Exploring the Island, Crete Island
Favorite thing: Cretean spring is beautiful. After months of bad weather, relative cold and rains the plants burst with life. Crete becomes a blooming place and the fresh greens give a great shade against strong sun.
Favorite thing: One thing I did not realize the first time I visited Greece is that you can actually enter many of the churches. Even many of the isolated ones in small villages out out in the middle of nowhere are often unlocked. They are usually very interesting inside no matter what the condition of the exterior is, so I encourage you to stop and visit as many churches as you can. This one is Aghio Ekaterini in Kandanos, probably the most ornate interior we saw in any of the churches we visited.
Favorite thing: The main route from Rethymnon to the south coast takes you through the impressive Kourtaliotiko Gorge, where there are several opportunities to pull off to the side of the road for photographs. This is a very picturesque part of the island and well worth a visit.
Favorite thing: In my travel tip about Palm Beach I mentioned two different routes to the beach from the main road. If you choose the option that has a shorter walk but requires you to drive on a gravel road for a while, you'll exit the main road when you see the interesting bridge pictured here. It's directly next to the main road on the left side, so you can't miss it.
Favorite thing: Jet lag always causes me to wake up early in the morning a lot when I visit Europe, but morning also happens to be my favorite time to explore because it's so quiet and peaceful and because the morning Sun makes for some great photos. This is a lonely seaside church between Sfakion and Anapoli.
Favorite thing: I highly recommend that you rent a car on Crete so you have the freedom to move around at will and stop whenever you feel like it. Some of the best days we had there were when we just hopped in the car with the map and the tour book and drove to all kinds of places, stopping frequently for pictures, for various attractions, to eat, or just admire the scenery. This is an interesting bridge we drove over between Plakias and Frangokastello.
Rethymnon is the small Mediterranean town with its Renaissance architecture,Venetian fortress, museums and beaches. Prefecture is rich in characteristic villages and areas of great natural beauty, as well as caves and soaring mountains. It is home of the largest annual carnival in Crete.
The Wine Festival is held there annually at the beginning of July.
Another festival is held on 7-8th of November, in memory of the destruction of Arkadi Monastery.
The most famous place of this prefecture is Preveli monastery and beach.
The eastern prefecture of the island is centered on the colourful town of Ayios (Agios) Nikolaos. It is flanked by sandy beaches both on the north and south coast of the prefecture.
On the Lasithi Plateau the spectacle of 10,000 windmills is unique. Here is the renowned Diktaean Cave, the cave where, according to mythology, Zeus was born.
On the north east end of the prefecture is Vai, the fabulous sand beach embraced by date trees.
On the beautiful Gulf of Merabello here is Ayios Nikolaos, the capital of the prefecture of Lasithi, the leading tourist center in Crete with picturesque harbour and special beauty. The most beautiful towns of this prefecture are (except Agios Nikolaos) Ierapetra, Sitia.
The small and wild island of Chryssi (a few minutes by boat from Ierapetra) is one of the most beautiful places I've seen...
The Prefecture of Chania covers the west part of the island. It has an area of 2,376 km and approximately 134,000 residents. It is mainly a mountainous region (with famous gorge of Samaria) but it is also characterized by velvet beaches (Falassarna, Elafonissi, Balos, Preveli), particularly on its south part where it meets the Libyan Sea.
The prefecture of Chania constitutes a special place which offers amazing natural beauties and also various comforts, without spoiling its physiognomy.
The Prefecture of Heraklio lies between Lassithi and Rethymno. Its land follows the pattern of the rest of Crete mountains - bare at places, filled with cypress and oak trees elsewhere - plains, the most important one being that of Messara, fields covered with fruit trees of all varieties, sandy beaches and beautiful hidden caves such as the cave of Ilithias.
This part of Crete has been inhabited since antiquity and it is the richest part of the island in terms of archaeological sites like Knossos, Phaestos, Malia and the exhibits that can be viewed in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklio .
Crete is one of the 13 regions of Greece. It is the biggest island in Greece and the second biggest (after Cyprus) of the East Mediterranean.
Crete covers an area of 8.336 sq.kms. The length of the island is 260 km, but the shore-length is 1.046 km. The biggest width is 60 km from the Dion cape to the Lithinon cape, while the smallest is 12 km and is called "isthmus of Ierapetra". A high mountain range crosses the island from West to East, formed by three different groups of mountains.
To the West the White Mountains (2.452 m), in the middle the mountain of Idi (Psiloritis-2.456 m) and to the East the mountain of Dikti (2.148 m). These mountains gifted Crete with fertile plateaus like Lasithi, Omalos and Nidha, caves like Diktaion and Idaion cave, and gorges like the famous Gorge of Samaria.
Crete is divided into four prefectures, each with its own capital - Chania (Chania), Rethymno (Rethymno), Heraklion (Heraklion) and Lasithi (Agios Nikolaos).
Lassithi is the easternmost prefecture of Crete. The prefecture's capital is Agios Nikolaos, which got bad reports from everyone we met in Crete: overcrowded and overexpensive. Places to visit are the Lassithi plateau with its 7000 windmills, Zeus cave, the palm beach of Vai and Toplou Monastery. The island of Spinalonga also belongs to this prefecture
Fondest memory: The Lassithi plateau, but not for the windmills. It's my fondest memory for the people - friendly and generous. Everytime we saw a tree with some fruits on it we would stop the car to eat one, and people just came out of their houses and gave us tree branches full of fruits (cherries especially)
The prefecture of Rethymno lies between two mountain ranges, the White mountains and Ida or Psiloritis. Rethymno is the charming capital of the prefecture. Places to visit are the old town and harbour of Rethymno, the village of Margarites (a pottery centre), the traditional villageof Anogia, the monasteries of Arkadi and Preveli, and Preveli beach
Fondest memory: Preveli beach - with its sandy beach at the front and the river at its back. When I first saw it on pictures I thought it would be unreal. Once you hike down the path to the beach and swim in the sea, you can then walk away from the sea and follow the river to find freshwater pools for an unsalty swim
The Prefecture of Iraklio lies between Mt Psiloritis and the Lasithiotika Mountains: it is the largest administrative division of Crete. In this prefecture you can find the island's three most important archaeological sites: Knossos, Phaistos and Malia. Other places to visit include the ancient city of Gortyn, the villages of Zaros and Fodele (birth-place of El Greco) and the beaches of Matala and Komos
Fondest memory: Most definitely the Roman cemetery at Matala: a series of holes cut into the bare rock of the nearby cliffs. Hihly spectacular - and with the added interest that in the 60ies and 70ies these holes were used as "houses" by hippies. Matala beach, by contrast, is nice but slightly crowded
Hania is the second largest town in Crete and its the regional centre of the Prefecture of Hania, which covers the western part of Crete. The most important places to visit are - aside the city of Hania - the beaches of Falassarna and Elafonissi, the Samaria Gorge, and the villages of Loutro and Sougia.
Fondest memory: Most definitely the beach of Elafonissi - for the shallowness and the colour of the sea. I found it much nicer than some tropical Asian beaches. When we were told that the beach was pink in colour, we did not believe it - until we got there - and it was true! Tiny grains of fragmented pink shells lie all over the sandy shore - giving it a magic purple-ish halo