A road trip through Crete

Crete route

As from next summer Brussels Airlines takes you to the beautiful Greek island Crete. Heraklion is considered to be the center, but the island has much more to offer. Rent a car so you can discover the island at its best, and visit the less crowded places. To give you some inspiration we have already listed some of the most remarkable and charming places.

1. Heraklion

Heraklion is the administrative capital and largest city of Crete, and is at the same time one of the largest in Greece. Interesting places to visit are the Historical Museum of Crete, the Museum of Natural History, and The Archeological Museum which houses most of the Minoan findings in Crete. One of the exceptional archeological treasures can be found at Knossos - a mere 5km south - where you can find the fascinating ruins of its palace. Heraklion is a unique city where rich history, wealthy nature and urban vibrancy form a great combination.

2. Agios Nikolaos

The welcoming Agios Nikolaos with its beautiful glittering Mirabello Bay keeps enchanting their visitors. Stroll down the cosy streets and lovely harbour that are particularly charming by night when the lively bars are lit. It is an ideal stop for those who prefer it to be more small-scaled, with traditional taverns, vibrant fish markets and traditional coffee houses. Compared to the buzzy Agios Nikolaos you’ll reach the traditional and calm village of Kritsa in 15 minutes by car, with old houses and narrow streets on the Lassithi Mountains.

3. Sitia

Sitia is a charming seaside town built on a hillside in an amphitheater-like shape with a lovely bay. Since tourism is fairly low-key and there is a relaxing, peaceful atmosphere, it is ideal for those who want to explore the Cretan culture in all tranquility. Sitia is a picturesque and warm-hearted place where you should begin your day on its fine beach and end it with a romantic stroll alongside the delightful promenade.

4. Moni Koudouma

Moni Koudouma is a monastery in Kofina that was built in 1870 in a wonderful bay by two Cretan monks. It is the only seaside monastery in Crete, characterized by an inaccessible rough landscape, making it one of the last natural paradises in Crete. It is at the same time the perfect place for those who enjoy the peace and quiet, away from all outside-communication and who like to camp, hike and swim in bright blue water. The monastery - built inside a cave - is dedicated to the Virgin and probably houses the most hospitable monks in Crete, since they offer accommodation to anyone who wishes it.

5. Matala

Matala is known for the artificial caves in the cliff on the beach, which are former Roman tombs and were occupied by hippies in the 1960s. Matala is ideal for those who want to spend their holidays near nice beaches, interesting archeological sites and many traditional and cosy villages. Make sure you also visit Agia Galini, a picturesque, labyrinthine fishing village that you can reach by car in just 35 minutes.

6. Frangokastello

Frangokastello is a small seaside village famous for its Venetian castle, beautiful beaches and Drosoulites, the ghosts that appear at the castle each May at dawn. Cretan soldiers who lost their lives in the battle with the Turks appear to march towards the fortress, a legend that goes back to the 19th century. It has a fabulous wide and sandy beach with shallow warm water, ideal for small children. There are just some tavernas, small markets and quite a few rooms and apartments for rent.

7. Loutro

Loutro means ‘bath’ in Greek, for the many ancients baths found in the area. The charming white-and-blue buildings draped with flowers are unique in Crete and are just a few meters from the coastline. It lies in the embrace of a cliff which towers 600 meters above the village and is the only natural harbour on the south coast of Crete. Dozens of (speed)boats daily visit the harbour, the only way to reach the village. There are no roads in Loutro, and gradually you will feel the lazy and peaceful atmosphere affecting you.

8. Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge is located in the White Mountains and is with a length of 18 kilometres the longest in Europe. The National Park is not only for those who can appreciate some delightful fauna and flora, since the amazing scenery will blow everyone away. With 450 plant species, pine forests and the unique wild ‘kri-kri’ goat. It will take about 4-8 hours to reach the end at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli.

9. Chania

Known as ‘the most picturesque city’, Chania has a magnificent Venetian harbour, with a charming lighthouse and old town. You will find a lively grace, atmospheric boutiques, arty hotels and creative restaurants, since Chania is a paradise for food and wine lovers. You can reach Akrotiri Peninsula in just 25 minutes by car, where you can visit the Gouverneto Monastery, one of the oldest in Crete.

10. Rethymno

Rethymno is a beautiful cosy city with both a vibrant nightlife and a wonderful old town which is a living museum of historic monuments. When travelling back in time, make sure you visit the Venetian harbour and the marvelous Venetian Fortezza. Take the car for a 30 minute drive to Moni Arkadiou, a monastery which is symbolic for the Cretan freedom, a true recommendation.

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