Crete Main

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Crete could certainly fit into a leisurely, ferry-hopping beach holiday through the Greek islands, but that's giving short shrift to a place that is so rich with history, archaeological treasures, and an intrinsically Mediterranean landscape. Greece's largest island, it has seen burgeoning tourism (and the companion development of major resort areas, particularly on the north coast), but remains a land of remote villages where Zorba the Greek would feel right at home.

In summer it's very hot and the number of visitors can be overwhelming in July and August, but a sense of timelessness falls over much of the island in late spring (when wildflowers fill the hillsides) and early fall, when it's much more comfortable to explore the subtleties of early Minoan civilization at Knossos Palace and the nearby archaeological museum in Iraklion.

Crete's cities are loaded with cafés, clubs, and nightlife that can go on well into the morning, but wiser travelers will soon make their way to the countryside of mountain villages and small coastal towns of the western end of the island. It's the greenest, most mountainous part of the island, and a place where you can spend days walking (on hiking trails among the best in the Mediterranean) without seeing another soul - and end the day with a traditional Cretan meal in a small taverna far from the sights and sounds of the tourist world.

Photos courtesy explorecrete.com