One of our most memorable trips in 2019 was to the Greek Isle of Crete. The largest of the Greek Isles, idyllic Crete has something to offer for everyone. From pristine beaches to gorgeous vistas, fantastic food and wine, vast history and friendly locals, Crete is worth a stay.
Herkalion, the capital of Crete, easily accessible by ferry or air, is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Europe. The Bronze Age Palace of Knossos (also known as Minos) is located just outside of the city and in the Minoan period was the largest population center on Crete, boasting a population of 100,000 at its peak. In approximately 1500 BC, a volcanic tsunami from nearby Santorini leveled the port and the surrounding region covering it in ash.
You can easily get lost exploring the amazing multi-story palace with light wells and bathrooms, the magnificent frescos, the pottery and the oldest road in Europe. Knossos’ architectural feats include a drainage system, aqueducts and irrigation systems. You should allow at least 2 hours to visit.
Herkalion is a bustling city with shops and restaurants and numerous museums. In particular, the Herkalion Archaelogical Museum is one of the best in Greece and the best museum in the world for Minoan art and artifacts. It houses representative artifacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years.
One of our favorite places on Crete is Rethymno – located between Herkalion and Chania on the north side of the island. Rethymno’s old town, almost entirely built by the Venetians, is fascinating to explore with shops, bakeries, and restaurants at every turn. We have never enjoyed Greek salad and moussaka more! The Fortezza of Rethymno is one of the best preserved castles on Crete.
An excursion to the Arkadi Monastery located in the hills above Rethymno is highly recommended. In 1866 it was the headquarters of the uprising against Ottoman rule. With 259 defenders – plus women and children sheltering there – it is very reminiscent of the Alamo.