Arkadia monastery in Venetian baroque style, also known as Moni Arkadiou. Photo by Gerard Janot.
Crete (also spelt Krete) has been ruled by many and varied civilisations, including the sophisticated Minoans (2, 700-1, 420 BC) who were terminally devastated by the eruption and tidal wave of nearby Thira (Santorini), the even more sophisticated Romans who Veni, Vidi, Vici in 69 BC, the Byzantine Empire took control in 300 AD, the Venetians in 1212, the Ottomans in 1669 and finally the Germans briefly in 1941. And those are just a few of the occupying powers!
The island of Crete is positively humming with a colourful stories, and then consider the mythology – Crete was the birthplace of the number one Greek god Zeus, home to the Sirens, Muses, Icarus and the Minotaur, visited by Athena, Hercules and Theseus.
Samaria Gorge. Photo by Lapplaender.
Got the culture out of the way? How about a little walk? From the Samaria Gorge to the Lasithi plateau hikers will enjoy the spectacular surroundings while culture-vultures are spending hours in Heraklion’s museums and the Minoan ruins of Knossos.
Most travellers, however, are primarily in Crete for the beaches – with a touch of culture, perhaps to keep their intellects functioning while they bake in the sun and pickle their brains in Ouzo.
Elounda and Matala are typical of many of these superb beaches – soft sand, clear water and rather too many neighbours.
Crete’s best beaches are generally thought to be on the island’s west coast, Falasarna and Elafonisi.