Crete Attractions and Tourist
Attractions in Crete
There are more than enough attractions and sights in Crete, although the arts and culture cannot of course compare with what you find in Athens and other major cities on the mainland of Greece. But the wonders of nature in Crete are worth taking a closer look, and not least you will find ancient historical temples and monasteries. In addition, Crete offers historical museums that should attract the interest of most.
Although crowded, you should definitely head to the ruins of Knossos, which until the 20th century was considered a mythological place. Here the Minoan king Minos reigned, which is said to have lived and reigned in Knossos around the year 1800 BC. The legend of Theseus and the Minotaur in the maze originates here. Today you can see the remains of the palace in the city which probably had a population of 6-8,000 people. The murals are very famous and look colorful and new, with a lifelike faith you rarely see in such ancient art.
Knossos is located a few kilometers south of the capital Heraklion, and is open to the public from 0800 to 2200 between April and September, and from 0830 to 1500 in October to March. Entry about 50 kroner.
Just over two miles south of Rethymno lies the Arcadian Monastery, which was the scene of the most dramatic episode during Crete’s independence struggle against the Turks who occupied the island for over 200 years. During the revolution of 1866, 260 Greek freedom fighters and monks stood here for days against 15,000 Turks with 30 guns, blasting themselves and the enemy into the air when the gate finally collapsed. Hundreds of women and children from the surrounding villages also lost their lives, and the episode shocked the whole of Europe, which eventually supported the battle of the Cretans.
One of Crete’s foremost tourist attractions is Europe’s longest mountain ravine, and the hike through it has become a popular day trip for those who are scared to the bone. The tour offers great natural experiences and is an paradise for ornithologists. You can take a bus from Chania, the price is around 50 kroner. You also need a ticket for about 40 kroner for access to the hiking trail itself. Make sure you have solid hiking shoes, enough drink, a hat and sunscreen before embarking on this 16-mile trip down the coast.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
History enthusiasts will find one of Greece’s best and largest museums in Heraklion. Especially the exhibition about the Minoan culture is extensive. Here you can see jewelery, figurines, sarcophagi and some fabulous frescoes taken from Knossos. Also the famous large terracotta slice found in Phaistos with inscriptions that no one has been able to translate is on display here. You will spend hours only on a quick superficial look through all the departments, so the most interested should devote plenty of time to this attraction.
Open every day from 0800 to 1930 (Mondays from 1300) during the period April to October. In November to March 0830 to 1500 every day. Entry about 50 kroner (You can also get a combined ticket for 80 kroner which gives you access to Knossos).
Crete Historical Museum
This museum deals with the history of Crete, mainly from the Middle Ages through the freedom struggle during Turkish occupation to independence and reunification with Greece. There is also an exhibition on the Battle of Crete during World War II, and a dedicated section for local art and folklore. Open Monday to Saturday 0900 to 1700 (Wednesdays to 2100) The museum is located in Lysimachou Kalokerinou 7 in Heraklion, and costs approximately 40 kr.
In the middle of the southern coast of Crete, a few kilometers from Matala and Agia Galini, lies the ruined city of Phaestos (also called Phaistos, Festos or Phaestus). This was the second most important city for the Minoans. Phaistos was inhabited from around 4000 BC to about 200 AD. The excavations of Phaistos began in 1900, and unlike Knossos, the ruins are not reconstructed here. Open to the public daily from 0800 to 1900, to 1700 during the winter months. Entry about 40 kroner.
Chania Maritime Museum
If you get enough of all the archaeological museums, you can visit the Maritime Museum in Chania instead. Crete has a long and interesting history related to its ports, not least from the era of Venice. In the museum you can see model ships, old maps, paintings and instruments. The museum is located in Akti Kountourioti at the Frikafestningen and is open every day except Mondays from 0900 to 1600. Entrance approx. NOK 16.
Tourist in Crete
Although most tourists come to Crete to swim and sunbathe, the island’s beaches are not top notch compared to other Mediterranean islands. But on the north coast you will find some child-friendly beaches, where you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and with restaurants and bars nearby.
If you go for it, you can find as good as the public beaches you can have almost for yourself. Be aware that the entire north coast is exposed to both high waves and underwater currents, and if you see a red flag, it is unsafe and prohibited to swim. If the flag is yellow, it means bathing is allowed at your own risk.
