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A choice of unspoilt sandy beaches and a profusion of wild flowers in early summer complement charming seaside villages, and sleepy mountain hamlets.
Crete is steeped in history, rich tradition and folklore, its fascinating ancient civilisation reflected in a proud and hospitable people.
Boasting over 1000km of coastline and a sunshine record extending to over 300 days per year Crete, the largest and most southerly Greek island, is a contrast of dramatic mountain landscapes and stunning sandy beaches. It is a place that has it all!
Steeped in history, rooted in tradition and rich in folklore Crete was the home of Europe's first great civilization and is today populated by a relaxed and friendly local people, equally as proud of their unique ancestry as they are of their reputation for warm hospitality.
Crete's most famous asset is Knossos. At the height of the Minoan civilisation this remarkable ancient site once accommodated more than 100,000 people and a 3,500 year old palace still stands as its centrepiece. It is world famous and an essential place to visit.
Heraklion is the current capital of the island, although it was Chania that held this honour until 1971. Many history books will confirm that Chania is the oldest inhabited city in the world, dating back more than 5,000 years and no trip to Crete would be fully complete without a visit to this atmospheric town with its grand Venetian mansions and attractive Turkish minaret.
Close to Chania, the pretty villages of the Apokoronas and those hugging the coastline due West to Kissamos remain unspoilt, traditional and timeless. From the small cluster of houses of Veni to the seaside villages of Almyrida and Kalives East of Chania, a magnificent array of hamlets, settlements and beaches have been selected by Vintage Travel to show off the charm and variety of Crete.
Heading south you will not fail to be impressed by the beauty of the imposing White Mountains (Lefka Ori) that dominate the landscape. These fascinating peaks offer a variety of stunning walks and trails in, over, along and around numerous ridges, gorges and valleys. The Samaria Gorge, said to be one of the deepest and, at 16km, longest in Europe has been declared a national park and is a paradise for keen walkers, ornithologists and lovers of 'the great outdoors'.
For what is possibly the ultimate Cretan beach experience try Elafonissi Lagoon on the most south westerly tip of the island, where the stunning pink coral and white sands give the shallow reef a brilliant shade of turquoise more often associated with the Indian Ocean than the Aegean!
In between Chania and Heraklion, Rethymnon and its environs offer huge expanses of wide blue-flagged sandy beaches and traditional, hospitable hillside villages.
The town boasts many wonderful sights, in particular the marvellous Venetian fortress (Fortezza), the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean and an incredibly imposing vantage point where many an evening can be spent admiring the views that unfold in all directions. Afterwards, the whole family will surely have fun exploring the maze of narrow cobbled streets that lead down through the Ottoman quarter via an eclectic selection of shops to the chic and trendy waterfront cafés, bars and fish tavernas.
Wandering amongst the ancient buildings and mosques of Rethymnon is exceedingly atmospheric and is sure to leave you with a wealth of indelible memories.
Over to the east side of the island and a fifteen minute boat ride from the sophisticated north east coastal village of Elounda takes you across to one of Crete's most captivating attractions; Spinalonga is a tiny island that was, reputedly, physically cut away from the mainland by the Venetians back in 1579 before being turned into a formidable fortress.
By the early twentieth century the outcrop had become one of Europe's last surviving leper colonies, caring for patients until finally closing in 1957. Many will be familiar with the best selling novel "The Island" by Victoria Hislop which powerfully evokes Spinalonga's fascinating history through the eyes of a fictional family.
Justifiably proud of their naturally fresh cuisine, more and more of which is being organically cultivated, Cretans have one of the longest life expectancies in the Mediterranean and this is widely believed to be due to their healthy and nutritional diet.
Cretan cuisine makes full use of the island's many fresh, seasonal herbs to add rich and vibrant flavour to dishes.
Desserts, sweets and cakes tend to be made with natural sweeteners such as honey and grape-juice syrup, while the excellent and chemical free Cretan wine is considered an 'indispensable' accompaniment to many meals.
All churches in Greece, acknowledge the anniversary day of their saint with many organising colourful processions and celebrations. Indeed, so widespread and popular are these events that it is more than likely you will witness one during your visit.
Crete also claims its very own ancient hero, Zeus, who aspired to become the King of all Greek gods.
According to mythology, Zeus dethroned his own father, the then King of the Titans and began the task of dividing the world. He pronounced his brothers, Hades and Poseidon Kings of the Underworld and the Seas respectively, while Zeus himself kept the title King of the Heavens and the Universe.
At all times of the year there will often be a refreshing breeze which is particularly cooling the closer to the coast you are. Generally speaking sea temperatures, even in early and late season, always remain pleasant enough to swim.
The magnificent and easily accessible White Mountains (Lefka Ori), which create a mesmerising backdrop to most of our Cretan properties, offer a cooler (and wonderfully scenic) retreat during the summer months.
There is a very good choice of direct charter flights to both Heraklion and Chania airports from many UK airports, including Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol,Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Nottingham East Midlands, Exeter, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle.
Regular scheduled flights into Heraklion airport are also operated by easyJet from both Gatwick and Manchester, as well has charters from most regional airports.