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As you wander around Crete (and Greece for that matter), you’ll no doubt come across tales of the ancient Gods, their duties, lives, and origins. Considered the most important Greek god, Zeus was the god of the sky, thunder, and the king of all other gods and men. It’s in Diktaion Cave that this famous god was brought forth for all humanity. Legends aside, the Diktaion Cave is considered one of the best of the 4,500 caves and sinkholes found throughout Crete. Its cool environs are a pleasant escape from the sun and heat of the Crete. You’ll pass through five antechambers as you make your way down deep into the earth. At the bottom of the cave is a glass-calm lake surrounded by immense stalactites and stalagmites. Across the lake in a small chamber is the area where Zeus was apparently born. Diktaion Cave is located up on the Lasithi plateau, an area quite unlike the rest of Crete. This high area is mostly flat and is the breadbasket of the island, with orchards and extensive farms. Stop in a small village and grab a lunch consisting of the fresh, local produce capped off with a cold beverage.
Before a visit to Knossos, to better understand the ancient history and people of Crete, go to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in the centre of the city. The findings from the palace are stored, preserved and displayed in the museum. There are frescoes, pottery, jewellery, weapons and sculptures from the Minoan civilisation, but also discoveries from the Neolithic and Roman eras. Don’t miss the implausibly delicate Malia Pendant, made circa 1800 BCE. Just outside the capital city of Heraklion, the Palace of Knossos once served as the political centre for the Minoans, who created the first sophisticated civilisation in Europe. At the entrance you’ll find dozens of certified guides eager to show you the wonders of the palace, from important archaeological discoveries to the mythological stories of King Minos and the minotaur. Get there early to avoid the crowds, as it is one of the most popular sites in Crete.
Some sites require more effort to enjoy than others, and Samaria Gorge is one of those. Located in the National Park of Samarai in the White Mountains, this stunning gorge is a ten-mile downhill hike that ends at a black-sand beach in Agia Roumelli on the Libyan sea. It passes through forests of ancient cypresses and pines, then cuts between vertical cliffs through the mountains. Depending on a person’s speed and fitness level, this hike can take between four to seven hours. At the end of the trek, most hikers hire a boat to take them to Chora Sfakion.
For dramatic scenery, head to the remote south coast. Here, you’ll find Matala, a lovely small town with a fantastic stretch of beach, lined at one end by caves. Preveli beach, set at the end of a gorge and backed by huge cliffs, yet still accessibly via a short hike, is another top attraction on this side of the island. On the north coast, you may also want to set your sights on beaches around Agios Nikolaos, on picturesque Mirabello Bay. One of the top choices here is Voulisma beach, but if you have time to explore a little further afield, Vai Beach, also known as Palm Beach, is one of the top beaches on Crete. Knossos is the most important archeological site on Crete. A pre-Greek Bronze Age culture and the first maritime power in the Mediterranean, the Minoans were named after the legendary King Minos. Knossos, near the city of Heraklion, is believed to have been the palace of King Minos. See more information at https://www.chaniacar.com/.