Beaches in and around Chania
The area in the northwest, around Chania, is as much known for its hectic nightlife as for its beaches. If you travel to Crete on a charter holiday, there are high chances that this is where you end up. If you have children, the beaches of Chryssi Akti, Neochora and Agi Apostolii are shallow child-friendly alternatives. The beach at Platanias is decent enough and good for you who like to snorkel. But expect that there are many tourists here.
A little more peaceful beaches can be found on the Akrotiri Peninsula northeast of Chania, where the airport is also located. Both Kalathas, Marathi and Stavros are small villages with decent beaches and few tourists compared to the rest of the coastal strip.
Rethymno has a long sandy beach stretching several kilometers east. Here the hotels are located close to the top of the promenade, and the beach is teeming with other bathers. Lots of people, but in return you have all the amenities and activities available here.
One of Crete’s more romantic destinations with an idyllic small beach is located at the small tourist village of Bali, midway between Rethymno and Heraklion. Great for couples who don’t need nightclubs and karaoke bars.
Beaches on the west side of Crete
What about a beach with palm trees and the opportunity to swim in both freshwater and seawater? The preview beach makes this possible. Located on the south coast of Mona Preveli Monastery. If the weather is calm, one of the most beautiful beaches of Elafonissi is to the southwest of the island.
The beach is known for its beautiful shades of color and its child-friendliness. Alternatively, many choose the beach Marathi as it often has less waves than the beaches on the north coast. Marathi Beach is located on the Gulf of Souda.
Beaches on the east side of Crete
If you want a quiet beach you can choose Magrigialos on the southeast coast of Crete, which is one of the island’s best. Magrigalos is a great choice for families with children.
Family oriented, on the other hand, we would not call the charter classic Agios Nikolaos, located northeast of Crete. The small town beaches are almost filled with the hustle and bustle, and if you live here you should rather spend half an hour walking south to Almyros Beach, which is both better and quieter.
Spili and Agia Gallini
But Crete is more than just beaches and coastline. A short drive from Rethymno lies the lovely little gem of a mountain village called Spili. This is also the regional capital, although it has only barely 800 residents. Spili has beautiful old houses and cobblestone streets, with a great old Venetian fountain that splashes water from nineteen lion heads. There is also good drinking water!
If you continue south from Spili you will come to the small town of Agia Gallini where you will also find the old hippie beach Matala, which Joni Mitchell fans will recognize from the plate Blue. [see photo first in article] She was one of many flower children who lived for a time in the caves at Matala, which is actually 2000 years old Roman burial chambers carved into the porous sandstone. Today, Matala is taken over by package tourism, but is still well worth visiting for its sandy beach, not forgetting the nesting ground for Crete’s protected sea turtles, which are close by.
Kournas lake in Crete
If you want a peaceful and idyllic outing one day, you drive to Lake Kournasinn. It is located about two miles west of Rethymno. The lake is located in quiet and beautiful natural surroundings, where you can swim in crystal clear water or rent canoes and pedal boats. Also, keep an eye out for the turtles that belong here.
Samaria Gorge in Crete
Crete’s biggest natural attraction is undoubtedly the Samaria Gorge, located south of Chania. This is Europe’s longest mountain ravine, and the hike through it has become a popular day trip for those who are addicted to leg. Do not try the excursion if you are not used to going far, this is sometimes hard. But you will have a wonderful natural experience surrounded by pine forests and flowers, and it is an eldorado for ornithologists. Maybe you get to see the kri-kri goat, which is only found here.
You can take a bus from Chania, the price is around 50 kroner. You also need a ticket for about 40 kroner for access to the hiking trail itself. Make sure you have solid hiking shoes, enough drink, a hat and sunscreen before embarking on this 16-mile trip down the coast.
Ruins of Zakros
In the far east of Crete you will find yourself in the Lasithi area where the Minoan ruin town of Zakros was discovered in 1962. Zakros has only a fraction as many visitors as the more famous Knossos. A visit here can easily be combined with a visit to the peaceful pebble beach at Kato Zakros, with its small tavernas, or the more active ones can use this as a starting point for a walk through the Zakros gorge.