Crete is the largest Greek island, and renting a car is a must if you plan on exploring the most famed locations on the island. I stayed in Heraklion and it is relatively close to the main attractions of the island. However, the Balos Lagoon (which is absolutely gorgeous and I was dying to go) is more than a 4-hour drive from where I was staying, so I was not able to go visit. Crete is the birthplace of Greek Mythology. The Palace of Knossos was the setting for the famed labyrinth where Theseus slayed the minotaur and where Icarus and Daedalus were held captive then crafted wings to escape the island, the Diktaean Cave is the supposed birthplace of Zeus, and so many other myths. Crete is also home to the largest gorge in Europe, the Samaria Gorge. The majority of wineries in Crete are located in the central part of the island near Heraklion and the island has 11 indigenous varieties.
Contributing Author Abby Bruns
Lyrasrakis is a family owned winery that primarily cultivates indigenous Cretan grapes. They are credited with saving the ancient Plyto and Dafni grapes from extinction as well as a “vineyard treasure”, the indigenous Mellisaki grape. I am also obsessed with their wine and distraught that I can't have it shipped to Austin. At the tasting we tried 6 of their wines, two whites: Plyto and Danfi, a rose made with Merlot and Liatiko, a red made with Kotsifali and Syrah, a sparkling wine called ZaZaZu, and a dessert wine. They were all incredible but my two favorites are the Plyto and the ZaZaZu.
A pirate ship is possibly one of the best ways to see the island especially at sunset. The captain made a wonderful Greek barbeque for dinner and served local homemade wine. We sailed around to local swimming holes, took in the views, and had a dance party. Overall, it was one of the best nights in Crete.
The Samaria Gorge is the largest gorge in Europe. It’s a 16 km (10-11 miles) hike and the first 3 km is steep downhill walking. Because of this I could not actually do the hike, because I have bad knees thanks to 10 years of soccer, cheer, and track. So, if you have bad knees or ankles this hike is not for you. Friends of mine that were able to go said this was the highlight of their trip, the views were incredibly gorgeous, and completely worth the trip. Much of the hike is in direct sunlight and there is nowhere to get food or water along the hike so bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and snacks!