Visit East Crete
When people pick Crete as a vacation destination they either go for the east or the west side of the island. The West is more laid back and perfect for those who want to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, but East Crete has so much to offer and a side of many contrasts.
Firstly the main airport for the eastern side of Crete is Heraklion, and it accepts flights internationally and domestic, although the main influx of flights comes during the high or peak season of May till October.
Heraklion is the capital of Crete and is an excellent city with plenty of history. With the Greek naval Museum and fortress on the port of Heraklion, moving into the city you can find local markets, and stunning architecture. Another big draw for history lovers has to be the Archaeological Museum where the finds from Knossos Palace are held.
Knossos Palace is the main draw for tourists visiting Crete, the start of modern civilization as we know it with the Minoan Empire and the seat of King Minos. The palace of Knossos was excavated by Sir Arthur Evans and is now open to the public daily.
Getting off the plane and heading straight for the coast you come across Kokkini Hani, Gouves and Gournes. These small villages have a varied amount to do in them but all hug the beautiful Cretan coastline with nice white sandy beaches. The nightlife in Kokkini Hani and Gournes is fairly limited, with a few small touristy bars and local Tavernas. Gouves has quite a large amount of bars but is never to overwhelming and it’s a friendly and enjoyable place to take your family.
Moving onto Hersonissos, Stalis and Malia this is where it becomes livelier and where you will find the bulk of European holidaymaker’s who come here mainly for the clubs, bars and pubs and generally anyone wanting a fun filled holiday should visit this area.
Don’t discount this area for just clubbing and pubs, it’s also has points of interest like Malia Palace, Lassithi Plateau for you to explore and this area is very popular with hikers, walkers and mountain bikers.
Moving on further to the eastern tip of the island you will find Agios Nikolaos or Ag Nik for short with its famous bottomless lake, where it’s believed the Germans dumped all the munitions and tanks to evade capture by the British and locals in WWII. Near Ag Nik you will find the buzzing cosmopolitan town of Elounda, which itself is a vacation haven for A list Hollywood stars and has some beautiful blue star beaches.
The island of Spinalonga is the main draw for holidaymaker’s visiting this area which was once a leper colony for all of Greece, where the lepers were held in isolation before much was known about the disease of leprosy.
Move around the coast to find the area of Sitia and Ierapetra, quieter by comparison to their south eastern neighbours. Smaller fishing ports filled with lots of history, ruined fortresses and Byzantine churches. This area doesn’t cater for tourists as much as Heraklion, Gouves, Elounda and the likes but depends more on the economy of farming and fishing so hotels are slightly harder to come by.
The east of Crete can be lively and packed with tourists during the summer, but escape into the smaller villages or Old Towns of the main areas of Hersonissos and Malia and you will find the real Cretan way of life. But one thing you must do when visiting is to visit Spinalonga and Knossos palace.