When I think of Crete and Rethymno, numerous beautiful and vivid scenes and sites are going through my head: wind and waves, drive through the mountains and curvature to the Elafonisi beach sunset on the Falasarna beach, divine pink sand, clear sea, tasteful Greek food, relaxing boat ride to the paradise beach and lagoon Balos, endless olive trees next to the road, unreal ambience of Matala beach. Crete is really special place because it offers so much beauty in one place. Nature on the island is simply amazing, almost intact, wild and absolutely exciting.
This island is the biggest of all islands of Greece and it is common choice of tourists for summer vacation. If you are interested in summer on Crete, these are useful information, tips and experiences. Let’s start from begin…
Summer in alternative way
Crete is ideal for those who want to have summer vacation in alternative way. When I say alternative way, I would like to highlight its uniqueness. Uniqueness of Crete consists of, first of all, its history that reflects on mentality of its inhabitants and the architecture of its cities. Crete is one of the most specific cultural and historical collages in Europe.
Mix of east and west: The special charm of this island is that it is located on the crossroad between the tradicional Europe, intractable Africa and oriental Asia. The official currency is euro, and the official language is Greek. Inhabitants of Crete speak English, too, which is important due to the influx of tourists, and they especially like to enjoy Greek cuisine such as Greek salad, giros, olives, seafood, tzatziki, chicken, etc. In addition to that, there are so many beaches.
The thing that had the most impact on every visitor is, on the first sight, the impossible compound of Christian and Muslim cultures.
How to get to Crete?
You can travel by bus, car, plane or boat. You can arrive by ferry where boats leave from Piraeus, Thessaloniki and from the Cyclades. Price of ferry ride ranges from around 30 euros to about 100 euros, depending on the quality and type of service.
If you opt for air transport, which is the most likely option, you can count on to pay around 250EUR. Ticket price depends primarily on the flight distance, time of reservation and season.. Crete dispose of 3 airports namely: Heraklion, Chania and Sitia. Transportation service is performed by many airline companies such as Aegean Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and others … From the airport in Heraklion to the center you can be transported by bus to EIRO 1 or taxi for 15EUR. If you would prefer to tour the island, you can rent a car for 150 euros per week.
Something about the history of Crete
When you get tired of swimming and sunbathing, relax with the touring the beautiful archaeological sites on the soil of Crete. Crete is an ideal destination for those tourists who are expecting something more in addition to the standard summer amenities. From every pore of the country, from foam of the sea, you can feel the vibrancy of different cultures that you have to explore, inevitably…
The island where Zeus was born, representing the cradle of one of the oldest civilizations – Minoan civilization, 4000 years old.
It is believed that the Minoans were the first trading power of the eastern Mediterranean and were able to establish, thanks to their skills and talent to trade, links with the three nearby continents. The great success that they had due to its peacefulness and the policy of peace, they were known as the “peaceful island nation.” Long period of living in peace, enabled Minoans further development of trade and art.
Which side of the island to accommodate?
If you want to spend your summer vacation on Crete, first you need to decide on which side of Island to stay, to the west or to the east. Crete is indeed a big island, so that in 10 days you can not get all that. In the middle of the island there are high mountains, so this must be taken into account when driving and planning the route. If you decide on the west, the agency usually leads in Chania, around the little town of Chania and in Rethymno, while on the east-to the little town of Heraklion and around the capital, as well as Agios Nikolaos and the surroundings.
We have decided to go to the west, we have long debated whether to the Chania or in Rethymno and in the end we chose Rethymno because it has old town and a great beach, all in one place. Chania has a beautiful old town, but the beach is outside the city, while in Rethymno everything is in town and you can get anywhere by walking. We were accommodated in the hotel HOTEL Eltina 2, which I can recommend as it has been renovated, the rooms are a decent size, with balconies and the food is excellent.
