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As the largest and most densely populated of the Greek islands, and the 5th largest island in the Mediterranean, Crete attracts scores of visitors year after year. Some come for the sun, some for the sea and some for the food. Crete is certainly home to some of the finest Mediterranean cuisine and the most luxurious of beaches, but it's also home to some of the best historical attractions in Europe. As with so many islands, Crete has been fought over, won and lost, controlled by many and inhabited by more. At some stage the island has been under the control of the Romans, Byzantines, Minoans, Venetians and Ottomans, leading to a rich history, culture and a wonderful mix of architecture.
If you're interested in Greek mythology then you will find plenty to explore. The Idaion cave at Mount Ida is said to be the birthplace of Zeus and can be visited. You can also see the island of Dia, seven miles off the Cretan coast, which is said to have been formed when Zeus turned a giant lizard to stone as it tried to attack Crete.
The Preveli Monastery is a must see if you like to grasp a sense of the local culture on your travels abroad. The monastery is a respected part of Crete and dates back to 1594, which is the oldest reference point for the building. Although this is the date on the monastery's bell, the original building could be a lot older. The building that stands there today was built in 1670 after the original was destroyed in 1649 by the invading Turks, another nod towards Crete's fought-over past. The monastery is also home to a museum which houses items dating back to the 17th century. There are a large number of monasteries on the island, many with differing designs thanks to the different rulers of the island's past.
Crete is also home to a number of archaeological sites and museums such as the Minoan sites of Phaistos and Knossos.The Heraklion Archeology Museum is home to most of Crete's Minoan finds and is a recommended and popular tourist attraction. Be sure also to visit Rocca al Mare, the Venetian fortress that stands at the entrance to the harbour in Heraklion.
There is also a wide range of accommodation options and package deals available, so be sure to look around if you're planning a trip to the island. There are many independent B&Bs and hotels on the island worth a visit, but you can often get some good deals with companies such as thomas cook for flights to and accommodation in Crete. If you're willing to book a last minute deal then you'll find some really good offers too. Happy holidays!
© Dianne Selwood 2004-2012 Our Greek Villa