Our Top Things to Do in Crete
Beaches, caves, palaces – the list goes on. Crete is replete with things to do.
The largest of all the Greek islands, Crete is also one of the most varied. With landscapes ranging from pink sand beaches to dramatic mountains, it has thousands of years of history just waiting to be discovered by you. With a firm local identity – residents often refer to themselves as being Cretan rather than Greek – these islanders are famed for their friendliness, so you might just leave your holiday with a few new acquaintances. Here’s Plum Guide’s pick of the top things to do in Crete.
Hike the Samariá Gorge
The Samariá Gorge is the longest in Europe, and is a thrilling hike that takes around six hours from start to finish (so fair warning, wear your walking boots rather than your beach flip flops). Located in the White Mountains of western Crete, it’s an 18km walk through some of Greece’s most spectacular scenery.
If you’d rather spend the majority of your day relaxing on the beach rather than hoping for a glimpse of endemic animal species the spiny mouse and the Cretan badger (look, we’re all animal lovers here, but sometimes a cocktail on a sun lounger really hits the spot), you can walk a portion of the trail rather than the whole thing - but know you’ll be missing out on a spectacular view of the Libyan Sea at the end of the journey.
When you’re tired and dusty at the end of your day, return to this sleekly modern house in which almost every room has access to an outside space, take a luxurious shower and then enjoy a long, late dinner on the terrace. If you have the energy, you could always take a late-night dip in the pool.
Relax on Elafonisi beach
And speaking of beaches... Elafonisi beach is a pink (yes, pink) beach on Crete, and is one of the most famous in Greece thanks to its appearance in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. A low island that’s joined to the mainland only on its most south westerly point, its pink colour comes from the naturally crushed shells mixed with the sand.
It’s a protected natural area, and unlike many natural wonders truly is as good as it looks in the photos (and you’ll definitely want to take photos of it, so don’t forget your camera). The beach has many hidden coves to explore and you could spend hours splashing around in the clear, warm turquoise-coloured water and not get bored.
Fans of beaches will be queuing up to stay at this house, which is just 800m away from the nearest stretch of sand. As if that wasn’t enough, the private pool comes with a waterfall and the terrace has amazing views over the Mirabello gulf.
Marvel at Knossos Minoan Palace
Knossos is Europe’s oldest city, and its Minoan Palace shouldn’t be missed off any list of things to do in Crete. Once the political hub of Minoan culture, as well as an important ceremonial and political symbol, it had more than 1,200 rooms (think about that next time you complain about having to hoover the spare bedroom at home) and was discovered in 1878.
Incredibly, this is actually the site of two palaces - the one built here around 1700 BC was destroyed by an earthquake, and it was reconstructed to be even grander around 2000 BC. This second palace was then destroyed in 1450 BC. Now you can visit for historical inspiration and to learn about the culture of the island.
Looking for a vacation house in Crete with plenty of rooms, much like the Minoan Palace? We can’t offer you 1,200 bedrooms but this swish pad comes with three separate bedrooms all with their own bathrooms. A spa-like bathroom and heated private pool complete the luxurious picture.
Discover Psychro Cave
Just outside the village of Psychro lies this cave (also known as the Diktean Cave) which has huge mythological importance and shouldn’t be missed off a list of things to do in Crete. Legends state that it’s this cave, otherwise indistinguishable from the other 3,000 caves on the island of Crete, which is where the goddess Rhea gave birth to her son Zeus.
She chose this spot to protect him from the titan Cronos, who attempted to eat all his offspring to prevent fulfilment of a prophecy that his downfall would be at the hands of one of his children. Yes, this is definitely a tale to tell your children right before they fall asleep - if you want them to have nightmares, that is. Today, the cave is a site of pilgrimage and worship, as well as a great spot for a hike.
For a house that is decidedly un cave-like, with glass walls, a freestanding bath with a view of the mountains and even a tennis court, this gorgeously architectural house is ideal for the whole family. Just don’t tell the kids about the hot tub so you can keep it all for yourself.