Crete is an island for explorers. On the one hand, with 1066 kilometres of coastline this is Greece's largest island and a paradise for anyone who loves the sea. On the other hand, the mountains, which reach up to 2500 metres in height and stretch from west to east, give visitors the contrasting option of exploring mountain villages in addition to coastal towns.
If you want to experience the diversity of Crete, your best bet is a hire car for discovering the coastal and mountain regions of the island at your own pace. In the north-east, for example, lies Chania, the most beautiful harbour town on the island and featuring a magnificent historic quarter. From there, by car it is not far to Rethymnon, where you can trace the vestiges of long-gone conquerors in the architectural heritage.
Nature lovers can take the hire car for a spin in the east of the island, where life is less hectic, the landscape more rugged and the beaches are emptier.
Book a cheap rental car with TUI CARS now and go on a tour of discovery.
Palm beach of Vai
The palm beach of Vai, as the name suggests, is a beautiful shoreline fringed with date palms. In fact it fronts the largest forest of Cretan date palms in Europe. According to legend, the grove was created by washed up date stones discarded by Saracen pirates, but as the fruits of the date palm are barely edible, this story is not given much credence.
The first “tourism” here began in the 1970s, when the remaining "old hippies" withdrew from their retreats in the bays of Matala and Preveli and occupied the beach and forest, but also brought chaos and rubbish, destroying the beauty of this natural paradise. Then the beach and forest were declared a protected area, which meant the “residents” had to leave. Today, the palm beach is a major tourist attraction visited by many thousands every year. Hire a cabriolet or roadster and discover Crete and the palm beach of Vai at your leisure and own pace.
The Samaria Gorge
With a length of 17 kilometres the Samaria Gorge on Crete is one of the longest canyons in Europe. The beautiful gorge stretches from the Libyan Sea to the heart of the island, reaching an altitude of about 1200 metres. As one of the tourist highlights in Crete, the famous ravine attracts up to 4,000 hikers per day, walking between the vertical rock faces that reach up to 600 metres in height. The Samaria Gorge is home to an extraordinary collection of magnificent pines and cypresses. Thanks to the long isolation of the flora in the upper reaches of the canyon, the gorge can boast 14 endemic plant species.
Iraklio, formerly Heraklion, is the capital of the Greek island of Crete. Despite its location, Iraklio is the fourth largest city in Greece. With 173,450 inhabitants, it is also the largest city in Greece that is not located on the mainland. Iraklio is strategically sited in the middle of the north coast of the island, which itself stretches about 250 kilometres. With a maximum width of 70 kilometres, Crete is not exactly one of the smallest islands in the country.
Visit Koules Fortress dating from the 16th century, guarding the Venetian port, or explore the fortress wall, up to 8.5 metres thick in some places, which stood up to the Turkish siege of Iraklios that lasted 21 years. Stroll along the lively market street of Odos 1866 after a busy sightseeing day. Discover the beautiful surroundings of Iraklio by car. Hire a cabriolet or roadster at the beginning of your trip and discover the beautiful island of Crete in an open top car.