Crete Attractions | Monza Car Rental Blog

5 useful tips to go off the beaten track in Crete

Have you been several times in Crete and now you want to discover its authentic side and go off the beaten track? Our greatest tip is to rent a car in Crete in order to have the flexibility and freedom to go anywhere you want and explore locations that are not accessible by car. Book online your car rental in Chania, Heraklion and Rethymnon and get ready to do amazing things with this guide for travellers, who are looking for something different!

Visit mainland villages

The most touristic locations in Crete are of course these that are situated by the sea. However, in the inner part of the island, you can find untouched treasures that are waiting to be explored. For example, from Heraklion, you can go to Archanes or Zaros, and from Rethymnon, to Anogia and Chora Sfakion. Public transportation does not get you to these mainland villages but renting a car in Crete is affordable and the ultimate solution for you.

Meet the locals

Cretans are the most hospitable and unique people you can meet in Greece. They are always ready to please you and show you the beauties of Crete. If you visit the island in the off-season, then it is much easier to discuss with them and drink raki than during the high-season. They have a lot of interesting stories to tell you, and it is quite common to give you a treat or invite you for dinner with their family.

Find secluded beaches

Crete is famous for its astonishing beaches but be prepared to share a small place by the sea with hundreds of other people, especially during the high-season. Why not trying to find secluded beaches and enjoy some moments of relaxation? You may have to go on foot for some kilometres, but it is totally worth it! Our recommendation is Voidomatis 60 km south of Heraklion.

Explore the old churches

Around Crete, there are many old churches, some of which date back to the Byzantine times. If you rent a car in Crete, you can make a fascinating road trip, stop whenever you want and take a lot of pictures in front of a white-washed chapel or a stone-built church, such as the church in Archanes village with its impressive Byzantine icons.

Taste the Cretan wine

Crete has some of the best wines in Greece, some of which are internationally awarded. The vineyards of Crete are located in the northern part, where the cool wind from Aegean Sea creates the perfect weather conditions. Don’t miss doing a memorable trip by car in Cretan vineyards and explore the rare varieties in these roads of wine that have 4.000 year-tradition.

How to make the most of your trip in Crete: 4 insider’s tips

Do you dream of a holiday in Crete? The legendary birthplace of Zeus, the most touristic Greek island and the place in Greece with the most internationally awarded beaches, Crete, is the ultimate place to have amazing vacation whatever you want to do. The island is ideal for all types of travellers: for history lovers, families, youngsters who want to party all day, and couples who want to relax by the sea. These are the most useful tips for your holidays in Crete.

When to visit Crete

Crete attracts thousands of tourists each summer, so if you want to spend some time away from the crowds, we recommend you traveling during the off-season (October to April). The weather is still sunny and warm, and you can explore the authentic side of the island. If you like water activities, such as swimming, sunbathing and doing water sports, you should visit Crete in the summer. However, keep in mind that July and August are the hottest months, and the temperature can be over 40 degrees.

How to travel around Crete

As Crete is a large island, be prepared for long distances between the towns, the villages, the beaches and other points of interest. There are some buses that connect the prefectures to each other, as well as local buses that connect the touristic locations inside the same prefecture. If you want more freedom and like to travel independently, then renting a car in Crete is the most obvious choice and gives you the opportunity to discover places away from mass tourism.

What to eat in Crete

The Greek cuisine is famous all over the world, and its most exciting part is the Cretan cuisine. Such as in whole Greece, on the island, you can eat fresh fish, seafood and delicious meat plates, tasteful vegetable dishes and pies. Souvlaki is the ultimate street food in Greece, nutritious and very cheap. In Crete, you can taste renowned dishes, such as dakos (barley rusks with fete cheese, tomato and olive oil), and drink raki, the grapes-based alcoholic beverage, which you can find in every tavern, restaurant and café around the island.

What to see in Crete

We recommend you focusing in one prefecture during your vacation in order to explore it in depth and not to miss anything. Each prefecture has wide variety of things to offer, such as traditional towns (Chania and Rethymnon), authentic villages (for example Sfakia and Anogia), ancient sites (the most famous are Knossos and Phaistos, but there are also many other significant historical sites) and exotic beaches, such as Preveli, Palm Forest of Vai, Matala, Falassarna and Balos Lagoon. If you rent a car in Heraklion, Rethymnon or Chania, you can make longer distances, but still, it is impossible to see the whole island in less than 2-3 weeks.

