpse of the marina’s resident Caretta Caretta sea turtles.
Once out on the water, head to many of the smaller offshore islands and inlets. Drop anchor and leap off the bow of your boat into the sapphire blue waters of the Aegean sea – it’s bliss.
Splash about at Elafonissi Beach
Crete’s beaches are world renowned and there are miles of pristine coastline to explore. The real standout, however, is Elafonissi beach located on Crete’s south-western most point.
Elafonissi has garnered worldwide notoriety as one of the prettiest beaches on earth, and it’s clear why; turquoise waters lap gently at a sloping shoreline, while the sand itself is the subtlest hue of pink which comes from an aeons-long break down of shells by wind and tide.
Cough up a few Euro for one of the cabana-style sun chairs situated along the shore, or just camp out in the sun. Either way, you can lose yourself in Elafonissi’s magic for the better part of a day and still want to come back for more.
Echoes of Empire in Knossos
Crete was once the home of the mighty Minoan Empire and the palace of Knossos was the undisputed political and ceremonial centre of the Minoan civilisation.
The empire’s first king, the mythical King Minos, once lived here and as the legend goes was the stepfather of the Minotaur, a fearsome half man, half bull monster. While the minotaur’s labyrinthine home is likely just a story, the historical site offers a tantalising glimpse into the daily lives of the Minoan people.
Hike Samariá Gorge
Situated in the ruggedly beautiful White Mountains of western Crete, Samariá Gorge is a hiker’s dream. Well marked hiking trails wend their way up into the heights through forests of pine and cypress, transitioning to sweeping vistas of craggy, almost vertical cliff sides.
It’s advised to start the hike early, especially in summer as the heat can become oppressive, and allow plenty of time as the walk typically takes between 4-8 hours to complete.