The 32 best sights of Crete – descriptions and photos
Founded in 1970, this museum boasts some rather interesting archaeological finds from all over Eastern Crete, exhibited in chronological order – from the Neolithic, through the Minoan period to the Greco-Roman artifacts.
The sunken city of Olus
This city, though essentially invisible, is one of the most important sites in Crete. According to various sources Olus flourished especially in the Minoan period (3000-900 BC). The ruins of the ancient city can still be seen at the bottom of the Poros Canal.
One of the most impressive monuments of Cretan architecture is the Palace of Knossos. It is its image that adorns tourist brochures about Crete, postcards and souvenir products, so that anyone interested in this region has come across pictures of this unique sight more than once.
The Minotaur’s Labyrinth
According to one of the myths, during the reign of King Minos of Crete a huge palace was built with a convoluted system of rooms and corridors, the exit from which was very difficult to find…
The Cave of Zeus
The Cave of Dikti in the east of Crete is where the legend says Zeus was born. The entrance is not easy to find: it’s inconspicuous. But when you get inside, you are struck by this centuries-old beauty, frozen in the stone. Giant stalactites, as if they were the height of Zeus, make a strong impression.
The Samaria Gorge is the largest gorge in Europe, stretching for 18 kilometers. The gorge is located in the southwest of Crete in the town of Chania. The name comes from the village of Samaria. That is how the Russian people came up with the name of one Volga city.
Aquapark Acqua Plus
In Acqua Plus is not only fun, but also beautiful: one of the largest water parks of Crete is located in a corner of paradise – on a high hill covered with flowering gardens. The water slides are hidden in the shade of weeping willows and the playgrounds are set in green lawns between slender palms and lush bougainvilleas.
Star Beach Waterpark
The Star Beach is a two-in-one water park set on the shores of the Mediterranean, combining a relaxing beach holiday with a full range of activities and boisterous parties. In a small area, there are 5 swimming pools, 4 slides, a water sports center and restaurants.
Anopolis Watercity Waterpark
Anopolis Watercity Waterpark is located under the open sky and quite high above sea level. It is very popular not only with tourists but also with the local youth. Apart from Watercity there are several other water parks in Crete, but this one is the biggest.
Aquarium of Crete
Just east of Heraklion, between Kokkini Hani and Kato Gouves there was once a large air base. Today the military personnel operating it are replaced by zoologists, and repair hangars are the huge aquariums of the ultramodern entertainment complex Cretaquarium.
A small and cozy resort village, Anissaras is situated on the famous island of Crete, in the north of the island and not far from the airport of Heraklion.
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
Greece, of all people, can’t complain about the lack of archaeological heritage. Even the humblest provincial museum is likely to have an impressive collection of ancient artifacts.
When you get to the snow-white beach “Vai”, it seems as if you are somewhere in the Caribbean. The atmosphere is set by luxurious palm trees, umbrellas with canopies of leaves and clear turquoise water. But “Vai” is Crete. And the grove of Theophrastus date palms is considered the largest wild palm forest in Europe.
The ancient city of Gortyna
Gortyna, located in the Messara Plain, was once the main city of Crete. At its height during the Doric Era, it was one of the most powerful cities of the island. Some of the buildings in Gortyna have survived the Roman and Byzantine dominions.
Historical Museum of Crete
Relatively small in size, Crete has been a sweet spot for many powerful nations in the past. With its perfect geographical position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, Crete has always been a tidbit for the powerful. As it passed from hand to hand, it soaked up the new rulers, like a sponge.
The massive walls of medieval fortress Koules, against which the powerful waves of the sea crash, is probably the main symbol of Heraklion. The 500-year history of “guardian of the Venetian bay” is reflected not only in the museum’s exposition, placed in dozens of its rooms, but also in its past and present names.
Fortezza is the dominant feature of Paleokastro hill in Rethymno and is one of the largest surviving Venetian fortifications in Europe. Built on the site of the ancient temples of Apollo and Artemis, the 16th century fortress impresses by the size of its bastions and the strength of its walls.
Crete, with its ideal position, mild climate and fertile lands has always been a mouthful for many invaders. In the 14th century the Venetians were especially successful in developing the island. Merchants by nature, they were quick to adapt to the geopolitical situation of the time.
Along a steep winding road at 18 km from Rethymno stands the Monastery of Arkadi. The first buildings here date back to the 5th century and the current appearance of the main monastery buildings dates to the 16th and 17th centuries. The pride of the monastery is the church of 1587 with a magnificent baroque facade.
Kera Cardiotissa Monastery
This monastery kept the most valuable icon – Our Lady of Cardiotissa. It is said that she healed the suffering and in general had many adventures. The monastery is located near the village of Kera, surrounded by mountains. It was built in the 13th century.
