With its ancient ruins, grand canyons, characteristic cuisine, and sandy beaches that stretch for miles, there are endless reasons to visit Greece’s largest island. The only question is: how much time to you have to explore it all?


Spinalonga, a tiny island off the coast of Elounda made famous by Victoria Hislop’s novel “The Island”, was used as a leper colony in the early to mid 1900s. But its history reaches back to antiquity and spans through Venetian and Ottoman occupations. The haunting evidence of it all is there to see.


The Minoan Palace of Knossos, Europe’s oldest city (think Bronze Age), is literally the stuff of legends. From the labyrinth of the minotaur to the jaw-dropping Throne Room, this is Crete’s most important archaeological site and a must-see for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.


If this is your first time on Crete, head to the soft, pink sands of Elafonisi or luminous Balos lagoon. If you have more time, explore Mirabello Bay near Agios Nikolaos, or the photogenic cove of Seitan Limania, nestled at the bottom of a gorge – but go early, or it will be crowded with Instagrammers.


Cretan food is a cuisine in its own right. From dakos salad to kaltsounia pies stuffed with mizithra cheese, foraged greens, roast goat, and fried snails for those who dare, everything on the table celebrates the local and seasonal. To wash all that down, try some mountain tea or a glass of the fiery Cretan grappa, raki.


Crete’s southern coastline is wilder, emptier, and sprinkled with sensational tavernas. The sleepy, seaside hamlet of Loutro is only accessible by boat. From there, you can hike or sail to cliff-backed bays with some of the clearest water in the Mediterranean.