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Crete is not only Greece's largest island, it is also Greece's most popular holiday destination. But is Crete Greece's most perfect tourist destination? Yes, I think one could say that it is. With its long and dramatic history, its unique culture, its special traditions and the enormous surface area, Crete becomes (or is) a country in the country. Crete has it all.

 

The Venetian harbour of Chania. in Crete.

The Venetian harbour of Chania.

 

It doesn't matter what you want to see or do on your holiday, you will find it in Crete: swim and sunbathe on miles of sandy beaches, dive into crystal clear water, hike between high mountains and in deep gorges, improve yourself in many amazing sights, visit picturesque small villages and vibrant cities filled with Greek everyday life, get tired of looking at the varied and inspiring scenery and enjoy delicious Cretan food and good music. The list can be done even longer.

 

Paleochora in southern Crete..

Paleochora is a very pleasant tourist resort in Chania regional unit.

 

Previously most visitors travelled to the tourist resorts west and east of Chania, as well as to Rethymno. Today many choose to go on a package holiday to, for example, Paleochora and Makrygialos in southern Crete. In addition a growing crowd of tourists have started to travel independently around Crete.

Crete is divided into four regional units. These are from west to east: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi. Below you can read about the most important places in each regional unit.


CHANIA REGIONAL UNIT

Chania regional unit has a surface area of 2,376 km2 and a population of about 150,000. The highest mountain peak, Pachnes (2,453 m), is located in the Lefka Ori (the White Mountains). The city of Chania (see picture at the top of the page) has just over 108,000 inhabitants and it is the second largest city of Crete, after Heraklion.

Some of Crete's most popular tourist resorts are found in the regional unit of Chania: Nea Chora, Chrissi Akti, Agii Apostoli, Kalamaki, Kato Stalos, Agia Marina, Platanias, Gerani, Maleme, Kissamos and Kolymbari west of Chania, Paleochora in the south (including the beaches of Gramenos and Krios, Gialiskari, and also the small village of Azogires) as well as Kalives, Almyrida and Georgioupolis east of Chania.

There are also many nice beaches in the regional unit: Balos, Elafonissi, Fallasarna and Sweetwater are just some of them. There are also lots of unturistic villages, such as Chora Sfakion, Loutro (see picture at the bottom of the page), Phoenix, Lykos and Livaniana, Sougia, Ano Vouves, Theriso, Lakki and Kanados.

 

Nea Chora west of Chania in Crete.

Nea Chora west of Chania is becoming increasingly popular every year.

 

Nice beaches are also found on the headland of Akrotiri, like Stavros, Kalathas and Tersanas, and also some interesting monasteries and caves, including Agia Triada, Gouvernetto, Katholiko as well as the Cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa.

As if that were not enough, Chania regional unit have been gifted with several spectacular gorges where the Samaria Gorge with Agia Roumeli, and the Imbrus Gorge are the two most famous. The Aradena Gorge and the Aradena bridge is fairly unknown, but oh so amazing, not to mention the hike to Lissos. And you should not miss the hike through the Theriso Gorge.

What does Chania regional unit have more to offer? Well, here is the large freshwater lake Kournas Lake, the bird watching paradise Agia Lake, the Frangokastello castle and also the so-called eco village of Milia, the Allied war cemetery and the German war cemetery, the monastery of Chrisoskalitissa, the world's oldest olive tree as well as the fun train The Little Fun Train.




RETHYMNO REGIONAL UNIT

Rethymno regional unit has a surface area of 1,496 km2. That it is small, is a major plus, since the distances are short. If you stay in the city of Rethymno, you can easily spend a day on the south coast. It is, for example, only 35 kilometres to the pleasant tourist resort of Plakias in southern Crete, and it is only 60 kilometres to Chania.

Apart from the nice capital, the regional unit offers many interesting sights, lots of lovely beaches, cosy small villages and a very beautiful scenery.

There are also several tourist resorts in Rethymno regional unit. East of Rethymno lies the package resorts of Perivolia and Platanias, Panormos and Bali, and on the southern coast lies Agia Galini, as well as Plakias with its many fine beaches. In addition to the long beach in Plakias itself, it is close to lovely beaches, like Preveli, Shinaria, Damnoni, Amoudia, Amoudaki, Souda and Koraka, and to the villages of Mirthios and Sellia, as well as to the Kotsifou Gorge.

