The Greek island of Crete is one of the most popular in the mythology of Ancient Greece. It is Crete that is considered the birthplace of Zeus, as well as many other mythological figures. Crete is one of the most famous resorts in Europe due to its unique climate and beaches. The island is washed by several seas and has an ideal tourist infrastructure for lovers of beach tourism. But even if you like to sunbathe on the beach, you should not deprive the attention of the sights of Crete. In this compilation, I will tell you about the most popular places on the island that are worth exploring during the tour.
The ancient city of Gortyn
Among the ancient sights of Crete, you should pay attention to the ancient city of Gortyn. It belongs to the most important archaeological sites in Greece and is located a few tens of kilometers south of the capital of Crete. Many different peoples lived on this land over the centuries, whose cultures are reflected in the partially preserved ruins. You will find here elements of Greek, Roman and even Egyptian cultures. Another interesting place nearby is the catacombs, which were formed during the extraction of stone during the construction of Gortyn. Unfortunately, this labyrinth is not accessible to travelers due to security measures.
Fortress of Spinalonga
For centuries, these territories of Crete were empty and only after the advent of the Venetians began to develop, as they discovered rich reserves of salt here. Spinalonga was founded on a small island in 1579. The fortress was built for defensive purposes, as the settlement was often attacked by pirates and Turks. The history of the island and the fortress of Spinalonga is very rich in numerous events. This place constantly changed owners and passed from one owner to another. To this day, many old buildings and defensive walls have been preserved here. There are also dark spots in the history of the island. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century, Spinalonga was a kind of prison for lepers from all over Greece. However, it was here that electricity first appeared on the island of Crete. The fortress is one of the must-see attractions in Greece.
Among the natural attractions of Crete, it is worth noting the Diktea cave, which is located in the mountains of the same name. This is one of the most beautiful places on the entire island, where, according to myth, the god Zeus was born. During excavations, many ancient artifacts in honor of this ancient Greek deity were found here. The cave is very popular among travelers who visit the legendary place en masse. Dikteyskaya cave consists of the so-called vestibule and the main hall. Here you will find a large underground lake with special wooden bridges that lead along fantastic stalactites and other geological formations. To diversify your journey, you can get to the cave with the help of donkey excursions.
The attractions of Crete include several lakes, but this is one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in Crete. Kourna is very popular among the other natural wonders of Crete. The lake is located 50 kilometers southeast of Chania. You will certainly be surprised to meet turtles and other rare inhabitants of fresh lakes here. For this reason, the lake is a nature reserve and is protected by European nature protection laws. Numerous studies claim that lake water is so pure that it can be drunk even without purification and boiling. There is also a nice cozy beach where both locals and numerous tourists relax. Qurnas can be safely included in the list of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Another wonderful lake in Crete is Voulismeni. This freshwater reservoir is located in the city of Agios Nikolaos. The lake is famous for its round shape and great depth of several tens of meters. There have long been myths that Vulusmeni is completely bottomless. According to these legends, the goddess Athena herself bathed here. A proven fact is that during the Second World War, the inhabitants of Crete flooded German military equipment at the bottom of the lake. Voulismeni was the object of research by the legendary Frenchman Jacques Yves Cousteau, who dived here with his bathyscaphe.
The Samaria Gorge in Crete is the largest gorge in Europe. This is one of the most picturesque natural sights of Crete. This gorge has been inhabited since prehistoric times and has managed to preserve elements of ancient buildings and shrines. About a century ago, the Samaria Gorge became a national park and protected reserve. Thus, the government decided to protect the unique fauna and flora of Samaria. A special hiking trail runs through the gorge, along which hundreds of thousands of tourists pass every year. Sometimes there are so many people here that even traffic jams form. The Samaria Gorge is open to tourists during the summer and autumn period, when there is the least rainfall. Traveling here is dangerous during the rainy season, as the gorge often fills with water.
Not surprisingly, many sights of Crete are associated with myths and legends. In the case of the labyrinth of the Minotaur, it was here that the monstrous monster was kept, terrorizing the inhabitants of Athens. With his help, King Minas collected requisitions from people, but the brave hero Theseus saved the inhabitants of the city from the minotaur. And so another myth of Ancient Greece appeared. Interestingly, the exact location and plan of the labyrinth are not known. It is believed that the ancient labyrinth was located in the ruins of the Knossos Palace in northern Crete. Some of the underground routes have indeed survived to this day, but none of the researchers have been able to decipher its plan and real purpose.
