where Zeus hid his beautiful mistress the princess Europa, home of the
horrible Minotaurus and next to all of this my absolute favourite greek
island and my second home: welcome to Crete!
Ryanair offers cheap flights from a variety of European airports to the smaller Cretan airport in Chania, other bigger flight companies land in the capital Heraklion. Prices range from 100 to 400 Euros. Getting around on Crete is ideally done in a rental car, there are so many gorgeous little beaches, harbour towns and amazing mountains to explore and while there is quite a well developed infrastructure with buses, nothing beats being independent and cruising this beautiful island in your own car. Gas is extremely expensive on the island (1.99 per liter) so look for a car that´s econamically.
I have the incredible luck of having grandparents with a sweet little holiday house on Crete and in my opinion renting an appartment or holiday house will always beat hotels. Check on airbnb for cheap alternatives. Obviously there also loads of rooms for rent and huge hotel complexes along the coast, if that is what you prefer.
Crete´s nature is incredible. The huge mountains and deep cliffs plus the wonderful beaches make just driving around the westcoast an incredible experience and no matter where you stop for a spontaneous dips you cannot really go wrong. If you are a bit more ambitious and like hiking the Samaria gorge is famous for it´s serenity and beautiful rivers, but if you are like me and enjoy a nice beach day here are my two absolute favourite beaches: Afrata, which is a teeny tiny beach, nestled in between the serpentines of high mountains and mostly visited by locals. It is perfect for diving or snorkeling and there is a very cool little beach bar right by.
A little more touristy, but oh so worth it: Elafonisi. There is a reason it is called the European carribean, crystal clear water and white sand dunes as far as you can see. You will have to share this paradise with a lot of others and you will have to pay (7 Euros per beach bed), but once again it is really worth it. Also getting there from Chania or Platanias is absolutely gorgeous as you drive over tiny serpentines passing fields of silvery olive trees the entire time.
There are loads of archaelogical sights on Crete and one of the most famous are the ruins of Knossos. I remember playing there as a child with my cousins, always looking out for the mythical centaur and thinking I would become an archaelogist one day. While that did not work out, the ruins are a great sight and I can absolutely recommend a visit.
If your are staying in the capital of Creta Heraklion I can also recommend the local archaelogical museum, which is filled to the brim with antique art and findings from Cretan diggings.
My personal favourite on Crete is Chania, which is so much more beautiful than the actual capital, some say thanks to it´s siege under Venetian leaders. Around the old harbour you find everything you look for in a greek town, tiny alleys and beautiful houses in all colours of the rainbow. The view from the old fort is gorgeous and especially at night time you can find loads of comfortable restaurants with large patios. It is also perfect for shopping leather ware and jewelry, even though the prices are higher than in your average tourist shop.
Seafoodlovers welcome to heaven! In most of the traditional restaurants the owner shows you the freshly caught fish before preparation and you can choose basically any creature that lives in the sea. In general the hospitality of the restaurant owners is incredible, you will usually get a dessert on the house and no matter where you go, you will be offered Raki the traditional Cretan liqour, that most Cretans make themselve. Might want to leave your car at home and walk if you had more than one of them though, it is strong stuff.
One most beaches you can buy huge, sugar coated donuts from beach sellers and I absolutely love them especially after a good dip in the ocean.
And of course you should never miss out on the olives, when in Crete. You will pass rows and rows of silvery olive trees (did you know it takes them up to 20 years of growing before first producing fruits?) and seeing all the hard work that goes into the production it would simply be rude not to eat loads and loads of them.