Why Crete

Greece has a whole lot to offer, but the major highlights are inconveniently divided by expansive puddles of water.

When I had a week to visit the country, I wanted to see the famous whitewash houses of Santorini, the nightlife of Mykonos, the beaches of Kos, the historic sites of Rhodes. I wanted to see everything, but didn’t have enough annual leave in the bank to make it work.

So, I did what all grown ups do when faced with a difficult decision; I played eeny meeny miny moe, and I landed on Crete.

This is why it worked out well:

Natural landscape

Elafonessi Beach on Crete’s southwest coast.

Being the biggest of the Greek islands, Crete has a great mix of natural scenery.

A high mountain range crosses the island, creating spectacular views over deep gorges and valleys.

Elafonessi Beach, on the island’s southwest coast, fulfilled my need for sun, golden sand, and glassy clear water.

Despite being a popular destination, the beach wasn’t overcrowded and I claimed my own patch of sand with a minimal number of dirty looks to warn people off my area.

Lake Kournas, Crete’s only freshwater lake, was another find. Located inland in the Chania region, the small lake has a bunch of taverns and tourist shops overlooking it, and there are plenty of boat and pedalo hire facilities for anyone wanting more entertainment.

Not-so-natural landscape

Crete has a plethora of opportunities for visitors to get their ouzo on.

Beach in Plantanias in Crete

Sissi, towards the eastern side of the island on the north coast, as well as Gouves, not too far away to the west, are both noted spots for nightlife.

The rapidly expanding Chania area is growing in popularity for entertainment after dark, and also has plenty to offer during the day.

Its long main street is packed with restaurants, as well as the usual and not-so-usual shops and beauty salons. I tried out Doctor Fish – the pedicure spa treatment where little fish eat all the dead skin and questionable scum off your feet (yum!). It was creepy, but I was unreasonably proud to have done it.

There are street markets right across the island, as well as local specialty stores to buy art, crafts and clothes, and other Greek treats. Note: if you don’t like olive oil, that could be a problem.

Popping over to

 Santorini

The view from Santorini’s cliff-side whitewash houses.

As much as I accepted that I wouldn’t see all the famous Greek landmarks, Santorini’s iconic cliff-side white buildings with blue roofs was one I couldn’t give up on.

Fortunately, Crete is within ferry reach of Santorini, so I booked a day tour from Heraklion with a company called Sea Jets.

Our trip over and the return were significantly longer than the two hours I had expected, but the chance to see the island was worth it.

The tour also included a seemingly death-defying bus journey that took us from Santorini’s Thira Port up to Fira town above, which was also worth it – I wasn’t excited  climbing the 588 steps in 30-degree heat.

Getting the history

Chania’s Venetian Harbour.

In Greece, you can’t turn around without stumbling on a piece of land that was probably trod on by Alexander the Great (or at least one of his buddies). The country screams history, and Crete is no exception.

Chania’s Venetian Harbour, the old port, gives people a chance to see the Turkish and Venetian buildings that covered the area before most were destroyed by wars.

There is also no shortage of excavated archaeological sites, including the Palace of Knossos, which dates back to 2000 BC and is considered the oldest city in Europe.

Crete is also home to one of Greece’s greatest museums: the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which has been running since 1883 and contains the oldest collection of Minoan art.

Amelia travelled to Santorini as a guest of Sea Jets