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.

sights of Crete

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: Greece

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.


Dicteian cave

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.

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Lake Kourna

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.

kurna lake

Lake Voulismeni

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.

Samaria Gorge

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.

Samaria Gorge

Minotaur Labyrinth

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.

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Knossos palace

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.

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.

ancient olus

Kera Kardiotissa

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.

Rethymno city

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.

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Elafonisi beach

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.

elafonisi beach

Vai beach

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.


Matala beach

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.

sightseeing tour of crete