Top Cretan destinations
"Crete 's mystery is extremely deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force branching warmly and beneficiently through his veins, senses his soul begin to grow"
Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco
Crete is the largest island in Greece. Crete likes more a small country than an island. The remarkable history, from the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the cave that is the legendary birthplace of Zeus, old mosques, Byzantine monasteries and the Venetian fortresses with the fertile valleys, the steep gorges, the traditional villages, the impressive beaches are some of the things that make the Crete unique. The Auto Moto Sport, with the vehicles, gives you the ability to discover the whole island with the safety, the convenience and the economy you need.
Old City and Venetian port of Chania.
For many visitors Chania is considered the most beautiful city of Crete. Jewel of the city is the old town with narrow streets and beautiful old Venetian harbor with monuments of the Venetian rule period, Ottoman rule period and the years of the Egyptian domination. All these together make the city of Chania ideal place for romantic walks, coffee, food and fun.
When you visit Crete, Elafonisi are among the popular destinations that you must visit. It is a small island with white sand, separated from the mainland by a lagoon with a depth of 1 m .. It is 75 km from Chania and will take about 1.5 hours to get there from the city of Chania.
The lagoon of Balos is famous, in all the tourist guides, for the wildlife natural beauty, the beautiful exotic scenery and the turquoise waters. Is formed between the Cape Gramvousas and the Cape Tigani and is located 56 km. northwest of Chania and 17 km of Kissamos.
Falassarna bay has been awarded as the best beach of Crete and one of the 10 best beaches in Europe in the past. Falasarna spans a huge area and consists actually of five consecutive beaches. The sand in Falassarna is white, making the color of the water tropical turquoise, that will amaze you. At the northern end of the beach is the ancient Roman city of Falassarna. Ιs located 59km west of Chania.
Old city- Venetian port
Rethymno is the third largest town in Crete. With architectural influences of the Venetian rule period, Ottoman rule period and the years of the Egyptian domination. This makes it one of the most beautiful city. On the west side is the Venetian harbor and the impressive “Fortezza”, landmark of the city, where you can enjoy a romantic walk during the sunset. Behind the Castle is the Old City of Rethymno with numerous scenic alleys and the traditional caffes when you can try the Tradiotional Cretan Couisine. Apart from the old town, Rethymno is famous for the longest sandy beach on Crete, extending 12 km from the town to the east.
The beach is located in the south of Rethymno, about 40 kilometers far from Rethymnon. It is a unique sandy beach, beautiful, with a small forest of palm trees that make it look exotic. The mouth of the river Kourtaliotis is at this beach. A small lagoon formed before spilling into the sea. The scenery looks tropical.
Due to this scenic and unusual landscape, the beach is a very popular destination since the 70's, for the hippies, until the end of 1980.
Ιn order to keep this unique environment as natural as possible, there is not very organized. There are some facilities for food and drink but not for accommodation, for swimming and sunbathing.
Plakias is a popular tourist resort, located 36km south of Rethymno city. The beach of Plakia begins from the center of the village and is extended to the Easte, length 1.3km. Is one from the bigger beaches in Crete and that’s why you feel comfort. The coastal street is ideal for walk and there exist enough taverns and hotels, while on the beach there are tamarisk trees, umbrellas, water sports, beach volley courts, snack bars, changing rooms, showers, e.t.c..
If there is strong wind you can go to the small beach of Souda, two kilometers west of Plakias.
Other beautiful beaches near Plakias is Damnoni, Amoudi, Lefkogia and Schoinaria.
The beach of Triopetra, named after the three imposing rocks in the sea ("Triopetra" means "three stones" in Greek)! Is found 52 kms far from Rethymnon and 13 kms from the village Akoumia, at the South. It is a long, sandy beach with crystal sea. It is very popular, not only because of the marvelous landscape, but also for the magic sunset.
The beach is organised well enough, it offers cafes, taverns with excellent fresh seafood and also sunbeds and umbrellas.
Bali (“Bali” means honey) is coastal seaside resort in the northern coast of Crete. Bali is a modern resort with a wide variety of taverns, restaurants, small shops, a diving school, bars, discos, clinic, pharmacy and port.
Venetians named him Atali, the ancient name was Astali. Exists also the Monastry of Atalis, that maintains the medieval name of place.
Bali has four exotic beaches (Livadi, Varkotopos, Limani, Karavostasis), which are formed in sandy coves with crystal waters. The beaches are almost always calm, because of the direction of Bali (is western). They all are suitable for children and well organized. Moreover, water is cool because of the several springs that carry fresh water into the sea.
Bali is located in a large gulf, 30km east of Rethymno and 43km west of Heraklion. Is ideal for romantic holidays.
The Monastery of Arkadi is a historic monastery in Crete. According to tradition it was founded by Emperor Heraklion and rebuilt in the 5th century by the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius. The Arkadi Monastery, is located 23 km from the town of Rethymno. The Abbey dates back to the 16th century and is marked by the influence of the Renaissance. This influence is visible in the architecture, which mixes both Roman and Baroque elements.
The monastery played an active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule during the Cretan revolt in 1866. 964 Cretans, 325 men and the others women and children, sought refuge in the monastery. In 8 of November after three days of battle and when the Greek defense broke the hegumen of the monastery killed, Abbot Gabriel. The Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. Konstantinos Giampoudakis from Adele Village, lit the gunpowder. It is said that the bang was heard to Heraklion.
