Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Crete: 10 things not to miss

1 - Knossos
The largest of Crete's Minoan palaces, extensively excavated and controversially restored, Knossos is the island's major tourist attraction. Mythically, this was the labyrinth of the Minotaur, the half-man, half-bull imprisoned by King Minos.

2 - SamariĆ” Gorge
It's a strenuous half-day hike, but the 'Iron Gates' alone, an opening only a few metres wide between 500m high rock walls towards the end, make it worth your while.

3 - Aghios Nikolaos
It may be touristy, but for good reason: this is an attractive town set in a region of well-preserved ancient sites, picturesque villages and breathtaking coastal scenery.

4 - Rethymnon
A city full of relics from its Venetian and Turkish past, Rethymnon is the capital of a picturesque region that also contains Crete's most sacred shrine to independence.

5 - Malia
Situated between the Lassithi mountains and the coast, Malia is the third largest Minoan palace in Crete after Knossos and Phaistos.

6 - The caves at Matala
Wonderful underwater caves, used in prehistoric times as places of worship and dwellings.

7 - Heraklion Museum
Regarded as one of the most important museums in Europe, with many stunning archaeological finds on display. Located in the centre of Iraklion (Heraklion) city.

8 - Sitia
Crete's easternmost town, set in an amphitheatre among gentle mountain scenery and lush vineyards, is a laid-back place with tier after tier of colour-washed houses rising from the tree-lined waterfront.

9 - Caves
Crete is an underground paradise for speleologists: there are some 300 caves dotted around the island and the HaniĆ” Mountaineering Club runs organised expeditions (

10 - Beaches
Crete may be littered with striking relics of ancient cultures, but many visitors come for its beaches. There are miles and miles of sandy shores, but you are likely to have to share them with lots of fellow tourists.