The largest of the Greek islands, Crete can be found in the Mediterranean Sea in the appropriately named “Sea of Crete”. At 260km long and only 60km wide its a very accessible island and has become a very popular tourist destination for many Europeans and Asians too. The reason for its popularity is clear, great weather for much of the year and arguably the most beautiful island in Greece. Here’s our short guide to the best of Crete.
The island of Crete has been inhabited as far back as 2600 B.C by the Minoan civilisation. Volcanic eruptions on neighbouring islands eventually lead to the Minoan’s demise and the Mycenaens claimed the island, creating a more recognisable Greek island matching the mainland architecture. Crete was actually captured by the Romans and remained under their control from 69 A.D to 330 A.D. Crete was also invaded much more recently during the Second World War when the Germans parachuted in and took control from the allied forces in 1941.
In recent years decades tourism has become vitally important to the local economy. While agriculture is still it’s primary source of wealth, many of the local towns and villages are entirely reliant on tourism and often close entirely during the low season. From the 1970s onwards tourism numbers have increased dramatically and the island is well equipped to handle the millions of tourists that visit each year.
Best time to go to Crete
While the island of Crete enjoys mild winter temperates and much less rainfall than nothern Europe, it’s summer months are still the most popular. In the South of the island you can find great hotel rates later in to the year, as far as October and November. Another great time to go is before the masses arrive in the height of spring, try May and June for great weather but less crowds. Of course there is a reason why July to September are the peak months, with virtually unbroken sunshine, clear blue skies and warm seas to swim in, you’ll pay full price during these months but get the full Crete experience. For the most colourful time of year to visit the islands I’d recommend mid to late spring time when the flowers are in bloom, the landscape gets its much needed rain and the White mountains live up to their name with snow on their peaks.
Getting to Crete
There are three main airports on the island but only two are currently international ones. So depending on which airline you book with will dictate where you’ll land. The airports of Haniá and Iráklio (Heralkion) are international while Sitía remains domestic. FlyThomasCook depart from most of the UK’s major airports including Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham and arrive at Iraklio which is better known as “Heralkion Airport”. Flight time is around 4 hours from the United Kingdom and with daily flights running between April and operate between early May and the end of October.
Getting around crete
The North coast is one of the more popular regions and benefits from a frequent and reliable bus service. Once you start heading down to the south the are less buses to choose from so you may find hiring a car is a better option to go exploring. Check out bus-service-crete-ktel.com for more info on bus services
I would recommend avoiding the car rental companies at the airport as they always charge more than those you’ll find it coastal resort towns. As at your hotel as they may be able to arrange this for you. You can also book car hire online before arriving which may save you money. Check out auto-europe.co.uk for
Thanks to the interesting terrain and beautiful views, trekking is a popular activity for travellers to Crete. If you’re up for a hike there are numerous routes you can take. Most of which are in and around the White Mountains of Haniá’s Lefká Óri and the Iráklio’s Psilorítis range too. It’s possible to cross the entire island if you’re more of a long term traveller, if not i’d recommend a guided trek group as you’ll get the most out of the island at whatever skill and physical level you may be. Check out crete-walks.com for more information on guided walks around the island.