Disclaimer: All photos included in this article were taken by me on my iPhone 8 plus in the summer of 2018.

For a girl who has fallen in love with traveling, and whose family is from mainland Greece, it’s very daring for me to say I’ve fallen in love with the island of Crete.

I can’t seem to pinpoint why I’ve fallen for Crete. Maybe because it’s surrounded by the sea, and breathtaking beaches like I’ve never seen before. Maybe because every morning I woke up to the sweet smell of pastries and a Greek frappe. Or possibly because of the narrow cobblestone streets, the old towns, and the friendly people around.

Hopefully, through this you will see why I fell in love.

Warning: this article contains breathtaking photos that may lead to gasping, heart racing, and the urge to book a vacation.

TRAVEL GUIDE: A BIT ABOUT CRETE

Crete is Greece’s largest island. It is located in the most southern part of the Aegean Sea, separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea. Although it is the largest island, the width of the island is 260km and the length (from the widest point) is only 60km. So to drive from one side of the island to the other it would only take a few hours! The physical geography of Crete varies heavily. From mountains, gorges, rivers, beaches, and so much more. There is truly something for everyone there. And if you are in a large family like my own, with many different interests, this is great.

Fun fact: Crete was once the center of the Minoan civilization, which is the earliest known civilization in all of Europe! You can actually visit the ruins of the palace of Knossos in Crete’s capital, Heraklion.

WHERE TO STAY

Located on the West side of the island is the city of Chania. A beautiful city with a little bit of everything. It is less touristy than the capital of Crete (Heraklion)! After searching for the most inexpensive way to stay in Crete, what my family and I did was book and Airbnb – and to our surprise, it was 1) easy to find, 2) easy to book, 3) reasonably priced, 4) the owner was so friendly and EXTREMELY helpful. He went out of his way to give us suggestions on where to go, what to eat and things to do near us.

WHAT TO DO

What is so fantastic about Crete is there is something for everyone to do. From its unreal beaches (which you will see below) to the longest gorge in Europe, to Monasteries, old cities, and so many tavernas! Here are a few of my favourites from my trip!

Old Venetian Port, Chania 

For the chill, live like a local traveler, the Old Venetian Port is a fantastic place to eat some delicious, traditional Greek food, listen and watch street performers, shop and enjoy a coffee at one of the many cafes!

Samaria Gorge 

For the outdoorsy, active type, you can hike the longest gorge in ALL of Europe! Stunning views…you can also fill up your water throughout the hike in the freshwater stream that runs through the gorge!

Arkadi Monastery

And for the history buff, you can visit various landmarks and historical sites on Crete, such as the Arkadi Monastery. These beautiful grounds are filled with Cretan history.

BEST BEACHES

Iguana Beach, Chania 

This was the first beach we visited and revisited various times throughout our stay. What was cool about it was just off to the side of the main beach area (which had umbrellas and chairs to rent and a beach café – a must for frapes by the ocean) were caves that you could go into!

Balos Beach, Chania

This is one of the most well-known beaches in Crete, and no wonder! This view is surreal, and the water – oh so crystal clear. It is a little bit of a hike to get to (there is also a ferry option) or you can ride a donkey up or down to the beach (when in Greece right?).

Elafonissi Beach, Chania

Another very popular beach is this pink sand beach! You heard me right. PINK SAND. What gives it this exquisite color? Well, it is from these tiny oysters called Foraminifera, which are red shells that are crushed in the sand, and when the light reflects off the sand it gives it that beautiful pink color.

Seitan Limania, Chania

This beach is one of a kind. You have to drive down the side of a mountain (filled with mountain goats might I add) and then hike down the mountain to get to this tiny, but oh so stunning beach. I have never seen water with such a vibrant blue color in my entire 19 years of living and I don’t think I ever will again. This is a must see.

I’ve given you enough information to fall in love with Crete too! Hopefully, your heart has stopped racing, and you can close your mouth from all the gasping at the unreal views. What do you think? Do you think you should go visit and fall in love as I did?

Denise Nicolaou is a guest contributor to MUSE online.
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