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Travel guide
Crete

Spreading its rows of olive trees along the hills and diffusing the perfume of laurels and bougainvilleas in the villages, Crete is a resolutely Mediterranean island. Located about 200 kilometers from the Cyclades, two weeks would hardly be enough to visit Crete, the cradle of Minoan civilization: golden beaches, crystal-clear waters, constant warmth, tasty Greek cuisine, picturesque villages and places steeped in history. Take the time to visit its palaces and ancient ruins, such as the famous palace of Knossos a few kilometers fromHeraklion or the one in Malia. This guide to Crete will help you to piece together the puzzle of European history of which Crete holds many memories and treasures. A must-see destination, Crete has preserved its authenticity and its natural wonders such as the beaches ofElafonissi or Gramvoussa in the south of the island. Life is peaceful and the fishermen are happy to share precious moments with travellers, ignoring language differences. The day is marked by the unavoidable siesta that follows lunch and coffee freddo, to let the hottest hours pass. In the evening, locals and tourists meet on the terraces of restaurants, enjoying the mildness of the night, a good local wine and fresh fish. This is an opportunity to try saligaria, the Cretan snail, and raki, which breaks down any inhibitions. The villagers sometimes sing Cretan folk songs, accompanied by pendozali steps, the traditional dance. Forget the looks and let yourself be taken in. A holiday in Crete is an opportunity to discover its specialties. Far from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, you will be charmed by its small traditional villages with their feet in the water. Follow the Crete guide to discover this exciting destination!

What to see, what to do Crete?

When to go Crete ?

The tourist season runs from April to the end of October due to the resumption of direct flights from Western Europe, which cease at the end of October. The majority of establishments for travellers therefore open during this period (sometimes only from May onwards). As the island has a highly developed tourist infrastructure, it is best to avoid the period of July and August, which is saturated with tourists from all over Europe and mainland Greece

The off-season. As Crete enjoys a very mild climate in spring and autumn, we can't recommend the relatively quiet and warmer months of May and October (or the relatively quiet and warmer months of June and September), which are quieter and cheaper for hotels

Low season: from November to April. It is also possible to leave in winter. This will allow you to discover a Crete with different colours, but it is better to plan ahead for some pied-à-terre, as most hotels outside the cities close during this season, except for a few seaside resorts. Please also be aware that it is not possible to visit the Samaria Gorge in winter

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Covid-19 : current situation Crete

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, entry and travel restrictions may apply Crete. Remember to visit the site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before you leave for the latest information
Practical information for travel Crete

If one week gives you time to discover most of eastern Crete (from Heraklion to the Lassithi plateau, passing through Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Kato Zakros and as far as Ierapetra), seven short days will be too short to explore the western part of the island, the prefectures of Hania and Rethymnon being home to a wide variety of wonders (mountain and sea) and sometimes difficult to access. A choice will therefore be necessary. If you also want to visit Heraklion and its surroundings upon arrival, you will first have to select a heading: the east or the west of the island. If you plan to spend 10 to 15 days in Crete, you will just have to make a mix of the different tours proposed, according to your preferences but be careful, even if the roads are well maintained, the mountainous geography of the island will force you to spend a lot of time on the road.

How to go Crete

How to go alone

Crete is easy to explore on your own. The infrastructure is modern and it is possible to book accommodation and transport in advance. Moreover, the security on site is exemplary and the Cretans are very welcoming. However, remember to book well in advance if you plan to travel in July-August.

How to go on a tour

Stays of ten days to three weeks are offered in Crete. They usually combine guided visits to historical sites with visits to beautiful beaches and remote villages. Stays with full board in hotels are also available, as well as combinations with visits to other Greek islands or the mainland.

How to get around

Ferry. To go to the small islands surrounding Crete and swim there, some fishermen or agencies will agree to take you there

Bus. This means of transport is particularly developed in Crete; whatever your destination, you will always have the possibility to get there by bus, even in the most remote areas

Car. Ideal solution for more freedom. Countless agencies offer similar and very affordable rates. If you are planning a family trip, this is the best solution.

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Discover Crete

Crete owes such advantages to its situation that the ancients said it was destined to command Greece. Cradle of the opulent Minoan civilization, but also cradle and adopted land of gods, heroes, artists, great writers, musicians and singers, land that has been able to resist any occupier, hospitable land, it persists in being generous to those who wish to discover it! Dive into its past, into the translucent waters of the seas that border it! Lose yourself in the labyrinths of its cities marked by a mixture of East and West, traditional and modern, and always on a human scale. Take the time to explore the caves, the mountains, the villages! And above all, get to know its inhabitants. They are the ones who hold the thread of Ariadne allowing you to discover the secrets of this island without getting lost: you will come back!

