With so many things to do in Crete, it's easy to see why so many travellers add this gorgeous Greek island to their itinerary. We've been wanting to visit Crete for quite a while and this year we finally managed to make this dream a reality.
We quickly learned why Crete is ideal for honeymooners, outdoor lovers and foodies. With a variety of activities to satisfy every traveller's needs, Crete is definitely one of the most versatile destinations we visited. From beaches, through quaint villages to snowy peaks, Crete will offer you the trip you deserve. And to best enjoy all those great things to do in Crete, we recommend you visit offseason. Although the weather may be a little colder than during summer, the prices will be smaller and the main attractions will be less crowded.
Let's venture to one of the most intriguing Greek islands and find out what to do in Crete during your trip.
Exciting Things to do in Crete for first time visitors - Contents
Stay in Olive Green Hotel
To begin your epic things to do in Crete, you must have a great base. We recommend staying at the eco-friendly hotel called Olive Green. We love a sustainable hotel which wants to lead with its innovative features in trying to reduce its carbon footprint. The hotel is modern, comfortable and it's well positioned within the heart of Heraklion, making your day trips a breeze.
Eat a traditional Greek meal
Nothing says welcome to Crete better than a delicious authentic meal. There is this fun saying that in Crete, hospitality is measured by the guests' weight. And there take this seriously, as the moment we arrived in Crete, we've been fed all sort of traditional goodies. Not that we can complain, as who doesn't like sitting down with locals, eating incredible foods and discussing fun things to do in Crete.
The food in Crete is varied, filling and delicious. Many dishes are herb-heavy, making them very aromatic. We noticed many different kinds of cheese which explains why Crete is the number one cheese consumer in the world. This came as a surprise, as we always imagined that France or Italy would be the cheese-eating leader, but after seeing the array of cheese based dishes, we now completely understand that Crete truly has a love affair with cheese.
It's not just cheese, but also seafood, wines and honey. During one evening we learned more about Cretan food than ever before. To enjoy a special dinner, we'd like to recommend that you enjoy your dinner at Legacy Gastro Suites. the chef there can prepare some incredible local recipes and introduce you to the local cuisine.
Try Cretan wine
Did you know that Crete has an array of wines? We didn't either... until we had a wine tasting where we sampled a few magical local wines. We wanted to try local dry wines, which had a herby flavour with a hint of fruit. To be honest, Crete has such a great variety of wines, that you won't be disappointed whatever your taste.
We recommend staying in a Heraklion Hotel like Olive Green and asking at the reception to recommend some local wine tours or wine tastings.
During our own wine tasting sessions, we enjoyed Moschato Spinas of Strataridakis, Aspros Lagos of
Douloufakis, Zazazu of Lyrarakis, and Raki of Paterianakis. Great wines which we strongly recommend to you too.
Purchase a gourmet souvenir from Legacy Gastro Suites
We recently enjoyed a romantic stay at Legacy Gastro Suites and we were so impressed by their gourmet experiences and their desire to help local producers sell more authentic Greek items. Most items on their shelves are small enough to be carried in hand luggage and that's why we think you should purchase your Greek souvenirs from there.
What better way to surprise your family and friends than by offering them a traditional Greek souvenir made by a local producer who believes in honest food? We recommend getting some small bottles of special olive oil, honey or small olives. There are a variety of items to pick from.
We also bought some chilli liqueur as we thought it will be nice to taste at home.
Myrtia picturesque village
Relaxation, tranquillity and sunshine: that's Myrtia, a lovely Cretan village located less than an hour away from Heraklion. Visit Myria for a nice afternoon and explore the beautiful Cretan countryside with olive groves on the side of the road. Myrtia is a prime example of simple Greek life, where time is slower, better for health.
We spent a few hours walking around the village, then basking in the sun with a strong cup of coffee. If you like the idea of sunny life in the countryside, then make sure to add Myria on your list of things to do in Crete.
Located in Myrtia, is the Kazantzakis museum which you should add to your list. This is a museum dedicated to the Nobel Prize-nominated Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, primarily known for his work Zorba the Greek. The museum showcases some of his personal items and his original manuscripts.
When visiting a new country, we love learning about local culture and history. It was great to catch a glimpse into one of Crete's most beloved writers.
Archanes is yet another cute Cretan village with charming restaurants and taverns. We recommend taking some snaps around the village before sitting down for a well deserved traditional lunch.
We had lunch at tavern “Likastos” and tried an array of dishes accompanied by mountain tea, a local speciality which we especially liked during our time in Crete.
There are four archaeological sites located in and close to Archanes including a Minoan graveyard. On your way, stop at Vathypetro to take in some of the most magnificent views of Crete.
When it comes to food, there is a huge list of items you need to try when you visit Crete, but what stood out for us is the Sarikopitakia. Sarikopitakia is a speciality similar to a pie filled with spinach and cheese. This is something that we also cook at home because we like it a lot and it's easy and quick to make.
You can order it in most authentic restaurants around Crete.
Breakfast or a drink at 626 All Day Lounge & City Garden
One of our favourite lounges in Crete was 626 Lounge which belongs to the Olive Green Hotel. We enjoyed a la carte breakfast there where we had pancakes with fruit. The pancakes were incredibly well done and the fluffiest we've ever had. Well decorated with nice background music, 626 Lounge is great for an evening drink with your friends and family as well. We recommend it for its international cuisine and fantastic cocktails.
