A First Time Guide to Exploring Greece

A First Time Guide to Exploring Greece

Written By: Basil

My first vacation abroad was to Greece – Crete Island to be more specific. Did you know that there were many islands belonging to Greece? Until I traveled to the country, I honestly had no idea how many there were. A friend and I made the trek over to Crete, which is located between Africa and Europe and one of the southernmost islands. Each of the Greek Islands has their own appeal and atmosphere, which creates a unique experience for anyone traveling to the isles.

I learned a lot of tips and recommendations as I was researching my trip to Crete, so I thought I would share them for anybody who might be interested in traveling to the island and has no idea where to start.

Though there are many Greek Isles, Crete is the largest one and has many amazing points of interest and destinations to visit. For those who want to have a blend of tourist type activities as well as visiting many of the cultural aspects of the country, Crete is a good opportunity for you to get a well-rounded experience in a short amount of time. We only had a week to spare on the island, so we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see most -- I’ll be honest, all I really wanted to do was soak in the scenery and see some of the ancient ruins. The rest of the vacation was a bonus.

We took a flight from New York City to Athens, and then from there we hopped on a small plane that took us to the island. There are two airports on the island, both of which are only a couple hours’ drive away from each other and have various flight options from Athens. Depending on which coast you’d like to go to, each of the airports is conveniently located near those destinations. There are a few other options to get to Crete, including a ferry which travels overnight and takes about nine hours, or you can take a hydrofoil to the island. Once you arrive to Crete, renting a car is a great way to explore the islands -- driving from one end of the island to the other takes only about six hours, so it’s definitely plausible during your trip.

There are plenty of activities to enjoy once you arrive at Crete Island, whether you want to spend time on the beautiful beaches or you want to explore some of the mountain villages. I like to get outdoors and experience the destination by foot, so we headed over to the Samaria Gorge and took a seven hour hike that took us around many of the beautiful scenic spots including cliffs and streams. Once we were done with the hike, we spent more time relaxing at our coastal resort and then spent the rest of the trip visiting the ancient ruins -- one of the most famous being the Palace of Knossos. Depending on the time of your visit, music and culture festivals are held on the islands so be sure to check the calendar of events to see if there’s anything going on at the time of your visit.

Accommodations on the island match any budget, whether you want to stay at a high-end resort or you want to stay in a beachfront property. In a more historic town, you’ll find renovated boutique type hotels, including the Kapsaliana Village Hotel or the beautiful historic Casa Delfino, which is a 17th century mansion that has been renovated and available for guests. Travelers who like to immerse themselves in local life will find many small inns and resorts that encourage them to participate in islands traditions or activities, whether that’s making wine or accompanying a shepherd on his daily routes. These options certainly allow you to get a feel for Greek life and create a memorable experience.

Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines and there are plenty of traditional classic dishes to enjoy using fresh healthy foods. We always stopped for a meal when we came upon a village, and many of the dining staples included some grilled chicken and rice pilaf with local herbs and artisan cheeses. So delicious!

Crete Island has a lot to offer for just about any type of traveler – the history is quite fascinating and features outdoor activities for those who want to be more adventurous, as well as relaxing and therapeutic activities for those who want to soak in the Greek culture and enjoy the picture-perfect scenery.

Related Links
Countries: Greece
Cities: Crete
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