A Side to Crete that You Never Knew About: What to Visit and See.
With turquoise waters and pink-sand beaches ideal for snorkelling, tropical weather and chains of impressive hotels, Greece is a popular tourist destination for many Europeans and travellers around the world. As the most significant Greek Island, Crete is just one of the many islands that Greece has to offer; with Kos, Rhodes, Korfu and Mykonos being frequented by tourists. Its touristic municipalities of Chania and Heraklion provide an abundance of attractions for families, with many activities such as waterparks, boat trips to off-road destinations, and a bountiful of restaurants with authentic Greek food and hotels filled with daytime and evening entertainment. For those young, free-spirited adults looking for a place to let their hair down and connect with other like-minded travellers, Crete is also home to the beautiful, lively coastal town of Malia famous for its nightlife. In Crete, you can expect a typical Meditteranean vacation sunbathing, relaxing and dining to your heart’s content. But if you are searching for that little bit extra to really explore and discover everything the destination has to offer- Crete has some hidden treasures you might have not known about.
Mythology in Crete: Ancient Sites to Visit
The beauty of the Greek islands is that they all have some mythological influence and legendary tales which still heavily influence contemporary society today. Crete is a particularly special Greek Island for those who love mythology because it is here that you can visit the proclaimed birthplace of Zeus, who in Greek Mythology is not only the God of Thunder and the elements but also the God of All Gods and Goddesses. The Birthplace of Zeus, the Psychro Cave, is frequently visited by tourists who want to make the journey to the legendary god’s birthplace. If you’re up for an adventure and you enjoy walking, this place could be for you as you do have to drive up through the breathtaking Heraklion mountains to discover this location and pay a small entrance fee on arrival (Around 6 Euros). For a spectacular view at the top and the honour of visiting Zeus’ birthplace, this price may be reasonable to pay towards preserving this natural treasure.
If you are interested in seeing some mythological sites, but caves aren’t for you- fear not! Crete offers several mythological sites including the Palace of Knossos, in Heraklion. As Europe’s most ancient city, Knossos is mostly famous for its connection with the Labrinyth- where it is rumoured a half-man, half-bull creature, The Minotaur lurked in a connection of corridors waiting for the arrival of its sacrificial victims. Today, the palace has a collection of ruins, artwork and historical grounds that you can come and visit. You can purchase guided tours here in various languages or walk through the grounds at your own pace. There is also a small restaurant here that makes very tasty freshly squeezed orange juice- which is worth visiting if you are spending a lot of time out in the sun. As the Knossos Palace is very out in the open, make sure to keep hydrated and bring extra suncream with you.
These are just two of the many mythological and legendary sites that you can visit here in Crete; with Aptera temple and the infamously haunted Venetian fort, Fragokastelo being two other noteworthy places to visit in Crete. But be warned, Fragokastelo may not be for the faint-hearted- with an abundance of visions recorded here- you may expect to see the Drosoulite ghosts. Outside of these mythological sites- you can still see small influences of mythology around you- for example, many of the local handmade arts and ceramics stores specialise in the sales of Greek gods and goddesses- celebrating a long history of mythological tales. The aspect of mythology definitely gives Crete its own unique charm and if you are interested in learning more about its legends, these sites are worth the visit.
One aspect of Crete that may not be commonly known is that Crete has a historic connection with the Second World War. Many of the Jewish population of Crete were targeted by German soldiers during the war and many civilians were killed by their forces. One famous battle occurred in Maleme-where the RAF Base is still located to this day. Close by to this area you can visit a War memorial site, and listen to and see recollections of those war accounts during the time. Not too far from here, in Platanias- which is popular with families, you can visit an ancient war shelter with war relics, tunnels and possessions of those during the war. The shelter is free to enter, but a small donation can be made to keep the shelter preserved. You can read some of the reviews of the Platanias War Shelter here on TripAdvisor.
Pirates of Crete
In ancient times, piracy was considered an honourable career in Crete said to be favoured by many, so much that Crete actually made their own navy for the purpose of piracy. A popular Pirate tourist attraction you might have heard of is the Black Rose, a pirate ship where you can sail from Heraklion, take some food and hear stories from the cast of the ship. However, if you look a little deeper, you find more secret pirate locations in Crete. One which you can visit is located in Kavaros Cape called Pirate’s Fjord, near Rethymnon, accessed only by boat or through the hotel which is now standing there. Here was a popular place of refuge for pirates during the days of piracy, provided by the small cave that stands there. This is a very small cove, but worth seeing if you are a fanatic of pirates.
Nature at its Best: Gorges and Sites to See
You can’t visit Crete without appreciating the spectacular nature that it has to offer- if you are coming as a backpacker, solo-traveller or as part of a group, Crete offers so many chances to hike, walk and find hidden nature spots. The most famous site is the Samaria Gorge- around 16km long. This hike is popular with tourists for some of its stunning views and unique natural scenery, taking several hours to complete. Whilst this is the most popular gorge in Crete, located near Chania- You will also find that Crete has the most gorges in Crete- so there are no limits to finding a gorge that is right for you. Asides from Gorges, another beautiful natural site is Lake Kournas- the only naturally occurring lake in Crete, this is the perfect place to spend time as a family, take a small boat trip and enjoy some breath-taking views.