I’m the type of person who goes somewhere once, and never again. There are a lot of places to visit still on my bucket list, and no chance I’ll get through them all. I like to spend a healthy amount of time in each place, rather than rushing through it. If I’ve been there once, I feel like I’ve seen it all.
Crete is the exception. I have gone to Crete three times already, and there are many more visits still to come. Was it number one on my bucket list? No. It was just one stop on my trip through Greece and Turkey. But after four days on the island, I knew I had to come back.
Crete is incredible for an endless list of reasons. There’s the sheer force of its natural beauty. The significant remnants of ancient civilisations. The impact of its history on our modern existence. And the villages and towns I’ve fallen in love with.
After a couple more visits, I will probably have done everything I “need” to do in Crete, but it has become more than a travel destination to me. In an ideal world, I would spend a few years, but as is, it will have to do as the only place I ever visit more than twice!
There is so much to do in Crete that it’s hard to choose what is a “must-see” and what is not. Go have a look at Crete vacation rentals if you haven’t already. But, if you have limited time on that magnificent island, here are the five things you absolutely must do.
Rethymnon Old City
The Old City in Rethymnon dates back to the 11th Century. However, it’s not the picture of Middle Ages gloom you probably have in your mind. No, this is a gorgeous seaside village that retains its historical charms while keeping up with the modern day traveler.
The narrow alleys will remind you of action scenes from a fantasy book or two, and you’ll expect to find a gnarled merchant trying to sell you his wares. Instead, you will come across the modern equivalents, with endless options for great cuisine and shopping.
Palace of Knossos
The Palace of Knossos is remarkable. The word palace means something very different in an age of industrial construction, and the ruins of this ancient Minoan site are nowhere near as grand. However, they do not need to be grand to take you back in time in a way that no museum can.
Knossos is known as Europe’s oldest city, and while the palace is its centrepiece, the archaeology is incredible throughout.
Located in the region of Chania, Elafonisi is one of Crete’s best-known beaches. And for good reason. It’s pink! Not a bright pink, but a beautiful calming colour, which makes it one of the few beaches that won’t blur together with memories of all the rest.
The pink colour comes from broken up coral in the sand. The beach would be idyllic even without its unique hue, and it’s well worth spending a day. It’s also a great way to tick something off your list while actually getting the chance to relax. And, most importantly, your photos will make your friends sick with envy!
Samariá Gorge National Park
I have a friend who absolutely hates the idea of going on a hike in foreign countries. Why would you choose to exercise on holiday?
But I love it. Hiking is always a highlight of my trip, no matter where I am, and few places can compare to Samariá Gorge National Park. In terms of size, Samariá Gorge is one of the largest canyons in Europe.
However, I must warn you that it’s not for those who don’t regularly exercise. It’s not a difficult hike, per se, but it is effort, and over the 5 or 6 hours that the hike will take you, that effort builds up.
So, if you love hiking and are of average fitness, you’ll be fine. But if you have bad knees, struggle for breath after a short staircase, and wheeze when the air is a little thin, I advise you to give it a skip.
Finally, let’s talk about the party capital of Crete. Malia is known for its nightlife, and if the idea of a raucous night of food, drink, new people, and a lot of fun appeals to you, you need to spend some time here.
I’m not a huge partier myself, but Malia gives me an excuse to drop all my pretensions. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, you can barely hear yourself think. And yes, it is totally worth it.
Partying in another country is always a great way to let go, considering that you have no reputation to defend! Malia epitomises this, with everyone in attendance completely at ease, feeling themselves, and forgetting about the stresses of their everyday lives.
Malia has the advantage of an endless array of options, so you can skip from one club to the next if you don’t like the music they’re playing. You are also bound to spend time meeting people in the streets, from all over the world. It’s like being a child again – seeing strangers as potential friends rather than probable threats (although don’t throw all caution to the wind).
There is so much more to do in Crete, including everything I have yet to do. However, if you use the above 5 items as a guide, you’ll be off to a great start!