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Holidays in Crete
Crete has much more besides beaches. For a start, 4,000 years of civilisation have left a legacy of world-class archaeological sites. There's a vast array of interesting day and nights out, whether by hire car or on one of the organised excursions. Experience the hospitality and tradition of the locals, who’ll always give you tips on the best beaches and picturesque villages to head to.
Best time to visit is from May to mid-June and mid-September and October
The primary airport, Heraklion Airport (HER) (also known as “Nikos Kazantzakis”), is located just outside the island’s capital. You can also fly to Loannis Daskalogiannis airport (CHQ), situated just 14km from the southern city of Chania.
Indulge in moon-white beaches, pristine waters and Greek mythology by booking your Thomas Cook holiday to Crete.
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Elounda is a cosmopolitan, beachfront resort located on the east coast. Head here for some celeb-spotting and seaside exploration: its countless hidden coves and underwater city of Olous are the best place to start from. Also located in the east, you’ll find the small village of Sissi. Enjoy serene, romantic walks next to its harbour and indulge in its fish tavernas. Not far from Sissi is fun-packed Malia. Join top music names on its Strip by night followed by maxing out your adrenaline levels by the beach. From jet-skis and giant-trampolines to go-karting and seafront parties, Malia keeps the fun going past sunrise.
Discover some of the oldest and most impressively preserved remains of Greece’s ancient world, with a visit to the Palace of Faistos. For a taste of Crete’s “hippie history” stroll around the cave homes carved into Matala Beach’s towering rocks before dipping underwater for a fantastic Roman-era treasure hunt. Take a break from your journey into Crete’s rich history with some sun-soaking on its exotic beaches. And when you get hungry, join the friendly locals in the seaside tavernas: they’ll always welcome you with a glass (or two) of ice-cold raki.
South-west of Crete’s capital town, you’ll find the gigantic man-made caves sheltering Matala Beach’s golden sands. Inhabited by “flower children” from all over the world in the 60s and 70s and dating back to the Roman times, these aren’t the only archaeological treasure you’ll discover here. Put on your snorkels and explore the fantastic Roman-era remains found underwater too! Head north-east from here for a visit to Crete’s best place for mythology-lovers: the Palace of Knossos - or the palace of the Minotaur, according to Greek mythology. Stroll around the remains of royal underground rooms, intricate pillars and colourful wall paintings, taking you back to 1400 BC.
Head to the southern tip and soak up the sun on Elafonisi Beach’s pink sands. Drenched by the Libyan Sea’s warm, shallow waters, its soft beach got its peculiar colour from thousands of years of corals crumbling naturally into sand-like grains. Known as the “Greek Caribbean”, the transparent waters here are definitely worth the sunny drive up and downhill. If you find yourself on the northern tip, don’t miss out on visiting Crete’s number one attraction: Vai’s Blue Flag beach. Shaded by Europe’s largest natural palm-tree forest, its golden sands offer another exotic beach spot, complete with windsurfing and group scuba diving.
Crete is known for using fresh, local produce in their delicious island delicacies: Pure olive oil, sweet-vine tomatoes and a hint of garlic make up the base for most of these. Cretan Plaki, freshly caught fish baked with tomatoes and a lemony parsley sauce is a classic speciality. Shrimp saganaki (hot shrimps baked in cheese) is best enjoyed with a glass of the grappa-like Cretan raki. Try the traditional crunchy filo parcels - tyropites - bursting with chunks of feta cheese and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Or, the Sfakianopita, a crepe-like, pan-fried pie filled with creamy Myzithra cheese and served with a spoonful of pure Cretan thyme honey.
Scenery lovers: Spinalonga - cruise to this famous island and discover the village ruins before sailing away to enjoy a sumptuous barbecue.
Adventurers: Land Rover Safari off-road adventure - pass by rugged mountains, historical sites and remote villages.
History fans: Travel back into the Bronze Age at the ancient palace of Knossos.
Language: The language spoken in Crete is Greek.
Currency: The currency used in Crete is Euro (€).
Local time: Crete is 2 hours ahead of GMT/UK time.
Fly to: The primary airport, Heraklion Airport (HER) (also known as “Nikos Kazantzakis”), is located just outside the island’s capital. You can also fly to Loannis Daskalogiannis airport (CHQ), situated just 14km from the southern city of Chania.
Flight time from UK: 4 hours
Tourist Information: Further Crete tourist information can be found at www.incrediblecrete.com
Visa & Health: Before you travel, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice-greece for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to Crete.
Temperatures: Up to the high 30s (°C) from April to August in the coastal areas.
Best time to visit Crete: From May to mid-June and mid-September and October
Weather in Crete varies from part to part. Its coastal resorts enjoy scorching temperatures, and can even hit the low 40s (°C) in the southern part of the island. The hot desert winds blowing in from North Africa give an exotic feel to the most southern parts. In contrast, the mountainous, central region enjoys cooler temperatures in summer averaging the mid-to high 20s (°C). Winters are snowy on the peaks of Crete’s long, mountainous backbone (Psiloritis) but always mild on the coastal areas.
By hire car: Being the largest out of all the Greek islands, the best way to get across the vast distances in Crete is by hire car.
By bus:Crete’s local bus services are efficient and run throughout the day to and from the capital and biggest cities to all the resorts, beaches and archaeological sites.
By boat - Why not hop on a boat tour from Chania to the unspoiled islet of Gramvousa and the luminous waters of Balos lagoon?
Bands on the beach: Matala Beach Festival (end of June) is one summer event not be missed. With famous bands performing underneath Matala’s old hippie caves, thousands of visitors arrive here every year to revive the spirit of the flower children.
Folklore: For a taste of traditional Cretan live music, head to Rethymno, Crete’s summer hub for music and folklore tradition.