Variety is the spice of life in Crete. Greece's largest island is also its most diverse, its scenery is like a tapestry composing of nature's finest artistry. It has the idyllic golden coastline you'd expect from a Greek island but inland there's a mosaic of sweeping valleys, rolling hills and rocky mountains that rise so high they're dusted with snow. You can even hike Europe's longest gorge.
These landscapes aren't just lovely to look at, they're stuffed with legend: you can explore the cave Zeus was born in and visit the lair of the minotaur. Threads of antiquity run through the entire island, from the Minoans 4,000 years ago (the first civilisation on European soil) to the magnificent Venetian mansions built under Venetian rule. Its central position in the Mediterranean has meant it was fought over for millennia but despite constant tussles for its ownership, traditional Cretan culture has always burned bright. This is especially evident in the villages hidden in the island's hills, which remain so untouched by the hand of modernity they retain a timeless charm and a unique personality Crete is famous for.
The official religion of Crete is Orthodox but food runs it a close second. There's no question you'll eat well here (the Cretan diet is among the healthiest in the world) and locals are proud of their 'live-off-the-land' philosophy, with herbs picked from hillsides and villages each having their own cheese recipe. Philoxenia (the Greek philosophy for treating a stranger like a friend) is strong here, so expect to say cheers with a local in the way of a shot of raki in a traditional taverna.
With so much to do in Crete, you'll need to eat handsomely. But make sure to set aside some time to wiggle your toes in the soft sands on its shores or a swim in its azure waters – this is the Mediterranean, after all.
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