The Abbey was completely rebuilt after its destruction.
November 8 is a day of commemorative parties in Arkadi and Rethymno.
Arkadi was given the title of a European Freedom Monument by UNESCO.
Ancient Eleutherna, which is located 25 km southeast of Rethymno City, is one of the most ancient cities in Crete and the most important archeological site in Rethymno.
The city was founded by the Dorians in the 9th century B.C. . in strategic location, the point where the road from the city of Knossos, the road from the ancient city of Kydonia and the road from the holy Idi Mountain (Psiloritis) met.
In 2010 a double grave of a young couple was discovered in Eleftherna. The grave is aged 2.700 years, covered more than 3,000 gold leaves and a jewel of a bee-goddess was found too.
Eleutherna was one of the cities where took the side of Macedonian King Filippos II during the First Cretan War (205 B.C. – 200 B.C.) against Knossos.
Later on, it fell in the hands of the Roman Empire after strong resistance. During the roman years, city baths, cisterns, palaces, public buildings and a tower were built. The prosperity of the city was threatened by an earthquake in 365.
The traditional settlement Margarites, which is located 27 km Εast of Rethymnon, in the foothills of Mt. Psiloritis and is one of Crete’s four main pottery centres. There are many stories for its name but one is sure is a village with significant history!
The village is famous for the art of pottery and undoubtedly is the most important pottery center of western Crete. The main reason behind the development of this art is the grounds’ high concision of argil (clay). There are 17 workshops that operate as exhibitions, giving visitors the chance to watch how making all sorts of ceramic items.
Agia Galini is one of the most popular seaside resorts of southern Rethymnon. Is located 61km south of Rethymno city and 68 km southwest of Heraklion. Is built amphitheatrical on a rocky extreme.
Regarding the name of the village, the tradition says that some Byzantine princess or queen, sailing in the region and after prayer calmed the sea. The boat anchored on the opposite shore she ordered the building of the temple in honor Our Lady of the so-called Tranquillity.
The natural beauty of the emerald beaches, the rugged caves in the west, the myth of “Iκarus and Dedalus”, the memories of the hippies and the tranquility of the sea, have made this village a favorite destination for thousands of visitors, every summer.
The large beach of Agia Galini starts from the port and extends to the east. If you want to relax, move a little further east, across the river from the bridge.
Heraklion was founded in 824 by the Saracens and the name, of the city, was Handax. The city passed to the hands of Byzantine Empire in 961. In 1204 the city was bought by the Republic of Venice as part of a complicated political deal and retained the name of Candia for centuries.
After the Venetians came the Ottoman Empire, for 22 years. In 1898 was created the Cretan State. In 1913, with the rest of Crete, Heraklion was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece. The city was renamed "Heraklion", because of the Minoan settlement that was the point, since the 7th century B. C.. As for the name Heraklion, it probably comes from the Idaean Herakles, legendary founder of the Olympic Games.
Heraklion offers a wide range of choices to the visitor, from sightseeing to intense nightlife.
The archaeological site of Knossos is sited 5 km southeast of the city of Iraklion. The Palace of Knossos is the largest of the preserved Minoan palatial centres. Four wings are arranged around a central courtyard, containing the royal quarters, workshops, shrines, storerooms, repositories, the throne room and banquet halls. Dated to 2000-1350 B.C. In Greek mythology, King Minos dwelt in a palace at Knossos. He had Daedalus construct a labyrinth in which to retain his son, the Minotaur. Daedalus also built a dancing floor for Queen Ariadne . The name "Knossos" was subsequently adopted by Arthur Evans because it seemed to fit the local archaeology.
There is evidence that this location was inhabited during the neolithic times, 7000 B.C. . On the ruins of the neolithic settlement was built the first Minoan palace, 1900 B.C., where the dynasty of Minos ruled.
This was destroyed in 1700 B.C and a new palace built in its place. Between 1.700-1.450 BC, the Minoan civilisation was at its peak and Knossos was the most important city-state. During these years the city was destroyed twice by earthquakes (1.600 BC, 1.450 BC) and rebuilted. The city of Knossos had 100.000 citizens and it continued to be an important city-state until the early Byzantine period.
It was a multi-storey building covering an area of 20.000 square meters. Impressive features of it are the variety of building materials used, and the painted plaster, marble revetment and wall-paintings adorning the rooms and passages. The advanced level of technology attained by the Minoans is also demonstrated by some original architectural and structural features, such as the light -wells and polythyra, the use of beams to reinforce the masonry, and the complex drainage and water-supply systems.
The first excavation of the site was conducted in 1878 by Minos Kalokerinos of Herakleion. This was followed by the long-term excavations 1900-1913 and 1922-1930) of the Englishman Sir Arthur Evans, who uncovered virtually the entire palace.
Agios Nikolaos is the smallest city of Crete but for some the most beautiful. Is located on the site of the ancient Latou, in the picturesque Bay of Mirabello, which took its name from the Venetian Castle that was destroyed by the Turks. The name came from the Byzantine Church located in the Bay of Agios Nikolaos, while the oldest known name was Mantraki.
The most beautiful feature is the mythical lagoon Voulismeni. Many ancient legends reference Voulismeni Lake , the oldest of whom want the goddesses Athena and armetis bathed in it.
If you do come to Agios Nikolaos, do not miss Spinaloga, which had isolated the lepers of Crete from 1903 until 1957. The ancient name was Kalydon but after the occupation by the Venetians called Spinalonga.