Crete: Antique & Recent Cultural Highlights, Beautiful Landscapes And A Paradise For Gourmets!
We chose Crete because we wanted to rest & relax and have some descent weather without spending too long on a plane beginning of November. Maybe even more important, we did not want to be tempted to spend the whole time traveling and visiting and discovering during the 9 days we had at hand (ever heard of travel Stakhanovism? Yes, that’s a bit us…)
There is not much to do in Crete, we thought… The ideal place for some lazy and quiet vacations without missing unique places… Right? How wrong!
One Of The Cradles Of Civilization
Crete had a strategic positioning between the Middle East (Mesopotamia), North Africa (Egypt) & the first European cultures, and developed as one of the first Great Civilizations in History, with first vestiges as old as 6.500 years old! The Minoan Empire reached its apogee somewhere between 2.000 BC & 1.500 BC and shone across the whole Mediterranean See and as far as Mesopotamia & Egypt.
Amateurs of Antique vestiges will have a real treat here, with some of the oldest archeological remains in the world (think amongst others of the Palace of Cnossos), and some of the greatest Archeological Museums you can think of (amongst others in Heraklion and Chania).
Add to this the numerous and beautiful Orthodox Monasteries that dot the island, and you will need more than one week just to cover the cultural highlights…
The diversity of landscapes in the biggest of all Greek Islands is what makes Crete so unique:
- You will find here some of the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean Sea. Especially Elafonissi surpassed our expectations, but other beaches like Vaï in the East or Falassarna in the West were really nice. And we were already in the low season so we could not hop on a boat to discover some of the very secluded beaches on the South of the island…
- Crete is very mountainous, with peaks reaching as high as 2.456 meters above sea level. The mountainous landscape doted with olive trees and goats & sheep offers some stunning views. Once again, we were too late off-season to do the Samarian Gorge trek, which is said to be epic!
- The water of the Mediterranean Sea offers a unique display of various shades of dark blue to emerald, and is one of the clearest we have ever experienced. Crete must be a diver’s dream!
Mountain Villages & Venetian Harbors
There are numerous beautiful old cities, some with Venetian harbors, like Chania, Rethymnon, Paleochora or Agios Nikolaos, that invite you for long strolls in a maze of small streets or through the harbor and along the walls going to an old Venetian Lighthouse.
And if you venture in the mountains of the island, you will discover timeless traditional, white villages, with old people caring for the local businesses. An ideal place to seat down and relax with a cup of Greek coffee watching life going by…
A Paradise For Gourmets
Well, we had not plan to spend so much time sampling delicious Cretan food. And yes, Cretan food is as superb as it is healthy! Add to this a pot of local wine (4 to 5 € for 50 cl) and a Raki to finish your meal, and life is exactly as it should be…
Especially in Agios Nikolaos (Restaurant Ketzarolakia Ble), in Paleochora (Taverna Methexis) and in Stalos near Chania (Taverna Leventis), did we sample some unique food!
On A Practical Note
We were in Crete after November 1st, when the low season starts. There are no more directs flights to Crete from major European cities, so you will have to fly through Athens. Most restaurants close beginning of November, as do many activities like Scuba Diving, hiking the Samarians Gorges, …
True, you will have a much more relaxed and Off The Beaten Track experience of Crete than in the peak season, but you will be also more limited.
But for the main highway along the northern shores of the islands, windy mountain roads are a serious challenge and required my full attention. Longer distances on those roads can be demanding, and you should avoid driving at night at any costs, especially on secondary mountain roads.
If you have a lot of possibilities in the low season, it seems that booking is absolutely mandatory in the summer, especially between mid July and mid August!