Crete is the fifth-largest island of the Mediterranean and the birthplace of the oldest civilisation in Europe. This ancient civilisation blossomed in the year 2700 BC. To know and understand the Minoans, you should venture through Bronze Age archaeological sites across the island. Try to call in or visit the phenomenal Archaeological museum in Heraklion’s capital to view collected arts and preserved objects of that era.
The Minoan ancient palaces and cities tend to blur between the lines separating fact from Greek mythology. These Minoan palaces and old cities usually conjure thoughts of ancient King Minos, Icarus and Daedalus. Many centuries after the 2700 BC civilisation, the Venetians also made quite a lasting contribution to the cities of Crete.
The Venetian builds walls, ports and fortresses stand tall today in Rethymno, Heraklion and Chania. Just like Samaria, and outside the civilisation that hit the island, Crete is sprinkling with and contains lots of gorges and mountain ranges and also possesses some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Now let us explore the best things you, whether alone or in your family or a group, can do in Crete; make your discounted flight and hotel bookings here.
Just a few kilometres of the southern parts of Crete, you will find Knossos, which is now the modern capital, although Heraklion was the capital of the ancient Minoan Crete. Knossos is, in actuality, the name of a palace and its encompassing city. In the old times of the 18th century BC, Knossos had a population of up to 100,000. The construction of the palace was 3,000 years ago; and is presently in Greek mythology as the seat of King Minos. It is also the palace where King Minos had Daedalus construct a deadly labyrinth to hold his son, the fabled “Minotaur”.
Knossos was constantly subjected and affected by continuous catastrophic incidents such as raids, invasions, earthquakes and the great Theran Eruption, which occurred in about 1625 BC. British Archaeologist Arthur Evans first excavated the city in 1900 after centuries of being buried. Archaeologist Arthur Evans helped to restore most of the city’s architecture and frescoes.
Make sure to check out the sweeping reception courtyard where the royal family would usually entertain guests. You could also enter the Throne Room, the Sanctuary, and walk a section of the Royal Way in the direction of the coast.
The construction of the Royal Apartments was on four levels.
HERAKLION ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
The Heraklion’s outstanding archaeological museum is the ultimate guide to understanding the oldest civilisation in Europe fully. This archaeological museum has the most extensive collection of old Minoan artefacts than any museum. The museum has 20 rooms in chronological order. So expect to start in Neolithic times, the genesis, long before the building of palaces in Crete. In many of the rooms, you would also find diverse kinds of weapons, jewellery, liturgical figurines, vases, and armour.
Lots of complete sets of frescoes is now in the museum from Minoan sites found in Crete. There is also the symbolic ivory figurine of the bull leaper, found in Knossos Palace. One particular artefact that remains a very much mysterious object is the Phaistos Disc. The Phaistos Disc is 15 cm in diameter and is creatively covered with symbols arranged in a spiral.
There is another piece of a mysterious object with strange inscriptions is the Arkalochori Axe. The Arkalochori Axe was found in the cave of the same name and was etched with 15 symbols.
RETHYMNO OLD TOWN:
The third-largest city in Crete has the best-preserved old town that is part of the island. Although, behind these walls, the tight cobblestone alleys of the city were initially laid out in the 14th century. In the 14th century, Crete was in the hands of the Republic of Venice.
Despite this, Crete had held onto its beautiful arches, Renaissance mansions and catholic churches. The Neratze Mosque is one building that sums up, Rethymno’s tumultuous history. Although the Neratze Mosque started life as a Venetian Church before it became a mosque for more than 250 years until 1925.
Presently, Neratze Mosque in Rethymno’s municipal odeon, used in staging regular music concerts. The monuments of the Venetians that are still surviving in Rethymno include the Rimondi Fountain from the year 1629 and are famous for two pairs of Corinthian columns next to a Gothic arch. Additionally, an important Venetian monument that survived is the Loggia, converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 17th century.
Balos Lagoon is a paradise! And is one of the most famous picturesque views and images of Crete. Balos is about 60 kilometres from the northwestern parts of Chania. Day trippers usually frequent the Lagoon on a ferry from Kissamos, a trip of about 18 kilometres away.
The lagoon is in the middle of Tigani and Gramvousa, which are two capes. The two capes trap a pool of shallow, beautiful turquoise water that is as intriguing as safe. Making the journey by road would mean taking a walk down the peculiarly rugged hillside, which is a definite experience of its own.
When you turn, be ready to be confronted by the lagoon in its full beauty while it’s fringe is by white sand against the rocky mass of the cape Tigani. If you decide to journey by boat, you should know that you would also have the privilege to have a closer look at the Gramvousa islands. One of the Gramvousa islands is Imeri Gramvousa. Imeri Gramvousa has quite a historic fort built by the old Venetians.
