Crete is the largest and southernmost island in Greece, it possesses some of the most striking wilderness. A massive mountain range spans from east to west, across the island. The mountains are peppered with a lush landscape, and indented with numerous rugged gorges. Long and sandy beaches dot the coastline. Both terrain and inhabitants assume larger than life proportions, its not uncommon to see a Cretan patriarch all decked out in tsalvaria (baggy pants), high boots, vest, leather apron and sakri (headband) sitting in the local kafenio, sipping tsikudhia.
The island was the site of Europe’s first advanced civilization, the Minoan. The archaeological remains are amongst the most impressive in Europe. Iraklio is Crete’s humming capital. The areas major attractions are the ancient Minoan cities of Knossos, Malia and Phaestos, each site requires several hours to explore. The archaeological museum in town is outstanding. To the west lie the spectacular Samaria Gorge and the beautiful old Venetian cities of Hania and Rethymno. Also located in this region are the island’s premier beaches. The passage of the majestic gorge of Samaria is certainly the single most popular walking tour on the whole island, and possibly in all of Greece. At over 18km in length, the gorge is the longest in Europe. Its width varies from 150m to 3m and its vertical walls reach 500m at their highest point. The old Venetian-Ottoman quarter of Rethymno is a labyrinth of threadlike streets, wood-balconied homes, splendid Venetian monuments and numerous minarets.
There is a beach located right in the town, and a lively nightlife to boast. Much money has been invested in the restoration of the beautiful, rumbling Venetian quarter in Hania. As a result many of old buildings have been converted into chic restaurants, ars and shops. Hania’s covered food market is magnificent. Don’t miss an opportunity to swim in the ranslucent waters of Sweet Water Beach (fresh spring water seeps from the rocks) or the long sandy beach ocated in the little town of Paleohora. In the evening the main street is closed to traffic and the tavernas expand on to the road. Elafonisi is one of the loveliest sand beaches in Crete. From here you can wade across 50m of sea to the low-lying dunes of Elafonisi Islet. The Lassithi Plateau is one of the main attractions in the eastern quarter of the island. Located 900m above sea level, it is a sprawling expanse of orchards and forests, dotted by some 7000 windmills, which date back to the 17th century. There are over 20 villages to visit in this area. An exploration of the Dikteon Cave will prove quite fascinating.