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Eight hundred metres up a winding, sheer path just outside the village of Psyhro, the Dikteon Cave is as mysterious and forbidding as Greek myth itself. Here, according to legend, Rhea hid her newborn Zeus from Cronos, his offspring-gobbling father. Corkscrewing into the slick, wet dark, the vertiginous staircase passes through overhanging stalactites formed over millenia, resembling squashed, bulbous heads. Home to long-eared bats, the cavern is effectively lit with eerie red and green lights.

As you descend like Orpheus rewinding into the Underworld, we challenge your imagination not to go into overdrive. Lower down in the bowels of the cave it gets more dramatic still. In the back on the left is the smaller chamber where legend has it that Zeus was born. There is a larger hall on the right, which has small stone basins filled with water that Zeus allegedly drank from in one section and a spectacular stalagmite that came to be known as the Mantle of Zeus in the other.

The cave covers 2200 sq m and was excavated in 1900 by the British archaeologist David Hogarth, who found numerous votives indicating it was a place of cult worship. These finds are housed in the Archaeological Museum in Iraklio. Earlier still, Sir Arthur Evans, who discovered Knossos, visited here in 1894.

The cave was used for cult worship from the Middle Minoan period until the 1st century AD. Stone tablets inscribed with Linear A script were found here, along with religious bronze and clay figurines.

It is a breathless 15-minute walk up to the cave entrance. You can take the fairly rough but shaded track on the right with views over the plateau or the less interesting, unshaded paved trail on the left of the car park. Given the altitude there’s often rain and both paths can be dangerously slippy on the descent.

 

source: lonelyplanet.com

Crete simply has it all!

Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with beauties and treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover!

Chania

The region of Chania (Haniá), on the western side of the island, is dominated by the impressive White Mountains (in Greek: Lefká Óri) and its famous National Park, which occupy the largest part of the region.The Prefecture of Chania provides tourist services and activities of all kinds, satisfying all the choices. The city of Chania maintains unaltered all of its characteristics, from the time of the Venetian Rule up until today. 

Wandering around the Old Town’s maze-like alleys with the beautiful Venetian mansions, the fountains and the elaborate churches will help you discover well-preserved historical monuments. Get familiar with the city of Chania by wandering around in its streets, visiting its museums and admiring the different architectural styles presenting the historical route of the city. Chania is a paradise for food and wine lovers. Here you can taste the famous Cretan cuisine with a glass of excellent Cretan wine. Don't miss the opportunity to visit many wineries, where you will get to know the varieties of the Cretan terrain, the special local gastronomy and – let’s not forget – the outstanding Cretan hospitality!

Chania

Rethymno

Rethymno (Réthymno) region: Crete's smallest prefecture located between White Mountains and Mt Psilorítis (also called “Ídi”), is synonymous with gorgeous mountainscapes, marvellous beaches, Cretan lyre melodies, tsikoudiá spirit served with “oftó”, legendary caves, historic monasteries and monuments, traditional mountain villages and luxurious holiday resorts. Feel the essence of Incredible Crete in this mountainous, remote and self-sufficient region of the island of Crete.

Rethymno

Heraklion

The largest and most densely populate region on the island of Crete is Heraklion (Iráklion). Nestling picturesquely among two imposing mountain ranges – Ídi (Mt Psiloritis) to the west and Dikti (Lasithiótika mountains) to the east– Iráklion boasts exceptional archaeological treasures, significant coastal settlements, a series of picturesque villages, vast valleys with olive groves and vineyards as well as the best organised tourist infrastructure in Crete. A unique combination of urban scenery and natural wealth makes the region of Iráklion an appealing all-year-round destination.

