Crete is an island off the southern coast of Greece and is brimming with hidden gems and history. The island is part of Greece, but a cultural and unique force in its own right. It has mountains higher than the Appalachians, and is considered a food mecca thanks to its 360-degree access to the coast and unique topography. If you’re looking for unspoiled landscapes, unique historical landmarks, and friendly locals, Crete should be at the top of your travel list. Check out five of the best things to do on this unforgettable island, and get off the beaten path on a tour of Crete.
Hit the dirt road in a 4 X 4 vehicle that leads you high above the Bay of Kisomos down to Balos beach and lagoon, famous for its unique hue of blue water and silky white sand. You’ll find Crete’s most beautiful beaches around the city of Chania, in the wild landscapes of the western coast. Explore the clear waters of Balos beach, the pink sand of Elafonisi beach, and the watersports at Falassarna Beach. Want to discover more surf and sun to dive into? Here are nineteen of the most beautiful beaches in Greece >
Discover a pre-Greek Bronze Age culture in this complex from 1900 BC. You’ll find expansive residence quarters and the famous bull-leaping fresco depicting the ancient practice that took place in its courtyard. In Greek mythology, Minos was the King of Crete and the son of Zeus. In the myth, Minos lived at Knossos and would send children to the Knossos labyrinth to be eaten by the Minotaur that roamed its corridors. Explore these storied ruins and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum on our Greek Islands for Solo Travelers: Crete & Santorini tour >
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Samaria Gorge contains a popular nine-mile hike through its spectacular landscape. The rainwater from the mountains has carved out beautiful gorges filled with evergreen trees and wildflowers. “You could easily mistake being in Colorado, until you sit down for Greek salad and Mythos beer for lunch,” says traveler and Go Ahead staffer Tom. Between the mountains and traditional villages, every turn you take is a new sight to discover.
Crete has been influenced by its geographical neighbors, including Turkey and Venice, and its layered history is on full display at the Venetian Harbor. The harbor has Byzantine walls, an Ottoman mosque, and an Egyptian lighthouse. “There’s no better way to spend an evening in Chania than making your way to the restored harbor for a seafood dinner with Cretan wine,” says staffer Tom.
There are a number of grape varietals that only grow in Crete, and wineries dot villages throughout the island. You’ll find Crete’s star grape, Vidiano, in full-bodied whites. These rare grapes can be soaked in acacia or oak barrels to add a unique flavor during the fermentation process.
Discover the Iraklio wine country as you travel to Archanes Village, where you can support local women selling traditional baked goods in an off-the-beaten-path, beautiful village. Want to discover more hidden gems? Here are five unique places to visit in Greece >
Visit a winery on Crete on our Greek Islands Adventure: Athens, Naxos & Paros tour >