Crete, the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, has long been a popular destination for British holidaymakers. Its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture make it an ideal destination for anyone looking to experience the very best of Greece. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything that Crete has to offer, from its beautiful beaches and breathtaking landscapes to its fascinating historical sites and delicious cuisine. We will also provide practical information on how to get to Crete from the UK, the best time to visit, and what to see and do while you are there. So, if you are a British holidaymaker planning your next adventure, look no further than this ultimate guide to an unforgettable holiday in Crete.
How to Get to Crete from the UK
Getting to Crete from the UK is relatively straightforward and convenient. Several airlines, including British Airways, EasyJet, and Ryanair, offer direct flights to Crete during summer. The island has three main airports: Chania (CHQ), Heraklion (HER), and Sitia (JSH). Direct flights from the UK typically land at Chania or Heraklion, the two largest airports on the island. Flight duration from the UK to Crete ranges from approximately 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on the departure airport and time of year.
If you prefer to travel by sea, you can take a ferry from the UK to mainland Greece and then continue on to Crete. This option is more time-consuming but offers a unique and scenic journey through the Mediterranean. Crete’s main ferry ports are in Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Agios Nikolaos.
Best Time to Visit Crete
The best time to visit Crete for British holidaymakers is between May and September. The weather during these months is warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C. While the summer months (June to August) are the busiest and hottest, visiting in May or September allows you to enjoy slightly cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
Best Things to Do in Crete
Crete offers diverse activities and attractions for British holidaymakers to enjoy. From stunning beaches and breathtaking landscapes to fascinating historical sites and delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone in this beautiful island paradise.
Crete is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean. Some of the most famous and picturesque beaches include:
1. Balos Lagoon – Often considered one of the best beaches in Crete, this beautiful lagoon is known for its turquoise and transparent waters, making it a must-visit for any beach lover.
2. Elafonisi Beach – Also known as the Pink Sand Beach, Elafonisi is a unique and visually stunning beach that will leave you in awe of its beauty.
3. Preveli Beach – This palm-fringed beach is located near the Preveli Monastery and offers a beautiful and serene setting for a day of relaxation or exploration.
4. Falassarna Beach – Known for its crystal-clear waters and fine white sand, Falassarna is an ideal destination for those seeking a relaxing beach day or water sports enthusiasts.
Crete is not only famous for its beaches but also for its incredible landscapes. Some must-see natural attractions include:
1. Samaria Gorge – The largest and most famous gorge in Crete, Samaria is a stunning landscape that offers challenging hikes and unforgettable views.
2. Lasithi Plateau – Home to the iconic Lasithi windmills, this beautiful plateau offers a unique and picturesque setting for exploring traditional Cretan villages and enjoying the fresh mountain air.
3. Mount Ida (Psiloritis) – The highest mountain in Crete, Mount Ida offers challenging hikes and rewarding views for those who reach its summit.
Fascinating Historical Sites
Crete has a rich history that dates back to the Minoan civilization. Some of the most important historical sites that should not be missed include:
1. Knossos Palace – The most famous and largest of the Minoan palaces, Knossos offers a fascinating glimpse into the ancient civilization that once thrived on Crete.
2. Phaistos Palace – Another important Minoan site, Phaistos, provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the ancient Cretans.
3. Arkadi Monastery – A significant site in Cretan history, the Arkadi Monastery played a crucial role in the island’s struggle for independence during the 19th century.
Delicious Cretan Cuisine
Crete is also famous for its delicious and healthy cuisine, which is considered one of the best in the world. Some must-try dishes include:
1. Dakos Salad – A traditional Cretan salad made with tomatoes, feta cheese, and rusks, this refreshing dish is perfect for a light lunch or appetizer.
2. Kalitsounia – These sweet or savoury cheese pastries are a popular snack or dessert in Crete and should not be missed.
3. Gamopilafo – A traditional Cretan wedding pilaf made with rice, meat, and local herbs, this delicious dish is a must-try for any food lover.
Exploring the Four Regions of Crete
Crete is divided into four main regions: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Lasithi. Each region offers its own unique attractions and experiences, making it worthwhile to explore as much of the island as possible during your holiday.
The Chania region is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes, including the famous Balos Lagoon and Elafonisi Beach. The old town of Chania, with its Venetian lighthouse and colourful buildings, is a must-visit for anyone interested in history and culture.
Rethymno is home to the Fortezza, a Venetian fortress that offers stunning views of the surrounding area. The old town of Rethymno is a charming and picturesque destination, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing meal at a local tavern.
Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is home to the famous Knossos Palace and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The lively city also offers a range of restaurants, bars, and shops, making it an ideal base for exploring the rest of the island.
The least visited of the four regions, Lasithi offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience for British holidaymakers. Highlights of the region include the Lasithi windmills, the palm-fringed Vai Beach, and the charming town of Agios Nikolaos.
Crete is a fantastic destination for British holidaymakers seeking a unique and unforgettable experience. With its stunning beaches, incredible landscapes, fascinating historical sites, and delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone on this beautiful island. So why wait? Start planning your dream holiday in Crete today!