Heraklion

Lasithi

Lasithi (Lassíthi) region. Welcome to the easternmost and least mountainous region of Crete, where the population resides in four semi-urban centers: Áyios Nikólaos, Ierápetra, Sitía and Neápoli. The mythical palm tree forest of Váï, the Gulf of Mirabello, the windmills on the Plateau of Lassíthi (the largest in Crete), beaches lapped by crystalline water, beautiful cities and luxurious hotel resorts all make up a rather fascinating world.

Lassithi

Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor and due to its mild climate, Crete became a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The first prehistoric settlements appeared in Crete around 6000 BC while in 2600 BC settlers who knew how to craft bronze arrived in Crete. It was then that the illustrious course of the Minoan Civilization began, reaching its peak around 1950 BC with the erection of the imposing palaces in KnossosFaistos, and Malia.  

 

History

Mythology has it that it was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus.  In that cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it.  It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together.  Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas.  In Minoan times, even Attica would pay a tribute tax to Crete, until Theseus, the Athenian prince, killed the Minotaur.  The truth behind the myth is the existence of a mighty and wealthy kingdom and of a civilisation that is considered the most ancient one on the European continent. 

In 1450 BC and again in 1400 BC the Minoan Civilization was successively devastated possibly due to the eruption of the volcano of Thera and was eventually led to its decline.  In the wake of the devastation the Dorians arrived to settle on the island.  They were later followed by the Romans.  After the Roman rule, Crete becomes a province of Byzantium until the arrival of the Arabs who occupied the island for an entire century (824-961 BC).  During the Arab domination, Crete became the lair of pirates who were based out of Chandakas, present day Heraklion.

Next, Crete fell under Byzantine rule again until the arrival of the Venetians who occupied the island for approximately 5 centuries leaving their stamp on the island’s culture.  After the fall of Chandakas in 1669, the Turkish Occupation began marked by ferocious and bloody uprisings.  At the end of the 19th century Turkish rule came to an end.  The Cretan State was created with the King of Greece as the island’s High Commissioner. In 1913, Crete was finally joined officially with Greece.

 

source: visitgreece.gr

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth biggest island in the Mediterranean, lies 318 kilometers south of Athens' port, Piraeus. Rimmed by more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline, it combines dramatic mountains with deep rocky gorges and blissful golden sand beaches. The most southerly outpost of Europe, its south coast extends to the Libyan Sea, looking to Africa, while cultural influences from Asia Minor can also be felt from the period spent under Turkish rule. Thanks to its fertile soils and warm, sunny climate, the local economy is based on agriculture, with tourism coming in a strong second. Crete's ancient archaeological sites, centuries-old harbor towns, and beaches attract visitors from all over the world.

 

1 Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge
 
Samaria Gorge
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Contained within the Samaria National Park, this impressive 18-kilometer gorge is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site's tentative list. From Xylóskalo, just outside the mountain village of Omalos, the gorge descends 1,250 meters to arrive at the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli on Crete's sunny south coast. The river Tarraios, which dries up in summer but floods in winter, runs the length of the gorge with high rocky cliffs to each side. The stony path is quite challenging and not recommended for people with knee problems, but it's a must-do for athletic visitors to Crete. On the busiest days, up to 3,000 people hike through the gorge. The walk can take four to six hours depending on how fit you are. It is open to visitors from May through mid-October.

2 The Palace of Knossos

The Palace of Knossos
 
The Palace of Knossos
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A pre-Greek Bronze Age culture and the first maritime power in the Mediterranean, the Minoans were named after the legendary King Minos. Knossos, near Heraklion, is believed to have been the palace of King Minos. This monumental residential complex centers on a vast courtyard, where it seems they staged "Bull-Leaping," an activity that involved running towards a bull, grabbing it by the horns, and somersaulting over it. Knossos was abandoned around 1450 BC. Archaeologists are not sure why - it may have been a catastrophic earthquake following the volcanic explosion on Santorini, or perhaps Crete was ravaged by invaders. Whatever the cause, the Minoans completely disappeared.

