Greece is famous for its thousands of beautiful, diverse islands but there is no island more famous than Crete. The largest of all the Greek isles, Crete lies in one of the sunniest spots in the Mediterranean, so if you are looking for a holiday that combines great weather, spectacular scenery, fabulous food and plenty of culture then Crete is just the ticket. With a history stretching back to the Bronze Age, Crete provides a beach holiday with a difference, and the best way to see it is from the water, in a boat!
Sailing around Crete allows you to see the island from a whole new perspective. We have compiled a list of some of the ‘must-see’ attractions on this incredible island, as well as a selection of some of the most mouth-watering delicacies you just have to try during your trip. So follow our advice to make sure that your sailing visit to Crete is one that will stay with you for the rest of your life!
As sailing destinations go, Crete is second to none. With a multitude of lovely bays and picturesque coves, all boasting sparkling blue water and unspoiled beauty, you’ll be spoilt for choice for where to set sail each day! In terms of sailing conditions, Crete has good weather, with the stronger winds only prevalent on the southern side; if you are sailing along the south you should stay close to the harbours.
Crete’s most famous attraction cannot be overlooked during a visit to this island, no matter how many tourists you might have to fight your way through! The Bronze Age palace at Knossos, the home of the legendary King Minos, will take your breath away with its ancient beauty as you wander around these remarkable, semi-restored ruins. Exploring can be hungry business, so after head into the nearby capital city of Heraklion to try a tasty horiatiki; you haven’t had a Greek salad until you’ve had one in Greece!
Also well worth a visit is Rethymnon, a bustling harbour town where the Venetian and Turkish influences are immediately apparent. The spirit of ancient, mythical Crete is very palpable here, and Rethymnon also offers you the chance to visit legendary caves, ancient monuments, the celebrated stone lighthouse, the beautiful Agios Pavlos and Triopetra beaches, and the famous Venetian fortress which will provide you with magnificent views of the surrounding area and the traditional mountain villages.
Rethymnon also boasts some of the best food in all of Crete – the only difficulty will be deciding which of the many authentic Cretan tavernas to dine in. Enjoying a delicious plate of dolmades, (vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs) as you admire the sensational sea views while listening to Cretan lyre songs and sipping a glass of the tasty local drinks, raki or tsikoudia, must be experienced to be believed!
In the Gulf of Elounda lies the island of Spinalonga, made famous as a leper colony in the 20th century and, more recently, as the setting of Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island. Enclosed by clear turquoise waters, the island is perfect for swimming and snorkelling but also has plenty of unique Greek history.
Sixteenth century fortifications are wonderfully preserved on Spinalonga, and wandering through these fascinating ruins is something you won’t forget. As Crete’s second most popular archaeological site, this island’s attractions are well-known, but despite the tourists Spinalonga is absolutely worth a visit.
Why not make a day of it, and enjoy a dose of history and culture before splashing around in the sea and kicking back in the sun on the beach? Visit one of Crete’s many authentic bakeries before setting off and stock up on some delicious spanakopita to keep hunger pangs away: these are wonderful spinach and feta filo pies and are incredibly moreish! Eat them lying on the beach for maximum enjoyment.
Ella Jameson is a writer, blogger and contributor to many different websites, blogs and magazines. Ella lives in London when she isn’t visiting as many countries as she possibly can, and enjoys cooking (and eating!) foreign cuisine.