By Rachael Funk
Greece’s largest island is a wonderland of varied landscapes, ancient history, and scenic villages. With so much to see and experience, you’ll need a solid game plan before your feet hit the ground.
Before you explore the varied landscapes, eat your way across the island, or get lost in the blue horizon, peruse these ideas of what to do in Crete to see if one inspires you!
Hike the Samaria Gorge
A trip-worthy experience by itself, this hike will bring you through one of the longest gorges in Europe in Crete’s only national park. The trail is a little over a mile long and can be a little tricky, but the payoff is some of the best views in Crete. Signs along the trail provide information on what you may spot along the way, including dragon arum flowers, Cretan badgers and natural structures.
Visit Agios Minas Cathedral
This Greek Orthodox cathedral in Heraklion holds exquisite murals on the dome, stunning chandeliers, and a rich history. One of the largest cathedrals in Greece, it has a capacity of 8,000 people.
Dive into the deep at CretAquarium
CretAquarium is the first large aquarium in Greece and showcases the biodiversity of the Mediterranean. Home to 200 species found in the Mediterranean basin, this is an ideal afternoon activity for anyone who loves the ocean.
Soak up the sun on the pink sand of Elafonissi Beach
The southwesternmost tip of Crete is home to paradise on Earth. The oblong peninsula is studded with sand dunes where sea daffodils and junipers grow. You can see loggerhead sea turtles swimming in the water, among other rare plants and animals in the area. At one point of the peninsula, the water doesn’t get much deeper than three feet and creates a peaceful lagoon.
Plunge into the past on Spinalonga
Known as the island of the outcasts, Spinalonga has played a variety of roles throughout history. The arid island used to be a leper colony, home to a Venetian fortress, and so much more. Spinalonga has a riveting story to tell anyone who will listen. The rocky islet juts out of the jewel-toned sea and takes about an hour to see on foot.
See the birthplace of Zeus
Diktaean Cave is located a mere 10-minute walk from Psychro in Lassithi Plateau. Take one of two paths from the parking lot into the cave; the path on the left is easier to navigate while the path on the right tends to have slippery stones, which have been worn down by the footsteps of previous visitors. Here, you can see a stalagmite complex, “the cradle of Zeus,” and a lake.
Tour the Arkadi Monastery
A gorgeous drive up a winding mountain road will bring you to the Arkadi Monastery. A symbol of the Cretan battle for independence, the monastery holds one of the finests Venetian churches on Crete. The site of a massacre by occupying Turkish forces in 1866, this beautiful monastery is as full of history as it is stunning.