 

Preveli beach in southern Crete.

Preveli is one of the most famous beaches in Rethymno regional unit.

 

The regional unit is also known for its caves, some of the most famous is Melidoni, Sendoni and the Idaion cave in the Nida plateau. The two most important monasteries in Crete are Arkadi and Piso Preveli. When it comes to lesser-known villages in the regional unit, I think that Anogia, Margarites, Agios Pavlos, Triopetra, Spili, Rodakino, Hromonastiri and Argiroupolis are the most interesting.

The Amari valley with its many picturesque villages is also fascinating. In the Amari valley you find the Platania Gorge where, if you are lucky, you can see lammergeier. Historical memorials are not lacking, including the city of Rethymno, Ancient Eleftherna and not least the Minoan cemetery of Armeni, and if you like Greek music you can read about Nikos Xylouris here.


HERAKLION REGIONAL UNIT

Heraklion regional unit is not as famous as the regional units of Chania and Rethymno, and I believe the reason is that there are not as many nice beaches here. But there are many other things, not least many interesting historical sites.

And do not worry, there are nice beaches too, so you will be able to go swimming. Heraklion is the capital of Crete, but you surely knew that already.

 

Matala in southern Crete.

Matala is a popular tourist resort in Heraklion regional unit.

 

The most popular tourist resorts in Heraklion regional unit are Analipsi and Anissaras, Hersonissos, Malia, Lendas, Ditikos, Matala, Kalamaki and Komos. The most important sights are the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaestos. Gortys and Agia Triada are also quite worth seeing. Some of the lesser known beaches are Tertsa, Kastri and Tsoutsouros, as well as Agiofarago beach.

My favourite villages are Ano Viannos, Sivas, Zaros and Archanes. Two wonderful gorges are also available: Agiofarago and Rouvas.

If you like birds you should not miss Faneromenis lake south of Zaros, and if you like trout you should not miss Lake Votamos.




LASITHI REGIONAL UNIT

It's a little strange that the regional unit is called Lasithi. The other regional units are named after its capitals. If one did the same here, the regional unit would be called Agios Nikolaos regional unit. But that is not how it is.

The regional unit of Lasithi also offers many interesting places: Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Spinalonga, Makrigialos and Mirtos have many heard of. The Palm Beaches of Vai and Itanos are also well known, as well as the monastery Moni Toplou.

 

Kato Zakros in Eastern Crete.

Kato Zakros is my favourite in Lasithi regional unit.

 

Less known beaches are Koutsounari, Agia Fotia, Almyros, Xerokambos and Ferma. Unfortunately, is the former package resort of Sissi soon forgotten, but that is not the case with Milatos cave. Here are also two major towns: Sitia in the north and Ierapetra in the south. Ierapetra is, by the way, Europe's southernmost town.

My favourites are Kritsa (with the church of Panagia Kera), Mochlos, Paleokastro and Kato Zakros where the Valley of the Dead is located. Crete's most interesting plateaus are found in Lasithi regional unit: the Lasithi plateau (which gave the regional unit its name) where the Dikteon Cave and the Homo Sapiens Museum are located, as well as the Katharo plateau, rich in flora and fauna.


ACCOMMODATION IN CRETE

You have probably already arranged your accommodation, because the majority of the tourists travelling to Crete goes on a package holiday. Most package travellers will find themselves in one of the tourist resorts west and east of Chania, and east of Rethymno. The package-holiday operators offers everything from simple family pensions to large hotel complexes with kids' clubs, heated swimming pools, as well as All inclusive.

If you are travelling independently it is easy to find good accommodation, and it is not particularly expensive, even if there are luxury hotels for those who want that. The situation is, of course, different in August, then it can be tricky to find good accommodation at reasonable prices.

Book hotels in Crete at booking.com »

 

Loutro in southern Crete.

Loutro is one of my favourites in Crete.

 

Loutro is the only village in Crete that can just be reached by boat, or on foot. Loutro has ferry boat connections with Chora Sfakion, Agia Roumeli, Sougia and Paleochora.

 

Photos from Crete »





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