When it comes to vacations, budget travelers are seeking that perfect blend of affordable, perfect weather, thin (or non-existent) crowds … and a little sun & sand doesn’t hurt either. To find all of the above, we’re looking to Greece in the fall — in particular Crete.
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There’s hardly a bad time to visit any Mediterranean destination. But, we think the best time to go to Crete is in the fall – the weather’s cooled a bit, tourists are almost non-existent, and you have free reign to explore the island’s many attractions in peace! Here are just a few of our favorite things to do in Crete:
If you’re the outdoorsy sort, head east to check out the palm forests of Lashiti; or look west to the Samaria Gorge in Chania. Cretan expert, Marc Dubin, notes of the gorge:
… the five-hour descent beyond Haniá should be on your “must” list. At just under 10 miles, it is claimed to be Europe’s longest canyon, beginning in forested alpine conditions at Xylóskala (the top) before narrowing to about 10ft wide at the Siderespórtes, where cliff walls soar up nearly 1,000ft.
At the end of a long day of hiking and exploring, chill out in the Balos Lagoon in Kissamos.
Families and Travelers with Children
To keep the little ones occupied, check out the Cretaquarium – the biggest aquarium in the Eastern Mediterranean. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of species and plenty of exhibits to explore. The bonus for families is that an onsite cafe offers snacks to keep the kids happy.
Given it’s grandiose reviews (particularly online), you’ll still only need 2-3 hours for a visit. Tip: the best way to get there is via bus directly from Heraklion which only takes a half hour.
It goes without saying, but don’t miss The Palace of Knossos. This stunning and sophisticated example of Minoan architecture offers a maze of columns and structures decorated with classic frescoes. Perfect the Indiana Jones in you! The site has been restored in the last hundred years and continues to be one of the largest draws for visitors to Crete.
For a truly comprehensive study in Greek history, art and culture, check out the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Look out for the Phaistos Disk (a tablet which, to this day, has yet to be translated) and the miniature statue of a Snake Goddess. All of which makes it one of the most popular tourist sites in all of Greece. (Tip: seasonal hours apply, so be sure to call ahead before visiting)
Soak Up the Mediterranean Sun
Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, you’re going to want to soak up some rays on any one of Crete’s stunning beaches! There’s no shortage of options, although we recommend Vai Beach (aka “Palm Beach”) in Plakias. Aside from the breathtaking scenery, one of the biggest draws here is the nearby palm forest which provides plenty of organic shade (no umbrella rental needed!). Tip: the best way to get there is to take the one-hour bus ride from Sitia.