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Crete, the biggest of the Greek islands, is often described as a universe on its own. Being home to stunning beaches and mountains, a complex history, and delicious gastronomy, it can be really hard to choose where to begin exploring.
Discover Crete’s Past in the Minoan Palace of Knossos. The second most visited archaeological site in Greece (after the Acropolis in Athens), the Minoan Palace of Knossos is a must-see place when you visit Crete. Knossos was home to the mysterious Minoan civilization that lived on the island thousands of years ago.
Besides, according to Greek Mythology, the palace was home to the famous labyrinth of the Minotaur. Due to its popularity, the palace can be jammed in any given season. For this reason, it’s a good idea to visit early in the morning or at sunset, this way you won’t only avoid the crowds but the scorching sun of the island.
Check out the Capital, Heraklion. Since you’re already in Heraklion, check out the landmarks in town. Start with a stroll along the old port to reach the Koules, the magnificent Venetian Fortress that stands opposite the sea. Then, move towards the center of town, walking along 25 of August Street. It will take you only a few minutes to get to the busy Liontaria Square. Also in the area, pay a visit to Saint Titus, a former mosque transformed into a church when the Ottoman Empire ceased the rule on the island.
Go Back in Time in the Hippie Caves of Matala. The best way to visit such a big island is to travel by car. Driving on Crete is fairly easy if you follow some basic rules. If you drive south from Heraklion, you will be able to spend a day at the fantastic beach of Matala which is known for its caves where a huge community of hippies used to live during the seventies.
If you’re in the mood for a hike, follow the signs until you reach the Red Beach, about 20 minutes from Matala. This is a hidden naturist beach with reddish sand and pristine waters. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling.
Explore the Alleys in the Old Town of Chania. Arguably one of Crete’s most beautiful cities, Chania is on the northern coast of Crete, about 2.5 hours from Heraklion. Chania boasts a magnificent old town with cobblestone pedestrian alleys, unique Venetian mansions, and a stunning old port with one of the oldest lighthouses in the world. Among the best things to do in Chania, don’t miss a visit to the mosque of the Janissaries, the old Jewish quarter and its 15-century synagogue or the church of Agios Nikolaos.