If there was one word to describe the Greek island of Crete, it would be "diverse." Sandy beaches hide amongst soaring mountains, palm-tree forests grow in the middle of sprawling plains, bustling modern cities share coastline with ancient ruins. And speaking of cities -- in Crete they reflect the people that came before; the streets are lined with architecture mirroring the styles of the Minoans, the Venetians, the Ottomans as well as contemporary Greeks. Despite the visible contrasts, this island maintains a sense of unity felt whenever you step onto the street, dine at a local taverna or enjoy a glass of raki at a sidewalk café.
Crete's experiences are as assorted as its history, so take some time to decide what type of vacation you're looking to have before you set anything in stone. For a more urban setting and a variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, consider staying along the northern coast in Chania or Heraklion. Those who prefer the great outdoors should head to the southern areas of Chania and Rethymnon for the hiking opportunities and many beautiful beaches.
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Keep in Mind...
- Plan aheadCrete is larger than its fellow Greek Islands, so you could waste a lot of time traveling from site to site. Create an itinerary before you head out to make sure you budget enough time to do and see everything on your list.
- Bring a phrasebookAlthough you can find English speakers in the more touristy parts, Greek is the official language.
- Bring an extra change of clothesIt's important to dress appropriately at the religious sites: Long pants and skirts and shirts that cover your shoulders and chest. If you're bouncing between the beach and the sites, packing an extra pair of clothing will do you well.