The Soviet era children, who were fond of reading and did not sleep in the literature classes, knew about Crete since kindergarten. There were cartoons about the myths of Ancient Greece all over the TV. And the story of the Minotaur and Ariadne’s thread was a favorite of many.
Children grew up, started earning and traveling the world. The fascination with Crete could optionally be put down to memories from childhood. You were so worried about the cartoon characters, so struggling with your minotaurs, that now you want to see for yourself where everything really happened. The island began to “open up” in the 19th century. Archaeologists found such interesting things, there were so many of them, that the news about the discoveries quickly spread around the world. And as soon as tourism was put on a commercial track, the island was flooded with vacationers.
Crete has a lot to show in addition to the famous palace of Knossos and the labyrinth. For example, in a small town called Gortis you can be transported into the pre-Cretan era (2nd century BC), because here you can see the ancient Temple of Apollo, the Odeon, the ancient theater and even the courthouse. Certainly, the time has left its imprint on them, but nevertheless they have not lost their former greatness.
And nearby is the Orthodox Church, founded by a follower of Paul, St. Titus, in the 6th century AD.
One of the most mysterious and popular places of Crete is considered to be Diktaia cave. It is situated at an altitude of more than one thousand meters above sea level and attracts with a huge internal lake.
Among the more recent landmarks of Crete the Monastery of Preveli is worth special mentioning. It was built in the 16th century in one of the most picturesque parts of the island. There is a river that forms a small lake with palm trees growing on its shores. Going downstream, you find yourself on a picturesque rocky shore of the sea.
One of the most mysterious and popular places of Crete is considered to be Diktaia Cave. It lies over a thousand meters above the sea level and attracts with a huge inner lake and a spacious hall, which used to be one of the main places of worship of the ancient Greeks.
Pristine nature and picturesque landscapes distinguish the Samaria Gorge, on the territory of which there is one of the best nature reserves in Europe. There is a unique palm forest, where, according to legend, the world’s first date palms appeared. The highlight of the reserve is the church of St. Nicholas, which stands at the entrance to the gorge.
By the way, the tourists come to Crete not only because of the myths. The island is a great seaside resort. Its cities are full of all kinds of entertainment. One of the romantic ways to get to Crete is by ferry. They leave from mainland Piraeus every day. You can feel like Theseus, sailing to meet the formidable monster.
Attractions of Crete
Knossos Palace Odeon St. Mark’s Cathedral St. Nikolaos Malia Bay Balos Museum Human Museum Spinalonga Island
This site contains Crete sights – photos, descriptions and travel tips. The list is based on popular travel guides and is presented by type, name and rating. Here you’ll find answers to questions: what to see in Crete, where to go and where are the popular and interesting places of Crete.
The palace of Knossos can be compared to the age of the pyramids of Egypt or the English Stonehenge. The start of its construction is dated from the second century BC, and it lasted more than a millennium. The area of the palace is about 20 thousand square meters and consists of a complex system of hundreds of rooms, which seemed to the ancient Greeks very confusing.
There are many legends associated with the palace of Knossos. The most famous one is about Theseus and Minotaur. It was in the labyrinths of the palace ancient king Minos imprisoned half-bull-half-man, who every seven years took a tribute from the Athenians – 7 girls and 7 boys. Thanks to the thread of Ariadne, Minos’ daughter, Theseus managed to kill the Minotaur and escape from the island with his assistant.
Now you can wander through the intricate galleries and halls of the palace and admire the frescoes of Cretan artists of the time, dedicated to religious processions, scenes of games, flowers and birds, fantastic griffins.
In terms of architectural design, the columns are of particular interest – they are narrower to the bottom, not wider as is usual for ancient buildings.
Coordinates : 35.29873500,25.16364400
The island of Crete attracts many tourists every year with its magnificent scenery and its architectural, historical and cultural attractions. One of them is the ruins of the Odeon, an ancient Roman theater. Its origins date back to the 1st century AD. Under the Odeon building was a circular structure from the Archaic period, in the walls of which were placed huge stones with the Codex Gortina (ancient Roman scriptures). They were built into the restored building of the Roman theater. In 824 AD the Odeon was destroyed by the Arabs.
In 1884, parts of the inscription of the Codex Gortyna were accidentally discovered. Then in 1899, excavations began in the Odeon area, led by L. Pernier and F. Albert. They were not completed until 1921. In 1956 the Odeon was fortified; at present the north of the circular wall of the building is protected by a special construction in which an inscription is embedded.
The Odeon building has two entrances and a semicircular orchestra pit lined with marble grey and white slabs. There is also an elevated stage, also lined with marble and brick. Four wide niches for statues were built in the north wall of the Odeon stage. Unfortunately only three rows of benches have survived.
