Many travelers have the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos on their bucket lists, and it’s not hard to see why.
Santorini is known for its blue-domed, white-washed buildings and amazing sunsets, and Mykonos is famous for its great beaches and electric nightlife.
But the downside to these islands, and many other popular Greek islands, is that they can become extremely crowded and expensive during the high season.
However, there’s an underrated alternative to Santorini and Mykonos this summer: Crete.
This Greek island largely flies under the radar for many tourists, but here’s why it’s worth adding to your travel bucket list:
1. Easily Accessible
Unlike some of the smaller Greek islands that are only accessible by ferry, Crete is a very large island and has two airports.
You can fly into Crete from Athens in under an hour, and many other cities around Europe have direct flights. There’s also a frequent ferry from Athens to Crete which takes about eight hours.
The two airports are located in Chania, on the western side of the island, and Heraklion, on the eastern side of the island.
2. Large And Uncrowded
Crete is by far the largest Greek island, which means there’s plenty of space, and you’ll never feel crushed by the crowds, even during the busy summer months.
The western side of the island is known for its great beaches, beautiful sunsets, and hiking, whereas the eastern side of the island is less populated and home to more secluded beaches and quaint fishing villages.
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3. Stunning Beaches
Crete is home to dozens of incredible beaches, and you won’t have to fight the crowds or pay for an expensive beach club in order to enjoy them.
Balos is one of the most famous beaches in Crete, with its otherworldly scenery, white sound, and turquoise waters.
Elafonisi and Falassarna are two more incredible beaches in Crete with azure waters and sandy shores where you can relax in the sun before cooling off with a refreshing dip in the sea.
4. Beautiful Sunsets
While Santorini may be especially famous for its picturesque sunsets, the western side of Crete also has some truly stunning sunsets.
After a long day of exploring the island, there’s nothing better than sitting at a cafe and enjoying the sunset while you sip on a drink.
5. Great Hiking
For those who love active vacations and the great outdoors, Crete is known for its excellent hiking. Because it’s such a large island, it has many diverse landscapes.
The rugged Samariá Gorge is one of the most popular day hikes in Crete, while Imbros Gorge is a shorter but no less stunning alternative.
6. Fascinating Ruins
Many people love visiting Greece to explore the ancient history and ruins around the country, and Crete is no exception.
This island is home to many treasures of antiquity, including the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos and the Roman city of Gortyna.
The archaeological museum in Heraklion is also considered to be one of the best museums in Greece and a must-visit for history buffs.
7. Delicious Food
Lastly, Crete is known for its delicious and authentic Greek cuisine. The island is said to have the best olive oil in Greece, and there are over 1.5 million olive trees on Crete.
Cretan cheese is also something you must try – it’s delicious and fresh and usually made from goat or sheep milk because cows are not common due to the terrain and climate in Crete.
Dakos is a famous starter in Crete that consists of dried bread topped with cheese, tomatoes, and olive oil. Sarikopitakia is another popular snack in Crete that is a cheese-filled pastry.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Thursday 16th of March 2023
Sorry but Crete is Definitely Not under the radar being one of the first destinations for mass tourism in the 70s and continued ever since! It has the longest season along with Santorini and certain places like Chania have exploded in the last few years. Even at the end of the season the Samaria gorge was so packed you couldn't enjoy the scenery!! It May be unknown to Americans but Europeans have been flocking here decades. And by the way there is also an airport in Sitia....
Friday 10th of March 2023
Crete under the radar ? There is hundreds of charter flights from all over Europe landing in Heraklion every summer from May to October…usually there are slots from Air Traffic Control due to Lack of parking positions and both airports are operating at their maximum capacity….Crete is very crowded during the Peak season….
Friday 10th of March 2023
Elafonnisi beach - massive crowds.
Heraklion - Knossos - massive crowds.
Balos Beach - massive crowds, unless you get there early. But then you as you leave, the hordes arrive.
Falarsana - not massive, but pretty full.
Plakias? - massive crowd for small area.
This was in Sept 22