Crete | Aegean Sea
35.205145° N, 25.019634° E
The Cretans are notoriously proud of their island, and for good reason. Crete's landscape is as diverse as it is enchanting, from its cosmopolitan seaside towns with the yacht-packed marinas to its hidden mountain villages where time seems to stand still. Driving along the coastline is an experience in itself, every turn revealing a beach more beautiful than the last. Like their land, Cretans are rugged, yet renowned for their hospitality, an attribute that traces back to the ancient times, when the thriving Minoan civilisation influenced both sides of the Mediterranean. Equally famous is the local cuisine, a fusion of traditional and modern recipes that introduces a whole new world of tastes.
ChaniaChania offers everything a visitor can ask for: an enchanting waterfront that buzzes with activity, gourmet restaurants, fashionable bars, stylish shops and beaches that are among the best in Greece. A stroll through the town will reveal not only the beauty of modern Chania, but also traces of the blend of cultures and civilisations that forged the town in its current form - the Minoan palaces, the Venetian port, the Turkish houses and the Greek-Orthodox churches.
EloundaCosmopolitan Elounda grew from a little fishing village into a destination that attracts celebrities and jet-setters from across the globe. Yet the quaint seaside village with its small bars, cosy cafes and charming little beaches, does not reflect its visitors' glamorous disposition. On the contrary, its charming simplicity and friendly locals create an inviting, laid-back vibe that makes it ideal for a relaxing family vacation.
HeraklionBeing the fifth largest city in Greece, Heraklion might not the average typical island destination. Yet it is a lively place full of youthful energy and a rich culture, with glimpses of older times seamlessly woven into the urban landscape. The main attraction in Heraklion is of course the palace of Knossos, the centre of Ancient Greece’s Minoan civilisation. Heraklion also offers a great nightlife, lots to do for every taste, and the island's best shopping.
RethymnoWith its picturesque waterfront, cobbled streets and Venetian architecture, Rethymno is undoubtedly one of Crete's most atmospheric towns. At the same time both ancient and modern, the town is a melting pot of different cultures and historical periods, as revealed by its ancient ruins, Enetic castles, Byzantine monasteries and enchanting little villages. Rethymno also boasts a vibrant nightlife, superb dining options and some of the island's most spectacular beaches.
Among all of the Greek islands, Crete is perhaps the only one that offers such diversity, both in terms of scenery and lifestyle. The northern coast of the island is the more populated and popular part. Heraklion, the island's capital and main port, has one of the country's best archaeological museums. A few kilometres away lays the palace of Knossos, a place of legend and home to the Minoans, one of Greek history's greatest civilisations.
About 70km west from Heraklion, the seaside village of Matala has been a popular tourist attraction since the '60s, when the hippies used to live inside the caves formed in the sandstone cliffs of Kokkini paralia (red beach). Just 15 minutes away from Matala, the ruins of the palace of Phaestos offer a glimpse of ancient grandeur in a spectacular natural setting, with the imposing peaks of Mt Psiloritis on one side and the Libyan Sea on the other. The village of Polyrrinia, in the north-west part of the island and just a short drive from Kissamos, is a traditional settlement that features ruins from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
Chania and Rethymno are picturesque and colourful, with their distinct Venetian architecture and buzzing waterfront areas lined with restaurants and bars. Some 23km from Rethymno, is the historically significant Arkadi monastery, a stark symbol of resistance during the Ottoman occupation.
Moving toward the heart of the island, the White Mountains soar up to 2.000m and offer some excellent climbing and hiking trails. Moving southwards, the gorge of Samaria offers some mind-blowing scenery. The south coast is rugged and less-visited, but has some of the island's most spectacular beaches. In the north-east part of the island, close to Sitia, the second biggest town and port of Crete, you will find the 15th century Moni Toplou, an impressive monastery that today houses the icon Lord Thou Art Great, by the celebrated local artist Ioannis Kornaros.
A little further to the north is Vai, the largest natural palm forest in Europe, which leads to the beach of Preveli, one of the island's most spectacular sites. Nearby you will find the two monasteries of Moni Preveli, a place of great importance in demonstrating the island's heroic wartime history.
Crete has three airports that serve flights from Greek and other European cities. There are also three main ports in Heraklion, the island's capital, Chania and Sitia, with ferries coming from Pireaus and several Aegean islands.
Crete is vast and offers plenty of options regarding accommodation. Our team has created a diverse collection of hand-picked luxury villas in Crete's hottest locations. Whether you are looking for an isolated holiday villa with a pool where you can sit back and take in the Mediterranean sunshine away from the summer frenzy, or a luxury private villa that offers tranquility but is at the same time minutes away from some seaside town buzzing with activity, our Greek Villas team will find the ideal home for your perfect holiday.