Welcome to Greek week on Sparkle in Her Suitcase! No, you’re not back in college. This week is going to be positively loaded with tips and tricks based on my recent 10-day trip to Greece. So pack your bags, because we’re starting our trip on the beautiful island of Crete!
Crete is an amazingly diverse island, from one end to the other you will find cities, mountains and stunning beaches. A few of the things you absolutely must do on the island of Crete…
1. Palace of Knossos
The Palace of Knossos is the main archeological site on the island of Crete. It’s an ancient site and will leave you absolutely in awe of what ancient people were capable of accomplishing. Knossos is considered Europe’s oldest city, having been inhabited during the Bronze Age and it was the center of Minoan civilization. It’s also the origin of the myth of the Minotaur. Basically, if you want to check out some amazing historical landmarks on your trip to Greece (hello, cradle of civilization) you should check out Knossos.
2. Hit the Beach
Okay, so maybe you’re not all about history, but I know you’re in Greece for a relaxing, amazing vacation. Crete is home to a number of beautiful beaches where you can lay on the sand or take a dip. Look into Balos Beach and Lagoon for a day trip, or Elafonissi Beach, which is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful beaches. That said, if you’re on Crete, you probably aren’t far from a beach, so just look around and you’ll find some sea and sand. We went to visit Georgioupoli to see the Chapel of St. Nicholas and the harbor and beaches were beautiful. We also swam in Almyrida, which is the village that we stayed in. We also loved all of the restaurants on the beach in Almyrida–we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time.
3. Go for a Hike
Crete is home to the Samaria Gorge, which is one of the largest gorges in Europe and a well-known and challenging 13 km hike. We did the Samaria Gorge hike and absolutely loved it. It was full of stunning vistas and amazing views and was a great physical challenge that left us feeling truly accomplished after the 6.5 hours of hiking. That said, if you aren’t into the idea of spending an entire day of your vacation huffing and puffing and sweating your way through a riverbed, I get it. There are actually a bunch of gorges on the island, so it’s totally possible to find another place to do a shorter hike.
4. Shopping in Chania Old Town
Chania is one of the big cities on Crete and it’s likely that you’ll end up staying in the city, especially if you’re not keen on driving in Greece (I don’t blame you!). We stayed in a village outside the city, but ended up going in the city to do some wandering and shopping. The twisty, pedestrian-only streets of old town were such great fun to wander around, and the shops had some really cute things. It was a mix of stores geared toward tourists and stores that had art and clothes, which made every turn of a corner an exciting adventure. If you are looking for interesting souvenirs, you need to check out Chania’s old town.
5. Try Some Wine and Olive Oil
Boyfriend and I did a wine tasting and a full-on Olive Oil pro mini seminar. Now, you don’t have to be quite as committed as we were (drinking straight olive oil for 3 hours was…an experience), but you should absolutely not miss out on experiencing the flavors of Crete! I cannot recommend the wine tasting we did at Dourakis Winery highly enough. It was a beautiful winery, all done in the old style, and the tour took us through the cellar until we arrived at the main event and sipped wine in a beautiful cellar-style room. They gave us a good variety of wines, and we ended up taking a few bottles home. Do yourself a favor and order a WineSkin before your trip so that you don’t worry about wine spills in your suitcase. And for those of you who are wondering… yes, it’s enough wine, served fast enough, to get a bit tipsy…designate a driver before you arrive!
We also learned all about Olive Oil over at Terra Creta, which was an awesome place with really welcoming staff. Boyfriend and I did the pro mini seminar and learned to smell the difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil. It was great fun, but a probably bit too intense for the average traveler. Go for a shorter tour and tasting though, especially if you want to learn more about the wide world (seriously!) of olive oil quality. The bottles we bought here are the best olive oil I’ve ever had- and yes, I can taste the difference!
Crete, like the rest of Greece, has amazing food. The lamb, the souvlaki, the greek salad–bring it all on. Order Saganaki, or Greek fried cheese, with every meal–don’t doubt it, eat it. Stuff yourself full on Crete, and then many restaurants will bring you the unique-to-Crete alcohol Raki. It’s made from grapes and it’s pretty strong, so watch out! They say it’s good for your digestion and, judging by the number of times we burped (gross but true!) after drinking a shot or three, they are right. Tip: they usually bring something sweet, like cake or yogurt, to follow up the Raki, which can burn a bit.
Have you been to Crete? Let me know what your favorite parts were in the comments!