The largest Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete is one of Greece's most popular vacation destinations. A fascinating mixture of beautiful beaches, picturesque towns, and ancient historical sites, Crete's diversity surprises many visitors who come here thinking there's little more to see beyond sun, sand, and surf. With a landscape that is among the most beautiful in the country, it's no wonder Crete's people have such a contagious warm and welcoming vitality and love of life.
Consider these activities and attractions for your Cretan vacation itinerary:
-Ierapetra: In addition to spectacular beaches that aren't as crowded as those in other parts of the island, Ierapetra also holds the distinction of being Europe's southernmost city.
-Samaria National Park: A must for nature lovers, Samaria National Park is centered around a network of interlinking trails that lead to spectacular views of one of Europe's deepest and most picturesque gorges. You'll also marvel at how green Crete is, despite the fact that it only gets about 60 days of rain per year.
-Rethymno: If you are vacationing with your family, Rethymno may be the best place in Crete to visit. The attractions and activities cater to couples with children, and the beaches are among the most inviting on the island.
-Malia: Younger travelers looking to revel in Crete's legendary nightlife might be best served by heading to Malia, which draws throngs of visitors from nations all over the world.
-Knossos: Add some historical culture to your Greek vacation by checking out Knossos, home to the best-preserved ruins of the civilization of the ancient Minoans. Knossos is located near Heraklion, the island's largest city and home to many of the finest spas in Crete.
Because of the island's popularity, its hotels are very crowded all year long, except during the winter when the island empties out. Instead of fighting the crowds, get a vacation rental of your very own instead. From apartments in Crete's towns and cities to quiet rural cabins and beachfront villas, options abound and you'll get to enjoy all the comforts of home during your Greek vacation.
Given its size and popularity, Crete makes an excellent base for further exploration of the Ionian and Aegean Islands. You can also travel to the Greek mainland by sea or air to explore the capital city of Athens.
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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