Places Of Interest In Crete

Crete! The birthplace of Zeus the father of all gods, the island that has been central to films, books and TV series and the place where civilisation was born when the Minoans built stunning palaces with running water and flushing toilets!

Whether you’re a culture vulture, a twitcher, a rambler or a disco queen you will always find something which will make a good holiday into a great one!

The mild climate in the spring and autumn make it the perfect destination for those who want to go exploring the remote mountain villages and the unspoilt south coast revealing the rugged beauty many never see. The Lybian Sea on the south coast is always a few degrees warmer and the tavernas will prepare dishes which though simple in their ingredients are eaten only in that area.

The hot summer months may make getting around an exertion too tiring! But so many great things are right on your doorstep so just once get up and out early before the temperature soars and revel in a Crete experience!

Argiroupolis Springs This shady verdant spot to the west of Rethymnon is where the melting snow converges in a fast flowing stream during the winter months, slowing to a more gentle pace in the summer. Plane trees provide welcome shade and the tavernas serve excellent traditional Cretan food. This was an area in the Venetian times that the Venetian aristocracy built villas to escape to during the searing summer heat.

Lake Kournas This fabulous freshwater lake is cradled by the White Mountains but is only 4 kilometres from Georgioupolis. Pedaloes can be hired and during the summer months the water recedes to reveal a lovely fringe beach of white sand circling the lake. Ducks, geese and turtles are permanent residents and a variety of tavernas dotted along the shore provide welcome refreshment.

Margarites This quaint village east of Rethymnon is well known for its reproduction of terracotta pottery using the same methods as in ancient times. The majority of the pieces are copies of the pottery excavated from archaeological sites such as Knossos and Phaistos. They also make the huge ‘pithoi’ the large terracotta urns which were used to store oil and wine. It is also a well known village for the array of churches found in the village. Some date back to 14th century and have traces of the original frescoes.

War Cemetery Souda Bay This pristine cemetery is a memorial to British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers and sailors who died during the battles. There are 1,527 graves each marked with a white headstone although sadly many do not have names. This tranquil spot draws many visitors annually who have made long journeys to pay their respects to a family member.

The Maritime Musuem of Crete This is a naval museum with exhibits and reconstructions from Prehistoric times up to the present day. It is housed in the Ventian Firka Fortress at the entrance to Chania harbour.

Visit the nearby shipyards at the same time which date back to the Venetian period. Originally they had direct access to the sea but over the years the harbour has been extended and their function became obsolete.

Frangokastello Fortress This imposing fortress was built around 1374 by the Venetians although it probably took 3-4 years to complete as members of a local family repeatedly undid the days work under cover of darkness as they fought against Venetian rule.

Today only the walls remain standing although the drive down to Frangokastello in the south is breathtaking. During the spring, meadows of wild flowers temporarily splash swathes of colours across an otherwise harsh unyielding terrain. This being Greece, every old building must have an air of myth and mystery. Frangokastello is no exception. During the uprising against the Turks, the Drosoulites soldiers fought a bloody three day battle but losses were heavy. Local legend says that every year in late May before the mist lifts the soldiers can be seen riding in the mist and horses hooves echo!

Samaria Gorge The longest gorge in Europe and at 11 miles long, not for the faint hearted! It is here that the Krikri, the goats unique to Crete can be spotted. The gorge was designated a national park in 1962 and care is taken to protect the delicate ecosystem. For those less energetic visitors, a boat can be taken from Sfakia on the south coast into Aghia Roumeli which is the start of the gorge.

Eleftherios Venezelos Grave Iraklion airport is named after him and children learn about him before they learn to ties their shoe laces.

He was probably one of the most influential Cretan men in modern Greek history. He was instrumental in the union of Crete and Greece under the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913 and went on to become Prime Minister of Greece several times before his death in exile in Paris in 1936.

He was born close to Chania and his grave lies just 5 kilometres from the town. The views on Chania from here are nothing short of spectacular and a couple of cafes provide outdoor seating to enjoy the views at their best.

Ancient Olive Tree of Vouves There are seven olive trees in the Mediterranean said to be more than 3,000 years old and this is believed to be the oldest. The trunk is incredibly gnarled and misshapen but the tree continues to produce fruit.

Carbon dating indicates that it is between 3,000 and 5,000 years old and the nearby museum has a collection of interesting exhibits giving the history of olive oil.

