My Favorite European Island: Crete

Crete is simply a stunning island, there is no where else I would contemplate buying property
Crete is simply a stunning island, there is no where else I would contemplate buying property

If you have not me personally you may not know of my undying love of the island of Crete but I am about to announce it to the world.  Crete is hands down my favorite island in Europe.  When people think islands in Europe I am not sure that Crete is always a top contender but I absolutely love it.  From beautiful beaches, one of the most stunning bays in all the world, hiking the Samaria Gorge, the food and the sites I would happily live here; actually one of my goals is to save enough money to buy property on this island.  Crete is my dream home.

 

There is so much to do on Crete and the people who visit just Chania or Heraklion and Knossos miss out on all the island has to offer.  When I first visited Crete I actually spent a month there studying (there is a reason I chose to study Classical Archaeology); we were based in Rethymno, the third largest city on Crete.  It is exactly ½ way between Chania and Heraklion so it makes a great base for exploring the island.  Rethymno is an amazing place because the beach is right there, there is great food in the town and you can really see the different influences on this city.  There are Turkish buildings, a Venetian fortress and there is also WWII history as well.

The Streets of Rythmno
The Streets of Rythmno

One of the coolest things I did while in Crete was hike the Samaria Gorge (I am not really a hiker but I survived).  This hike was 16 kilometers or 10 miles long.  We started by descendingand walking down switchbacks for about an hour and then finally the trail leveled out.  From there it was just a straight shot through the gorge, accompanied with dizzy heights of stone surrounding us and wild Cretan mountain goats leaping nimbly across the stone.  When you finally exit the gorge there is still a 3km walk to the town of Agia Roumeli which is a small town almost completely cut off from the rest of Crete.  It is accessible only through the gorge and the ferry.

This is where you get dropped off when you want to hike the Samaria Gorge.  It ends at the water...
This is where you get dropped off when you want to hike the Samaria Gorge. It ends at the water…
Friendly warning signs which are very helpful when you are stuck in a gorge 10 miles long
Friendly warning signs which are very helpful when you are stuck in a gorge 10 miles long

Crete is also famous for its archaeology and perhaps the most well known site is the city of Knossos, dating back to 1700 BC, and it is considered the oldest city in Europe.  Knossos is an interesting site however, because when it was excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in the late 1800s not only did he dig it up but he also decided to redecorate.  Sir Arthur Evans certainly used his imagination when he reconstructed the palace to some degree and what you see at the site it not necessarily accurate or even ancient.  Knossos is not my favorite site in Crete simply for this fact. (Archaeology Snob obviously)  There are so many wonderful Minoan ruins all over Crete to visit instead.  My favorite is Phaistos which is located in Southern Crete and while it is not necessarily as impressive as Knossos, the ruins are real and do date back to 1700 BC, so considering what is left that is rather impressive.

I was famous for tramping around Crete in impractical clothing.  White linen pants to visit an archaeological dig, why not?
I was famous for tramping around Crete in impractical clothing. White linen pants to visit an archaeological dig, why not?

 

Crete also has wonderful beaches and the Bay of Balos is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  Unfortunately I have not seen it myself due to extenuating circumstances involving an allergic reaction (not mine!) but all my friends informed me that I missed out.  Just another reason to go back!

The Bay of Balos courtesy of Wiki Commons
The Bay of Balos courtesy of Wiki Commons
This is Matala on the south coast of Crete.  The rock is covered with manmade caves from the neolithic period and in the 1960s they were completely overrun by hippies
This is Matala on the south coast of Crete. The rock is covered with man made caves from the neolithic period and in the 1960s they were completely overrun by hippies

Crete also has fantastic food; they are famous for that Mediterranean diet that allows them all to have insanely long lives.  Perhaps my favorite dish from Crete is Dakos.  Dakos is a salad comprised of a barley husk that has been saturated in tomatoes and olive oil and then topped with feta and oregano.  I miss that meal so much!

Dakos, photo courtesy of Greek-islands.us
Dakos, photo courtesy of Greek-islands.us

 

Crete is my dream, whenever people talk about Europe I find someway to bring Crete up.  It is just such a fantastic island and if you have a chance you should not hesitate to go.  Spend a month there, rent a car and drive the island, it will be worth it, I promise!

 

28 thoughts on “My Favorite European Island: Crete

  1. I don’t blame you for loving Crete! I haven’t been there (yet) but it looks gorgeous. I have heard some good things about it and I’m curious to check it out more

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  2. I’ve been to Crete many times over the last 5 years or so, always tending to stay in the Elounda area. Nice spot if you ever get the chance to explore that end of the island, with some great hotels and rental properties.

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  3. I visited Crete when I was in college (just a few moons ago : ) and would love to go back. I remember delicious food and wonderful walking trails. Looks like you really enjoyed it too!

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  4. I haven’t been to Crete yet, actually I have only visited Athens in Greece. I would like do to a trip around the Greek islands one day, and I wouldn’t miss Crete either! Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  5. That hike looks absolutely amazing! It’s one of our favorite things to do, but it’s getting a little harder for the moment since our kids are 2 and 4. Would love to go there when they are a little older and attempt that hike.

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  6. I am going to Greece and Turkey next month, but I am not certain we will get to Crete. But now I will try to see if we can. It’s great to have such a passion about a particular place. I fell in love with Bonaire when I went there and aim to retire there someday. Thanks for such a detailed post. Happy travels!

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  7. History, food and good hiking – perfect. I may need to save up for a place on Crete if I end up spending time there. Maybe we’ll be neighbors!

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