When you decide on which side of the island you’ll go, see what beach and attractions are located in this part of the island and create a framework plan of what you want to see. You needa plan so you could know for how many days to use the car. You can, of course, rent a car during the days of stay, especially if you choose an accommodation away from the sights and beaches that you want to see.
Our destination – little town Rethymno
Conquerors came and went, and Crete remained its own. This is best seen in Rethymno. This is the place for a perfect holiday in which season lasts nine months. Rethymno has the elegance of the Byzantine, Venetian charm, oriental exoticism and Greek soul. Rethymno is a young, university-city, “mecca” for artists and paradise for creative…
The city is adorned by a Venetian fortress Fortezza, which dominates the town and in whose theater concerts are organized, wine feasts whose tradition is of 500 years long, exhibitions and lectures.
Rethymno is a town of 35,000 inhabitants, the third largest in Crete and has a beautiful “old town” with many narrow streets that are full of modern cafes, pastry shops, restaurants and taverns…
Long pedestrian shopping streets leads into the old town of the city center and shops with summer sales offers well-known brands such as Body Shop, Benetton, Intimissimi … Along the beautiful sandy beach, one of the most beautiful in Crete, are lined up cafes, shops, rent a car, hotels., tourist shops, souvenir shops … Cretan sea is clean, warm and turquoise. The beach is wonderfully sandy, equipped with umbrellas and sun beds and has lifeguard surveillance during the day.
Events and activities
Summer is known for its many events of cultural and sport character. Here you can taste the best Greek wines and enjoy the culinary specialties prepared in an authentic way unique to the island of Crete. Do not miss: the peach festival in June, the Wine Festival in late July and Renaissance music festival in August.
Rent a car
I must emphasize that it is a shame to go to Crete, and not rent a car because you need a car to get to these beaches by yourselves. And go to Crete, and just wanted to stay on local beach is a great pity! Crete is not for this kind of holiday, Crete is an adventure, driving, exploring beaches, villages, mountains, monasteries, towns along the coast.
What is the climate and the nature of Crete?
Climate zones on the island
On Crete there are two characteristic climate zones. Mediterranean climate is dominant, while in the southern part of the island is represented North African climatic zone. Mild winters, and summers are pretty hot with temperatures of from 30 to 40 ° C. Hottest in July and August, with an average daily temperature program of 29 ° -38 ° C, and a water temperature of about 25 ° C. In June and September air temperature ranges from 24 ° to 30 ° C. Mild wind stirs in the summer, refreshing hot summer days. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was recommending to the chronic patients a holiday on Crete
Clear waters and beautiful beaches
The sea is crystal clear, beaches managed, of which a large number have blue flags. Some parts of the coast of the island are such that you will be able to go up to a few dozen of meters from the shore and the water will barely came up to your waist. It´s ideal for those who love water sports, and little less to swim. Of course, for this there are a variety of different beaches, so swimmers can find themselves in paradise.
Due to its size, the island alternates high mountains in the more central part of the island, so if you are interested in such an activity, you can go on a tour of mountain regions! Definitely the main attraction is White Mountains (Lefka ori) with the National Park in its composition. This national park is located near the town of Chania.
Crete is a paradise for nature lovers
There is something extremely artistic in the way the landscape rise on the island, from the sunny beaches of the north to deep canyons, coves and cliffs on the south coast. In between, there are valleys with small villages and hills, not infrequently can be observed and mountain peaks clad in snowy robes. Region of Rethymno awakes the curiosity of observers, its colorful landscape is extremely rich in various kinds of wild flowers (they say it has nearly 2000 species), of which 160 is typical of the island.
Picturesque country roads with lush vegetation guarantee an unforgettable experience for those who choose to ride a bike. Winding roads will surely exhausted you, but the landscape will be a feast for your eyes. And when in the evening after a hard drive, you go to swim in the clear water, you’ll know that this is the holiday of your dreams.
Island without rivers: As you drive through the Cretan scenery, you notice that in Crete there is no river, but despite the lack of surface rivers island does not lack a supply of water erupting from karst springs in the winter period.
