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Exploring the Past in Crete

Crete is the largest of all the Greek islands, and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. The island has been attracting people for millennia, thanks in large part to the mild climate as a result of being halfway between Europe and Africa. Mythologically, Crete is said to be the origins of Europe. Zeus is said to have abducted of Europa from modern-day Lebanon and taken her to Crete. Together they had three children, each of whom became the kings of the great Minoan palaces on Crete and thus the founders of the Minoan civilization, and in turn of Europe.

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Crete, My Favourite Archaeological Destination

Thomas first visited the island in 1990 while on a backpacking trip around Greece. Since then he has returned a number of times, although carrying a bit more luggage than a backpack and staying in some more comfortable places than a youth hostel. Found out more about Crete and what keeps pulling Thomas back to explore more … Continue Reading >>

Thomas Dowson

Archaeology Travel

A Byzantine church on the island of Crete.

Five Handpicked Tours and Activities in Crete for History Lovers

Cretan Culture & Nature Tour of the Lasithi Area: on this day tour you will see Crete past and present. You will visit ancient temples and historic monasteries, see local museums and traditional villages, and meet local shepherds and beekeepers.

Chania: Discover the Religious Heritage Of Apokoronas: On this day trip you will visit out of the way churches and learn about the religious history and traditions of Crete. One of the highlights is the 13th century church frescoes, of which the island is famous for.

Rethymno: Explore the Real Crete in a Small Group: This day trip from Rethymno takes you on a tour of Crete’s fascinating past, from time of the first farmers in the Neolithic period, to one of the most important archaeological sites on the island, to Crete’s earliest monastery.

Crete World War II History Tour: On this day trip from Chania you will visit some of the key sites where the Battle of Crete took place, including the site where the German army first landed.

Follow in the Footsteps of Greek Mythology: Crete is the birthplace of Zeus! On this tour you will visit the Cave of Zeus, believed by many to be the place where baby Zeus was hidden from Cronus by Rhea to prevent him from eating the baby. You will also visit traditional mountain villages and explore more recent Cretan customs and ways of life.

These are just five, hand selected tours of the archaeology and history of Crete, there are many more you can choose from, including many that explore the natural heritage of the island. See the full list of Tours and Activities available from GetYourGuide for Crete >>

These are our recommendations for walking tours of Chania, Heraklion and Rethymno.

Day Tours from Crete

For those who have made Crete their base while visiting Greece, there is the option of taking a day trip to visit the island of Santorini. Here you could visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri, sometimes described as Greece’s Pompeii. Akrotiri would be a great addition to your itinerary if you are visiting, or have enjoyed visiting Knossos near Heraklion.

Day trips to Santorini from Crete are available from Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania.

Archaeological Sites in Crete

Gortyn

Church dedicated to St Titus Although a flourishing city was mentioned by Homer, it was not until the Hellenistic era that the city of Gortyn was at its most prosperous and powerful. During the Roman period the city became the capital city of the province of Creta et Cyrenaica. Later, in the sixth century AD a Christian cathedral was erected and dedicated to St Titus, the substantial ruins of which can still be seen today. Today, the site is best known for the Gortyn Code, discovered in 1884 it is the most complete and oldest example of a code of ancient Greek law … read more


Hagia Triada Royal Villa

The Hagia Triada sarcophagus, Heraklion Archaeological Museum © J. Ollé - WikimediaThe Minoan settlement of Hagia Triada is on the western edge of the same ridge as Phaistos. Although not as substantial as the Minoan palaces, there are many typical architectural features. For this reason it is referred to as a royal villa. Found at the site is the spectacular Hagia Triada sarcophagus, now on display in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The imagery on the limestone sarcophagus provides the most complete information on noble funerary customs on Crete under the Mycenaeans.


Knossos

Reconstructed cult object. Knossos is an important archaeological site that figures prominently in the history and development of archaeology. Excavations began in 1900 AD by Sir Arthur Evans and carried on for 35 years. Although many of his reconstructions and interpretations are now questioned, it is thought that the ruins are those of a political and ceremonial centre that was at the heart of Bronze Age communities on Crete. There is also archaeological evidence at the site for Neolithic and later Classical occupations.

Tickets & Tours for Knossos

Pre-Booked E-Ticket & Smartphone Audio Tour
Skip-the-Line Entry with Guided Walking Tour

Perfect if you do not have your own transport on Crete and you are not in the Heraklion area: a guided tour of Knossos and the museum from Chania or Rethymno


Phaistos

The archaeological site of Phaistos, Crete © Olaf Tausch - Wikimedia Phaistos was an important centre of Minoan civilisation on the island of Crete, the wealthiest and most powerful in southern Crete. At the centre of the substantial Minoan city was, according to many archaeologists, the finest of all the Minoan palaces. The earliest evidence of habitation dates to the Neolithic, while the first palace was constructed during the 15th century BC. Of a much more recent age are the archaeological remains of the Venetian church of St. George of Phalandra.

Archaeological Museums

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. © Olaf Tausch - WikimediaThe archaeological museum in Heraklion is one of the largest and most important archaeology museums in Greece. Not only does the museum have extensive displays of some 7,000 years of Cretan prehistory, from the Neolithic to the Late Roman period, it also has the finest collection of Minoan art and artefacts. Some of the island’s most iconic objects can be seen in permanent exhibitions, these include the enigmatic Phaistos disk, the bull head rhyton from Zakros and bull leaping fresco from Knossos.


Sightseeing Tours in Crete

Selected guidebooks for Crete

The following guidebooks for Crete are available on Amazon.com (see the same set of books on Amazon.co.uk):

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