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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
Our beautiful Cretan House set in the beautiful countryside of Mavrikiano overlooking the breathtaking views of the Mirabello Bay would be a perfect choice of holiday for our guests. Villa Bougainvillea is set in its own private grounds and is eq...
Harkia Villas (Villa Thimari and Villa Faskomilia) are built like an amphitheatre on the top of “Anemomilos” hill, offering a comfortable and a relaxing environment with a unique panoramic view. Harkia (Charkia) is a typical Cretan village only 50...
Welcome to Villa Kokalis. The magic begins from here. This charming and spacious villa is located at the edge of the traditional village of Ano Gouves. It has an excellent architectural design, mostly built with stone and marble. This 'little pala...
Achilleas Suite is about 140 square meters, surrounded by an acre of colorful gardens and close to a 30 square meter swimming pool. The apartment combines a wonderful sea, garden and mountain view.
Achilleas Suite is located on the first floor of...
140 sqm. brand new villa in a picturesque village in southern Crete, ideal for a large family, 2 families or a group. The house has 2 floors and is very modern, with a fully equipped kitchen, dishwasher, washing machine, TV, HiFi stereo, bathroom ...
FISSI is the Greek word for nature
The residences FISSI VILLA is located in MIKRO VATHI 5 km from Ag. Nikolaos and 4 km from the settlement of Istro bay which is renowned for its splendid turquoise sandy beaches. FISSI VILLA is built in a prefer...
elafonisi seafront villas are located near the famous Elafonissi beach, in the village of Livadia on the unspoiled west coast of Crete. Our four villas, Villa Nautilus, Villa Neptune, Villa Ostria and Villa Calypso, have all been built according t...
The Villa is located in Kato Stalos 150 meters from the sea , only 7km (4.3 miles) west of the most beautiful town of Crete, Chania, near cosmopolitan Platanias. It includes one newly built, stone made villa, suitable for an amazing vacation, year...
Very peaceful,Ideally located,Large terrace,Tastefully decorated,Near to beaches shops and cafe's,In the middle of olive groves and carob trees,Mountain views,Real countryside,Discount for long stay. The apartment is suitable for families up to 4 ...
A beautifully restored traditional village house in its own grounds set in an elevated position in the unspoilt living village of Milatos.
Ideally suited for those discerning holidaymakers who want tranquillity but accessibility to beaches, taver...