Unreal beautiful gorges
Nature lovers will certainly be interested in protected areas of Crete, such as for example the fascinating gorge Samara and Aradaina. Walking through them you will feel as if you went in Minoans steps, Mycenaean and ancient heroes, or better yet that you’ve like the Greek mythological deities created these natural gaps, designed to dazzle people and a large number of tourists every year.
Samaria – a national park and one of the longest gorge in Europe
What is particularly noteworthy, when you get tired of the car ride on winding paths and trails, it is the walking tour through the Samaria Gorge. This gorge is one of the longest gorge in Europe. It is 18 km long. It is located on the west side of the island within the same national park. The gorge is named after the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which is located in an abandoned village in the middle of the gorge.
According to legend, the gorge is caused when the Titan walked the island, and when he got tired he sat down to rest. He leaned on his sword to take a nap, and because of his weight the soil cracked and halved on the half. Sites are magical and at times unrealistic. The gorge is deep and up to 300 meters, a width reaches in some places 2 – 3 meters.
Samaria National Park preserves the above mentioned endemic species of animals and plants. Here is a refuge for the rare Kri-Kri goats (Cretan goat), whose living is mainly limited to the gorge and the island.
Walking tours are organized with guides to explain to you in detail where and what you see as you pass ravine. These tours last in average of 5 hours and are exhausting, but you will not go wrong if you opt for them because you will get to know the beautiful wild landscapes of Crete which you can´t see on the sea coast in the small tourist towns.
Swimming on beaches Minoan civilization
Beaches in Crete have different character and provide a variety of delights for all tastes. If you are a fan of sandy beaches Crete certainly can offer them, however, if you’re not so big fan of fine sand that you can´t shake for yourself, there are semi gravel beaches that will suit you.
Matala beach is about 300 m long, and is one of the most famous not only in Crete, but in the whole Greece. It has a beautiful golden sand, comfortable lounge chairs and is ideal for lovers of lying. Matala is located in the bay of the same name. The beach is under the influence of winds from the south and west.
Matala is a special place. In fact, every beach we have visited on the island of Crete is special in some specific way, but what is common to all the beaches is that it makes a beautiful nature. There is no million bars with techno music that attack your brain while you’re on the beach, and no artificial atmosphere of fun, but simple beauty wherever you look. The ambiance at Matala is unusual because it is a hill located next to the beach full of holes where, it is said, Hippies was staying before. Now you can see them selling expensive jewelry on the beach.
This beach has a large number of restaurants with large terraces overlooking the whole bay. There is plenty of room for parking, so that the whole place is a lot tidier and more urban than the above two, and I think that if there remained a few days, it would not be boring.
One day we were so organized that on the way to the beach Matala stop for coffee at the village Spili, because we heard it was very familiar, and we wanted to see what is the atmosphere in the Cretan villages. This was a perfect summer trip, the trip was much lighter than the previous day, the village was very lively mix of tourists and locals, with beautiful Greek frappe we have very nice rest, walked a little between the stone houses and continued toward Matala.
Beach Elafonisi – to the beach takes you winding and partly tiring journey. In some places the road was so narrow that I thought I do not know what I’d do if we took a bigger car. Be sure to take the navigation and map as you go through the mountains and you will always have someone to ask for directions.
When you get there, it’s like you’re on a heavenly, tropical island. The sand is in some places in the shallow pink, the water is perfectly clean and quiet. Long shallow, and then goes depth. In the vicinity of the beach there are no major settlements, so the beach is really well preserved, unpolluted, tucked in nature and protected by the mountains.
Take one whole day for this beach. We have made a big mistake when we stayed a couple of hours, then moved to the car and then went to the beach Falasarna. Don’t do so. This beach deserves all day, deserves swimming, walking in the shallow water, be photographed at how far you hold batteries. We did it because we made a plan to get the rounds in two days and the first day we go to Elafonisi and Falasarna, the other day at the beach Matala. I was supposed to use the car for 3 days and for each beach to set aside the whole day.
