The story of almost every place on this island is closely related to Ancient Greek mythology and sometimes you even lose control between the myth and reality.
In this publication we will tell you about the highlights of Crete island, about our adventures during the vacation in Elounda resort, we will share the unique locations of this fabulous island, and also tell you about the TOP most interesting, little-known facts about Crete.
How did we get to Crete?
I work in a travel company and once got a great opportunity – a week vacation with my husband on Crete, in Elounda resort, in the 5-star luxury hotel Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas, and experience the service of this incredible hotel. (By the way, we will do the review of the hotel in a separate video).
We haven’t been to this region of Greece before, only to Athens and Meteora. And this fact added intrigue to the vacation.
We flew to Crete on a charter flight to the main city of the island – Heraklion in the last week of September and the vacation was comfortable. It wasn’t so hot as in summer, the water in the sea warmed up well, the tourist season was coming to the end, and there were few vacationers.
We compared the ways of getting from the airport to the hotel: by an individual transfer, by taxi or by a rental car. And the winner was a rental car. Even if we didn’t travel around the island.
We rented a car on the rentalcars service website. There were lots of offers from different rental companies, depending on the rental price and preferences.
This time we got a Mini Cooper – quite a compact car, which is very convenient for the mountain, serpentine roads of Crete. By the way, the roads in Crete are free and have good coverage everywhere.
Crete is located 100 km from the southern part of the Peloponnese, 175 km from the shores of Asia Minor, and 300 km from Africa. It is the largest Greek island and also the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea: after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica.
Crete is washed by the Cretan Sea in the north, the Libyan Sea in the south and the Ionian Sea in the west.
The maximum length of Crete is 260 km, while the width of the island ranges from 60 km.
The administrative center is Heraklion city.
The population of the island: about 624 thousand inhabitants.
Crete is one of the 13 peripheries of Greece and one of the largest economic and cultural centers in the country. The tourist infrastructure of Crete is more developed than on other islands. Thanks to the warm sea, subtropical climate, a developed network of tourist centers and comfortable hotel complexes, Crete is considered one of the most popular European resorts.
Crete in Ancient Greek mythology
Ever since my school years, I remember my great interest in the mystical Ancient Greek mythology, and once on this island, realizing that we are at its origins, I wanted to plunge into this world of myths, the world of fascinating stories that we will share with you in the next overviews about Crete.
How is Crete related to Ancient Greek mythology?
While walking through the small town of Agios Nikolaos, we came across a booklet “Greek mythology”, which collected all the most famous stories about the ancient Greek gods and goddesses, about the adventures and great deeds of heroes. This book was for us a guide to that mysterious, mythological world, it pulled us more and more and led to the most interesting and magical places of the island, into the spirit of ancient Greek myths.
Crete has indeed played a very important role in ancient Greek mythology. After all, it is Crete that is the birthplace of Zeus – the most important among all the ancient Greek gods.
According to ancient Greek myths, Zeus was born exactly in the Dikti cave (which we will tell about a bit later), and it was here where he, in the form of a bull, brought the kidnapped Phoenician beauty Europe along the waves.
From here Icarus took off on wings, made of feathers and fastened with wax; when Icarus rose too high to the Sun, the wax melted and Icarus fell into the sea.
It was here where the brave Theseus killed the Minotaur, a bloodthirsty man-bull, and the Minotaur’s sister Ariadne, who was in love with Theseus, helped her brother’s killer to get out of the Labyrinth and to escape from the island thanks to her ball of threads.
According to the myth, three sons were born from the marriage of Zeus to Europe. Minos reached the greatest honor and glory among the three brothers. He was just and wise king of Crete, whose capital was Knossos. During the reign of Minos king, Crete became a wealthy state, where culture and art reached a high level, and the people lived in peace and justice. At that time began the famous Minoan civilization, when the highly developed Palace of Knossos was built. Today this palace is the landmark of the island. We will tell you more about it in one of the next publications about Crete.
