Crete simply has it all!
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, the visitor can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountain escapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island's rich gastronomic culture. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with beauties and treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover!
Crete is divided in to four prefectures.
The region of Chania (Haniá), on the western side of the island, is dominated by the impressive White Mountains (in Greek: Lefká Óri) and its famous National Park, which occupy the largest part of the region.The Prefecture of Chania provides tourist services and activities of all kinds, satisfying all the choices. The city of Chania mountains unaltered all of its characteristics, from the time of the Venetian Rule up until today.
Rethymno (Réthymno) region: Crete's smallest prefecture located between White Mountains and Mt Psilorítis (also called "Ídi"), is synonymous with gorgeous mountainscapes, marvellous beaches, Cretan lyre melodies, tsikoudiá spirit served with "oftó", legendary caves, historic monasteries and monuments, traditional mountain villages and luxurious holiday resorts. Feel the essence of Mythical Crete in this mountainous, remote and self-sufficient region of the island of Crete.
The largest and most densely populated region on the island of Crete is Heraklion (Iráklion). Nestling picturesquely among two imposing mountain ranges - Ídi (Mt Psiloritis) to the west and Dikti (Lasithiótika mountains) to the east- Iráklion boasts exceptional archaeological treasures, significant coastal settlements, a series of picturesque villages, vast valleys with olive groves and vineyards as well as the best organized tourist infrastructure in Crete. A unique combination of urban scenery and natural wealth makes the region of Iráklion an appealing all-year-round destination.
Lasithi (Lassíthi) region. Welcome to the easternmost and least mountainous region of Crete, where the population resides in four semi-urban centers: Áyios Nikólaos, Ierápetra, Sitía and Neápoli. The mythical palm tree forest of Váï, the Gulf of Mirabello, the windmills on the Plateau of Lassíthi (the largest in Crete), beaches lapped by crystalline water, beautiful cities and luxurious hotel resorts all make up a rather fascinating world.
Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor and due to its mild climate, Crete became a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The first prehistoric settlements appeared in Crete around 6000 BC while in 2600 BC settlers who knew how to craft bronze arrived in Crete. It was then that the illustrious course of the Minoan Civilization began, reaching its peak around 1950 BC with the erection of the imposing palaces in Knossos, Faistos, and Malia.
Mythology has it that it was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus. In that cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it. It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together. Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas. In Minoan times, even Attica would pay a tribute tax to Crete, until Theseus, the Athenian prince, killed the Minotaur. The truth behind the myth is the existence of a mighty and wealthy kingdom and of a civilization that is considered the most ancient one on the European continent.
In 1450 BC and again in 1400 BC the Minoan Civilization was successively devastated possibly due to the eruption of the volcano of Thera and was eventually led to its decline. In the wake of the devastation the Dorians arrived to settle on the island. They were later followed by the Romans. After the Roman rule, Crete becomes a province of Byzantium until the arrival of the Arabs who occupied the island for an entire century (824-961 BC). During the Arab domination, Crete became the lair of pirates who were based out of Handakas, present day Heraklion.
Next, Crete fell under Byzantine rule again until the arrival of the Venetians who occupied the island for approximately 5 centuries leaving their stamp on the island's culture. After the fall of Handakas in 1669, the Turkish Occupation began marked by ferocious and bloody uprisings. At the end of the 19th century Turkish rule came to an end. The Cretan State was created with the King of Greece as the island's High Commissioner. In 1913, Crete was finally joined officially with Greece.
Athens has a population of 5.000.000 and is the capital of Greece. It is the city where democracy was born and most of the wise men of ancient times.
Athens is situated in the perfecture of Attica and extends to the penisula that reaches up to central Greece. It is surrounded by mountains such as Ymmytos, Pendeli and Parnitha. It is located just a few kilometres from the port of Piraeus, the central commercial port of the capital, and the shores of southern Attica.
Athens got its name from the goddess Athena. Acropolis is nominated to be one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. The holy rock of Acropolis dates back to the 5th BC, the famous Golden Age of Periklis.
Athens is a city of different aspects. Take a walk around the historic triangle Plaka, Thission and Psyri. You will find old mansions, luxurious department stores, ( Athens Hall, Attica Golden Hall and Louis Vitton). There are also high class restaurants and traditional tavernas which all have their place in the city.
The heart of Athens beats in Syntagma square, where Parliament and most of the Ministries are. Monastiraki, Kolonaki and Lycabettus Hill attract thousands of visitors all year round.
