The largest and one of the most impressive of the Greek islands, Crete has a rich cultural heritage that infiltrates every aspect of life here. Immensely proud of their own unique identity and traditions, the local way of life here is a celebration of the island’s history as the first recorded civilisation in Europe. While history is of huge importance here, the island has adapted to become one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. Gorgeous golden crescents and warm crystal-clear waters, rugged landscapes to explore, a vibrant party atmosphere and delicious local delicacies to tuck into, all blend seamlessly to create an unforgettable trip. And since the flight to Crete is just an extra hour away than Spain, why not switch it up this year? A holiday to Crete for 2019 can cater to your every whim and desire – so, whether you’re a hardcore clubber, a beach bum, a culture vulture, or simply want to escape to a quaint village, Crete can provide it in spades.
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 4h 25m
When to go
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While it would be easy to laze the days away on the sun-drenched beaches while sipping cocktails, if you want our advice, try to pull yourself for a day or two to explore some of the local heritage. Our four essentials have to be the Samaria Gorge, the Ruins of Knossos, Rethymno Beach and the Dikteon Caves. A trek to Samaria Gorge offers some of the island’s most stunning scenery and is perfect for photo opportunities to make your friends back home jealous. Make sure you hire a tour guide for the day when checking out the ruins of Knossos for the full inside scoop on this ancient wonder. For your own personal slice of paradise, head for the beaches of Rethymno, the most peaceful in all of Crete and for our money, the best. Explore the mythical birthplace of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, with a step through time at Dikteon Cave. With an eerie ambience and chock-full of stalactites and stalagmites, it’s easy to see why this location is the stuff of legends.
Affectionately dubbed the party capital of Greece, Crete is no lightweight when it comes to nightlife, and there’s no limit to what you can get up to as the sun begins to set. Awash with bars, pubs, lounges, clubs and discos, the establishments here uphold the traditional Cretan relaxed way of life, so you’re free to enjoy your night of partying at whatever pace you choose. Crete has fully embraced its reputation as a haven for revellers with open arms, so you’ll find decent nightlife in every region. The main hubs for party vibes are indisputably Heraklion and Agios Nikloas, popular with the younger crowds during summer. Although with Malia and Hersonnissos both offering endless strips of bars and cheap drinks promos night after night, you’ll have a tough choice in picking where to party in Crete. Your best bet is to start off in one of the beachside bars for a few cocktails before strolling down the strip to see what takes your fancy.
Crete is the ideal destination for loved-up couples seeking a sunny getaway, with some of the most romantic resorts and secluded private beaches Greece – or even the Mediterranean – has to offer. Treat your beloved to a fabulous honeymoon suite to be waited on hand and foot, some stunning spa packages or fine dining, and you’re sure to rack up the brownie points. A romantic retreat to Crete can be as modest or fast paced as you wish, so you’ll have plenty of time to chill out together or gaze longingly into each other’s eyes, without the constant interruptions of modern life. For the ultimate romantic day trip, head out to Kriti. Amble around the olive groves, splay out on the beach or take a trek together up the mountains. For a little slice of heaven, book into Amirandes Elixer Alchemy Spa, with treatments you won’t find anywhere else using organic plants, extracts and aromatic herbs from Crete’s local flora.
One of the most picturesque and bustling cities in Crete, Rethymnon has a recorded history from the Palaeolithic right up to the Roman times, so there’s no shortage of things for culture vultures to sink their teeth into. Check out the Archaeological Museum opposite the Fortezza to delve deep into the ancient findings of Cretan culture, including vessels, figurines weapons and other antiquated treasures. Also of interest will be the Ecclesiastical Museum, playing host to campaniles and other holy wonders. If you’re more into modern culture, then be sure to pay a visit to the Contemporary Gallery of Modern Art, ideally located in the city centre. Whatever you’re into, for cultural pleasures it’s best to take a day trip to or base yourself in Rethymnon.
Crete has long been at the forefront in the resurgence of modern Greek cuisine, implementing the use of delicious local ingredients such as flavoured rusks, both cured and fresh meats and wild edible weeds. The island is also home to raki or tsikoudia, a locally distilled spirit that’s commonly served with dinner and has gained a cult following amongst visitors to the island. If you’re travelling with a group or partner, why not splash out for a night at one of our favourite restaurants Crete has to offer, Avli in Rethymnon. Set in a stunningly shaded courtyard, this eatery offers up traditional Cretan dishes with a contemporary twist. Highlights include the red mullet marinated in lime with the freshest local veg, and the lingering taste of grilled octopus with fava and beetroot. If you’re celebrating a special event, be sure to check out their wine and cheese menu from the award-winning cellar, for a truly flavoursome night.
While Crete may not cater for children in the obvious ways holidaymakers may be used to (a lack of kids menus in restaurants being a common complaint), what the Cretans do exceedingly well is imbue their kids with a spirit for adventure and a strong sense of inclusivity; and in turn the locals will dote over your own kids with genuine warmth and kindness. From your little ones first taste of seafood, to their first cliff dive or exploration of the deep while snorkelling; Crete is a verified crowd pleaser when it comes to families with children in tow. With a plethora of safe, sandy beaches to choose from; your kids will love splashing around having fun in the sun; with warm, crystal clear waters to keep them happy for a day at the beachside. You could also treat them to some snorkelling to explore the shipwrecks and wonders of the deep, or take them on a boat cruise to explore the islands diverse landscapes. Back on dry land, you can also explore ancient ruins and eerie caves, or castles awash with the mythology of the past.
Action & Adventure
On the island of Crete, your thoughts might immediately turn to sun, sea, sand and scenery – not to mention the delicious local cuisine and relaxed way of life – but this paradise also offers numerous opportunities to kick-start your heart. A spirit of adventure pervades the Greek way of life, so there’s no shortage of things to do on Crete for an adrenaline rush. Why not finally take the plunge and try your hand at a spot of bungee jumping? For an incredibly intense experience, strap up and jump off the Aradhena Gorge, home to Europe’s second highest bungee jump. With such heart-stopping, white-knuckle activities available, we really can’t figure out why Crete doesn’t have more of a reputation for the extreme. Slow things down a bit with a memorable horse-back adventure at Lashiti Plateau and Matalia, providing plenty of thrills but also allowing you to get away from it all and back to nature. Steeped in history from Ancient Minoa, you’ll truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time.