10 Top Tourist Attractions in Crete Greece… Stunning Crete has it all; it is the largest of the Greek Islands, and also the fifth biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea and most populous. It boasts magical quilt of splendid beaches on its coastline, dotted with numerous coves and bays and it combines dramatic mountains and is dotted with quaint villages.
Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant Minoan civilizations of Ancient Greece which is considered to be the first advanced European civilization, ancient archaeological sites, the Venetian era, and the Ottoman period scattered around this island today and many historical attractions.
Crete is an island full of treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover! Fun things to do in Crete are unlimited from Crete historical sites to best beaches in Crete. For this we have gathered (in our opinion) free things to do in Crete and considered the10 Top Tourist Attractions in Crete. You can also get inspired with other Greek Islands Vacation Rentals and locations using some of our past articles Corfu Best Greek Island for Family Holidays and The Stunning Santorini Island – Greece to help get you started planning your next family holiday.
1-Palace of Knossos:
The Minoan palace and the Ancient site of Knossos are the most important known Minoan site in Crete lies just south of Heraklion. During the pre-Greek Bronze Age culture and the first maritime power in the Mediterranean, Knossos was the center of Minoan civilization… the legendary home of King Minos the Athenian hero who slew the minotaur, half man, half bull, in the labyrinth. The great palace was built gradually between 2700 BC and 1450BC on the Minoan civilization flourishes, with periodic rebuilding after destruction until it was devastated once and for all by fire.
2- Samaria Gorge:
Some sites require more effort to enjoy than others, and Samaria Gorge is one of those for people who love hiking for hours. At 16 km walk in length Samaria Gorge, at 16km in length is one of the longest gorges in Europe but must count as the most beautiful is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s tentative list. Located in South West Crete, near Chania in the National Park of Samarai in the White Mountains 1250 metres up on the Omalos plateau, this stunning gorge is a ten-mile downhill hike that ends at a black-sand beach at the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli on Crete’s sunny south coast. It passes through forests having stunning wildlife and plants of ancient cypresses and pines and boasts magnificent flaura and fauna then cuts between vertical cliffs through the mountains.
3- Chania Old Town & Venetian Harbour:
Chania (Hania, Khania) is the main town in Western Crete, 160kms from Heraklion probably the most beautiful resort on the island. The main attraction is the beautiful old town of Chania which dates from the centuries spent under Venice (1204-1645) with its Venetian Harbour which was built between the years 1320 and 1356 by the Venetians lined with cafes and restaurants, and winding cobbled alleyways. Steeped in history, Chania once lay the ancient site of Kydonia which flourished during the Roman period, and later became briefly the island’s capital until 1971 when it moved to Heraklion (1897 to 1907).There’s an Archaeological museum on Halidon Street and the Maritime Museum housing artifacts from this time near the harbor. Chania is a lovely place to explore on foot; to explore the back alleyways with beautiful pastel-colored old Venetian buildings enclosed within the remains of 16th-century defensive walls; with courtyard cafes and cozy restaurants, Cretan handicraft shops, a weaver’s shop, the agora (covered market) built in 1911, boot makers on the Leather Street, and rows of shops selling hand carved Cretan knives at the Maheradika the town extends to a pretty fishing harbor. Today, though, Chania’s old harbor has multitude of small fishing boats, yachts and pleasure boats; there the harbor front is lined with excellent fish taverns. The harbor’s crowning jewel one of the oldest in the world is its beautiful renovated lighthouse which was built by the Venetians around 1595 to 1601.
4- Heraklion Archaeological Museum:
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum one of the most important museums in Greece,The renovated, new state-of-the-art Heraklion Archaeological Museum- truly world-class- is up and running with all 23 new halls now open (2014). Exhibits include most of the objects from the old collections as well as the archaeological sites across the island prehistory and history covering a period of 5,000 years, from Neolithic era to Graeco Roman period, prehistoric, Bronze Age, and Hellenic treasures while the large collections of Minoan art examples are the best in the world.