Athens and Attica in general have the most important archaeological monuments (Acropolis, Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Olymbion, Roman market, Panathinaiko Stadium and The Temple of Poseidon in Sounio.
The Capital is famous for its nightlife. Athens by night totally changes. The options for entertainment will satisfy all tastes, including The famous bouzoukia and numerous theatres. Athens is a divine city, let it enchant you ……
Cousteau looked for the lost city of Atlantis on Santorini.
Crescent-shaped Santorini (or Thíra), the precious gem of the Aegean, is actually a group of islands consisting of Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni in the southernmost part of Cyclades.
Did you know that the whole complex of Santorini islands is still an active volcano (the same as Méthana, Mílos and Nísiros) and probably the only volcano in the world whose crater is in the sea? The islands that form Santorini came into existence as a result of intensive volcanic activity; twelve huge eruptions occurred, one every 20,000 years approximately, and each violent eruption caused the collapse of the volcano's central part creating a large crater (caldera). The volcano, however, managed to recreate itself over and over again.
The last big eruption occurred 3,600 years ago (during the Minoan Age), when igneous material (mainly ash, pumice and lava stones) covered the three islands (Thíra, Thirassiá and Asproníssi). The eruption destroyed the thriving local prehistoric civilization, evidence of which was found during the excavations of a settlement at Akrotíri. The solid material and gases emerging from the volcano's interior created a huge "vacuum" underneath, causing the collapse of the central part and the creation of an enormous "pot" -today's Caldera- with a size of 8x4 km and a depth of up to 400m below sea level.
The eruption of the submarine volcano Kolúmbo, located 6.5 km. NE of Santorini, on 27th September 1650, was actually the largest recorded in Eastern Mediterranean during the past millennium! The most recent volcanic activity on the island occurred in 1950. The whole island is actually a huge natural geological/volcanological museum where you can observe a wide range of geological structures and forms!
Searching for romance
Santorini is considered to be the most sought after place for a romantic getaway in Greece, since there are not many places in the world where you can enjoy exquisitely clear waters while perched on the rim of a massive active volcano in the middle of the sea! The island has a growing reputation as a "wedding destination" for couples not only from Greece but from all over the world. A trip to Santorini with the other half is a dream for anyone who has seen at least one photo of the island's famous Caldera and exchanging kisses beneath Santorini's famous sunset is the ultimate romantic experience!
Explore the island's towns
Firá is the picturesque capital of the island; perched high up on the edge of the Caldera, it looks like a marvellous painting. Firá, together with Oia, Imerovígli and Firostefáni located high above on a cliff, make up the so-called "Caldera's eyebrow", the balcony of Santorini, which offers an amazing view of the volcano. Other famous smaller villages are Akrotíri and Méssa Vounó, with their famous archaeological sites, Pýrgos, Karterádes, Emporió, Ammoúdi, Finikiá, Períssa, Perívolos, Megalohóri, Kamári, Messariá and Monólithos: some of the villages are cosmopolitan some more peaceful; they are surrounded by vast vineyards; whitewashed cliff-top towns with castles affording amazing views out over the Aegean. Soaking up the villages' distinctive traditional atmosphere is a very rewarding experience.
A visit to Santorini is the ultimate gastronomic experience, as the island is a true culinary paradise! Treat your taste buds to some famous traditional products like cherry tomatoes, white egg plants, fava, caper and "hloró tyrí", a special kind of fresh goat cheese found on the island, or why not try some of the exceptional wines produced from grapes grown in the volcanic soil of the island! Assyrtiko, Athyri, Aidani, Mantilaria and Mavrotragano are just some of the distinctive varieties that you can taste at the island's famous wineries (some of them operate as a museum as well) or at restaurants.
Head to volcanic beaches
Venture into Santorini's seaside treasures and enjoy deep blue waters and beaches with white, red or black sand or volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and impressive lunar landscapes.
Santorini, the youngest volcanic land in the Eastern Mediterranean, is waiting for you! You can reach it by plane or by ship from Piraeus. Don't think twice! Experience for yourself the once-in-a-lifetime romance and charm of this pearl of the Aegean.
Welcome to Greece's most famous cosmopolitan island, a whitewashed paradise in the heart of the Cyclades. According to mythology, Mykonos was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules. And did you know that the island took its name from the grandson of Apollo, "Mykonos"?
