The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has maintained a strong sense of self-awareness and cultural roots for almost 5,000 years. Various empires have made their impressions on the island over the years and today the place is a vibrant blend consisting of equal measures of history, culture, great food, lots of sun and heaps of opportunities for complete relaxation.
Once the centre of Minoan culture, the island of Crete is today a haven for those with an interest in archaeology and classical history, as the landscape is bursting with remnants from past eras. After the Minoans came the Greeks, then the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans, with a brief cameo from the Venetians as well. The result of this is a rich texture that is woven into the Cretan cultural fabric. Whilst on Crete you can visit the Minoan palaces of Phaistos and Knossos, the ancient Roman city of Gortys, the Venetian castle at Rethymno and lots of other fantastic ruins that each contain their own links to a mythological past.
Explore the even older caves of Diktaion and Psychro, as well as the famous Gorge of Samaria, which is home to the endangered kri-kri goats, and then travel back to the present day, by returning to the main cities of Heraklion and Chania. Hang out in a restaurant or café along the beachfront, recline by the clear waters of Agioi Apostoloi Beach in Chania or go for a taste of local art at the Museum of Visual Arts in Heraklion – here you might even catch a performance of the local poetic and musical gem that is known as the mantinada. After a day of exploring, you can take a dip in the water or test your skills at various water sports that are available at most beaches and resorts that populate the coastline. And then, take in everything that Crete has to offer food-wise. Slightly similarly to Greek food, the island has developed its own distinct delicacies. Start off with a delicious portion of dakos – a rich salad which include local cheese and tomatoes, before moving on to hearty dishes like smoked pork and lamb with stamnagathi. A typical Cretan dinner is not complete without a bottle of local wine, which the island has been producing since the Minoan empire. Enjoy the classical grapes while the sun disappears behind the snow-capped White Mountains and relax in the way that only Crete knowns how to.
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