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There’s plenty to love about Crete, Greece – these are a few of the things that endeared me to the island and made it my favorite place in Greece.
“Some folks call her a runaway. A failure in the race. But she knows where her ticket takes her. She will find her place in the sun.” // Tracy Chapman
I know I throw the word “love” around a lot on here, but I have to admit I fall in love with places easily. There’s something about the concept of the foreign that has always intrigued and excited me.
I’ve already been in Greece for 19 days, which baffles me. It feels like I just arrived the other day. Time has flown by already, and I know it will continue to do so for the rest of the summer.
And time is flying because I’m happy. Like, head-over-heels in love happy with where I’ve decided to base myself right now – I love Crete for a variety of reasons.
My time in Greece has only reminded me of my other European love affair I had with Italy six years ago. I still remember that first night in the main piazza in Florence, a memory that will be forever engrained in what it truly means to feel content with exactly where I am.
I know everything is still brand new again, but my return to Europe has only brought up that initial feeling I had when I landed on the continent at the age of 21 – that feeling, almost like I’ve come home.
I once said in my first blog from long ago that I was a California girl that was European at heart. I think that still rings true in many ways.
And it’s funny, Greece was never on my radar as somewhere I had to see. It’s a place that has been written about ad nauseum in the travel blogging world, and one that people rave about time and time again.
I remember last year begrudging the fact that bloggers and Instagrammers only wrote about Greece in the summer. Well, now I’m one of those bloggers and I can now see why it’s a country that is written about constantly.
What’s not to love in the Mediterranean sun?
To be fair, I’ve only seen Athens and now a very small piece of Crete, but when you know, you know, right? I’m glad that a cheap flight from Singapore finally urged me to experience the country for myself.
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These are 12 things about Crete, Greece that have already made me happy (and what you should keep in mind for your own Crete vacation), I’m sure this list will only get longer as the summer progresses.
It’s Sunny Every Freakin’ Day
I haven’t felt those continuous endless summer days since I left California all those many years ago.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, and for the most part it is sunny every freakin’ day here in the summer.
I adore the long summer days, where the sun doesn’t set until 8:30. And when the sun does set, it takes ages to get dark, sometimes not getting completely dark outside until an hour after the sun has set. The light seems to go on forever.
The Aquamarine Water Color
It’s not quite tropical blue, but not that deep blue you find on the West Coast of the US either. I don’t know how to describe it except that it’s purely Mediterranean, a color that is its own category.
It’s hard to resist wanting to dive in every time I see the ocean, the color is so damn beautiful.
I’m staying in an inexpensive dorm right near the ocean and just outside Heraklion city center, and my balcony is one of my favorite aspects of my stay here.
Every morning I go out to my balcony and eat breakfast, welcoming a new day with a stunning view looking out over the sea and the little town of Ammoudara. At night, if I get home in time, I watch the sunset out there with a glass of Cretan wine.
It feels like a true Crete vacation, even if I spend most of my days working full-time from my computer. It’s everything I would want to start and end my summer days.
The hospitality in Greece has been another level, a certain type of friendliness that I don’t think I’ve come across before.
The owners at the place I stayed at in Athens went over the top to make sure I was comfortable. One of them even offered me her phone number in case I got lost on my way to the train station and needed directions.
At my little accommodation in Crete, the manager, Fragiskos, is my favorite person to talk to when I leave and when I come home from the day. He even invited me to dinner last week and took me to a local taverna to show me some of his favorite Greek dishes.
And in case you didn’t know, Greek people are hilarious. They have a unique banter that leaves me in stitches. It’s not quite as dry as the British humor, it comes off as more lighthearted and fun, and it’s one of the many reasons why I enjoy having conversations with the locals here.
All of the Greek Specialties
I have to admit that I wasn’t that into Greek food before I came to Greece, similar to how I felt about Italian food before I went to Italy.
This may be due to the fact that we have very few Greek restaurants where I grew up in California, and at the ones that I have been to, the ingredients were nothing like what I’ve found in the Mediterranean.
The freshness of the food is impressive. I just finished reading a book about Crete where it said you could taste the sunshine in the homegrown tomatoes, and I think that is a perfect way to describe the food here.
From souvlaki to moussaka, to fried zucchini flowers, gyros, meatballs in tomato sauce, and perfectly flaky pies and pastries, I don’t think I’ve tried a dish yet that I didn’t like.
And Crete actually has it’s own regional specialties that are separate from Greece as a whole. The Cretan diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world.
Strangely enough, one of my favorite ingredients in Greece is the mushrooms, for some reason they’re ridiculously good here.
And the drinks are just as tasty – freddo espresso, Cretan wine, and okay, I’m still acquiring a taste for the raki that burns all the way down your throat, but I’ll never turn it down when a local offers it to me.
If you’re wondering what to do in Crete, Greece, eating (and drinking) a whole lot of local specialities should be on your list!
The People are Really Pretty
Olive skin and green eyes – need I say more?
Seriously though, Greek people are beautiful. Combine that with their welcoming hospitality, banter, and general good heartedness, and there’s not many bad things I can say about the Greeks.
The Wild Wind
I didn’t realize this before I came to this island, but Crete can be very windy. I usually despise the wind, but for some reason I’ve really enjoyed the strong wind that comes through the northern part of the island.
Maybe it’s because the heat can be searing in the summer, but the wind is a refreshing break from the hot afternoons. It invigorates me, makes me feel the salt on my skin and hair, and reminds me to take a deep breath and just enjoy life.
