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Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and has a very distinct identity. People are proud to call themselves Cretan first, and Greek second. For the visitor this means an experience you will find nowhere else in the Greek islands. The sheer size of the place - 160 miles from east to west and 37 miles wide at its widest point - means that it's an island given to exploring, and you'll have to give some thought to where you want to be based, depending on your interests.
Crete is like a small country, and has a wide range of attractions. If you like hiking then there's the Samarian Gorge, one of the longest in Europe, as well as other gorges and mountain hikes. There are numerous archaeological sites, of which Knossos is the best-known, and the island is ringed with gorgeous sandy beaches. The Cretan Diet is one of the healthiest in the world - and one of the tastiest - and you can sample it at its best in pretty harbour towns like Chania and Rethymnon, as well as in the capital, Iraklion. Add in a fascinating modern history too, and the result is a Mediterranean island not to be missed.
Mike Gerrard's introduction to the cultural side of Crete
The original palace at Knossos was the heart of the Minoan civilisation, with over 1,200 rooms when it was built in about 1900BC. Some of these rooms have been recreated to give a hint of the splendour of the royal court that existed here, with over 100,000 people living at Knossos at its height. It was a palace that was doomed, however. Destroyed by an earthquake in about 1600BC, it was rebuilt 50 years later only to disappear again, possibly under a tidal wave from the volcanic eruption on Santorini. It's justifiably the most popular visitor attraction on Crete.
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The Minoan palace at Phaistos is southern Crete's equivalent of Knossos – though usually much less crowded. The ruins are in a splendid setting on a hill overlooking the surrounding Messara Plain, showing why the site was chosen. There are some remains from the original 1900BC Old Palace, destroyed by earthquake in about 1700BC, but more from the replacement New Palace, in use till the Minoan civilisation came to an end in 1450BC. The most famous discovery here was the Phaistos Disc. Baked in clay it shows a spiral of pictograms which have never been fully explained.
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Known – if not renowned – today as a beach resort with rowdy nightlife, the small north-coast town of Malia is also home to another of Crete's great Minoan palaces. It shares a history of being built in 1950BC, destroyed in a 1700BC earthquake, rebuilt 50 years later and then destroyed for good in 1450BC. In a lovely setting right by the sea, it's pleasant to stroll among the remains and visualise what the palace was like. Work on the site is ongoing, and it's known that it was far more extensive than what has so far been uncovered.
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Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The most important museum on Crete is in the capital, Iraklion, and naturally contains the best finds made at the many archaeological sites on the island. These include the surprisingly small Phaistos Disc, and extensive collections of finds from Knossos and Malia. It's the most important museum in the world for Minoan art but its collections range from Neolithic times in about 5000BC till the Roman period of the 4th century AD. The highlights are on display in a temporary exhibition while the main building is undergoing extensive renovations.
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Crete has a rich history that goes way beyond the ancient archaeological sites. There are a number of important monasteries, of which the most significant is the Arkadi Monastery, built in 1587. The monks took part in a failed 1821 uprising against the Turks, but it was a stronghold again for the 1866 Cretan Rebellion which began a three-year war against Turkish rule. Several hundred people died here in an explosion when the Turks burst through the gates in pursuit of resistance fighters, but their sacrifice was the beginning of Cretan freedom. It is a powerfully moving place.
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Heraklion Archaeological Museum by Shadowgate
Arkadi Monastery by Robert Young
Holiday Rentals in Crete
Adeste Villas is a cluster of stylish, newly completed villas with private pools apiece. Situated on the outskirts of Kokkino Horio (Red Village), the villas enjoy all the privileges of a hilltop location such as spectacular views, dramatic sunset...
Villa Eleftherna is approved by Greek Tourism Organization with license number: 1041K91002923801.
Cocooned on a quiet lane in the village of Eleftherna, the superb Villa Eleftherna is a rural hideaway, stone-built in traditional style. Set in an...
Holiday homes Tsivaras, Tsivaras
holiday home/type 1
holiday houses. cozy, rustic furnishings, mostly made of wood. Open kitchen. electric stove with oven, refrigerator with freezer, coffee machine, kettle. sat...
Holiday home, Tsivaras
holiday house. living / dining room on the ground floor.living room on the upper floor. satellite TV, Internet access. 3 bedrooms, (1 double bed), (1 French bed), (2 single ...
Holiday home, Neo Chorio
holiday house. living / dining room. satellite TV, DVD player, wireless LAN, radio. bedroom on the ground floor, (2 single beds).2 bedrooms on the 1st floor, (1 double be...
Holiday home, Maheri
holiday house, across 2 floors, furnished in the style typical of the country. living / dining room. satellite TV, TV, DVD player, Internet access, stereo system. 2 bedrooms, ...
This house 140 m² with a 85 m² basement with a two car garage. It is built in its own plot of 600 sq.m. in a garden with grass, flowers and fruit-bearing trees. It has its own swimming pool 36 sq.m. illuminated and wonderful surroundings (sunbeds-...
Villa 'Artemis' is a newly build property located at the traditional village of Episkopi in Rethymno Crete close to beautiful beaches of north Crete!!
The surrounding area is 300m2 paved with regional stone, has a 50m2 swimming pool, outdoor sho...
Traditional Meets Modern,
Romance Meets Nature,
A Magnificent Stone Villa Located in the Akrotiri Peninsula Kalathas Chania Crete.
An Exclusive Architectural Expression in the Cretan Landscape.
Villa Dimi has its own Unique Décor Style with Cont...
Annaview is an amazing apartment located in the top of a hill with breathtaking view to the bay of Plakias.
It is an ideal choice for relaxing and pleasant holidays away from the noisy resorts, combining breathtaking view to the sea and the mounta...