 
Makritíkhos - Palace of Knossós Map - Tourist AttractionsKnossos Royal Palace Map - Attractions

3 Heraklion

Heraklion
 
Heraklion
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Heraklion (Iraklion) is the island's capital and the obvious base for visiting Knossos and exploring central Crete. Like many of Crete's finest coastal towns, it gained its present layout under the Venetians, who ruled from 1204 to 1669, a period which saw a considerable cultural flowering on the island, producing artists such as El Greco, from Fódele, near Heraklion. The noted 20th-century writer, Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba the Greek, 1946) was also from Heraklion, and you can see his tomb within the old town walls. Heraklion has an airport (five kilometers east of town); is served by regular ferries from Athens' port, Piraeus; and is a popular port of call for cruise ships sailing the Eastern Mediterranean.

 

4 Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The temporary exhibition here at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is magnificent, and when the new museum (currently under renovation, completion date uncertain) finally opens, with 23 halls, it will be truly world-class. On show are finds from archaeological sites across the island, including prehistoric, Bronze Age, Roman, and Hellenic treasures. The pride of place goes to the Minoans, with their enchanting frescoes depicting proud and slender young men and women in vivid shades of terracotta-red, ochre yellow, and cobalt blue.

 

5 Chania

Chania
 
Chania
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Chania (Hania, Khania) is the main town in Western Crete, and was the capital of the island until 1971 when it moved to Heraklion. Overlooking the Aegean Sea and backed by the White Mountains, which are snow-capped in winter, the old town's appearance dates from the centuries spent under Venice (1204-1645). Chania is a lovely place to explore on foot. A warren of romantic alleys with pastel-colored buildings enclosed within the remains of 16th-century defensive walls, the town extends to a pretty fishing harbor. The agora (covered market), built in 1911, is worth a look for its fresh seasonal produce and gifts such as Cretan cheese and honey. Chania has an airport (12 kilometers northeast of town on Akrotíri peninsula) and is served by regular ferries from Athens' port, Piraeus. It makes a fine base for visiting the beaches of Elafonissi and Balos, and hiking the Samaria Gorge.

 

6 Rethymnon

Venetian Fountain in Rethymnon
 
Venetian Fountain in Rethymnon
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Midway between Chania and Heraklion, Rethymnon's lovely old town is made up largely of Venetian-era buildings, though there is some evidence of the year spent under Turkish rule (1669-1898) such as the towering minaret. Many historic buildings have been turned into small boutique hotels, shops, and tavernas, and the long, narrow, sandy beach east of the old town makes it easy to combine cultural sightseeing with a few hours of swimming and sunbathing. The mountains behind Rethymnon are home to rural villages and some excellent agritourism centers. The area makes a good base for visiting nearby attractions such as the Samaria Gorge and Mount Psiloritis.

 

7 Áyios Nikólaos

Áyios Nikólaos
 
Áyios Nikólaos
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Along the north coast of eastern Crete, about 65 kilometers east of Heraklion, Áyios Nikólaos (Agios Nikolaos) is home to Crete's most popular modern resorts. Rimmed by beautiful beaches, it sits on the slopes above Mirabello Bay near the posh beach hotels and villas of Elounda. Highlights of a visit here include a stroll along Lake Voulismeni, with its many waterfront cafés and restaurants, and a boat trip to Spinalonga Island, the location of the Greek TV series spawned from the book The Island by Victoria Hislop. Near Áyios Nikólao, you can also visit the Diktean Cave with its stalactites and stalagmites or venture into the mountains to the the charming village of Kritsa where local artisans sell traditional crafts such as leather goods, ceramics, and hand-woven rugs. On the way to Kritsa, stop by the little 13th-century church of Panagia Kera (Our Lady of Kera) to admire the superb Byzantine frescoes.