The Ancient History
As you can probably imagine, there is a lot of ancient history to discover around Greece. In Athens there’s the Acropolis, and Crete has its fair share of cool historical sites as well.
What to see in Crete in terms of history? Well, for starters, there’s the Minoan Palace of Knossos, an archaeological site that is thought to be Europe’s oldest city.
There is so much history to discover, and, as a history buff, it’s the best kind of overwhelming with the amount of choices at my disposal.
And if we’re talking about mythology, Crete is the place where Zeus was meant to be born. You can even go visit the Cave of Zeus here, which is a group of caves located on the slopes of Mount Ida.
Cheese is a Dish!
Let me repeat that, cheese is a dish on its own here!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a cheese fiend. After being without real cheese for the better part of a year in Asia, I am in all kinds of bliss since I arrived in Greece.
Generally, in other countries, you can order a cheese and meat platter or cheese with bread and/or crackers. In Greece, they have purely cheese dishes, nothing else is needed to enjoy the scrumptious taste of melt-in-your-mouth cheesy goodness.
You can order a plate of fresh feta for at little as €2, and it’s socially acceptable to sit there and devour a whole plate of cheese with nothing else except some olive oil and a few herbs.
They also have saganaki here, which is a fried cheese dish. FRIED CHEESE, people. Okay, I’ve officially died and gone to heaven.
No One is in a Rush
With the exception of when Cretans get behind the wheel of a car, no one is in a rush here.
You want the check? You may have to wait another hour before they bring it out to you, but in the meantime they’ll bring you a bottle of raki that you can yamas to, and maybe their dessert of the day.
The pace of life is slower here, people take their time, there’s never a rush. And if you are in a rush, you immediately stand out, so why not just enjoy the moment and not worry too much about where you need to be.
Greek time is another dimension altogether, it will ruin you from ever being on time for anything again.
Crete is huge. It’s an island of craggy mountains, sandy beaches, aquamarine water, deep valleys, steep cliffs, and deep greens and blues that contrast the whitewashed buildings.
Oh, and don’t forget about those world-famous Crete beaches like Elafonissi Beach and Seitan Limania.
The island already seems to have a little bit of everything in its landscape, and I haven’t even touched the surface with what there is to see here.
It’s Really Not that Expensive
When I was researching where I wanted to base myself for the next couple of months, I was originally looking at Croatia. I heard that Croatia was a lovely budget-friendly destination in the summer.
Well, this may have been the case five years ago, but with its steep increase in tourism, prices have skyrocketed as well in the country. Accommodation, especially, was astounding when I looked at a few of the islands in Croatia.
In comparison, Greece has a much wider range of prices for accommodation – from high end Crete resorts to budget backpacker hostels. My current accommodation is costing me just under €100/week for a shared room.
The food is not very expensive either. I can generally always find a decent meal for under €10, usually sticking to around €5 for breakfast or lunch. The coffee is only €2-3, beer is around €3, and the wine is dirt cheap and very good.
It’s more expensive than Asia to be sure, but not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s the perfect spot for my current budget, where I can still enjoy myself, save money, and not be strapped for cash while I’m doing it.
I’m finishing up this post at a beach bar with a Mythos in hand and the wind at my face, watching the ocean change from blue to grey with the passing clouds, trying to tone down that smile that is always threatening to break out across my face since I arrived.
As I said above, I’m sure I will only find more things to enjoy about my time in Crete. It’s a special place that I immediately connected to as soon as I got off that overnight ferry from Athens, bleary eyed and tired but ready for a new adventure.
We’ll see where my Europe travels take me from here, but for now I’m very content to be exactly where I am.
Have you been to Crete or anywhere else in Greece? What was your experience in the country?
Additional Info About Crete, Greece
How to get to Crete, Greece
You can get to Crete, Greece a number of ways, the most popular is via plane from Athens International Airport to one of the Crete airports – either Chania or Heraklion airport.
The second popular, but much slower way, to get to the island is via ferry from Piraeus port in Athens.
The ferry from Athens to Heraklion (or Chania) takes anywhere from 6.5 to 9 hours depending on if you book the fast or slow ferry. It’s a bit more of a time investment, but it’s usually quite a bit cheaper than flying (especially if you’re in Greece during the high season).
How big is Crete, Greece?
Did you know that Crete is actually the largest island in Greece? Pretty cool right!? It’s also one of the most southernmost islands in the country (after Gavdos).
Crete’s size amounts to 3,219 square miles, and with all that space comes a varied terrain that is all sorts of beautiful in different ways – from fine-sand beaches to mountains like the famous Mt. Ida (where Zeus is said to have been born).
I lived just outside of Heraklion for 6 weeks and I never got bored because there is SO much to do on the island.
As of 2017, the population in Crete was around 633,000 – big enough to have a lot going on but small enough to still enjoy its Greek island vibes.
Best Time to Visit Crete
The best time to visit Crete depends on a few factors.
Obviously, the high season during the summer is when there’s going to be the best weather for those beautiful Crete beaches, the most ferries/flights running to and from the island, and, in general, more events and festivals going on.
This is when I was on the island and I had a blast. Because of its large size, and its relatively underrated status, I never felt too overwhelmed by tourists.
The second best time to visit would be in the shoulder season leading up to the high season, in the spring. Although the fall can be lovely too, the weather can turn fairly quickly in the winter months, with strong cold winds that come through the island (even more so than during the rest of the year).
PRACTICAL INFO FOR CRETE
Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).
Buy your Crete Travel Guide here.
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