The island has experienced thousands of years of conquest and habitation and has a complicated and diverse heritage. Sightseers can investigate the remains of the ancient Minoan culture that flourished here thousands of years before Christ. Years of Roman, Venetian and Turkish rule have also left their mark and there are fascinating sights scattered throughout the island.
Its northern coastline is home to busy holiday resorts and a wealth of powdery white beaches where couples and families come to soak up the Mediterranean sunshine. The gateway to the island is the large, modern city of Heraklion, which is not so much an island idyll as a vital commercial centre. Other major holiday resorts in Greece include nearby Malia, lively Agios Nikolaos, Rethymnon with its lovely old town, and Chania, to the west, which known for its 14th-century Venetian harbour and waterfront restaurants.
The wild interior of Crete offers some spectacular mountain scenery drives and many opportunities for hikers and serious cyclists. The White Mountains in the west soar to over 2000m, while the more gentle mountains in the east hide the extraordinary Lasithi plateau in their midst, which is dotted with white windmills. The south coast of Crete is much more remote and rugged than the north. It is crisscrossed with gorges and dotted with unspoilt villages, pretty coves, and secluded beaches.
Electrical current is 230 volts and 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin and the round three-pin.
Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.
Travellers don't need to worry about specific health risks when visiting Greece. Most health problems come from too much sun and too much food or alcohol, though there's also the risk of encountering sea urchins, jellyfish and mosquitoes.
Medical facilities in major cities are excellent but some of the smaller islands are a long way from a decent hospital. Larger towns and resorts have English-speaking private doctors and the highly professional local pharmacies can usually deal with any minor complaint. Travellers should take along any necessary prescription medication.
Food and water are safe, but those visiting for short periods should consider sticking to bottled water. UK nationals are entitled to a refund on emergency hospital treatment under a reciprocal agreement between the UK and Greece, and a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should be taken on holiday for this purpose.
A service charge is automatically added to most restaurant bills and an additional tip it not expected -- though always welcome. Rounding up the bill is sufficient for drinks at cafes; taxis, porters and cloakroom attendants will expect a tip.
Though Greece is a safe destination, peak tourist season usually sees a spike in petty theft cases, especially in crowded areas. Visitors should conceal valuables or store them in hotel safes and watch out for pickpockets. Violent crime is rare but there have been incidents on some islands; visitors travelling alone should not accept lifts from strangers.
Though more traditional than the British in some ways, most Greeks are friendly and welcoming enough to seem intrusive to reserved British tourists. Greeks are also the heaviest smokers in Europe and will often ignore the smoking ban in public places. Swimwear is expected on the beach but tourists should dress properly in bars and restaurants.
Sightseeing on Crete pulls visitors back through time and into the rich mythology of Ancient Greece. Highlights include the Palace of Knossos, the Cave of Zeus, the Monastery of Arkadi, the remains of Gortyna, and the Palace complex of Phaistos in the south. The Archaeological Museum and Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion are also worth visiting.
Crete's sun-drenched, sandy beaches are the main attraction, but walkers will adore the island's breath-taking scenery, especially the beautiful gorges and mountains in Chania's Samaria Gorge National Park.
In the east, tiny Sitia is worth a peek for its picturesque port. Visitors may enjoy stopping in the town for lunch.
Crete offers traditional Greek food in its cafes, local tavernas and elegant restaurants. The island is also home to many ouzeri bars that specialise in the aniseed-flavoured liqueur called ouzo. Many of the destinations fast-food outlets and restaurants serve international favourites such as pasta, pizza, Indian and Mexican food.
Crete is not as well-known for its nightlife as some of other Ionian Islands. That said, it has its fair share of appeal, particularly within the busy resort towns of Heraklion and Limenas Hersonissos.
Bars, clubs, discos, lounges and pubs abound in Heraklion Town, Iraklio, Hania, Rethymno and Agios Nikloas. By contrast, Malia, Chania and Hersonissos are hot spots for package holiday tourists, though bars and clubs cater to a younger crowd intent on a lively night out.
Older travellers will enjoy Chania's fantastic restaurants, pubs, lounges and tavernas. Other options include joining the locals for their volta: a leisurely stroll or a horse-drawn carriage ride before sundowners or dinner.
All in all, visitors will find different 'moods' on Crete. Some may relish the bustling clubbing scene, while others will prefer experiencing local traditions in quiet villages.
Crete has a largely Mediterranean climate, with some influences from North Africa's weather patterns. Visitors will find hot, dry summers and mild winters.
Peak summer temperatures generally range from 86ºF (30ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night, though it can get significantly hotter during heat waves. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer but showers can be expected between October and April. Crete's mountains sometimes receive snowfall during winter. Otherwise, snow is rare on the island.
Some visitors find Crete uncomfortably hot and humid during mid-summer, so spring and autumn may be the best times to visit for walking and sightseeing, when travellers can expect milder weather and smaller crowds.
Same-sex sexual relations are legal in Greece and civil unions between same-sex couples have been legal since 2015. The age of consent of 15 is the same as for partners of the opposite sex. Transgender people are able to change their legal gender. Anti-discrimination and hate speech laws apply to gender identity.
Public attitudes towards homosexuality vary throughout the country; public displays of affection by same-sex couples may be frowned upon, especially in rural areas.
Attitudes are generally much more welcoming in Athens and on many Greek islands, particularly on Lesvos, Mykonos and Skiathos, which are well known for their gay and lesbian scenes.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
October 2021, 7 Nights
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