German War Cemetery The Battle of Crete started on 20th May 1941 when German paratroopers landed in to the Maleme airfield. Between 21st May and 1st June 3352 German military died. It was the only airborne invasion attempted during the war. Losses were so heavy that it was never attempted again.

The cemetery is located just outside Maleme on what was known as Hill 107, one of the battle grounds.

A total of 4465 German servicemen are buried here, two to grave. The location is tranquil and the cemetery beautifully maintained. A sober reminder of the modern history of Crete.

Monastery of Panagia Odigitria The seaside Monastery of Panagia Odigitria is located at the base of the peninsula Spatha, about 12kilometres from Villa Elea. The monastery is also known as Lady of the Angels Monastery of Gonia. The monastery was founded in the 17th century the initial church of the 14th century is located in the current cemetery and has always been a shelter for the rebels of.

Gouverneto Monastery This is one of the oldest monasteries in the area. It was started in 1537 during the Venetian occupation but due to political turmoil it took many years to complete. The monks occupying the monastery now started a restoration programme in 2005 which continues today.

Knossos Knossos, the ruins of the palace said to have been the seat of king Minos dating back to 2000 BC the first excavation bagan by Minos Kalokerinos in 1878 followed by the englishman, Sir Arthur Evans who virtually uncovered the whole palace.

Arkadi Monastery Arkadi Monastery has been part of Cretan history for the last 800 years.The highest accolade of the monastery is self sacrifice and heroism, most notably during the holocaust of 1866 during the turkish invasion.

Horse Riding Karteros Horse riding is available at the Riding Academy of Crete in Karteros in just over 14 miles from Hersonissos.

Piskopiano Village This is also a small village which is spread out along one road which links Old Hersonissos and the third village of Koutouloufari. Piskopiano also has a variety of bars, tavernas and shops as well as great views of the resort below. Koutouloufari although small is quite lively with some eclectic shops, traditional tavernas and a variety of cafes and bars.

Georgioupolis Georgioupolis is a lively seaside resort, built in a fantastic area full of green and is just over 20 miles away on the north-east of Chania. The town of Georgioupolis is located near the boarder of Rethymnon Prefecture to the east. The river Almyros meets the sea at Georgioupolis, forming a liitle lake that boasts an amazing setting.

Aghios Nikolaos Aghios Nikolas is a medium size town that has lots to offer. The town has three faces to the sea, the lake and port, Kitroplatia beach and the marina. There is a good choice of cafes, shops and restaurants in this town.

Marathi Marathi is located 17km east of Chania and 5km east of the miltary base of Souda Bay, on the southeastern coast of Akrotiri. Marathi has two lovely beaches with fine sandy and calm waters. The beaches are separated by a small pier, which serves as a harbour.

The ancient city of Aptera Aptera is located above Souda, near the village of Megala Chorafia, which is where the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Aptera can be found.The city walls of Aptera are made of large polygonal stones to the east and long rectangular ones to the west, the foundations have also been uncovered and now the church of St. John now stands which once stood the Temple of Muses. If history is what you are after then this is well worth a visit!

Istron The village of Istron is situated about 10 miles to the east of Aghios Nikolaos, which is the main town and according to local myth has a bottomless lake. There is a selection of mini markets in the resort of Istron providing all the day-to-day necessities. For more variety, larger supermarkets can be found on the outskirts of Aghios Nikolaos. The local market in Aghios Nikolaos sells local fruit, vegetables and cheeses as well as linens and some clothes.

Spinalonga A trip to Spinalonga should not be missed. This is a very small island near to Elounda which was a Leper colony until the 1950s. It has more recently been brought to our attention as the setting for Victoria Hislops 'The Island'. Take a ferry from either Aghios Nikolaos, Elounda or Plaka and visit the island and the village. Restoration projects have been gong on for some time and shops and houses can be seen in some semblance of their original state.

Gournia This is a Minoan archaeological site dating back to around 1500BC. It is located near the busy main road from Aghios Nikolaos to Sitia, without any boundary walls which visitors can see unhindered. It has a small palace as well as cobbled streets, houses and cemetery. It would seem that Gournia was a town which produced many everyday household items as well as weaponry and pottery. The coast was much closer and there are signs of a road leading to a harbour.

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