TOP locations of Crete
At the beginning, we were in the mood for a lazy vacation on the hotel’s beach. We like to discover something new, beautiful, interesting, and there are so many such places in Crete. So, after a few days lying on the beach, we set out on an adventure – to explore the island on our own. Moreover, the car was at hand. So for the whole our vacation, we stayed in one hotel, in Elounda the resort, and had one-day trips to the most interesting places of Crete. And so we figured out our TOP – list of the most fascinating and beautiful locations of the island.
And we started our exploration from the small resort village Elounda. And we built a video review of other interesting places, considering the distance from this resort.
Elounda is a small fishing village on the north coast of Crete with a population of only about 2,200 inhabitants, 70 km from Heraklion. It is a part of the Agios Nikolaos municipality. This resort is located opposite the small picturesque Mirabello Bay and is protected from sea winds and large waves by the curve of the peninsula.
Earlier, practically on the place of today’s Elounda, there was an ancient settlement of Olus, which was one of the 100 outstanding cities on Crete.
Famous politicians, music and film stars, Arab sheikhs like to rest in Elounda.
There are many high-class hotels with well-developed infrastructure and their own luxurious beaches with an amazing view of the Mirabello Bay along the coastline of the Elounda resort.
There is also a small municipal beach in Elounda with sunbeds and umbrellas. The beach is clean, sand with pebbles at the bottom of the sea and with a moderate entrance.
There are lots of taverns in the center of Elounda village – Greek cafe-restaurants at any taste and budget, souvenir stores, supermarkets.
To have breakfast in local cafes is a separate kind of pleasure. To watch how the village wakes up, how a new day begins, sipping aromatic coffee or fresh juice.
2. Kalydon island
Another interesting place, located just opposite the coast of the Elounda resort, is the Kalydon island.
You can drive to this island by car along a small channel between Elounda and the island, ride along its rocky coast on the right side. We should mention, the road is rather narrow there and it is not easy for two cars to drive towards each other (it seems especially extreme from the side of the cliff of the island).
On the island, you can drive up to the church of Agios Loukas, enjoy the picturesque view, leave your car near the church in the parking lot
and walk a little farther to the small shallow sandy Kolokita beach (Κολοκύθα) with a transparent blue sea and beautiful sunset views.
3. Spinalonga island
Elounda is also the closest city to the once-existing leper colony on Spinalonga island, which is 15 minutes drive by speed boat from Elounda.
The name Spinalonga is Venetian and means “long thorn”. In 1579, the Venetians built a powerful fortress on the island, partly on the ruins of the old acropolis. They kept the island under control even after the rest of Crete fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1669, and held the island for another 46 years, only in 1715 the Ottomans took control of it.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Greeks, having a fear that the Turks would take away from them the strategically important island of Spinalonga, arranged a refuge for the lepers on it. Nobody wanted to get that terrible disease, so nobody invaded the island ever since.
By the middle of the 20th century, it became clear that this disease was curable, the patients were sent for treatment, and the shelter was closed.
Now the island is a historical monument, and the excursion there makes a very strong impression. This unoccupied island is now one of the largest tourist attractions in the region.
The island can easily be accessed from Plaka, Elounda, and Agios Nikolaos. Tourist boats depart from all three towns on a daily basis (every 30 minutes from Elounda).
The small fishing village of Plaka, located just opposite the island of Spinalonga, only 3 km from the main square in Elounda. Excursion boats from Elounda and Plaka leave every day to the island of Spinalonga.
Plaka is a pretty, cozy, beautiful town, where you should come in the evening to take a walk along the seaside, among colorful taverns and souvenir stores.
TOP 6 facts about Crete:
- Crete is the largest island in Greece. There are more than 1400 of them.
- The remains of the Minoan culture – the oldest European civilization that flourished in Crete thousands of years BC (approximately 2000-1400 BC) are located exactly here.
- Fully functional central heating (just like in modern houses today) was implemented in the ancient Greek palaces, once built on Crete about 7000 years ago.
- The famous and very popular soft cheese “feta” originates here – on Crete.
- There are no dangerous animals in Crete. According to the ancient Greek mythology, Hercules executed all dangerous animals in honor of his father Zeus.
- The name of the island comes from the name of the tribe of the Cretans who once lived there.
Author (c): Irene Melnyk
Photos (c): Nick Melnyk