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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
This new villa sits amongst olive trees on the outer limits of Pirgos, a little hamlet 15 mins walk from the calm village of Maleme. Combining an uncluttered and modern interior with an external finish embellished by touches borrowed from the anci...
Situated off the Maleme-Nea Roumata road 16 km west of Chania and less than 1 km from the centre of Maleme, this handsome old family house with 10m x 5m private swimming pool is set amongst olive groves, some 300 metres from the coast road.
Daphnis Villas consists of 4 villas, Chloe, Ioli, Fedra and Danae built around a 96 sq. m swimming pool, 200 m. from the beach, with a mountain and sea view.
Each villa is suitable for 6 people and it is composed of 3 bedrooms, 1 fully-equipped ...
Traditional cosy-style villa newly built (June 2011) this Villa has been created as “home away from home”. Villa Kivotos is just 7 km from the Venetian town of Rethymnon, therefore providing the perfect blend of country and city. 120 sqm allows...
Villa Equus is a newly built (2007), self catering summer holiday rental. Situated between the White Mountains and the sea (just 3 minutes away), in the north west part of Crete near Georgopoulis, it provides the perfect base for a relaxing, roman...
Set on a small hill above the village of Armeni but only 800 metres from the village square, Villa Galania is ideally placed to enjoy the rural idyll whilst still being within reasonable walking distance of local shops and tavernas and just ten mi...
Find us at: www.keramoti-villas.com
Keramoti Villas is a project of tranquillity and peacefulness in the most beautiful and unspoiled setting in the farthest western part of the magical island of Crete.
Keramoti Villas where created having in mi...
Panorama Villas is a small 4 star self catering resort which is designed with style, built with passion and offers comfort in a unique atmosphere. The splendid accommodation is in eleven villa apartments which are fully decorated and surrounded by...
Villa Artemis is a unique property, located on a small headland jutting out into the sea and dates back to at least 1920. A total renovation done by the new owner himself, has created a furnished and equipped holiday home to a good standard. You e...
Villa Athena consists of a two-floor traditional villa of 150 sq.mt (1600 sq.ft), and a 50 sq. mt (533 sq. ft) independent stone apartment (which is rented separately),with a spacious outdoor area and a magnificent garden, full of colours, fragran...