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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Crete

AVERAGE CUSTOMER SAVING£380

Crete Holidays 2016/2017

One of the most popular Greek islands to visit on holiday, Crete has earned its reputation as a beach paradise with gorgeous shores, mountain landscapes and wild nightlife. If that's not enough, the food is phenomenal and there's temple-loads of history here too - after all, this is the fabled birthplace of Zeus.

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A versatile island

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands at 160 miles wide. It's also the most southerly, found on the cusp of the North African and Mediterranean climate zones, which means that here, summer is almost always in full swing.

Carved with mountain ranges and lined with miles of beaches, Crete is an incredibly versatile island. Many of the resorts are gathered along the coast but you'll also find noteworthy spots tucked inland amid groves of olive trees.

Party-goers head to the neon-lit dancefloors of Malia while adventurers scale gorges in the White Mountains. History buffs marvel at the sites from ancient mythology and sunbathers are quite content lounging along the coast to the faint tune of wine glasses clinking from nearby tavernas.

Crete is well-equipped for holidays of any speed and price range – there are All Inclusive hotels, private villas and family-run apartments in virtually every resort. Each town highlights a different facet of the peaceful Cretan lifestyle, so it's easy to find one that appeals to your holiday vibes.

Where to stay in Crete

Aghios Nikolaos
Aghios NikolaosView on Map

Aghios Nikolaos is a surprisingly cosmopolitan resort that displays beautiful waterside surroundings by the ocean and the lake.

Lake Voulismeni is a perfectly round body of water that is worthy of the Greek mythology associated with it. It shines under the sun in the day and reflects the array of terrific nightspots placed right by it at night.

Across the coastline of Aghios Nikolaos is a great collection of small beaches and coves which provide a wonderful choice for tourists when it comes to where they should sunbathe. There is also the presence of historical attractions to visit and appreciate.

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Elounda
EloundaView on Map

Elounda is a former fishing village that now acts as the base for an educational holiday spent underneath a terrific climate.

Right by the town there are two areas that were crucial parts of Crete's history. The sunken city of Olous now lies off the coast and is still visible to snorkelers and scuba divers. The island of Spinalonga is a fascinating site that was used as a leper colony until 1957. An ancient fortress still stands here too from centuries ago.

With beaches, a harbour and a laidback nightlife, a holiday to Elounda is the stress relieving getaway you've been craving.

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Hersonissos
HersonissosView on Map

With two waterparks, a great activity park, an aquarium and a massive selection of water sports, Hersonissos is one of Crete's most exciting resorts.

All of this is supported by a great collection of beaches and a promenade lined with shops, bars and restaurants. It's a well serviced coastline where you can spend all day and night. The evenings can get very excitable with a good choice of bars, lounges and nightclubs. Some of the best venues are also found by the beach so a party down here offers a true holiday night out.

This is a vibrant resort with something for everyone.

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Lyttos Beach
Lyttos BeachView on Map

This coastal hotel resort is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet getaway in the Mediterranean sunshine. The Sensatori Resort Crete is your accommodation based right by this location's wonderfully scenic beach.

The hotel complex offers a great array of activities, facilities and restaurants as well as a summer programme filled with nightly entertainment.

Lyttos Beach is not far from Hersonissos so it is easy to pop over to this resort and enjoy all of the benefits that this resort offers too.

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Malia
MaliaView on Map

The party capital of Crete is a fantastic destination for party animals who want to stay up, drink and dance all night long. The main strip is a lively hub of activity and excitement at all hours of the day and it leads out towards one of six terrific beaches.

There are a total of 5km of sand to lay down on in Malia with the majority of the space well served by nearby beach bars and restaurants.

Behind the mayhem there is a much softer side to Malia that is almost forgotten about. The old town is where locals live and serve the traditional Greek cuisine you'd expect from a traditional Mediterranean resort.

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Quick Tips

  • Greek Orthodox
  • Euro
  • Greek
  • Approx 600,000
  • GMT +2

Beach vistas

Do a panoramic sweep of your surroundings in Crete, and, more often than not, you'll find am arcing coast on one side and a green, hilly landscape on the other. The beaches are the main hubs of activity for most resorts, as they're usually treated to beach bars and tavernas, rows of sunbeds and umbrellas and water sports whirring out on the waves. And with warm temperatures throughout the year, there's never a bad time to enjoy the great outdoors in Crete.

Many of the resorts offer diving centres for budding snorkellers, as well as windsurfing and paragliding equipment, banana boats and pedalos available to rent onshore. Resorts like Hersonissos and Chania even have their own water parks.

The mountain ranges towering across Crete are havens for outdoorsy types. They're often reachable via short car trips into the hills, as well as off-roading excursions. Carved with gorges and walking trails, the mountains are a top spot for hikes whose incredible views stretch for miles.

Sites of mythical proportions

Having been around for a few thousand years, Crete has racked up a serious amount of history. It's also the backdrop of many Greek myths, as it's rumoured to be the birthplace of Zeus. Over the years, Crete has swapped ruling hands a number of times, which means its architecture is a comprehensive timeline of the island's evolution.

Crete was once the centre of the ancient Minoan civilisation, thought to be brought down by a volcanic eruption. Nowadays, the Minoan buildings are in ruins, but you can still wander through the crumbling streets in archaeological sites like the Palace of Knossos, where the Minotaur was said to have lived, or the palace in Malia.

The Ottoman and Venetian empires left their marks on Crete in the form of towering mosques, Venetian harbours and lighthouses. Bigger resorts like Rethymnon and Chania are famed for their vibrant harbours, as well as centuries-old fortresses keeping a close watch on the towns from above.

Cretan cuisine

The island is treated to the same Mediterranean flavours as traditional Greek cuisine, but with its own Cretan twist. Crete is known for its use of fresh vegetables, seafood and slow-cooked meats that make for memorable meals. To top it off, you'll almost always see complimentary dessert and a shot glass of raki – the local liquor – materialise at your table once you've finished your mains.

If you're along the coast, you're pretty much guaranteed to find a range of restaurants gathered by the waterfront, though more traditional, family-run spots are usually tucked up into town or the hillsides. You'll primarily find Greek eats in most resorts, though larger towns see hundreds and hundreds of dining options, including international bites.

Wild Malia nights

For the most part, Cretan holidays take things slow by the beach with quiet cocktails at local bars, or Greek nights featuring plate smashing and live music are a staple at traditional tavernas. But with every rule, there are a few exceptions – in this case, they're party spots known as Malia and Hersonissos.

Known for its thriving nightlife scene, Malia attracts young party types. Beach Road is the resort's centre of attention, lined with clubs, bars and pubs, not to mention takeaway spots for cheeky, late-night eats.

The town's main strip is the scene of all-night dance binges and cocktails underneath neon lights – you'll even find a club that's open 24 hours. Hersonissos offers much of the same, plus the Star Beach Club, a boisterous coastal spot that throws some pretty wild beach parties.

Market stalls and high end shopping

Retail opportunities come in all shapes and sizes in Crete. The smaller resorts have quirky souvenir shops and supermarkets while the larger ones often feature high end brands and local markets. Crete is known for its homemade olive oil and honey, both of which can be picked up from shops across the island.

Hersonissos is the island's high-end hotspot, with a number of well-known brands gathering along the waterfront. Chania, on the other hand, is home to the Mercato Agora di Chania, a massive market whose stalls sell everything from jewellery and souvenirs to fresh produce.