Pictures and images Crete

Kolpos Mirampellou. Author's Image
Vue sur le lagon de Gramvoussa. vitaliymateha
Site dorien de Lato. Author's Image
Plage de Preveli. PaulCowan - iStockphoto

The 12 keywords Crete

1. #Firearms

The Cretans, who throughout their history have had to face the island's occupants, are ready at any time to defend their land. Most of them therefore have firearms which, fortunately, are only used to fire shots in the air at weddings or other great occasions in their lives

2. #Cold coffee

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Young Cretans nowadays only consume cold coffees: soluble coffee called "frappé" or "freddo", the great cold classic (an iced espresso, also available in a cappuccino version). It's so much more pleasant to refresh yourself in the summer by sipping a cold coffee at any time of the day

3. #Cretan costume

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The traditional Cretan costume dates back to the 16th century. In the villages, thethird age male still wears some attributes of this costume in everyday life: the vraka, a kind of puffy trousers, the sariki, a scarf around the head, and the stivanias, large black boots. Women only wear the traditional dress on holidays

4. #Hippies

At the end of the 1960s, a community of beatniks seeking a life close to nature settled in the artificial caves of Matala. The small village thus became a meeting place for hippies until the end of the 1970s. In memory of this period, a popular music festival takes place in June.

5. #Byzantine icons

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In Greek, the term "Byzantine icon" refers to the representation of saints or biblical scenes on a wooden or precious metal support. The most beautiful ones still adorn Orthodox places of worship today, especially in Crete. The Agia Ekaterini Church in Heraklion, now a museum, offers a rare exhibition on this Byzantine art of the East

6. #Ipnakos

Naptime is widely followed in Crete. Shops are generally closed between 2 and 5 pm and it is good practice, especially in summer, to respect this practice. When the sun is in full swing and after your lunch, it is important to take a break before going back to your activities, and even before swimming

7. #Kafeneio

Almost a social institution, especially in small villages, the kafeneio is a hybrid between coffee and bar. It is the meeting point for the men, where they spend long hours discussing politics or football with passion, over a few glasses of raki. It is the place par excellence where backgammon, in Greek tavli, is played.

8. #Kri-kri

The wild and emblematic goat of Crete is called "kri-kri" in the local dialect. In fact, it is a species of ibex, descended from the goat and returned to the wild since the Neolithic period. Today endangered, it can be seen in the Samaria Gorge Natural Park watching over its natural area!

9. #Mills

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The climatic conditions allowed, in the past, the Cretans to use the mills to grind the grains or to raise the water table as on the plateau of Lassithi. Most of these buildings having disappeared, we find a large number of miniature mills in souvenir shops, very popular with children!

10. #Cretan music

Cretan music may have roots that are lost in tradition, but it is still particularly alive in the hearts and daily lives of the Cretans. It has peculiarities not found in traditional Greek music and owes its charm to the Cretan lyre and the lute, as well as to its rhythmic articulation

11. #Nature

The singular relief has limited the development of tourist infrastructures on a good part of the island: this is how the natural environment has been able to safeguard its wealth. Particularly attractive in spring, the nature of Crete knows how to satisfy the passion of the amateurs of excursion: explore spectacular landscapes little touched!

12. #Perfumes

Crete has its own perfumes! Thyme, oregano, wild fennel, sage, omnipresent on the mountains, basil and geraniums overflow from the gardens and diffuse their essences, blending with those of the spices. Towards the end of the summer, the most precious perfume bears only one brand signature, that of the olive tree!

You are from here, if...

You like to talk loud, on your mobile, in cafés, on buses, in the street, on the beach, taking everyone to witness your discussions!

You like to have your evenings around a table, preferably that of a good tavern, with friends!

You pay the bill for everyone or you let yourself be invited, it's very bad form to pay your share in the corner!

You love to remake the world by sipping your coffee, always the same cup, for hours!

You particularly value your independence. That's why you single-handedly occupy a table for four people!

You accept the traditional Cretan hospitality by going to a local's house and drinking a glass of raki!

You love to participate in a Cretan wedding or a patronal feast(panigyri).

You respect the local traditions without irony but with all the deference of a people proud of their customs!

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