Where to even start about this magical place. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek Islands and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It's actually about the size of Florida, to give you some perspective. Joe (@pistolpeters) and I traveled to Greece in May of 2014 with our favorite travel buddies, my cousin Lisa (@lisaaann1) and her boyfriend Brian (@brianklee). If you want to see more photos from our trip to Athens, Santorini, Crete and Berlin, you can check out our hashtag: #JMBLadventures.
* Download this city guide (with GPS maps) on your smartphone here to have it handy for your trip! *
We went to three spots within Greece while we were there -- Athens, Santorini and Crete. Athens is great for the history and Santorini is the most picturesque place you can ever dream up, but Crete was one of those places that just had it all. For that reason, we all were able to agree that it was our favorite of the islands and didn't have the chance to spend enough time there. I'd love to go back some day! We took a ferry at sunset to Crete from Santorini, which took about 2 hours. We arrived at the perfect time for this amazing view below.
Crete has everything you would want to do on an island vacation. It has gorgeous beaches, ancient civilazation to explore, and amazing food and culture, but also has beautiful mountains, and steep gorges if you want to hike. A popular hike that Lisa and Brian did one day is the Samaria Gorge.
There are two main areas that people typically visit, which are about an hour and a half apart: Chania and Heraklion. You can find the cutest villas to stay in both Chania and Heraklion on Cretico (click the links to the cities to see for yourself!), one of my favorite travel sites for Crete. We decided to stay in Chania and rented a car to get around the island. You can check out Rental Center Crete to get you sorted with a rental, because you'll definitely need to do some driving to get to the best spots! This post is entirely focused on Chania since we stayed there all 4 days of the trip to Crete. As you can see in the picture above, the water is blue as can be and the central town of Chania looks similar to Venice, Italy as it was initially conquered by the Venetians in 1205. With it's bright colored buildings and blue waters, Chania truly has one of the most picturesque views. It has both a "new" and "old city." The Old City is built around the Venetian Port, which is pictured above and below. The New City is not as noteworthy of a place for tourism, but you can check out more information here.
Crete is a food-lovers paradise. Most of the restaurants sit on the water looking at the view above. I highly recommend eating in the Venetian port, as all of the food is extremely fresh and delicious. Greece has the best tomatoes and freshest fish I've ever had in my life. The prices are very reasonable too -- not to mention every restaurant gives you complimentary ouzo or rocky (both greek liqours) and often dessert after dinner. The wait staff was always so friendly too. Crete had one of the most warm and welcoming cultures I've experienced. Everyone was more than willing to go far out of their way to help you find something or give you advice.
There are lots of water activities you can do on Crete. During your stay, I recommend that you stand up paddle board or kayak in the warm water. You can also do fun activities on land as well. I suggest renting scooters or quads and riding them around town -- you can ride across the island on them if you want, as you're able to drive them on the roads.
My favorite thing we did in Crete was drive to a "secret beach" that a local on the island told us about. It's called Seitan Limania. It's a bit of an off-the-beaten path type of place where you drive on a dirt road with no signs, but I found a website that you can use to find your way. Beacuse of this, it's deserted and you have a good chance at being the only ones on the beach. This place is a MUST SEE! You must hike down a small, yet steep, hill and arrive at a rocky beach with truly the bluest water I have ever seen. Here, you can also do cliff jumping, as you'll see in the photos below of Joe and me.
If you visit Greece, I definitely recommend checking out Crete. It's not one of the islands that pops out as something people have heard of, which makes it even more unique. I found out about it from a friend who recommended it as her favorite place in Greece, and am so happy we went. I hope you take my advice and visit some day too!
My (Chania) Crete To-Do List
download it here!
Sights to see:
Wander through the clustered buildings and alleys (as seen in the photo above) near the Venetian Harbour (lots of shops, spas, restaurants)
Hike the Samaria Gorge (you can do a group trip from here and take a bus/ferry as it's a hike down a steep gorge that ends on a beautiful beach)
Visit a monastary
Visit various beaches:
Rhodes Kathari Beach (great for lounging in the sun or taking a dip -- there are plenty of lounge chairs you can rent here to lay on)
Seitan Limania (picture seen above -- the "secret beach" that you very well may have as a private beach on the right day as it's off the tourist map)
Go paddle boarding in Chania with SUPinCrete
Go to the Chania Market
Restaurants and Drinks:
Eat and drink at the waterfront restaurants in the Venetian Harbour -- you can't go wrong with the fresh food. Many of the restaurants have their Tripadvisor ratings posted out front, which is how we decided on spots.
Eat the cheap gyros in the new town, as they are always amazing.
Eclipse (popular bar during the summer season)
MYLOS Club (popular dance club during the summer season)
Next, check out more about Santorini!