For most, Crete is seen as a beach destination filled with all-inclusive resorts, perfect for a package holiday. But, for the more adventurous, Crete has a whole world of culture to be seen off the beaten path. Simply follow these tips below, and you’ll find yourself in the spectacular undiscovered Crete, away from the tourist crowds.
Crete is famous for its beaches, and rightly so, this Greek island is surrounded by crystal-clear waters and the kind of white golden sands that you only expect to see on postcards. The main problem is, though, that with Crete being such a popular holiday destination – particularly from June to August – that many of these beaches become overpopulated with people. Not only does this make finding a good spot near impossible, but there are also too many people around to let you fully relax and enjoy the spectacular views.
That being said, finding a secluded beach on Crete isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. Damnoni beach is one of the quietest on the island and has an appealing, unspoiled feel to it, compared to resort beaches. The beach itself is filled with interesting coves and bays just begging to be explored or simply spend the day relaxing on the sands, reaping the benefits of a beach lifestyle.
If you’d like a beach that feels secluded, but still has some amenities, then Kyani Akti might just be perfect for your needs. Just 2km outside the resort of Kalyves, this beach is long so finding a spot away from other people is easy. Plus, there are some food and drink outlets as well as sun beds and umbrellas for sunbathing.
STAY IN A LOCAL CRETAN NATURAL-STONE HOUSE
Of course, if you truly want to escape the touristy side of Crete, you need to avoid one of the many resort-type hotels in the area. Not only will these be extremely busy during peak holiday times, but you’ll also find that the prices are hiked to reflect this too.
For a true taste of authentic Crete-life, opt to stay in a traditional Cretan home made from natural stone. Made using techniques that are hundreds of years old, you can still expect plenty of modern amenities inside. Plus, many come with a private pool so you don’t have to worry about sharing with other tourists.
When it comes to discovering Crete by foot, you have two main choices – do you do it alone or as part of a tour?
Guided tours have numerous advantages, particularly for the first-time traveler, as not only will you be able to meet like-minded tourists, but you’ll also benefit from learning the history and local knowledge of areas from an experienced guide. This walking tour of Chania is a particularly enjoyable way to discover one of Crete’s most picturesque cities, learning about its culture and traditions as well as getting to sample some of the local delicacies.
For something more adventurous, take the plunge on your own and explore the stunning Samaria Gorge, Crete’s national park. Known for its stunning raw beauty, this hike can attract as many as 3000 tourists a day, so try to start your walk early in the day if you want to avoid the crowds. Also remember to wear comfortable shoes, as the hike can be challenging at times.
By far the easiest way to escape the tourist hotspots of Crete is to rent a car and go exploring. Crete has more than 600 miles of gorgeous coastline, with stunning mountainous regions and cities in-between.
Take a trip to somewhere like Aghios Nikolaos, a small town near Heraklion. Famous for its lake, where in Greek mythology Athena and Artemis were said to have bathed in its waters, there is also a nice park with boats, an open-air theatre and plenty of cafes for a pit stop.
To experience the rural life of Crete, head to the Lassithi Plateau. Here you’ll find an area that is not only beautiful to look at but is also dotted with interesting little villages to explore. Expect to find plenty of authentic Crete cuisine and get chatting with the locals.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Crete is steeped in history and culture, particularly when it comes to Greek mythology. After-all, Crete is said to be where Zeus himself was born. Even better, you can visit the cave where it happened. Dikteon Cave is just one of over 3,000 caves in the area, but its link to Zeus makes it, by far, the most famous. Located on the Lassithi Plateau, the cave is definitely worth visiting even if it’s just for the impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Keep in mind, though, that the hike up to the cave can be difficult so bring water.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Crete’s history, then a visit to the Historical Museum of Crete is a must. Here you’ll find artifacts and paintings that explore the history of the island including the Battle of Crete and Minoan times.