My Facebook feed is flooded with gorgeous photos of Crete, because my fiancés mum and her husband are on their honeymoon! Largest of the Greek islands, Crete is often associated with all-inclusive family resorts but this is an island of great diversity and once you move away from the popular areas, there is plenty to be discovered.
The island’s three mountain ranges give it a landscape which is full of surprise: glorious beaches in the north, rugged coves and canyons in the south and in between, lakes, gorges and villages in hidden valleys. This is definitely an island I definitely want to explore.
After a little research, here are my top 7 reasons why Crete is on my 2018 bucket list (other than the fact my Mother-in-Law highly recommends it!):
The amazing Mediterranean weather
You can visit Crete all year round because the south falls in the North African climatic zone and temperatures are such that fruit and vegetables can be grown throughout the year. In the north, the beach season stretches from May to October but temperatures in August can get uncomfortably hot.
The uniquely gorgeous beaches!
Crete has an incredible variety of stunning beaches, there really is something for everyone and going on a road trip and discovering a new beach is a great way to explore the island. Elafonissi Beach is well known and popular but you should certainly check it out.
Its fine sand, tinged pink by a million crushed shells, is often compared to the Caribbean. Falasarna Beach is less serene, with great waves and spectacular views. If you want to get really remote, head for Balos, where again, the views are spectacular and the wildlife abundant.
The rich culture and history
Legendary birthplace of Zeus, Crete has a rich cultural and historical heritage. The Minoan civilization flourished here over three and a half thousand years ago and the Palace of Knossos, five kilometres south of Heraklion, is a must-see. The island’s Archaeological Museum houses over a 150,000 examples of Minoan art, including the amazing bull frescos. After the Minoans, the island was colonised by the Romans, the Arabs, the Venetians and the Ottomans, all of whom left their mark on the art and architecture of the island.
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Perhaps yoga isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of Crete but the beauty and tranquillity of the island make this the perfect place to practice this relaxation technique. Yoga and Hammam enables you to combine Nidra, Detox or Stretch Yoga with the experience of an authentic traditional Hammam. Yoga can also be combined with retreats during which you can enjoy hiking, sailing and swimming as well as the local music and food.
Picture-Perfect Places to Stay in the Mountains
Despite Crete’s popularity as a tourist destination it is still possible to enjoy absolute peace and tranquillity in achingly beautiful surroundings by staying in a local traditional home. You’ll be able to live like a local, surrounded by the rich aroma of Mediterranean herbs and spices, with secret views overlooking Crete.
Amazing Healthy Food
It has the reputation of being one of the healthiest diets in the world. The cuisine is simple: meat, cheese, olive oil, wine and raki. But the almost perfect growing conditions means you’ll find the best local produce, pretty much anytime, anywhere. A Greek speciality you must try is the Chaniotiko bouréki, which is similar to the lasagne, with layers of courgettes, potatoes and cheese.
Beautiful Hiking Trails
Crete has a number of spectacular gorges but the Samaria Gorge is the favourite with hikers. At 16k it’s one of the longest gorges in Europe. The hike starts in the White Mountains and winds its way down toward to the spectacular gorge, passing ancient churches and castles on the way. Mules patrol the trail, ready to carry injured hikers to safety.