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Best Things To Do in Crete

You'll find plenty to keep you busy in Crete. History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Palace of Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, while those seeking the sun can soak up the rays along the island's sandy coasts. Outdoorsy types can hike their hearts out at Samaria Gorge in Chania and shopaholics will love the boutique-lined boulevards of Agios Nikolaos. 

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Crete

Free
If you're in Rethymnon, then you shouldn't miss the opportunity to wander the narrow alleys of Old Town, a seaside neighborhood that dates back to the 11th century. Here you'll find prime examples of Venetian Renaissance architecture along with splashes of Turkish influence spread throughout the city.
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Neighborhood/Area Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Rethymnon Old Town
If you're in Rethymnon, then you shouldn't miss the opportunity to wander the narrow alleys of Old Town, a seaside neighborhood that dates back to the 11th century. Here you'll find prime examples of Venetian Renaissance architecture along with splashes of Turkish influence spread throughout the city.
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#2

#2 in Crete

Free
Also known as Palm Beach, Vai Beach is mainly known for its stunning landscape. The beach is home to the largest palm grove in Europe with 4,500 palm trees that have been there for more than 2,000 years. So if you're looking to avoid renting a beach umbrella, you've come to the right place for some natural shade. The sand can get crowded with busloads of tourists, but a short hike over a hill at the south side of Vai Beach will reveal an underutilized, yet no less beautiful stretch of shore.
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Beaches Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Vai Beach (Palm Beach)
Also known as Palm Beach, Vai Beach is mainly known for its stunning landscape. The beach is home to the largest palm grove in Europe with 4,500 palm trees that have been there for more than 2,000 years. So if you're looking to avoid renting a beach umbrella, you've come to the right place for some natural shade. The sand can get crowded with busloads of tourists, but a short hike over a hill at the south side of Vai Beach will reveal an underutilized, yet no less beautiful stretch of shore.
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#3

#3 in Crete

Free
Located in the southwest corner of Crete, Elafonissi beach sparkles with pink-tinted sand and crystal-clear Mediterranean waters. If you're feeling adventurous, you can wade across Elafonissi's shallow lagoon to a small, uninhabited island, home only to a historic lighthouse, a chapel and more than 100 native plant species. Recent travelers hail Elafonissi as one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, if not in all of Greece.
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Beaches Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Elafonissi
Located in the southwest corner of Crete, Elafonissi beach sparkles with pink-tinted sand and crystal-clear Mediterranean waters. If you're feeling adventurous, you can wade across Elafonissi's shallow lagoon to a small, uninhabited island, home only to a historic lighthouse, a chapel and more than 100 native plant species. Recent travelers hail Elafonissi as one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, if not in all of Greece.
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#4

#4 in Crete

A labyrinth of massive columns and beautiful frescoes, the Palace of Knossos is a testament to the sophistication of the Minoan civilization that disappeared sometime in the 14th century. According to legend, it was also home to the mythical Minotaur of King Minos. The site was restored extensively by the famous archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 1900s. Since then, it has become the biggest tourist draw on Crete.
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Castles/Palaces Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The Palace of Knossos
A labyrinth of massive columns and beautiful frescoes, the Palace of Knossos is a testament to the sophistication of the Minoan civilization that disappeared sometime in the 14th century. According to legend, it was also home to the mythical Minotaur of King Minos. The site was restored extensively by the famous archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 1900s. Since then, it has become the biggest tourist draw on Crete.
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#5