On the beach you can rent beach chairs and umbrella and it has a cafe / bar where you can buy water and snacks. There’s plenty of room for parking (although parking is not regulated and part of the road leading to the beach is no of asphalt).
This beach is located on the upper west side of the island and we came to it late in the afternoon and I’m very sorry that we did not pay her all day. Here the water was much colder than on the Elafonisi and immediately deep. It is also very large, sandy, separated from the city and less crowded. We were very short here because it was getting dark, I remember a great late lunch at a restaurant on the beach and bent rush to go home at a decent hour. As friendly hosts of restaurants that have brought us a plate full of watermelon on the house and were very surprised because we refused it because we rush back.
If you go from Rethymno or Chania to Falasarna, the road is good, straight, no corners. Do not go from the Elafonisi because the big climbs and bends are little scary. And there’s plenty of room for parking.
Balos Beach is one of the famous beaches in Crete, to which you can arrive by boat from Kisamos. Because of the bad road, we suggest you can´t move your own means of transport. It is located in the northwest of Crete. The water is shallow, partly cold. The sand is pink and turquoise blue water.
This is not just a beach, it’s a small wonder of nature, natural lagoons, a perfect blend of clean water, white sand, unreal atmosphere. The only complaint is that there is nowhere natural shade, so visit this beach before the end of your holiday. We went penultimate day and even though we already got tan, we burned.
Be sure to bring enough water and something to eat.
Since this is isolated beach, there are three options of getting there:
- Through local agencies to pay the entire trip – bus (from the hotel) to go to the town of Kissamos, then move on to the boat, visiting the small island Gramvousa and then continues to Balos. At Balos the stay a couple of hours and then returns. The ship will get you back later on to Kissamos, there you are waiting for a bus and drive you back to the hotel.
- By your car to the town of Kissamos, leave the car here in the harbor and go alone on the boat.
- You can go to the beach by your car. Keep in mind that part of the road has no asphalt Because the beach is protected by the hill and you arrive by car, on the other hand, keep in mind that the parking is followed by lowering the stairs to the beach about a half hour to 45 minutes. While it is certainly a spectacular view from above, keep in mind that you must return on these same steps when you go home, so consider whether you want it to.
We went by boat through the agency, first because we’re not allowed to take the risk that something happens rented a car, and the other because it is more comfortable to be on board, enjoy the outdoors and gently cruise.
In some parts of Balos beach, there are just rocks in the form of tiles at the entrance to the water. This complicates a little the entry because it is slippery, but if you go slowly, you will not fall, just pay attention when entering and exiting the water.
Beach Preveli is the most visited beach in Crete. Beach is located at the entrance to the gorge Kourtaliotis, some 40 km south of Rethymnon. At one time it was current among nudists because it is located in the bay. The area around the beach is characterized by lush vegetation, a large number of animals and waterfalls. You can arrive by boat to the beach, which is around 10 in the morning and the beach returns to 16 h.
When you go to the east you will come to, they say, the most beautiful beach of the eastern coast near the town of Sitia – Vai to the beach… It has a large number of cafes, bars and other facilities. If you order two drinks, you get to use the beach chair and umbrella for free. You can, in addition to swimming and sunbathing, go to visit the monastery of Toplo. Vai beach is several hundred meters and is located in a quiet bay on a banana plantation. There are over 5000 palm trees which is completely unreal and you feel like you are in the tropical regions of the world. Excellent chill, calm sea, the rustle of palm trees – everything that makes a perfect holiday.
Gramvousa Beach is located in the gulf of Kissamos to Gramvousa island. On this island Prince Charles and Princess Diana spent their honeymoon. A special attraction is the castle, which is located at the top.
If you are fans of diving then Souda beach is just for you. This beach is located 3 km west of Plakias. This is a beautiful sandy – pebbly beach less crowded compared to the main beach in Plakias. It is well equipped and also influenced by the southern winds. The rocky end of the beach is particularly interesting for the above water sport.
