“There is a land called Crete, at the sea, which is like wine. It is very rich, surrounded by sea, very beautiful…” – from The Odyssey
by Judith Carpenter*
Choosing where to go for your next break can be a tough choice considering all of the fabulous destinations around the world. One place I’ve always enjoyed visiting is Crete. As the largest and most densely populated of the Greek islands, Crete is the perfect place to head for if you’re looking for sun, sand and absolute relaxation. Here, you’ll find a perfect blend of culture, history and modern attractions to keep you busy for the duration of your stay. The local scenery is a lovely mix of rugged mountains, bustling cities, sandy beaches and lusciously forested areas, so there’s always a new outdoor activity to try, with everything for hiking to camping, water skiing to shopping excursions.
Malia sits on Crete’s stunning coast and is a great place to head to if you’re looking for an inclusive, tourist-friendly area. Tourists who are interested in Ancient Greece will love Malia for its connections to the old world. Knossos is well worth a visit and is located about 30 minutes away from Malia. You can get up close and personal with the ruins of this ancient city, which dates back to the Neolithic period. The architecture left here is truly stunning with many examples of ancient pottery and weaponry on display. The frescos at the former palace were a personal highlight for me!
If you’re looking for somewhere a little less touristy, you may want to head for Rethymnon. Situated on the northern coast of the island, this city is the third largest on the island and is split into the old and new town areas. The old town shows off all the evidence of the Venetian and Ottoman history of the area, and you can wander through the narrow streets getting lost in the past at your leisure. The new town on the other hand offers visitors some fantastic shopping opportunities with lots of modern facilities and amenities.
If, like me, you’re hoping for some time away from it all, then I absolutely recommend Elafonissi beach. I’d say it’s one of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean, with gorgeous white sands, crystal clear waters and a massive expanse of space that means you can pretty much mark out a patch and have it all to yourself for the day. There are some great, affordable places to eat around here too, and you can rent parasols at one of the vendors if you get a little too warm in the bristling sun.
Alternatively, you might enjoy Vai beach, which has a particularly Caribbean feel to it since it backs onto Europe’s largest palm grove. Legend has it that the palm trees (numbering somewhere in the region of 5000) all grew from a date stone that was thrown away by a Saracen pirate thousands of years ago. Whether that’s true or not, this is a really stunning bit of coastline to visit, though be aware that it’ll be very busy in high season!
In comparison to the other islands, Crete is pretty big. However it’s certainly navigable especially if you rent a car whilst you’re there. If you base yourself somewhere like Heraklion, and carefully plan your days before you go, you’ll really be able to make the most of your time on this wonderful island.
*Judith Carpenter is a travel writer with over 20 years experience in the industry. She has worked extensively in Spain and Greece, and currently lives in Morocco.
Disclosure: The content for this article was provided by Thomson Travel and compensation was received for its publication.