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Crete, the largest island in Greece, is one of the most popular travel destinations in the Mediterranean. An island with a thousand faces that combines everything a traveller might ask for: a long and varied history, major attractions, a genuine culture of its own, magnificent nature, a mild climate, famous hospitality, a high level of infrastructure for tourism, cosmopolitan resorts and pristine, unexplored corners. On Crete flourished the first prehistoric civilization of note on European soil, that of the Minoan Bronze-Age, with its majestic palaces that can be visited today (Knossos, Festos, Zakros, Malia etc.). In the long history of the island a multitude of different cultures and conquerors have passed through, leaving behind important monuments and attractions scattered throughout the island. As a result present-day Crete has a high level of historical, archaeological and cultural points of interest for the visitor. At the same time Crete stands out as a destination for its unique natural environment. On one hand, a seemingly endless and indented coastline offers countless beaches for each and every taste: organized or otherwise, crowded or deserted. Some are even world famous: Balos, Elafonissi, Vai, Elounda, Falasarna etc. At the other extreme, there is the spine of high mountains which are ideal for hiking and mountaineering. Gorges innumerable to wander through, caves to explore, fertile valleys to appreciate: all waiting the visitor’s glance. And linking all, those scenic trails that tie natural beauty to cultural attractions to blissful repose. The heart of Crete beats in its cities: from Chania, the Venice of the East, through Renaissance Rethymno, to cosmopolitan Heraklion, on to bijoux Aghios Nikolaos and ultimately to picturesque Sitia and Ierapetra. Each Cretan city has its own character, emerging from its rich history, a vigorous modern being and of course the contemporary tourist infrastructure. Meet Crete too through its world-famous gastronomy: both delicious and healthy! Discover the Cretan culture through its traditional music, dances and customs that are still alive on the island! Enjoy the famous Cretan hospitality that comes open-handed from Zeus Xenios, King of gods (born here, in the mountains of Crete: a local lad made good …)!

Crete is surrounded with history and beautiful scenery. You will never get bored: always there is some new landscape or geological feature, some unique eco-system, or beach of outstanding natural beauty! Here are the 10 things you should not miss!

The Minoan Palace of Knossos

The Minoan Palace of Knossos

Knossos, the largest and most brilliant centre of the Minoan civilization, is located 5 kilometres south of the historical centre of the city of Heraklion. In the labyrinthine arrangement of corridors and rooms of the palace complex, many scholars have visualised the famous Minoan “Labyrinth”. Such a notion of the existence of a labyrinth may be only a mythological remembrance of a great civilization, however one could say that it really does correspond to the architectural structure which can be seen today in Knossos. Twisting corridors and stairwells which used to connect as many as five storeys, create a truly labyrinthine complex. There, visitors can admire important architectural innovations, such as water supply systems and sewer networks, shafts for the lighting and ventilation of the lower levels of the palace complex, and rooms equipped with baths and sanitary facilities that almost match modern constructions in ingenuity and function. It is believed that the first palace complex of Knossos was probably built in the 19th century BC and was destroyed in the 17th century BC. It was later rebuilt (16th century BC) in a remarkable, functional way, as one can ascertain by seeing the surviving ruins. In the mid 15th century BC, Knossos is believed to have reached its acme, which lasted until approximately 1450 BC; then, an extensive natural disaster occurred, probably due to an eruption of the volcano of Santorini(known as the “Thera eruption”).

Crete is surrounded with history and beautiful scenery. You will never get bored: always there is some new landscape or geological feature, some unique eco-system, or beach of outstanding natural beauty! At the same moment, Crete is a cosmopolitan island, whilst nonetheless retaining those elements which belong customarily to the folk tradition.

The Minoan Palace of Knossos

The Minoan Palace of Knossos

Knossos, the largest and most brilliant centre of the Minoan civilization, is located 5 kilometres south of the historical centre of the city of Heraklion. In the labyrinthine arrangement of corridors and rooms of the palace complex, many scholars have visualised the famous Minoan “Labyrinth”. Such a notion of the existence of a labyrinth may be only a mythological remembrance of a great civilization, however one could say that it really does correspond to the architectural structure which can be seen today in Knossos. Twisting corridors and stairwells which used to connect as many as five storeys, create a truly labyrinthine complex. There, visitors can admire important architectural innovations, such as water supply systems and sewer networks, shafts for the lighting and ventilation of the lower levels of the palace complex, and rooms equipped with baths and sanitary facilities that almost match modern constructions in ingenuity and function. It is believed that the first palace complex of Knossos was probably built in the 19th century BC and was destroyed in the 17th century BC. It was later rebuilt (16th century BC) in a remarkable, functional way, as one can ascertain by seeing the surviving ruins. In the mid 15th century BC, Knossos is believed to have reached its acme, which lasted until approximately 1450 BC; then, an extensive natural disaster occurred, probably due to an eruption of the volcano of Santorini(known as the “Thera eruption”).

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The Archaeological Museum is located much in the center of Heraklion: it is one of the most important Archaeological Museums of the world, thanks to its unrivalled collection of artifacts from the Bronze-age Minoan culture – the first of note on what is now European soil. The exhibits cover a period of ten millennia, from the Neolithic era until late Roman times. A tour would start on the Ground floor: the halls are dedicated to the Neolithic and Minoan cultures. Organized chronologically, covering all phases of the Minoan civilization, the rooms channel you from the Pre-palatial period (3000 - 1900 BC), through three phases of Palaces, down to the Post-palatial era (1350 - 1000 BC). The introductory texts in each room explain the key features of each period – and so the evolution of culture. In these halls the visitor is held entranced by objects of Minoan art and craft: jewelry and seals, pottery and metalwork, ivory, faience and glass. Items of the daily life, items used in religious worship, items from the burial chamber. Through further and often thematic texts are clarified the practices and ways they organized their economic, religious and social life. Among the exhibits are some of the most famous Minoan icons: such as the Snake Goddess, the Phaistos Disk, the Ring of Minos and the Mallia wasp (or bee) pendant. And many, many more! Visitors to the museum can admire unique artifacts recovered from the excavations at the Palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Aghia Triadha, Malia and Zakros – let alone the numerous other major centers and sites of Minoan Crete.