Chrissi: learn here everything you need to know about the pristine island of the donkeys

Emerald waters, golden beaches and cedar trees. The famous islet of Chrissi, which is also known as Gaidouronissi for its many donkeys that leave peacefully there, is a virgin paradise that is definitely worth the visit by boat. If you want to spend some hours in an unforgettable day trip in Chrissi by boat, read further to learn everything you need to know about this exotic destination.

Location and how to get there

Chrissi is located in a close distance to Ierapetra, in eastern-southern Crete, in the Libyan Sea. It is included in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas for its natural beauty, its unique ecosystem and its rare flora and fauna. You can go to Chrissi by boat from Ierapetra. Boats depart daily, and the route lasts about one hour. As the islet is uninhabited without accommodation facilities, you can go there only for a day excursion.

History

Today, the islet is uninhabited, but during the Minoan Times, there was human activity as the archaeological excavations revealed. Traces of buildings, remains of stone-built walls and artefacts prove that people lived there during the antiquity. In the Medieval Times, Chrissi was used as a pirate base, and were found there ruins of pirate ships.

The cedar forest

70% of the Chrissi’s surface is covered with cedars, making the islet the largest cedar forest in Europe. The landscape is breathtaking as the cedars are perfectly combined with the golden sand and the turquoise sea waters in a totally exotic, coming from Africa, scenery. You can explore the cedar forest walking around designated paths.

Beaches

The boat leaves the visitors on the southern side of the island at Vougiou Mati, but from there you can walk in a few minutes to the stunning beaches of the islet and swim in crystal-clear shallow waters, sunbathe under the warm sun and enjoy water-sports facilities. The most famous beach is Chrissi Ammos (=Golden Sand), which has golden, pink and white sand and is organised with umbrellas, sunbeds and a beach bar. Chatzivolakas, Kataprosopo and Kendra Beach are pristine beaches with impressive rocky formations.

Agios Nikolaos church

Worth visiting is also the church of Agios Nikolaos, which dates back to the 13th century and was constructed on the site of an ancient building. Near the church, there are ancient graves that date back to the Roman Times. In a short-minute walk, you can also admire the lighthouse that is the ideal scenery to take a lot of romantic photos.

The best boat trips to do in Crete

Crete is the ideal destination to rent a car and do fascinating road trips around the well-preserved cities, the traditional villages and the stunning beaches that are spread all around the island. In addition to these road trips that give you the opportunity to explore the island by car, you can also do some amazing boat trips to admire beaches, coves and islets that are not easily accessible by car. Read further to learn about them and get ready to discover the astonishing coastline of Crete.

Chrissi islet

The islet of Chrissi (aka Gaidouronissi) is included in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas for its natural beauty, its turquoise sea waters and stunning beaches. It is an impressive islet near the prefecture of Lassithi in eastern-southern Crete, where you can find peace and privacy in a virgin paradise. You can go to Gaidouronissi from Ierapetra by boat several times during the day in less than half an hour.

Balos Lagoon

Balos Lagoon is one of the most impressive and magnificent landscapes in Greece, and it is constantly awarded as one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean Sea. Turquoise waters in a bay that looks like a lagoon captivate every visitor. The beach is accessible by boat from Kissamos village, about 60 km from Chania. The boat trip to Balos Lagoon includes also an excursion to Gramvousa, one of the most famous Venetian castles in Crete.

Spinaloga islet

The islet of Spinaloga was used in Medieval Times as a Venetian fortress and in early 20th century as a leper colony. Today, the islet is uninhabited, but also a popular tourist attraction in Crete. You can make a tour in the colony, which was one of the last leper colonies in Europe, see how people lived there isolated from the outer world. The islet has also calm, family- friendly beaches with shallow waters. It can be accessed from Plaka, Elounda and the capital of Lassithi, Agios Nikolaos. Tourist boats depart from all three towns daily. There is no accommodation on Spinaloga, so inevitably you can make only a day-excursion. Boat trips from Elounda take approximately 25 minutes, while trips from Agios Nikolaos last almost an hour. From Plaka, the route lasts only a few minutes.

Glass-bottom boat trip from Hersonissos

From Hersonissos, you can make the fascinating glass-bottom trip by boat around the bay. During the boat trip, you and your children can admire all the sea life and the fishes moving below you. If you love the seabed, you can also do snorkeling during the trip as the stuff provides you with all the necessary equipment to explore the rare flora and fauna of the place.

