Crete is filled with different opportunities to explore stunning secluded spots and unforgettable scenes, by boat and by foot. Sail over the ocean waters to visit the heavenly Lake Voulisment, in Agios Nikolaos and capture the essence of Crete’s wondrous landscape. Or, take a hike to Samaria Gorge, the stunning national park that has been named as one of the best in the whole of Europe.
If you are visiting Crete on a cruise, there’s a good chance you will call in at Agios Nikolaos Harbour. This busy harbour is home to boats and ships of all sizes, from small fishing crafts, to luxury yachts, to some of the world’s biggest sea crafts. Agios Nikolaos Harbour offers boat trips to visitors so they can take in the beauty of the Greek coastline. There are also semi-submarine tours, which give you the opportunity to discover some of Greece’s incredible sea life.
Taking an evening stroll along the harbour is a favourite night pastime for many holidaymakers. Seeing the water lit up by the local restaurants’ lights is one of the most picturesque sights you will ever see. Why not call in at one of the local eateries to enjoy this exquisite view over a delicious meal?
There are several car parks in the area and the harbour is also close to Almyros beach.
The Cave of Zeus is one of Crete’s most historical attractions, holding an incredibly significant place in Greek history. It is believed to be the cave where Zeus, the Greek god, was hidden as an infant from his father, Cronus.
Located high in the mountains of Anogia, the Cave of Zeus is a must-see for those interested in Greek mythology and history. Be warned that it is quite a trek to the cave from the car park, so those with walking difficulties or young children may have problems accessing it.
Inside the cave, you can descend very deep underground with the assistance of steps and handrails. The inside is lit to reveal colourful stalactites and stalagmite. The cave has been remarkably well preserved and despite being one of Crete’s biggest tourist attractions, retains all the mystery and intrigue that has been present for thousands of years.
What visit to Crete would be complete without a visit to the island’s capital, Heraklion? This city is the fourth largest in Greece, so it offers something for everyone, no matter what your taste or interest is.
Heraklion offers a wonderful array of historic attractions and museums. A must-visit for anyone interested in Greek history is the Historical Museum of Crete, which houses Crete artefacts from countless centuries and generations. Why not take a visit to the Castello del Molo? This ancient castle is rich in Greek heritage.
Heraklion also has plenty of outdoor activities to keep the whole family entertained, such as a self-drive safari adventure and an off-road buggy adventure.
The city has a large range of cafes and restaurants for visitors to sit by the sea and enjoy a delicious meal as they take in the glorious view. Heraklion has excellent transport links for visitors to get about and ensure they see as much of the city as possible.
Located in the centre of the town of Agios Nikolaos, Lake Voulismeni is referred to as “the lake” by the locals and offers unparalleled beauty to its visitors.
Lake Voulismeni is the perfect place to take a stroll around as you take in some of the local stores and eateries – there are some delicious places to order food nearby. There are also a number of hotels close to the lake, which offer stunning views from their rooms.
The edge of Lake Voulismeni is always lined with boats, some of which offer trips out to sea to tourists. There is a local urban legend that the lake is bottomless, but in fact it is 64 metres deep and is home to a wide variety of fish. It is an incredibly photogenic spot at any time of the day or night. This is particularly true in early evening when the water is illuminated by the reflection of the local restaurants and bars’ lights.
Crete’s old town of Rethymnon is one of the best-preserved towns from the Renaissance era. The old town is a favourite with those in search of some retail therapy, offering a selection of markets old and new for visitors to peruse and purchase from. That being said, you can enjoy the old town without needing to spend a penny. Stroll down the narrow streets and observe the preserved beauty of the original buildings, which have retained their original charm.
The promenade allows you to take a leisurely stroll by the sea and look at the boats. There is also a delightful lighthouse stretching out to sea for visitors to explore.
Old town also has a wide range of eateries, which serve up a wide selection of delicious dishes for diners to enjoy. So, be sure to call in at a café or restaurant for some lunch, or, even better, an evening meal.
Located on the north coast of Crete, the Palace of Malia can be found just east of Heraklion. These ruins are the remains of an ancient Minoan civilisation. Surrounded by magnificent Greek countryside, the Palace of Malia provides a rich historical trip for those who are interested in ancient Greece.
Visitors are able to freely wander around these historical ruins at their leisure. A building on site is home to models and drawings of how the Palace of Malia looked when first built, allowing you to get a real idea of how the ruins would have looked thousands of years ago. There are also a wide range of ancient Greek pottery works to study.
Trips can be easily booked in advance online; tickets are reasonably priced and free for young children. The Palace of Malia site is also located quite near to a beach, so families can combine the ancient history with a fun day by the sea.
A favourite with hikers all around the world, Samaria Gorge is one of the most picturesque and scenic national parks in all of Europe. If you are looking to experience the nature on your holiday to Crete, there is nowhere better to take in the sights of Greece’s great outdoors than Samaria Gorge.
The gorge is 16 km long, so it is advised that anyone who is thinking of attempting to walk the whole distance is of good physical health and fitness. However, this long walk along rough terrain is a very purifying experience for visitors from all over the world, allowing you to walk through nature and take in every sight and sound, undisturbed by technology or modern transport.
Visits to Samaria Gorge are permitted between May and October of each year. Visiting hours are from 7am to 3pm each day. Swimming in the streams within the gorge is not permitted at any time.
Lying high on a hill just south of Gouves, a little northwest of the village of Skotino, is Skotino cave. At 160 metres deep and 36 metres wide, it is a mysterious and spooky must-see. Off the beaten track, Skotino Cave is not normally thronged with visitors and tourists, so you won’t need to worry about queues. Admission is also free, so you can explore at your leisure.
However, it is advised that you wear sensible, sturdy shoes to visit the cave. This is very much a ‘wild’ exploration, with no LED lights illuminating the inside of the cave, so bringing a torch would also be a good idea. Located nearby is a quaint and ancient church that visitors are welcome to pop in to look around.
Skotino Cave is not a destination for those in search of guided tours and gift shops. This cave gives you a real taste of nature and adventure. It’s a great place for children to explore, properly supervised.
Officially known as Kalydon, Spinalonga Island lies at the mouth of the natural port of Elounda. For an island of just 85000 square metres in size, Spinalonga Island has an immensely rich history. It has also been featured in countless books, including Victoria Hislop’s best-seller, The Island.
Visitors flock to Spinalonga to walk around the island and take in some of Crete’s finest views of the crystal clear blue waters surrounding it. It only takes about an hour to be able to walk around the whole island, but this is an hour well spent, taking in the various panoramic views of Crete’s mainland as well as further out to sea. Spinalonga Island is renowned for being incredibly atmospheric, retaining many of its original buildings.
The leisurely boat ride over to the island is another highlight from the day. If you have a passion for history, a visit to Spinalonga Island should be top of your Crete holiday planning list.