Delina Mountain Resort
Do you love the idea of remote life in the mountains? Crete has that option for you with Delina Mountain Resort. A gorgeous place with its own spa, restaurant and chapel, Delina is a magnet for summer weddings in Crete. From one of its vantage points, you can see Santorini on a clear day, which is pretty epic.
Delina is the perfect place to recover from stress right in the heart of the Cretan mountains. You can have traditional foods there and take day trips to important points of interest. From Delina, we also admired mountain peaks completely covered in snow. It looked surreal given that we only drove for an hour from the crystal clear sea with its sunny beaches.
A new world which must be added to the things to do in Crete list.
If you love legends, you must visit the Psiloritis mountain or Mount Ida.
Mount Ida with an elevation of 2,456 m, is the highest mountain on Crete. This mountain was sacred to the Greek Titaness Rhea. On its imposing slopes, there is the Idaion Antron cave in which, according to legend, Zeus was born.
This is a hiking mountain so you can do an adventure trip during the summer, or can get up there by car. When we visited at the beginning of April, there was still too much snow on the road so we could only drive so far.
What is interesting is that you will see snow with orange-red spots on it. One of the locals explained that those are spots of sand, carried from the Sahara Desert. Although it looks magical, it's worth noting that it sometimes carry diseases so we were advised to avoid touching it.
See a Mitato
A Mitato is a traditional shelter from the 6th century used by shepherds during the harsh winter months. Considering the high snow which we saw in April, we can only imagine that winters in the Cretan mountains are not as mild and welcoming as down by the beach. These houses are made of stones and were used by shepherds to sleep in. They are also used for cheese making. You can find several of them on Mount Psiloritis which is rich in flat stones, suitable for building these mitata.
This rare beauty is sure to leave you mesmerised by one of Crete's most gorgeous natural wonders. The cave covers an area of 3.000 square meters. Visitors can explore around 270 m. It's interior it's magical with huge, unusual formations and large columns. You'll see different chambers with different colour and shapes stalactites and stalagmites.
At one point, we entered one of the chambers and it reminded us of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, only created entirely by nature. It's one of its kind and definitely one of the most impressive things to do in Crete.
Visit a truly traditional Cretan village which is situated on the slopes of Mount Petaleiko, at an altitude of 240 metres above sea level. It has only 360 inhabitants. Time truly stopped in Perahori, where you'll see men gather in the cafeteria to tell tales and swap stories over raki. The old ladies sit quietly by the fire, knitting.
Order a cup of mountain tea and at the Skoulas Family kafeneio, and admire the rare authenticity here.
Buy a woven souvenir
If you wish to help the locals in Perahori, make sure you visit the Traditional Woven store of the Skoulas next to Skoulas Family kafeneio Michalos, and get a woven item. It makes a great souvenir and you can help a local in the process as well.
Friendly Olive Tour
Ever wondered how olive oil is made? Take a Friendly Olive Tour at the Vassilakis Estate. They will explain where different type of oils come from and you'll have a tasting at the end of the tour as well. You can purchase amazing olive oil and some local foodie souvenirs which are absolutely delicious.
I'm sure you can now tell that in Crete, there is a trend that it's all about glorious food. We recommend forgetting about counting calories during your holiday.
Visit the cute and charming Neapoli village in Crete, a charming town surrounded by olive trees. Olive oil is a very important part of local agriculture here. The village is also known for its annual celebration on the 15th of August when the locals have a festival dedicated to the Virgin Mary. If you happen to visit Crete during that time, you'll see traditional dancers and a local market perfect for food and souvenirs. After dark, you'll see a special ceremony of torches up the mountain.
Don't forget to try the local speciality: Neapoli drink made from almonds. The drink is called soumada and it's a sweet almond flavoured, a non-alcoholic soft drink which tastes a bit flowery.
Lasithi may not be your quaint sleepy location, but thanks to its beaches and beautiful climate, it tends to attract a high number of tourists during the summer. You can either visit the popular locations like Vai, Agios Nikolaos and the island of Chrissi or go off the beaten path and head towards the villages on the south coast: Myrtos, Makrys Gialos or Makrigialos, Xerokambos and Koutsouras.
We recommend a visit for its ancient remains of Minoan date. And above all, don't forget to sit down for a nice lunch with views of the sea.
The Venetian Walls also known as the fortifications of Heraklion were defensive walls surrounding the city of Heraklion. The first walls were built in the Middle Ages but completely rebuilt by the Venetians. These walls have a long and interesting history but the most incredible of it all is that they managed to withstand the longest siege in history for 21 years.
These walls are still largely intact today and considered to some of the best preserved Venitian fortifications on the continent.
Visit Koules fortress
The Koules is a fortress located in the old port of Heraklion. It was built in the 16th century and it is still in good condition today. It's great for a sunset walk and cute photography by the sea.
Art exhibitions and cultural activities are occasionally held at the fort so make sure to check with your hotel's reception if this is the case during the visit. Either way, a nice walk in the evening is very much encouraged.
Thank you Olive Green for sponsoring this post and making our stay in Crete possible. We loved your club suite and we are impressed by your truly eco-friendly concept and traditional Cretan hospitality. All opinions in this piece are our own.
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