#5 in Crete

Stretching for about 10 miles through southern Chania Prefecture's White Mountains, Samaria Gorge is thought to be one of the longest canyons in Europe. The gorge trail begins on the Omalos plateau at Xyloskalo, perched high among the mountains. It then winds its way 10 miles between some 1,600-foot vertical walls to Agia Roumeli, a small seaside village. Speedy hikers can usually make the journey in four and a half hours, while more leisurely paced walkers can spend up to eight hours in the gorge. Fast or slow, you're going to want to get an early start to beat the heat and the crowds (about 1,000 people make the hike every day during high season).
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Hiking Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Samaria Gorge National Park
Stretching for about 10 miles through southern Chania Prefecture's White Mountains, Samaria Gorge is thought to be one of the longest canyons in Europe. The gorge trail begins on the Omalos plateau at Xyloskalo, perched high among the mountains. It then winds its way 10 miles between some 1,600-foot vertical walls to Agia Roumeli, a small seaside village. Speedy hikers can usually make the journey in four and a half hours, while more leisurely paced walkers can spend up to eight hours in the gorge. Fast or slow, you're going to want to get an early start to beat the heat and the crowds (about 1,000 people make the hike every day during high season).
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#6

#6 in Crete

The Historical Museum of Crete, located in the capital city of Heraklion, chronicles Cretan life from early Byzantine times to the Modern period. If you're interested in the older stuff, check out the nearby Heraklion Archaeological Museum
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Historical Museum of Crete
The Historical Museum of Crete, located in the capital city of Heraklion, chronicles Cretan life from early Byzantine times to the Modern period. If you're interested in the older stuff, check out the nearby Heraklion Archaeological Museum
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#7

#7 in Crete

Built atop a hill in Rethymnon Old Town, the Fortezza (for-TED-za) stands as a symbol of Crete's tempestuous past. The Venetian ruling class, who oversaw the construction of the imposing Fortezza in the late 16th century, hoped it would protect Crete against an Ottoman invasion. But all that labor was for naught — the Ottomans captured the Fortezza less than 100 years after its completion and went on to rule Crete for more than two centuries.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
Venetian Fortezza
Built atop a hill in Rethymnon Old Town, the Fortezza (for-TED-za) stands as a symbol of Crete's tempestuous past. The Venetian ruling class, who oversaw the construction of the imposing Fortezza in the late 16th century, hoped it would protect Crete against an Ottoman invasion. But all that labor was for naught — the Ottomans captured the Fortezza less than 100 years after its completion and went on to rule Crete for more than two centuries.
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#8

#8 in Crete

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a must-see in Crete — and all of Greece, even — for its extensive collection of Minoan art. Highlights include a mini-statue of a Snake Goddess and the Phaistos Disk, a clay tablet with symbols that have not been deciphered to this day. All artifacts (spanning some 5,000 years of history) in this museum were excavated exclusively from archaeological sites in Crete.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a must-see in Crete — and all of Greece, even — for its extensive collection of Minoan art. Highlights include a mini-statue of a Snake Goddess and the Phaistos Disk, a clay tablet with symbols that have not been deciphered to this day. All artifacts (spanning some 5,000 years of history) in this museum were excavated exclusively from archaeological sites in Crete.
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#9

#9 in Crete

Located approximately 9 miles east of Heraklion, the Cretaquarium is home to 2,000 sea animals and 200 different Mediterranean species. If you're an animal lover, traveling with kids or just looking to kill some time, the Cretaquarium should be on your list.
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Zoos and Aquariums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Cretaquarium
Located approximately 9 miles east of Heraklion, the Cretaquarium is home to 2,000 sea animals and 200 different Mediterranean species. If you're an animal lover, traveling with kids or just looking to kill some time, the Cretaquarium should be on your list.
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#10

#10 in Crete

The Historical and Folk Art Museum resides in an old Venetian mansion in the city of Rethymnon, about 50 miles west of Heraklion. Founded in 1973, the museum focuses on rural life in Crete with exhibits that cover everything from ceramics to farm equipment.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Historical and Folk Art Museum
The Historical and Folk Art Museum resides in an old Venetian mansion in the city of Rethymnon, about 50 miles west of Heraklion. Founded in 1973, the museum focuses on rural life in Crete with exhibits that cover everything from ceramics to farm equipment.
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