In September, we are heading out on the road for an extended 10 week road trip, spending as much time as possible immersing ourselves in Europe before we depart for, well, we don’t know where yet.
Julie has outlined a rough itinerary for our trip, focusing mainly on the Balkans, a region of Europe that we have barely dipped our toes in. Looking over the her itinerary (which we casually discussed before I realized she put pen to paper), I saw there was one glaring omission: Crete.
While there are many islands to choose from, here are 3 reasons why I want to spend some time on Crete, one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean.
Crete has a fascinating history, dating back to the Minoan civilization that flourished here from 3650 to 1400 BCE. The expansive empire left behind many temples and complexes that are still in existence on the island today, with the palace of Knossos being the most well known attraction. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum houses many artifacts from the Minoan time period, too.
There is also more recent history, like the Sacred Monastery of Arkadi, reached via a precarious road across the mountains, or the remnants of the last leper colony to be constructed in Europe on the island of Spinalonga, a rambling complex completely isolated from the mainland.
2. The Beaches
While history is a big draw for Crete, most visitors come for the pristine beaches and 650 miles of coastline. Yes, you read that right. There are popular beach areas like Matala, with its funky hippie community. For me though, Elafonissi Beach and Balos Beach and Lagoon look stunning, where the journey is almost as beautiful as the destination! From the pink-tinged sand of Elafonissi to the the coral blue water of Balos Beach, what’s not to love?
3. The Hiking
While I love a day or two of beach relaxation, the mountainous interior of Crete affords ample opportunities to see the island on foot. The 10-mile hike through Crete’s Samaria Gorge would certainly be a highlight. Plus it’s all downhill! You take a bus up to the top of the trail, then begin the 10-mile, downhill trek as you navigate among expansive cliffs, along farms and through small villages, before ending on the sea. Is there a better way to spend a day?
Crete is one of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean, and for good reason. There is a lot of offer all visitors, from people looking to relax on a beachside resort, to the more adventurous travelers interested in hiking and exploring the interior. The summer brings large crowds, especially during peak times, but by simply touring the island during the shoulder season, like September (when we’ll be on the road), you can avoid some of the crowds and save a little money along the way.
Crete. I will see you soon.
Have you been to Crete? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!