Crete Travel Guide

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Byzantine Church

Byzantine Church

Raymond Longaray

Crete is home to the oldest civilization of Europe. The Minoan civilization predates that of the rest of Europe by a good few hunderd years. The temples and palaces they built were the basis of many myths and are still one of the most impressive archeological sites.

Iraklion, the capital of the island, will probably be your point of entry. It is connected to many European capitals by direct flights and boats leave to Athens and Santorini on a regular basis.

Sights you will have on your to do list include Hania the second town of the island, the Knossos a visit to some of the Venetian castles ( Imeri Gramvousa, Frangocastello e.g.), the Lassithi plateau, and the town of Agios sostis/lithakia with its great beaches nearby.

West of Hania the town of Kissamos is also worth a look, situated in the broad bay between the Rodopou and Gramvousa peninsulas, which are both gaunt and rocky and virtually uninhabited.  Even further west over the precipitous mountain roads lie the soft inviting sands of Falassarna beach, perfect for romantic sunsets over the sea.  The drive southwards along the extreme west edge of the island is another stunning mountain route, often through a landscape dominated by colourful alpine plants growing in a profusion of tufts and cushions on both sides of the road.  Goats are everywhere, some domesticated and some wild, and if you are lucky you may see vultures cruising around the mountain tops.  A trip such as this could end at the extreme south-west corner of Crete, where a knee-deep wade through clear waters takes you to a sun-bathers paradise at Elafonisi Island.         

The least messed up part is the south coast in the western half of the island. There is a marvellous pink beach at the south-western edge, the town of Paleochora must be one of the most relaxing places in the world and you shouldn't miss the Samaria gorge.

Towards the eastern end of Crete is Spinalonga Island, once notorious as Europe's last surviving leper colony.  Abandoned since the 1950s when leprosy was finally conquered, its ruined houses are a tourist attraction today.  The rigours of daily life in Spinalonga during the first half of the 20th century were memorably described in the book "The Island" by Victoria Hislop. 


January 24, 2005 change by joosts

May 02, 2005 change by hollandtraveler

July 03, 2008 change by sky_sailer

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