Crete has over 1000 kilometers of coastline to offer, along which have formed beaches to cater for every taste: beaches with endless stretches of sand, beaches made up only of pebbles; some organized and cosmopolitan in tone, others yet deserted and pristine; beaches suited to unhampered (unsupervised) camping, beaches for diving , fishing and water-sports.

From the mansions of Chania, through the Renaissance structures of Rethymnon, to the Great Castle (Heraklion), and on east to picturesque Agios Nikolaos and Siteia, the home of Vicenzos Kornaros … each and every city has its own personality and colour. The great Cretan cities house important monuments and museums, but are also centres of contemporary cultural creations: thus they are major destinations for the visitor who wants to know more about the island of Crete and its history down the centuries.

In the restaurants and traditional tavernas of the towns and villages of Crete, you'll always find all the genuine flavours of the Cretan cuisine with its insistence on using local products.

Alana

Alana

The ideal “meating” place. Alana is located at the heart of the old town, in a beautiful garden site where local residents and foreign guests harmoniously coexist. Enjoy the local quality fresh, grilled or cooked meat, delicious dishes from the Cretan cuisine and friendly service. Affiliate your dinner with a unique homemade dessert. Alana opened in 1986 in the old town of Rethymnon on Salaminos street, the main street below the castle of Fortezza and it was one of the first taverns of the area. With 200 seats, it was the busiest part of the old town. In 2002, under new management, the space turns into a 100-seat restaurant based on good quality products, attentive service and reasonable prices. Alana made a completely fresh start by changing the style of the restaurant, which serves unique dishes of the traditional cuisine in a relaxing environment full of flowers and plants, creating the perfect background for a dining experience based on the imaginative local cuisine and the impeccable service. The restaurant has attracted both visitors and city locals with great food, environment and hospitality of its owners. The restaurant serves healthy Cretan and Mediterranean cuisine, always using the best local market products, always cooked well. Thus, the restaurant has been established as one of the best restaurants in the city, based on reviews of its customers. It is not a coincidence that Alana has created customers who come again and again to enjoy the special flavors of the restaurant.

Accommodation options in Crete are countless and can satisfy both those who love luxury and comfort, as those who are seeking, in terms of budget, affordable accommodation options.

Thalori

Thalori

The Thalori Traditional Village is a complex of fifteen traditional houses which were restored to reflect the particular style of vernacular architecture which was dominant in the host village of Kapetaniana in the very old days. Kapetaniana is a small village perched at an altitude of 800 meters on the Asterousia range, west of the Kophinas peak. It commands a magnificent view of the Libyan Sea and combines in harmonious ways the wilderness of the mountain and the serenity and benefits of the sea. At the center of the complex there is a larger building which in the old days was associated with legends. It now is a common area offering our guests recreation and the opportunity to taste a rich selection of traditional dishes made from fresh, local ingredients that mother earth has been nursing in this area for centuries. The position of the traditional village of Kapetaniana, at an altitude of 800 meters on the Asterousia hills, against the wide open space which forms the Libyan Sea, sets the conditions for a unique climate. When conditions are proper, clouds race to take interesting formations around the village and dissipate just as fast. Also, the visibility is so perfect that the eye can see very far into the horizon, which has a soothing effect for the body and mind. The heightened sense of beauty which is evident in the traditional village and the services available can keep satisfied even the most demanding guests who need to establish a starting point for their exploration of the island of Crete.

The traditional Cretan Kafenios are sadly beginning to disappear, replaced by Western style cafes and coffee culture, but for now the tradition lives on. Be sure to specify your desired sweetness level when ordering: “sketo” is without sugar, “metrio” is medium sweet, and “glyko” is very sweet. If you prefer a more familiar espresso, cappuccino or filter coffee, there are plenty of excellent modern places to be found everywhere on the island.

If the pursuit of Fun is what your holiday in Crete is all about, then you will not be disappointed, especially in the summer months when things heat up! Choose a trendy café, bar or club in the lively cosmopolitan centres in Crete – or perhaps sip cocktails at a beach bar or club by the seashore in the summer season.

Heraklions commercial centre is located in the triangle formed by the Averof, 1821 and Kalokairinou streets, as well as in the surrounding streets. There are many commercial stores with clothes and shoes for all ages and styles. The shopping centre of the city, does not have many differences from the shopping centres of other European cities. It’s nice to combine your shopping with the special delicacies you can find in the same streets. “Loukoumades” with honey and the famous bougatsa (pie filled with cream) will make even an outstanding shopping bill look sweeter! Beyond the clothes stores, you can find popular art stores and the traditional knife stores where you can buy the famous Cretan knives. In the lively traditional market in the 1866 street, you can find products for making your own Cretan meal. On the same street and off the main streets there are many small shops which sell local products and many gifts shops (some of them with really strange gifts).

Cretan wine-making establishments – with their long winemaking traditions – are open to the public. You can tour the vineyards and cellars, whilst in the more modern set-ups you can taste Cretan wines accompanied with appetizers from the famous Cretan cuisine.

The rich and varied terrain of the island – the mountain massifs, the countless canyons, the caves, the sometimes wild, sometimes tender Cretan countryside, the measureless miles of coastline, the unusual and rare eco-systems and different microclimates that make up the island… all provide ideal opportunities for extreme sports, nature activities and other unique experiences.

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