Crete is the largest island in Greece and is an exceptionally beautiful region that combines rare natural beauty, Mediterranean culture, and a rich history. Due to its significant geographical location, it has served as a crossroads for various peoples and cultures, as well as a target for conquerors.
History of Crete
- Minoan Period: The Minoan period spans from 2600 BCE to 1100 BCE and can be divided into three periods: the Early Minoan period from 2600 BCE to 2000 BCE, the Middle Minoan period from 2000 BCE to 1580 BCE, and the Late Minoan period from 1580 BCE to 1100 BCE. The name of the first European civilization originates from King Minos, the mythical ruler of Crete.
- Byzantine Era (330-1204 / 10th century CE): Crete was an autonomous province of the Byzantine Empire, with Gortyn as its administrative and religious center. During this period, piracy diminished, and trade flourished, allowing for the reconstruction of temples. Christianity arrived early with the visit of Apostle Paul in 63 CE. His disciple Titus managed to spread it throughout the island.
- Venetian Rule (1204-1669 CE): When the Crusaders conquered Constantinople in 1204, Crete was sold to the Venetians. The Genoese attempted to maintain control, but Venice ultimately prevailed. Many new buildings were constructed in Heraklion during this period, including the Palace of the Dukes, the Basilica of Saint Mark, and the Loggia. After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, many Greek nobles came to Crete. The Monastery of Saint Catherine became a center for culture, theology, philosophy, music, and literature.
- Ottoman Rule (1669-1898): The Turkish rule of the island was perhaps the worst period of its existence. Approximately 60,000 men captured Chania in 1645, Rethymno in 1646, and the entire island except for Heraklion by the end of 1648. On September 27, 1669, the city finally fell to the Turks after a siege that cost 117,000 Turkish lives and 30,000 Cretans and Venetians. In 1897, Greek forces and volunteers reached Crete and began liberating the island with the intention of unifying it with the rest of Greece.
- Autonomous Crete - Modern Period: The battles ceased in 1898 after the massacre that occurred in Heraklion. The Great Powers - Britain, France, and Russia - recognized the autonomous "Cretan State" under the rule of Prince George, with eventual union with Greece. The Cretan Revolution in Theriso in 1913 led to the unification of Crete with Greece.
- 1941-1945 CE: The Cretans are renowned for their resistance against the Germans during World War II. In May 1941, thousands of German paratroopers landed on the island and encountered fierce resistance.
Beaches in Crete
- Frangokastello: It is a beautiful destination in Crete, located in the municipality of Sfakia in the southwest of the island. This beach is unique, with the castle serving as a stunning backdrop. The waters are very shallow, making it ideal for families and children.
- Glyka Nera: Located in Sfakia, you can access it either by boat from Loutro or via the European E4 hiking trail. The landscape during the descent is impressive, with steep cliffs rising above the shore. The waters are crystal clear, and the tavern perched on a rock in the sea is remarkable.
- Dymata Beach: Located 7 kilometers east of Sougia, it is an isolated beach with a dramatic landscape and unique cliffs formed by the sea's waves. In Cedar Forest, in the southwest beaches of Crete, you will find a beach with a tropical character, featuring cedar trees and sand reminiscent of tropical shores.
- Elafonisi: The beach is next to Cedar Forest and boasts turquoise waters, pink sand, and a stunning landscape. This beach has gained great popularity and is considered a terrestrial paradise.
Other beautiful beaches in Crete include Balos with its Gramvousa Castle, Falassarna with its white and red sands, Agia Anna Beach in Gavdos with its turquoise waters and unique African character, Ammoudi Beach in Agios Pavlos with its impressive sand dunes, and Souda Beach in Plakias with the refreshing breeze often blowing on the shore. Lastly, the Triopetra Beach in Asterousia stands out with its crystal-clear waters and fine pebbles.
Sights in Crete
Below, we present a list of the most interesting places you can visit in Crete:
- Venetian Walls of Heraklion: The ancient walls surrounding the old harbor of Heraklion offer amazing views and are home to the unique Lion of Saint Mark.
- Old Town of Chania: The picturesque streets and old Turkish and Venetian houses in Chania create a magical atmosphere.
- Minoan Ruins in Malia: Discover the ancient ruins and the wealth of Minoan history in Malia.
- Samaria Gorge: Hike through the legendary Samaria Gorge and enjoy the stunning nature.
- Loutro: Visit a seaside village that maintains a traditional atmosphere.
- Arkadi Monastery: Explore the Arkadi Monastery and uncover the history of Crete.
- Panagia Kera: A small Byzantine church with impressive frescoes and stunning views of Mirabello Bay.
- Spinalonga: Visit the uninhabited island of Spinalonga with its unique beauty.
- Matala: Enjoy the famous Matala beach with its crystal-clear waters and traditional taverns.
- Knossos: Explore the impressive ancient palace of Knossos and the mysterious Minoan history.
These places are just a small taste of the richness of Cretan nature and history that you can discover on this beautiful island.
How to travel to / from Crete?
You can easily and quickly reach Crete by ferry, as there are many ferry companies connecting the island to mainland Greece, the Dodecanese Islands, and the Cyclades. Ferries depart from the port of Piraeus to three northern ports of Crete throughout the year. The most common and frequent route is to the port of Heraklion on the northern side of the island. Ferries also operate routes to Crete from six islands in the Cyclades. Additionally, there are weekly routes from the Dodecanese Islands to Crete's ports.
You can make reservations for ferry trips from Piraeus to various destinations in Crete through the following ferry connections:
- Ferry Routes & Ticket Booking Piraeus - Heraklion, Crete: Heraklion is the largest city and the capital of Crete. The duration of the journey is approximately 9.5 hours. The ferries depart from gates E2 or E3 of the Piraeus port. Ferry connections to Crete are usually provided by ferry companies such as Blue Star Ferries, Minoan Lines, ANEK Superfast, Seajets, and Fast Ferries. The cost of regular tickets ranges from €36 to €45.5.
- Ferry Routes & Ticket Booking Piraeus - Sitia, Crete: The port of Sitia has ferry connections not only to Piraeus but also to various islands, including Karpathos, Kasos, Heraklion, Milos, Santorini, Rhodes, and Halki.
- Ferry Routes & Ticket Booking Piraeus - Kissamos, Crete: Kissamos is a seaside town located 36 kilometers east of Chania. It serves as a good base for day trips to Balos by boat.
- Ferry Routes & Ticket Booking Piraeus - Rethymno, Crete: The port of Rethymno is located on the northern coast of Crete and has ferry connections to Piraeus, Santorini, Antikythira, Kythira, and other islands. In Rethymno, you will discover interesting sights, Venetian walls, and traditional taverns.
How to book ferry tickets to Crete?
You can find information about all ferry routes and ticket prices for all Crete ports on booktickets. Additionally, details regarding ferry departure schedules and travel durations are provided so that you can plan your trip in advance. Moreover, you can book discounted ferry tickets for passengers and vehicles!