The Mail – Hiring cars is easy as there are rows of competing rental outfits along the coast. And it doesn’t take long to discover there’s a lot more to the largest Greek island than beaches.
Driving away from the coast in Crete is like entering a different country. You leave behind the tourist strip of beaches, hotels and bars and enter a wonderful rolling landscape of farms, friendly villagers and lush fields of olives, vines and fruit trees.
- A pretty little vineyard owned by Ioannis Stilianou, renowned for giving tours and tastings. The burly farmer rushed out of his farmhouse to welcome us with his noisy dog and a big smile. Soon he was opening bottles of his award-winning wine.
- On the coast at a hotel near Agios Nikolaos, with private beaches, pools and restaurants. It even had a private chapel amid beautiful gardens of exotic flowers.
- The 4,000-year-old Knossos Palace. This is the legendary home of King Minos and the Greek myth of Theseus hunting the half man-half bull minotaur in the palace labyrinth. The site was discovered by British archaeologists and today is often called ‘Europe’s first city’: 100,000 people lived here in 2000 BC.
- The Archaeological Museum is world-class, housing treasures from Knossos and other ancient sites around the island.
Heraklion’s bustling centre is worth a day of strolling, too. There are churches and forts to visit and I found that the market area, which boasts 970 shops, is as much of a labyrinth as Knossos.