When you visit the beach in Rethymno Plakias, which is located at just about 30 km from the city. This is one of the most visited and most popular beaches in the area. It has all the benefits of the tourist beaches. There is a long sandy beach, where refreshment in the hot summer months is provided by southern winds
Town Beach in Rethymno is huge, sandy and has plenty of room for towels, if you do not want to rent beach chairs and umbrella (costing 10 euros). I remember how we were wondering why on the beach mainly were tourists from northern Europe and where are the locals? Where Greeks go for swim and why they are not on this beach? Then they told us that they usually swim at the beach of Bali, not far from Rethymno.
Whichever beach you choose you will not go wrong because each is more beautiful than the last. Many of them have a blue flag, this is just one more reason to come to Crete.
Holiday in Crete is not complete until you try the adventure of visiting attractions and sights, which are many here.
The archaeological site of Knossos
When you’re on Crete for the first time, you’ll probably go to see the capital city of Heraklion and the palace of Knossos. We paid trip through a local agency and the program was such that you first go to Knossos, followed by a short break in the center of Heraklion. We had a great local guide who had our attention most of the time, even though the day was not exactly ideal for visiting the archaeological sites because it was extremely hot and there was no natural shade. All historical attractions and legends you will hear from the guides, so I advise you to go to an organized group (if you are not an expert on this type of sites).
Knossos as the political center of the Minoan civilization experienced a peak in the year 3000 BC. All objects of value found on the territory of the town are located in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and many sculptures and excavations on the site itself are just perfect reconstruction of the original.
At the entrance to the archaeological site trained guides will wait for you that I strongly recommend, because they are very well versed in the subject, and you will be able to talk about anything that interests you. Word of mouth shaped into a metaphor custom time and surrounded by several millenniums masterpieces architecture deeply cut into the memory and will be one of the most valuable impressions to be made with each trip.
After walking around the site, I recommend you to go to the museum and thus complete the picture of this beautiful place. In the museum you can see the exhibited objects, jewelry, sculptures, painted vases from the Minoan era, mosaics, tools and much more has been preserved from the ravages of time. The museum, the famous head of a bull with golden horns, which is perhaps the most famous legacy of this time, which is about the power and wealth of the Minoan civilization. The archaeological site can be visited every day from 08:00 to 19:00 h. Ticket price is 4.5 euros.
The archeological site of Festos
In addition to Knossos, noteworthy is the site of Festos. Not far from Heraklion you can find the remains of this once wealthy city. The site is a lot smaller than Knossos, but with very well-preserved objects and buildings. The season is usually crowded, but the trip can´t go without water and adequate protection from the sun because there is no shade!
The enchanting view of the valley, a huge paved plateaus, the famous disk of Festos, it will certainly delight you and make you find more information by some of this magic place.
Festos was built about 200 years BC. It was built by King Minos and his brother Radamathis. Struck by the similar fate of Knossos, after 300 years of construction occurred in the earthquake that almost destroyed the city.
The castle was built in 1371 by the Venetians and is located near Rethymno. When you start to go around the beach, in front of a beautiful sandy beach is this castle, entrance is free of charge, no guides and so, but come in and see how fantastically preserved buildings that resists almost 700 years.
Agios Titos Church
This church jwas bulit in 961 years. The Turks turned into a mosque, but the earthquake destroyed it, so that the Turks rebuilt it. After liberation from the Turks, it again became Orthodox Church. The golden skull of Saint Titos is in it. It is one the most famous Orthodox buildings in Greece.
If you are a fan of the underwater world, then do not skip Cretan aquarium where you can learn about many unusual species of animals that swim the Mediterranean Sea. Aquarium was opened in 2005 in Hersonisus and today has many species of fish and reptiles.
What is unusual for an aquarium is that there is a practice that visitors are encouraged to make contact with the residents of the aquarium. Most of these animals were saved from injury or has been treated, and now their permanent habitat represents aquarium.