The Top Attractions on Crete, Greece
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Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands and can sometimes feel like its own country. There are plenty of sites to see on Crete, so a visitor must plan their trip wisely.
Here are our top picks when visiting Crete:
The Palace of Knossos in Eastern Crete is Crete’s most popular attraction and the most spectacular of the Minoan palaces on the island. The hub of island civilization more than 3,500 years ago, it was excavated by British archeologist Arthur Evans in 1900. The Palace comprised a royal residence, the Minoans’ chief religious center, administrative headquarters, and royal workshops.
Arthur Evans rebuilt large parts of the palace, which now gives you a peek into the sophisticated society of the Minoans who once dominated southern Europe. Buses take visitors here every 10 minutes from Heraklion. Give yourself at least 2 hours to walk through the Palace of Knossos.
This Archaeological Museum holds most of the Minoan treasures uncovered during the excavations of the Palace of Knossos and other monuments of Minoan civilization. One of the largest and most important museums in all of Greece, you can find artifacts that are more than 3,000 years old. The top exhibits displays sophisticated frescoes. Be sure to visit early or late in the day to avoid the tour groups passing through. You’ll need at least an hour for a quick walk through, though it’s advisable to give yourself more time.
Historical Museum of Crete
Also located in Heraklion, the Historical Museum of Crete picks up where the Archaeological Museum left off and gives you great insights into the island of Crete. It displays artifacts and art from the early Christian era up to the present. Highlights of the museum include the only two El Greco paintings in Crete, 13th and 14th century frescoes, Venetian gold jewelry, and an exhibit that charts Crete’s road to independence in the early 20th century.
The Samaria Gorge, located in the Hania region of Crete, is Europe’s longest gorge. It begins just below the Omalos Plateau and runs down through an ancient riverbed that flows between the peaks of the Avlimanakou and Volakias mountains to the Libyan Sea. The Samaria Gorge became a national park in 1962 and is home to varied wildlife including birds of prey and it shelters endangered species like Crete’s kri-kri, a wild goat. It is a popular hiking destination and a hike can take anywhere from four to six hours, depending on your speed. Since there is nowhere to stay overnight in the gorge, all hikes must be completed by the time the gate closes each day.
The Moni Prevali monastery was once a center of anti-Ottoman resistance and was burned by the Turks in 1866. Later, it served as a shelter for Allied soldiers after the battle of Crete in WWII. Today, the monastery features a monument of two bronze sculptures of a gun toting priest and a British soldier overlooking the cliffs. This monument commemorates the role of the monastery during wartime. Just below the monastery lies one of Crete’s best-known beaches, Preveli Beach. Preveli Beach sits at the mouth of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge from where the river Megalopotamos slices across it before emptying into the Libyan Sea. The palm-lined riverbanks have clear freshwater pools for swimming.
While on the Greek island of Crete, you should try some of these activities. They represent some of the best that the island has to offer.
This post was written by Greek Boston