The Palace of Knossos is mentioned in the list of architectural sights of Crete as an integral item. This palace was the main building of one of the oldest cities in Greece called Knossos. You can find the famous Ruins in the north of Crete, near the current city of Heraklion. Throughout history, the palace was repeatedly damaged by earthquakes, but was soon restored again. When the archaeologist Evans bought the land in the north of Crete, he tried to partially recreate this ancient structure. It is thanks to his efforts that today it is possible to look deep into history and see some elements of the Knossos Palace.
Ruins of ancient Olus
A very popular place among scuba divers is the Ruins of the ancient city of Olus. The city was under water after a powerful earthquake, being a powerful port and trading center. By diving underwater today, scuba divers have a unique chance to observe the legacy of several civilizations, including the Greeks and Romans. Here you can rent diving equipment and even hire a private guide to take you on an underwater tour. Not everyone can visit this unusual attraction of Crete, as certain diving skills are required. Olous is included in the list of the most mysterious underwater cities in history.
A less visited attraction in Crete is one of the island’s most important shrines. The monastery of Kera Kardiotissa includes a number of buildings that are about 800 years old. Today it is a quiet place where services are still being held. Orthodox tourists are attracted here by a copy of the icon of the Virgin, which is considered a healing disease. Many believe that by touching this icon they will be able to recover, or gain longevity. This peaceful place creates an atmosphere as if life had stopped many centuries ago.
Museum of Agios Nikolaos
One of the attractions of Crete is the Museum of Archeology in the city of Agios Nikolaos. Here you can see many archaeological finds found during excavations. The exposition of the museum reveals to the visitor the history of the island of Crete. Various epochs of the life of the island are presented, but the most outstanding exhibits are the statue of the goddess Metra and the skull of a young Roman.
Water City Waterpark
Many will certainly be interested in the modern landmarks of Crete, including the WaterCity water park in the city of Anapolis. Numerous tourists rest here after a tour of the ancient ruins. The water park can be found near the village of Kokkini Hani. There are water slides for both adults and young children. The most modern range of attractions is presented, which can only be found in European resorts.
In the western part of Crete is the picturesque town of Rethymno. It was built by the Venetians during their reign on the island. Many sights of this city are perfectly preserved to our time. But among them it is worth highlighting the magnificent Fortezza fortress from the 16th century. There are also museums here, including the archaeological and historical-ethnographic ones. Numerous tourists like to gather near the Rimondi Fountain in the port of Rethymno.
Elafonisi beach is included in the list of the best beaches in Greece and is located 20 kilometers from the city of Chania. Elafonisi is famous for its pink sand and scenic views. It is for the sake of this beach that many tourists from different European countries choose the island of Crete as their vacation destination. Such an unusual color of the sand was formed due to the remains of special corals, and the water in the lagoon is always crystal clear. It has everything you need for a quality holiday, so I strongly advise you to visit this attraction of Crete during your trip.
In the final part of our review, we will go through the best beaches of Crete. Among them is the palm beach of Vai on the territory of the national park of the same name. It is famous for the largest palm forest on the European Continent. Even more surprising is that endemic Theophrastus palms grow here. Vai Beach is very popular with tourists, so during the summer season it is always very crowded. However, this place is recommended for visiting due to the picturesque views and the opportunity to watch the sunrise.
Bay of Balos
Many come to Crete just for the sake of this amazing place, where one of the most beautiful beaches in the world is located. The beach of Balos bay with white and pink sand and turquoise water in shallow water is surrounded by untouched nature. There is no infrastructure here, since Balos Bay is a protected area. Numerous tourists come here on foot from the nearest parking lot, but such a journey is worth it. As an alternative, donkey rides can be booked, especially for children.
This is not just a beach, but an important historical site near the small Greek settlement of Matala. Matala is located in a cozy bay formed by rocks. People have lived in this place since prehistoric times, and supporters of Jesus Christ hid from persecutors in numerous rocky caves. The ruins of ancient temples and burials are still preserved here. This is the case when history, a picturesque beach and the beauty of nature are combined in one sight of Crete.