 

8 Palm beach

Palm beach
 
Palm beach
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On Crete's isolated east coast, the lovely golden sands of Palm beach (Finikodasos) are backed by a dense grove of towering palm trees. According to local legend, the palms grew from date stones washed ashore from Saracen ships in the ninth century. Whatever their origin, the palms certainly flourish in Crete's balmy Mediterranean climate, with relatively mild and wet winters and completely dry summers of subtropical heat. The beach is lined with blue sun beds and straw umbrellas, and tourists will find a café and basic water sports facilities here. To the south end of the beach, a rocky outcrop with a viewing platform affords fine views down onto the shore and is ideal for taking photos. The nearest sizeable resort is Áyios Nikólaos 96 kilometers away on the north coast.

 

source: planetware.com

Holidays in Crete is a wonderful summer experience. The island offers a lot of tourist developed resorts with exciting nightlife, leisure activities, beautiful beaches and luxury accommodation. The northern side of the island is more developed in tourism facilities and closer to transportation hubs, like international airports and popular ports. In the southern side of Crete, tourists experience a more traditional hospitality. Here are our suggestions on the best places to stay in Crete.

Best places to stay in Crete: the northern side

Elounda among best places to stay in Crete

The region of Chania, western Crete, offers some of the best places to stay in Crete. Very popular is the seashore town of Georgioupolis, preferred for peaceful but fun holidays. In the town there are many bars, tourist shops and amenities to suit your taste. Other developed and family-friendly resorts close to Chania Town are Kolimbari and Agia Marina.

Although this is a small seaside village, Kolymbari has many accommodation and entertainment options. Its sandy beach is ideal for romantic dinners and nights out. Agia Marina bustles with vivid nightlife, as its coastal resort has many clubs, bars and discos with Greek and international music.

A great place to spend your holidays in Rethymno region, Crete island, is Bali. A variety of restaurants, cafeterias and comfortable lodgings are available, all in a beautiful and tranquil setting. Visitors in Bali can swim in small bays with crystal clear waters and enjoy their time under the hot sun. Another very popular Rethymno beach resort is Adelianos Kambos. The resort has a huge beach with bars, showers, umbrellas, changing rooms, and luxury hotels.

Best places to stay in Crete: Agia Pelagia

Over the last decades, Hersonissos in eastern Crete has also grown into one of the best places to stay in Crete. Hersonissos boasts gorgeous beaches in the region that get crowded in high season, as well as plenty of stores, cafeterias and bars. There are also large hotel units for visitors who seek luxury. Some 20 km west of Heraklion Town lays Agia Pelagia, a famous resort that offers water sport facilities and many bars, restaurants and hotels.

If you wish for a more vibrant nightlife and endless dancing, the coastal resorts of Stalis and Malia in Heraklion would be suitable. With many bars and night clubs, these places are a meeting point for younger people looking for fun.

Best places to stay in Crete: Plakias

EloundaSissi and Sitia are also very popular destinations for Holidays in Lassithi, eastern Crete. The coastal village of Elounda is especially attractive due to its luxurious facilities and the amazing scenery. From the port of Elounda, tourists can take a trip to the historical island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony. Sissi is also famous for its secluded, clean beaches and Sitia for its charming atmosphere. These last two places are great for families.

Stay off the beaten track

Secluded beach in Crete

However, surely holidays in Crete are not only about luxurious hotels and busy beaches. For visitors who look for peaceful and traditional vacations, there are many beautiful places off the beaten track. Away from the bustle of the crowded resorts, some of the best places to stay in Crete include Plakias in Rethymno, Paleochora in Chania and Ierapetra in Lassithi.

Plakias is a seaside village ideal for swimming and total relaxation. Along the sandy beach, there are traditional fish taverns and a nice promenade for long walks. Paleochora has a unique beauty as it is situated in between two bays and makes a good base for excursions in southern Chania. Ierapetra is great for family holidays and relaxing moments. From the port of Ierapetra, you can take the boat to the secluded island of Chrissi with the exotic, crystal beaches.

 

source: greeka.com

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