A fascinating tour in the caves of Crete

Crete is not only its stunning beaches and the crystal-clear turquoise sea waters. Crete is a geological wonder with impressive gorges, high mountains and wild landscape. The White Mountains, Psiloritis and Mt. Dikti hide amazing geological and historical treasures in mythical caves. These caves are wonderful destinations for each traveller, who wants to go off-the-beaten-path and explore the nature of the island in an unforgettable hiking trip away from the crowds.

Ideon Cave

Ideon Cave is located near the village of Anogeia, about one-hour drive from the town of Rethymnon. According to the mythology, this was the place, where Zeus was raised by a goat, hidden from his father, Cronus. Until the Roman times, this cave was considered sacred, and archaeological excavations unearthed many votive offerings. The route to the cave is just imposing, with high mountains and wild rock formations. Inside the cave, are many caverns, which have been sculpted naturally by the water and the snow, as well as stalagmites and stalactites. Even during summer, you can find snow blocks inside the cave!

Diktaion Cave

Diktaion Cave is located in Lassithi Plateau, near the village of Psychro. From the village, you can walk to the cave (about 20 minutes walk) or go by a donkey admiring the magnificent view of the plateau. Inside the cave, you can admire stalagmite and stalactite complexes, marvellous water lakes and rocky halls, but was is the most impressive thing here is the cradle of Zeus. According to the mythology, in this cave, Zeus was born. Thus, inside the cave were found many ancient objects and offerings that date back to the Neolithic Times.

Melidoni Cave

In a very short distance from the village of Melidoni in the prefecture of Rethymno, is located the Melidoni Cave, a heroic place that combines history with geology. During the Cretan Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, 400 people, including women and children, found refugee inside the cave, which in 1824 was blew up by the Ottoman soldiers burning all the poor people. Their bones are now kept in an ossuary in the entrance of the cave.

Sfendoni Cave

The Cave of Sfendoni is also located in a close distance to the village of Anogeia. It is considered one of the best preserved and most significant caves in Greece. It is a large cave with many chambers, water basins and glowing crystals offering breathtaking view of the imposing rock formations.

Labyrinth Cave

The Labyrinth Cave is located in the prefecture of Heraklion, close to Kastelli Village. It is not a natural but rather an artificial cave, but this fact is the most impressive thing about this cave. It has labyrinth-like corridors and rooms that used in Minoan Times for the extraction of stones for the Minoan Palace of Phaistos to be built.

5 interesting and significant museums to visit in Crete

Are you a culture lover? Are you the kind of traveller, who wants to explore the history and civilisation of each destination? Then, Crete is your place. The island is full of important ancient sites as well as significant museums, where you can be informed about various historical eras in Crete. The museums are located in the main cities of the island, and thus we recommend you to rent a car in Crete and explore easily and conveniently everything it has to offer to you. Combine a fascinating road trip around the prefectures of Crete with unforgettable cultural vacation!

Archaeological Museum

In the town of Heraklion, is located the Archaeological Museum with its large collection of Minoan art. The highlights are the small statue of the Snake Goddess and the Phaistos Disc, a clay tablet with symbols of the writing system Linear A, which has not been deciphered yet. In the museum, you can also admire masterpieces of pottery, jewellery, stone and marble statues that date back to the Neolithic Period.

Byzantine Museum

The Byzantine and Medieval Times played also an important role in the configuration of Crete’s culture. The Byzantine Museum in Chania gives you the opportunity to discover a huge collection of artefacts, such as coins, wall frescoes, ceramic pieces and inscriptions from the Byzantine, post Byzantine and Venetian periods on the island.

Museum of Cretan Lyra

The instrument of Cretan Lyra is strongly connected with the musical tradition of Crete. This lyra is the surviving form of the Byzantine lyra, which was used during the Medieval Times in Greece. The lyra is held vertically on the player’s lap, in the same way as a small viol. In the museum of Cretan lyra in Rethymnon, you will learn about this tradition and the music of Crete and you will have the opportunity to see the workshop and the collection of Cretan lyras.

War Museum

If you are interested in the modern history of Crete, this museum in Chania is definitely worth a visit. There, you can learn about the Cretan Revolution against the Ottoman Empire as well as the heroic role that Crete played in Greece during World War II. The museum contains rare equipment and impressive photographs you cannot see anywhere else.

Maritime Museum

Also in Chania, the Maritime Museum displays the naval tradition and history in Crete, a fully equipped library as well as a large exhibition of exhibits about the sea-life. The building of the museum has great historical importance as it is the place, where the Greek flag was raised for the first time after the unification of Crete with the Greek state.