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With its own unique folkways, history and spectacular scenery, Crete is like a country within a country. Soaring from the deep blue Mediterranean, holidays here take in stunning mountains, palm-fringed sandy beaches and historic harbour towns built around Venetian fortresses.
Beach bums, lounge lizards and outdoor adventurers all find something to please on Greece's biggest island. Fly-and-floppers head straight to the island's north coast, where a chain of turquoise bays and golden beaches are fronted by wide range of accommodation – think friendly guesthouses and self-catering apartments, as well as gorgeous boutique hotels within aristocratic townhouses, all-inclusive resorts, and some very lush enclaves.
Culture cravers, meanwhile, ditch the sun-lounger for a dip into Crete's rich past. From the 4,000-year-old relics of the vanished Minoan civilisation to forgotten Roman cities and grim Ottoman fortresses, a long and fascinating history is still scribbled across the island.
For foodies, Crete has a menu that ranges from distinctive Cretan delicacies such as patsas (tripe soup) and chochlioi (wild snails) in red sauce to upscale Mediterranean-fusion in fine-dining restaurants. Pair your meal with any one of the new-style Greek wines. It's not just about cheap and cheerful retsina these days and you’ll find plenty of drops made from uniquely Cretan grape varieties.
While you can easily spend a holiday to Crete hopping between pretty beaches, tasting Greek treats and sunbathing your days away, it’s rewarding to get off the beaten track here. Hidden valleys, secret grottoes and tiny offshore islands let you play castaway for a day are just a stone’s throw away from the big hitters – if you know where to look.
Violent crime involving visitors is rare, but theft from rental cars is common. Do not leave valuables in plain sight in your car. Accidents involving rented scooters and quad bikes are not uncommon, so use caution. For up-to-date travel advice for Greece, check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
No, travellers with a full British passport do not need a visa to visit Crete.
You need at least a week to take in the top sights and enjoy all the activities on offer in Crete. A two-week stay gives you time to explore off the beaten track, with plenty of time to relax on the beach, too.
Crete's flagship attraction is ancient Knossos, an amazing relic of Europe's oldest civilisation. But there's more: sandy beaches, historic towns, outstanding food and drink and breath-taking mountain scenery are all part of the mix.
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