Top 10 Sites of Crete

Crete provides everything for a perfectly balanced trip. Between coastal and bucolic landscapes, diverse and rich history and cultural identity, and a unique culinary scene, it never disappoints.

Top 10 Sites of Crete

1. Venetian Harbour, Chania

The Venetians ruled Crete for more than 400 years from 1204 and built impressive harbours and dockyards for their trading vessels which were housed in purpose built boat houses known as “neoria”. Dating from the 15th century, they are still here today . The harbour in Chania houses 17 neoria.

Neoria Boat House

Inside a Neoria Boat House

2. City Walls, Heraklion

The Venetians were expert builders of defensive fortificatons. The old cities of Chania and Heraklion were protected by giant walls and moats and the walls in Heraklion are twenty miles long.

Coastal Fortifications

Coastal Fortifications

3. Rethymno Fortress

Built by the Venetians, it was later taken over by the Ottoman Turks when they took control of the island in the mid 17th century. They built a mosque inside the fortress which is still here although no longer a place of religious worship. The Ottomans governed Crete for nearly 300 years until the beginning of the 20th century and many of their buildings survive to this day, particularly in old town of Rethymno.

The Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim

The Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim

Knossos palace recreation

Knossos palace recreation

4. Knossos

The 4,000 year old Minoan civilization pre-dated the empire of Ancient Greece and stretched back to the age of Ancient Egypt. It was centered on Crete and many of these Minoan sites can be visited today. The most famous is Knossos, re-discovered at the beginning of the 19th century by British archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans. He spent the 35 years excavating the site and controversially re-constructed parts of its famous palace which is Crete’s most popular tourist site. Other Minoan sites include Phaestos and Gortyna which became the Roman capital of the island in the first century BC.

5. Heraklion Archeological Museum

Home of the world’s largest and most impressive collection of Minoan relics, sculptures and frescoes.

Minoan Frescoe

Minoan Frescoe

6. Samaria Gorge

Crete’s rugged mountainous landscape is cut through by dramatic cliffs and gorges and the most famous is the Samaria Gorge in the south west of the island. It the deepest in Europe and takes five hours to walk from top to bottom.

Samaria Gorge, Krzysztof Belczyński, Flickr Creative Commmons

Samaria Gorge, Krzysztof Belczyński, Flickr Creative Commons

7. Cretan Wine Tour

Almost two dozen wineries are embedded in a landscape of shapely hills, sun baked slopes and lush valleys south west of Heraklion.

Loutro Bay, Crete

Loutro Bay, Crete

8. Crete’s southern coast

Hop on and off the regular boats that travel along the remote and rugged southern coastline staying in villages such as Loutro, Hora Sfakion, Sougia and Paleochora along the way, and visiting isolated beaches in between.

9. Georgioupoli

A pretty former fishing village and seaside town on north coast near Chania popular with tourists . It noted for its small offshore chapel of St Nicholas that can be visited at low tide.

10. Margarites

Small pottery village inland from Rethyminon. Take in visits to the nearby Arkadi Monastery and Melidoni Cave, both sites in the 19th century of dramatic massacres during Crete’s long fight for independence, and the captivating ancient Greek site of Eleutherna.

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