Crete East - Heraklion

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The largest and most southerly of all the Greek islands, wonderful and welcoming Crete has something for everyone.

Description

Crete is the largest island in Greece and is set apart from the other Greek Islands. It’s situated in the southern part of the Aegean Sea.

The landscape is a magical mix of sandy beaches and rugged mountains, lively cities, traditional villages and lush green valleys. The scent of orange and lemon groves fill the air! It has a distinct spirit and the people celebrate their rich culture and history with both music and poetry.

Olympic offers a vast choice of package holidays in Crete, from villas to hotels plus all-inclusive options to cater for both families and couples. For 2016, more luxury resorts and villas with pools are featured so isn’t it time to book that sunshine holiday?

Heraklion, the capital, is centred along the Venetian-influenced waterfront and it’s the perfect place to roam and soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere. There are cafes, bars and plenty of nightlife for relaxing – or partying - under the stars.

Explore the island and take a leisurely lunch or dinner at a taverna and get to chatting with the locals. These friendly characters love to talk and share their traditions; every village produces its own specialty dishes so choose from mouth-watering cheeses to mountain honey washed down by home-made wine for an intimate and unique dinner to remember.

In Crete you don’t have to travel very far to enjoy the coastline - from wild beaches with rolling surf to secret coves for sunbathing and romance, feel the wind in your hair and leave your footprints in the sand of this unique, captivating island.

Beaches

Enjoying the longest summers in Greece, Crete is famous for its fabulous beaches. Whatever your tastes the island has the perfect stretch of sand for you.

Amoudara - With 3 miles of golden sands the fine sandy beach at Amoudara is widely regarded as one of the best on the island.

Ierapetra - 36 miles south of Aghios Nikolaos, Ierapetra has the longest beach on Crete.

Malia - The fantastic beach at Malia is regarded by many to be one of the best on the island with deep-piled sand stretching for miles and no shortage of water sports available.

Vai Beach - With a gently curving golden sand beach, Vai Beach is famous for its natural palm forest, the largest in Europe which forms the backdrop.

StalisStalis boasts a vast expanse of beautiful sand beach. It is a short taxi ride from Hersonissos and has lots of amenities close at hand.

Preveli Beach - Located in Rethymnon, Preveli Beach is one of the most attractive on the island. It boasts crystal clear waters and many palm trees. 

Kolokytha Beach - On the Kolokytha Peninsula, the beach can be reached by crossing the narrow isthmus occupied by windmills and heading for the small church of Agios Loukas. Here a small path will take you down to this uncrowded little beach. 

Driros Beach - A lovely spot backed by pine trees and views of Spinalonga island situated a few kms north of Elounda. Here you will find sun loungers and a cafe with tables and chairs on a wooden jetty. Watersports are also available here.

Plaka - A little further on past Driros beach are two picturesque pebbly beaches with crystal clear waters. The beach of Agia Marina, named after the nearby Byzantine church, in front of a large hotel, has big pebbles and deep waters. Access is via a small path alongside the church cemetery.

Geropotamos - Head out about 18 kms towards Heraklion to find this uncrowded sand and pebble beach. The sea is clean but deep with no lifeguard and so extra care should be taken with children. It can get windy in summer.

Platanias - This well-organised, long beach with lovely soft sand is 4 kms east of Rethymnon, and is very popular during the summer months.

Highlights

  • Beautiful golden beaches
  • Breathtaking scenery
  • A wealth of culture and history
  • Lively nightlife

Shopping

Popular purchases for those taking Crete holidays include:-

  • Tsikoudia or Raki local high street spirit
  • Traditional woven fabrics, Cretan Rugs and Blankets
  • Locally produced Olive Oil
  • Ceramics
  • Silverware

Things To Do

Popular activities during Crete holidays include:-

  • Jet skiing
  • Scuba diving
  • Windsurfing
  • Rock climbing
  • Paragliding
  • Walking and hiking
  • Cycling

Fun Excursions while on Crete Holidays

Spinalonga: This one is for the sailors and sun lovers amongst you. Interested? The come along with us to the haunting island of Spinalonga, an old Leper Colony!