Set out on a journey to discover a fascinating world where glamour meets simplicity. On Mykonos celebrities, college students and families mingle together to celebrate the Greek summer. Whether you are an entertainment junkie out for a real good time, or a visitor who wishes to explore the island's history and tradition, Mykonos will certainly meet your expectations.
In contrast to other Cycladic capitals, the capital town (Hóra) of the island is not built in the shape of an amphitheatre but instead spreads out over a wide area. It is one of the best examples of Cycladic architecture and a spellbinding attraction for visitors. Stroll around its narrow marble streets and admire whitewashed houses with colourful doors and window frames, bougainvillea trees in purple bloom and hidden churches. Pay a visit to the church of Panayia Paraportiani, the Town hall and the castle situated above the harbour. Don't forget to visit the Archaeological, Folklore and Maritime Museums to take in a little history. Wander around the pedestrian shopping streets of the Hóra, always colourful and busy. The most glamorous of all is Matoyánni Street, lined with brand name stores, charming cafés and stylish restaurants.
Soak up the atmosphere along the lively waterfront and admire a fleet of fishing boats casting colourful reflections in the azure waters. This is where you will find the Kazárma building, which served as accommodation for the soldiers of Manto Mavrogenous, a heroine of the Greek Revolution. The first floor served as her personal residence. While you're out strolling, don't be surprised if you come across the official mascot of Mykonos, which is nothing other than a... pelican! Pétros the Pelican was found by a fisherman after a storm in 1954, and eventually became the locals' companion. When he died, the grief for his loss was so deep that a replacement was soon found. In honour of Pétros, the locals have established a long tradition of pelicans wandering around the waterfront as an essential part of everyday life. So, whatever you do, don't forget to take a picture with the successor of the famous pelican Pétros!
One of the most scenic corners of the island is Alefkántra or "Little Venice", an 18th century district, dominated by grand captains' mansions with colourful balconies and stylish windows. With balconies perched over the sea, pictures of the famous Italian city spring to mind. Relax at a waterfront café and admire the view of the quaint windmills standing imposingly on the hillside above, set against a luminous blue backdrop.
The second traditional settlement of Mykonos is Áno Merá, situated around the historic monastery of Panayia Tourliani (a 16th century church with a brilliant carved wooden iconostasis). To the north, in Fteliá, lies an important Neolithic settlement, and a 14th-13th century BC Mycenaean tomb.
Using the Hóra as your base, set out on a trip to discover the beauties of the island, in particularly its sun-kissed beaches. Along the southern coast you will find a great selection of the most cosmopolitan ones. Here, wild parties keep the crowds rocking day and night. Paradise and Super Paradise may already be familiar to you. Órnos and Psaroú are favorite spots for families. Try a visit too to Platis Yalós, with a well-organized beach where you can soak up the sun lazing on a sun lounge. However, if you are looking for a serene beach to unwind with a book, pick a less organized one on the northern coast of the island, like Ayia Ánna, Houlákia, Kápari, Agrári and Ayios Stéfanos.
The island is a paradise for water sport enthusiasts! It is only natural that the "Island of the Winds" should attract surfers and sailors from all over the world! There is a great choice of beaches for windsurfing; however, the most secluded ones are considered to be the best. Choose from Kórfos, Fteliá, Meyáli Ámmos and Kalafátis, where surfing lessons are also available. Play tennis or mini golf at Ayios Stéfanos, beach volleyball at Ayia Anna or try sea parachuting or jet skiing at Eliá or Kalafátis. Diving fans can do a little exciting exploration of the underwater magic of Mykonos. September is thought to be the best month for diving, as the water is warm and visibility is good down at the seabed.
On the island you can find many well-organized diving centers (some of them also offer snorkeling lessons) and stores specializing in diving equipment. Explore the island on a caicque or a boat and discover secluded beaches, or take a boat tour around the nearby islets, which are also ideal fishing spots!
Don't miss the opportunity to treat yourself to some local Aegean specialties! Pepper flavoured kopanistí, a soft cheese seasoned with pepper, is the island's gastronomic trademark. Try it as a topping on a round rusk spread with grated tomato, a favourite local mezés (appetiser). Meat eaters can sample "loúzes" (cooked pork filet with spices) and tasty local sausages sprinkled with pepper, and local oregano that has been caressed by the sun and dried in the north wind. To finish off your meal you can sample two exceptionally good local pastries, "amigdalotá" (small round cakes with ground almond, rosewater and caster sugar)