(Photo by: storem)
Caption: The Samaria Gorge offers hikers an amazing natural experience when visiting Crete.
The Wonders of Crete
The Greek island of Crete holds the distinction of being inhabited by Europe’s original settlers, the Minoans. This culture settled on the Greek island somewhere between 2700 BC and 1420 BC. Today, Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and is the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Crete is rich with Grecian heritage and plays an important role in the overall Greek economy. It has a few cultural gems of its own, too. Poetry and music are specialties found in Crete culture. Let’s travel to Greece and explore the wonders of Crete.
Some Wonders to Behold
There are several noteworthy sites on Crete. The island is packed with archeology, history, and natural wonder. I have yet to be bored when I’m visiting Crete! Some definite must-sees include:
- Ancient Knossos: As I said in my introduction, Crete was initially inhabited by Europe’s oldest settlers. Ancient Knossos is home to what is left of the Minoan settlement, including the remains of King Minos’ glorious palace and some beautiful sculpture. Explore the ruins and imagine you are living in Crete prior to it ever being Crete!
- Anogia Village: Let’s jump ahead several centuries and explore the remains of a World War II site where, tragically, the German army leveled a village and killed its men. Anogia has a memorial dedicated to the tragedy, as well as an annual Yakintha music festival in July to remember its most famous resident, musician Nikos Xilouris.
- Heraklion Archeological Museum: One of the largest museums in all of Greece, the Heraklion Archeological Museum houses artifacts from Crete’s Neolithic period, Roman times and, of course, countless Minoan artifacts. When it comes to learning all about Crete’s history, you cannot go wrong visiting the Heraklion Archeological Museum.
- Lake Kournas: Visit the only freshwater body of water in Crete and get blown away by Lake Kournas’ beauty. Crete is surrounded by the Mediterranean’s salt water, but if you head inland a bit toward the White Mountains, you’ll find lush forest lands and Lake Kournas. You can take a refreshing dip in the lake and enjoy a drink at one of the many taverns lining its shores.
- Lassithi Plateau: Since I’m talking about Crete’s natural beauty, you also have to check out the Lassithi Plateau. The plateau is 9,653 square miles of lush land beneath Crete’s Dikteon Mountains. Mythologists believe Zeus was born in the nearby Dikteon Cave, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Zeus certainly had the Lassithi Plateau to view from his back porch!
- Loutro: Loutro village is reachable by boat and provides Crete visitors with a relaxing day trip sure to please. This authentic Grecian village is littered with picturesque white and blue houses, and don’t count on grabbing a cab anywhere – there aren’t cars in the village. Nope, enjoy Loutro’s charm on foot, and then kick back with a cocktail on its pebbly beach.
- Samaria Gorge: You’ve figured out by now that Crete is one gigantic natural wonder, so head on over to West Crete near Chania to see our next beautiful site. The Samaria Gorge is a national park filled with, well, a gorge, and some incredible plant and wildlife. You’ll hike for six hours up the gorge where it meets the sea and then relax on the ferry ride back.
- Spinalonga Island: I must give a shout out to my Italians, and Spinalonga Island gives me the opportunity to do just that! Greece is close enough to Italy, and back in the day, the Venetians built mighty fortresses just off the coast of Elounda to protect their territory. The fortresses are still there and paint an interesting now-Grecian skyline on Spinalonga Island.
- Zoniana Cave: We’ve seen lakes, the sea, pebbled beaches, mountains, plains, and a gorge, how about some stalagmites and stalactites? The Zoniana cave, which is located close to Anogia village, is one of the beautiful caves on Crete that is filled with these fascinating earthly formations. Cool off in Zoniana cave while gazing at what the earth can do!
Okay, I’m hungry – so let’s eat! As you can imagine, Crete is the perfect place for eating fresh Mediterranean seafood, and its capital city, Heraklion, has plenty of eateries to choose from. They say the Mediterranean diet is a healthy one, so let’s enjoy:
- Brillant/Herb’s Garden: This dual Cretan restaurant offers authentic cuisine coupled with avant-garde decor. Enjoy the chicken cooked in an orange marinade with walnuts and tomatoes. Brillant is the indoor restaurant from November to April. It becomes Herb’s Garden and moves outside from May to October.
- Istioploikos: The Mediterranean seafood doesn’t get much fresher than at Istioploikos. What’s being served that day is what was caught out of the sea. The fresh wood-fired seafood is coupled with what the Greeks call lachanodomadhes, which is a vegetarian stuffed cabbage. Try it – Istioploikos is famous for it!
- Kouzina tis Popis: Let’s eat some authentic Greek food. Kouzina tis Popis serves up some fantastic Arabic, Greek, and Mediterranean cuisine. Seafood lovers must try the mackerel, chicken lovers will love the chicken, and don’t worry, vegetarians, I’ve never let you down before – the pastry rolls stuffed with zucchini are to die for!
- Prassein Aloga: This innovative Greek/Mediterranean/seafood restaurant will not disappoint. Feel like a humongous Greek salad? You’ll find it at Prassein Aloga, along with seafood-loaded pasta, and even some dishes crafted from ancient Grecian recipes. Dive into some serious eating at Prassein Aloga while visiting Crete.
There is plenty to do, see, and eat while visiting Crete. This Grecian island is a beauty, filled with wonderful sites, friendly Greeks, and amazing food and drink. Pack your swimsuit and suntan lotion and head to Crete for a Mediterranean vacation you will never forget. In fact, I bet you’ll go back several times: I know I have!