Chrissi Island: An exceptional day to a tropical paradise set in the crystal clear waters of the Libyan sea. Sunbathe on the wondrous beaches of unusual coloured sand.

Unknown Crete: Travel through unspoilt villages where donkeys still travel the roads. Visit a local winery and see how wine is made with the chance to sample and buy.

Cretan Night: If you love food, drink and dancing, then you will love this night out. As you enter the venue, the Cretan lifestyle takes over as the evening is given to plenty of eating, drinking and merry making as only the Greeks know how.

Knossos: If you visit Crete and do not see the ancient palace of Knossos is compares to visiting Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. This is where European civilisation began with the dazzling Minoan people.

Jeep Safari: Travel off the beaten track through traditional mountain villages - a real chance to see a taste of real Greece.

Beach Party: Join your Olympic Reps on your very own sandy beach for an afternoon of partying in the sun! An hour and half free bar will get you in the mood to join in some wild and wicket games.

Things To See

Cretaquarium: Situated at Gournes, 15 km east of Heraklion is this huge indoor aquarium installed at a former US Air Force base. The artificial underwater world is home to over 2500 Mediterranean and tropical sea creatures with interactive educational multi-media activities. Buses run every 30 minutes from Heraklion to within ten-minutes walk of the aquarium.

Dikteon Cave: According to legend, the infant Zeus was born in this cave, and hidden here to avoid him being eaten by his father Cronos. It has an upper and lower section and a huge stalagmite known as the Mantle of Zeus. It can be reached by a steep walk from the village of Psychro, with some lovely views of the verdant plateau of Lasithi, or you can pay to go up on a mule.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum: The museum is renowned for its huge collection of Minoan treasures and artefacts and is the place to visit to become immersed in the ancient civilization which began on Crete and, for centuries, dominated the Aegean islands.

Heraklion Wine Country: A treat for wine-lovers, tour one of the dozen or so vineyards among the beautiful rolling hills and valleys south of Knossos. Around 70% of Crete's wine is produced here. Find out about its production in the wine museums, and enjoy a tasting or two. A map entitled The Wine Roads of Heraklion is available at the tourist office as well as from the estates themselves.

Knossos Palace: In a beautiful setting just 5 km southeast of Heraklion, this palace is the most magnificent and evocative of Crete's Minoan sites. A tour can be combined with the Heraklion Museum to give an excellent insight into the history of the island and the Minoan civilization.

Nikos Kazantzakis Museum, Myrtia: Dedicated to the author of Zorba the Greek, here you can listen to a short documentary about Kazantzakis before scrutinizing film posters, letters, photographs and other personal effects of Crete's most famous writer. Afterwards, enjoy a coffee in one of the many kafeneion surrounding Myrtia's town square.

Spinalonga Island: Made famous as the setting for the film Who Pays the Ferryman?, Spinalonga island attracts thousands of visitors every year to see the ruins of the Venetian Fortress and its leper colony. Hop on a boat to the island and take your time exploring or find a quiet, sunny spot for restful day away in the sun, tucking into the authentic Greek barbecue and taking a quick dip before heading back.

Zakros and the Valley of the Dead: Situated at the eastern end of Crete, the village of Zakros is the starting point for a trail through Zakros Gorge, otherwise known as Valley for the Dead, due to the abundance of caves which are ancient burial sites. Follow it down to Kato Zakros, on the coast, for some spectacular scenery culminating in the partly submerged ruins of the Minoan Zakros Palace and a pebble beach where tavernas provide refreshments.

Transport

Bus: Public buses remain a solid possibility for seeing much of Crete. They're inexpensive, relatively frequent, and connect to all but the most isolated villages. The downside is that the schedules are not always the most convenient for travellers with limited time. Certainly you can take them between all major resorts and towns.

Taxi: Getting around by Taxi during Crete holidays is cheap and convenient, be sure to set the price beforehand or ensure the meter us running.

Car: An excellent way of getting around during Crete holidays, car hire gives you complete flexibility as well as the ability to see more of the island.

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