Spinalonga is a small an ancient island fortress on the southwestern entrance to the Gulf of Elounda and Plaka in the Mirabello Bay. The island 800 years ago was also fortified by a huge fortification to guard the entrance to Elounda, and for many years, was the first line of defense for Elounda and the fortifications still dominate the north face of the island. From 1903 to 1957, Spinalonga, was used as a leper colony for people from all over Greece were shipped to the island who were suffering from the disease. Today, Spinalonga is uninhabited but although it is just a quick drive from Crete’s main city with a short boat ride away from both Elounda and Agios Nikolaos and is popular with tourists having a fascinating day trip who come to the island to see the Spinalonga’s ruins one of the best ruins in Crete -old stone dwellings-, the battlement fortifications, cemetery and the remnants of the abandoned leper colony, the fortress and numerous old structures.
6- Agios Nikolaos:
Agios Nikolaos is another pretty town; Agios Nikolaos is situated along the north coast of Eastern Crete on the slopes above lovely Mirabello Bay, about 65 kms east of Heraklion and is the Capital of the Lassithi prefect. Áyios Nikólaos is home to Crete’s most popular modern holiday resorts, it offers visitors a mix of the modern and the traditional. It is a medium-size port town that is extremely picturesque where you can watch the local fishermen land their catches and has some style and charm, which it exploits to the full. The town’s Highlight is Lake Voulismeni, which is lined with many charming small waterfront cafes, boutiques, restaurants and an attractive sandy beach called Kitroplatia almost in the town center. The whole town has a cosmopolitan atmosphere and the modern marina hosts up to 255 boats and yachts at one time and is good for families as many of the amenities are close together.
7 -Rethymnon Old Town:
The old town of Rethymnon (or Rethimno) is located midway between Chania and Heraklion and features a rather unique blend of Venetian and Crete architecture and the Turkish appearance as it spent under Turkish rule (1669-1898). Many 16th-century historic old town buildings with their stunning ancient architecture have been turned into small boutique hotels, shops, and taverns these are present as a romantic choice to see the real old town with its history and cultural. The other side of Rethymno offers the endless big sandy beach east of the old town. Rethymnon makes a good base for visiting some attractions such as the Samaria Gorge, Fortezza Castle and Mount Psiloritis.
8-Anogia & Zoniana Cave:
Anogia has a sad history; it was razed to the ground by the Germans in World War II and killed all the men of the village in retaliation for the kidnap of the German leader General Von Kreipe with other Greek leaders and English Officers on the island.
Today, a memorial in the village marks the tragic event.
The village is also renowned as the birthplace of Nikos Xilouris a legendary Cretan musician of all time and also the older brother of two other great musicians of Cretan music. He died in1980 at the age of 43 from a brain tumor. The village of Anogia hosts the lively annual Yakintha Festival in July in memory of Xilouris which is dedicated to music, theatre, and art. Nearby is another fascinating cave, the Zoniana Cave which is one of the five best preserved caves of Greece and the first one in Crete for stalagmites and stalactites.
9- Elafonisi Beach:
Elafonissi is a tiny island Located in South-west Crete with white sand, separated from the shore by a very shallow lagoon no more than a meter deep. In fact, it is so shallow that visitors can easily walk the 200 meters (650 feet) to the island. Elafonisi is a magical place ; the waters around this island are crystal clear will remind you of an exotic paradise, and its sand ranges from sparkling white to a pinkish pink due to the thousands of broken seashells it contains. This island’s beaches are very popular with locals and visitors especially for families with small children can easily.
10- Loutro village:
The small picturesque seaside resort of Loutro is situated in South coast of Chania Prefecture -West Crete, on the coast between the villages of Hora Sfakion area and Agia Roumeli. Loutro can be reached only by boat or on foot, it isn’t accessible by road and this is one of its main charms. It’s a typical Greek village with pretty blue and white painted village houses nestle into the small bay which contains it. Spending a day in Loutro is like stepping back in time, there’s not much to do there apart from enjoy the tranquility, sip a drink and swim, watch the ferry boats arrive, offload the tourists and village goods, and then depart again but you’re on holiday so that should be plenty!