I have always had an affinity for Greece, due to my mother’s Greek heritage. As a child, we holidayed in Athens and Corfu, and I was very lucky to see many of the other Greek islands as well. However, one place we did not visit was Crete.
It’s not that my family did not want to go to Crete. It just didn’t feature in any of my mother’s or grandparents’ past experience. We stuck to what they knew.
Recently, I found out that you can get a DNA test to discover your ancestry. I went through the process and, along with some other surprises, found out that some of my Greek ancestry comes from Crete. This is also expressed in the fact that I have some Venetian and Turkish ancestry as well.
I decided to tour Crete, and now I am unable to stop. It turns out Crete is one of the most stunning Greek islands, and it has some remarkable history as well.
The Old Town of Chania
On my first visit to Crete, I stayed in Chania’s Old Town as friends I had made in my travels to Greece had recommended. I was blown away by not only the old town but the new town as well. The old town is, of course, incredibly quaint, beautiful not just for Instagram pics but for inspiration on a deeper level. You'll find exquisite cuisine at any restaurant you try, along with the cutest boutique stores.
The new town is pretty much your good old Greek town. It has stunning views, while seeming like a great place to live in. You can spend every evening doing sundowners by the beach, while spending far less on groceries than you would on other Greek islands.
Chania is also close to some of the most beautiful Cretan beaches. Stefanou Beach in Seitan Limania is my absolute favourite. It is a small pebble beach in a cove, and the fact that it requires a bit of a hike to get to ensures it isn’t completely overflowing with tourists.
But Chania isn’t the only destination in Crete I can wholeheartedly recommend. The entire island is spectacular, but since I went in search of my heritage, there is nothing quite as exciting as Knossos.
Knossos is Europe’s oldest city and Crete’s most famous (and biggest) archaeological site. “The Labyrinth,” as its name translates to, has an ancient Minoan palace that was abandoned thousands of years ago. It was, until then, the centre of Minoan civilisation and culture. While Herakleion has a remarkable archaeological museum, there’s nothing quite like going to the archaeological sites themselves.
Knossos is also pretty great because, in comparison to the Acropolis in Athens, for example, it is not nearly as crowded. Tourism is a major aspect of Crete’s economy, but it is not the biggest player, and Crete as a whole is less crowded than an island like Santorini or Mykonos.
Crete should have been a regular travel destination all my life, but I’m grateful for my DNA leading me there. It is truly one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever visited.