CHANIA’S VENETIAN HARBOUR:
The old Venetians had started building the glorious harbour of Chania in 1320. The work had continued for the next three centuries. From the eastern end, leading to the lighthouse, you would find that there is a mole. This mole is several hundred metres in length and stands as a symbol for the city.
The 17th century witnessed the building of this harbour. Then, in the 1830s, the adding of its minaret like form in the Egyptian period. Brought ashore to the western parts of the harbour are goods, while the more sheltered eastern pocket of the harbour was for ship maintenance and building.
Also, here is where you would still find the terrace of repair yards and dry docks. This terrace is aka “the Arsenali”. The construction of Arsenali was from the middle of the 1400s to 1599. The Arsenali or the Grand Arsenal has had so many different roles over the years. It has had roles as a hospital, Christian School, and the Town Hall of Chania. Although after the intensive post-war renovations, the Arsenali now hosts the Centre of Mediterranean Architecture.
The total memorable natural or man-made landmarks on Crete can never hold as much meaning or significance to its people as this monastery which is precisely 20 kilometres from the southeastern sides of Rethymno. The founding of the Arkadi Monastery was by the Byzantine emperor Arcadius. The construction of the Arkadi Monastery to rest on a plateau surrounded by olive trees, vineyards, and oaks was in the 5th century.
The present architecture you will find in the monastery now is from a 16th-century makeover that had happened in the early times of the Venetian Baroque style. In Ottoman times, Arkadi Monastery was famous for its wealthy library and gold embroidery.
During the Cretan Revolt, 943 Greeks, when most women and children walled themselves at the monastery holding out against the sieging Ottomans for three days in the year 1866. The siege, however, was later brought to a devastating and heart-wrenching end when the Cretans chose martyrdom over surrender by igniting their gunpowder barrels.
The Arkadi Monastery is now a Greek national sanctuary. Every 8th of November in Rethymno and Arkadi is a remembrance of the day of the fatal explosion.
Lake Voulismeni is an unusual body of water ringed by coffee shops, boats, and restaurants in the towns of the east of Agios Nikolaos. After the laying of a channel was in 1870, Lake Voulismeni was no longer strictly a lake. Instead, this channel aided in connecting it with the harbour of the town and the sea.
You may sometimes notice from the darkness of the water the extreme depths of the lake, despite the deceiving width, which is just about 137 metres. There is a tale of a local legend that states that the lake is bottomless. However, that is a tall story. The lake has descend to a maximum depth of 64 metres in recent times.
Try to stop by for a coffee by day and to watch the fish. You could also enjoy the therapeutic feeling of seeing the lights on the water over a meal in the evening. On Saturday nights before the Orthodox Easter, people gather around the edge of the water for a sporadic fireworks display and to light their firecrackers, all for fun.
MALIA’S MINOAN PALACE:
When you visit the east of Heraklion, you will find Malia. Malia is a boisterous modern resort, and when you go a little way to the east, you will find Crete’s third-largest Minoan palace. According to the tradition, Sarpedon, another of King Minos’ brothers, had his throne here.
The partial perseverance of the ruins is under a glass roof canopy. The site was not in use in the last years of the 2nd millennium BC. After which, the site never got resettlements, and this is the principal reason why there are no newer interfering buildings.
A particular artefact uncovered during the French excavations in the 20th century is a gigantic vase used for oil or wine. This monumental vase was 1.75 metres in height and could consume any liquid of a volume of about 1,000 litres.
In its days, the palace had two storeys and had boasted of a theatre, magazines, workshops, loggia, western and central court and royal quarters. The hypostyle crypt is in actual also being kept in a section under a roof after being excavated. The hypostyle crypt is where the lords of the city would sit for their political meetings.
HOLY TRINITY MONASTERY:
This monastery of the 17th century is on the Akrotiri Peninsula. The monastery is in vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees. Founding of the Holy Trinity Monastery was towards the utmost end of the Venetian rule on Crete. The monastery lies in a compound which you would approach along a stairway at the end of which you would find a portal beneath a uniquely narrow bell tower.
While passing through to the compound, you will see the three majestic domes of the monastery church, and at its front is four mighty Doric columns and a set of two smaller Corinthian-style columns that flank the entranceway.
The church is a sentimental blend of Western Mannerist architecture and Greek Orthodox. The church also has a dark blue ceiling sparkling with golden stars and an interior lined with icons. When you walk into the museum, you can view a very portable icon of St John the Theologian, which was from the early 16th century. There are also present paintings and rare manuscripts. The monks sell exciting wine and olive products that they make at monastery shop.