Coordinates : 35.06313400,24.94685100
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St. Mark’s Cathedral
St. Mark’s Cathedral is a building of an ancient Catholic temple, now used as an Art Museum. The former cathedral is located in the historic center of Heraklion, on the island of Crete.
St. Mark’s Cathedral was built in 1239 after the conquest of Heraklion by the Venetians. During the Venetian rule the church was the chief cathedral of Crete and from its staircase the edicts of the dukes were announced and the various decrees were pronounced. However, in 1303 the cathedral was completely destroyed by an earthquake and was not rebuilt until one hundred years later. During the Muslim domination St. Mark’s Cathedral was turned into a mosque and the Turks added a minaret to its architectural ensemble. It was not until 1956 that the church was restored to its original appearance.
Today, St. Mark’s Cathedral does not belong to the Catholic Church, but it retains its former name. Nowadays this majestic building houses the Museum of Art, which exhibits samples of the Byzantine medieval painting.
St. Mark’s Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks of Heraklion and Crete. Its walls and columns are literally imbued with the spirit of antiquity, which attracts the visitors.
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Agios Nikolaos is a unique place located in Crete. This city combines elements of ancient traditions and modern culture. Agios Nikolaos has about 10,000 inhabitants and is one of the largest towns in Lassithi, despite its small size.
Its striking feature is its wonderful landscape: going out for an evening promenade, or simply looking around the local sights, you will see endless descents and ascents. Also, you will be amazed by its splendor beautiful churches, old neighborhoods and stores with traditional art (knives, handmade ceramics, jewelry), as well as unique local textiles.
As for architecture, Agios Nikolaos is dominated by traditional buildings with a distinctive Macedonian style. Nevertheless, many old houses have been replaced by modern ones. This is partly due to the increase in the standard of living and the influx of tourists, but also because of problems with earthquakes. The main local landmarks are: The Byzantine Watchtower, the Archaeological Museum and the Church in the central square of Eleftherios Venizelos.
Malia is a popular tourist resort, attracting an abundance of accessible recreation and entertainment. Here you can visit the ancient streets and monuments during the day and at night you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of festivity and visit one of the many nightclubs, bars or restaurants.
Malia, like the whole island of Crete, has a rich history. The city has many architectural monuments, such as the remains of the ancient palace of the Minoan civilization, which existed in the XVII-XVIII centuries BC. Malia is famous for its clean beaches, which are washed by warm waves and surrounded by paradisiacal scenery.
Tourists can also find a large number of hotels, souvenir stores, car rentals and a variety of entertainment.
A true vacation paradise in Greece – it’s Bay of Balos on the north-west coast of Crete, where the shore is washed by three seas: the Aegean, the Libyan and the Ionian. You can get to Balos by car (preferably by jeep, because the road is difficult), or easier but more beautiful – by boat, and at the same time to admire the bay from the sea. Especially noteworthy is the beautiful beach of Balos Bay, much loved by tourists. Balos bay, located 60km from Chania, is considered as the most beautiful beach of the region. The beach is located at the northwestern edge of Crete, on the peninsula of Gramvousa.
The beach is wild, with practically nothing but stunning shores and magnificent and clean sea. It is almost impossible to find a deck chair or at least a sun lounger, but it has its own charm.
The water of the bay is saturated with a unique composition of minerals that form the extraordinary phenomenon of azure water. Scientists have estimated that in the waters of the bay there are about 14 shades. It is worth pointing out that this beach is considered the most beautiful in the whole Mediterranean – not for nothing that Princess Diana and Prince Charles chose this place for their honeymoon.
The Museum of Man
The Museum of Man is perhaps the most fun museum to visit, covering the history of mankind, from a fun Stone Age dwelling exhibit to an enormous “satellite dish” with photographs of Neil Armstrong.
The museum is more of a theme park, walking around you can see a funny sculpture of the caveman dog, you can sit on his throne, you can admire the homemade monuments to Yuri Gagarin and Laika. Some of the exhibits have humorous plaques, which sometimes cause bursts of laughter from museum visitors.
The Museum of Man is a great place to be active.
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The island of Spinalonga is a small rock island where a temple was built in honor of Aphrodite and Aris, the lovers. The island is located opposite the resort of Elounda, in the Gulf of Mirabello, in the east of Crete.
There used to be a leper colony, which was brought here from the whole Crete to spend the rest of their lives, but it was closed down in 1957.
On the island you can see both the ruins from the Greco-Turkish War and the remaining Venetian and Turkish buildings, as well as the church of St. Panteleimon. From here you can admire a stunning view of the sea.
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