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Crete – packed full of mythology and tradition
The largest Greek island Crete is an increasingly popular holiday hotspot. A sun-soaked place known for its wine, dancing and distinctive culture, it's not hard to understand this island's enduring appeal. Crete is well-used to looking after its visitors, and offers a wide range of holiday accommodation – from luxury hotels to more modest, family-run apartments and tavernas. But wherever you stay, you can expect the warmest of welcomes. But Crete is also steeped in ancient history, and has some very significant sites, since it was once the centre of Minoan civilisation - Europe's oldest. Many Greek myths and legends were formed here.
When you go on your holidays to Crete you feel like you’re in another world. The blue skies, crystal clear sea, rugged rocks and completely laid back atmosphere make for a welcome change to most visitors’ everyday lives.
The island has a very traditional lifestyle and the little towns and villages dotted along the coast are incredibly pretty and charming. The locals here welcome tourists and allow them to integrate themselves into the relaxed atmosphere. Crete is the largest of all the Greek islands and is located roughly 160 km to the south of the Greek mainland.
What people first notice as they arrive are the mountainous landscapes. For walkers, this is an absolute dream. But if hiking up mountains is not your idea of a relaxing break, then your days can be spent on the beach instead or even discovering the ancient history of the island. A lot of the legends of the Greek mythology centre around the island so there are plenty of spots you can explore if you want to discover more about this fascinating subject.
Days on end can be spent simply relaxing in the cafes and restaurants that line the streets of Crete. The Greeks love their food and the cafe and restaurant owners will be more than happy to welcome you into their establishment to join the locals in their way of life.
For a truly fascinating experience, you can’t beat Knossos. This archaeological site is really impressive and a must see during your Crete holidays. This site used to be the centre of one of the most powerful civilisations of the ancient world. It’s the largest Bronze Age site on Crete and is often referred to as the Labyrinth as it is believed that this is where the Minotaur was kept.
Holidays in Crete are all about immersing yourself in Greek mythology. And to do this, you should take a trip to the Cave of Zeus. According to Greek mythology, this is the place where Rhea took baby Zeus when she was trying to hide him from Cronos.
The Monastery of Arkadi is another site which is well worth a visit. This fortress dates back to Byzantine times and was a highly significant site for Crete in the past. There is a museum at the monastery too, where you can see artefacts dating back to the 1866 Holocaust.
Some of the views ready and waiting for you on Crete holidays are spectacular. To experience one of the best, take a trip to the Amari Valley. There are some pretty little villages in this area and it is here, at the top of Psiloritis Mountain that you can experience the stunning view; just make sure you take your camera.
If the history and Greek mythology are all getting a little too much and you just need a break, then Crete has some beautiful beaches. And during the hot summers, many tourists find the crystal clear waters very hard to resist and go for a refreshing dip in the sea.
You’ve not experienced the real Cretan lifestyle until you have whiled away an evening or two at some local Greek taverns. There are plenty to choose from and you will often see the restaurant owners lining the streets inviting visitors to come and try their food. The great thing is that they are usually very reasonably priced. So even if you are hoping to find a cheap getaway to Crete eating out should still fit into your budget.
The Cretans pride themselves on their ingredients. The island is self sufficient and therefore, the ingredients are all local and fresh. Their cooking methods are very simple; you may be served grilled fish with oil and lemon or perhaps a lamb stew. But the quality of the ingredients means that Cretan dishes do not need to be any more complicated than this. Of course, what Cretans pride themselves on the most is their olive oil; just one taste and you will be asking for bottles to take home with you.
July and August in Crete see temperatures reaching the mid to high 20s. It’s a warm and sunny island, so holidays to Crete are perfect for any sun worshiper. But there is a slight divide. The north side of the island enjoys the Mediterranean climatic zone whereas the south experiences the North African climatic zone. This means that the South usually has a much warmer climate. Despite the warm temperatures, there is actually snow in Crete too with the mountains often boasting a dusting well into the spring.
Things not to miss
1. With hundreds of species of fish and sea plants to see off the coast of Crete, the island is perfect for snorkelling. The visibility in the sea is really impressive and the water temperature in the summer often reaches between 22 and 27 degrees so it’s certainly worth donning a pair of flippers on your holiday to Crete.
2. For a breathtaking sight as well as a bit of a challenge, you could always attempt a climb at the Ha Gorge. At 300 metres high and 1.5 km long, it really is a sight to behold.
3. The village of Eleftherna is fascinating. Here, there are remains from the Dorian and Roman times just waiting to be discovered. You can also marvel at the acropolis of Ancient Eleftherna.
4. If you like to escape the usual tourist route on your holiday in Crete then a trip to the charming village of Loutro may be suitable. The only access to this village is by boat unless you are a keen hiker; in which case, you can tackle the mountains to get there. You won’t find any cars here or large hotels or swarms of tourists. This traditional fishing village provides you with the ideal escape away from the normal holiday hotspots of Crete.