With abundant sunshine, fertile land and a stunning extended coastline, it’s no wonder Greece is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Crete’s mild winters and hot summers make it a great year-round destination to take a break from everyday life!
Legendary Greek philosophers and scientists (Hippocrates, Pythagoras and Plato to name a few!) believed in the therapeutic benefits of mineral waters and the importance of harmony between the body and the environment. And while things may have evolved just a little over the (thousands of!) years since Minoan kings bathed at Knossos Palace in Crete, you’ll still find a whole host of gorgeous beaches and superb spas here.
The Crete Half Marathon (which includes 10km, 5km and 1km races too!) is an international event open to all, taking place on 6 October 2019. Basic registration costs €20 – the circular course will lead you through the centre of Heraklion where you’ll see olive groves, vineyards and awesome views of the Minoa Pediadas municipality.
Looking for something a little different? Try the Sfakia Vertical Run on 27 October 2019. A test of strength and endurance, this race gains 690 metres of positive altitude in just 4.5 kilometres! Not for the faint-hearted, the challenge begins with a boat to Loutro, followed by a rocky (and very steep!) ascent to the church of Agia Ekaterini. Runners must ring the bell of the church before heading downhill towards the finish line in Anopolis Square, where you will be rewarded with traditional treats in the village square! Basic registration costs €12.
Cavo Spada is a sublime luxury sports and leisure resort, set on a Blue Flag beach. There’s a huge swimming pool and a range of fitness activities, but the jewel in the crown here is the Cavo Spada Spa, a haven of indulgence! Rejuvenate your body and mind in the jacuzzi, hammam or sauna, or treat yourself with a massage or beauty treatment. EO Kissamou Chanion, Kolimvari 730 06. Tel: +30 2824 022121
With two hotels in Crete (and another opening soon!), Enorme Hotels know how to do luxury. With outdoor pools and plenty of sports activities to entertain you, head to Lifestyle Beach for an adults-only break or Eanthia Beach for a family-friendly getaway. 81 Chandakos Street, 71292 Heraklion, Crete. Tel: +30 2810 227000.
Spa & Beauty
You’ll find the sprawling 5* Out of the Blue Capsis Elite Resort on its own private peninsula, close to Heraklion. Choose from a variety of wellness programs, including nutritional detox, yoga retreats and fitness activities.
The award-winning Six Senses Spa at Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort enjoys majestic views of the Aegean Sea and has a plethora of wellness experiences and treatments.
For an oriental retreat with modern wellness practices, try Al Hammam Authentic Turkish Baths on the Venetian old harbour of Chania. Don’t miss the deluxe outdoor massage with views of the Venetian lighthouse (€79).
Housed in a 16th century Venetian building with Ottoman elements, you’ll find Swan Beauty & Spa at the heart of Rethymnon old town.
Spoil yourself with a full body pampering session at Green Care Spa in Chania. There’s an extensive treatment menu here, including a range of packages. 90€ will buy you 3 hours and 30 minutes of pure bliss, with a facial, massage, manicure and pedicure – bargain!
Lose yourself in a world of luxurious relaxation at Euphoria Wellness Spa. Therapists here promise a wellness journey ‘rooted in ancient Greek beauty secrets, blended with contemporary therapies and massage techniques’ and with its modern, elegant and stylish facilities, this spa strikes the perfect balance between old and new.
What to eat
Greece (arguably!) has one of the best cuisines in the world – and you’ll be spoilt for choice in Crete with its abundance of fresh local produce and healthy eateries. Contrary to popular belief, Greek food is not all about the meat – colourful dishes filled with a rainbow of vegetables, grains and pulses mean there’s still plenty of choice if you’re vegan or vegetarian!
Small sharing plates (mezes) are the order of the day here – after all, variety is the spice of life – so pick a selection to share a delicious and sociable meal in true Greek style.
There’s more than 100 edible horta or Cretan wild greens in Greece, making this a popular dish among locals. Most Greeks choose to cook and consume whatever is in season, and whilst they can be eaten raw, most greens are boiled or cooked as part of a recipe. The most common greens on offer are black nightshade, nettle, mallow, sorrel, amaranth, chicory, purslane, vetch, golden thistle and avronies, a type of wild asparagus.
Broad beans have been consumed in Greece since ancient times, both fresh (raw or cooked) and dried, alone, or in mixtures with other legumes and fruits. There are many ways to eat them, but our favourite is with artichokes and lemon sauce!
More and more locals are choosing to follow in the footsteps of their ancient Greek ancestors with many rediscovering the importance of a healthy diet in their quest for wellness. Here’s our pick of the best healthy places to eat in Crete.
Where to eat
You’ll find To Stachi Bio Slow Food tucked away on a side street in the old town of Chania. Admire the pretty park and water views as you enjoy tasty local vegan cuisine. Be sure to try the stuffed zucchini flowers and herbs, moussaka with soy mince-meat and fresh Greek salads. St. Defkaliona 5, Chania. Tel: 30 282 1042 589
Stella’s Kitchen Tavern serves homemade, traditional Greek meals from old-time recipes. Many of the dishes are vegan-friendly, so there’s a slice of nostalgia for everyone to enjoy here. St. Souliou 55, Rethymnon 741 00. Tel: 30 283 1021 640
Pulse Restaurant offers Mediterranean vegetarian and vegan dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. While you’re here, order vegan meze plates, vegan burgers, Greek salads, risotto and pasta dishes. St. Theotokopoulou 70, Chania 73131. Tel: 30 694 0266 866
One of the most famous restaurants in Heraklion, Peskesi promotes authentic Cretan cuisine using fresh, local produce and pure ingredients. Set in the restored mansion of Captain Polyxigkis, there’s a wide range of local vegan Cretan dishes on offer too. St. Kapetan Haralampi 6-8, Heraklion. Tel: 30 281 0288 887
Gaia Store is a co-operation of producers promoting a sustainable network of bio products. Buy fresh products including olives and olive oil, bakery goods and other vegan organic foods at St Dimitrakaki 2, Chania.
If you’re looking for organic goods in Heraklion, pick up wholesome local products and a variety of vegan food from Irida Health Store at St. Almirou 16, Heraklion.
Each city in Greece hosts a ‘Laiki’ Street Market, where farmers and vendors from the villages come together to sell seasonal vegetables, fresh fruits, organic honey and local spirits. Here’s the lowdown on the Laiki’s in Crete:
Saturday – Old City Laiki (morning): St Minoos, Chania Town, Crete
Saturday – Laiki (morning): St. Leonidiou, Heraklion, Crete
Tuesday – Nea Chora Laiki (morning): St Akti Kanari, Chania Town, Crete
Wednesday – Organic Market (afternoon): St. Koumoundourou, Rethymnon Town, Crete
Thursday – Laiki (morning): in the parking area next to the Municipal Garden, Rethymnon
If you’re staying near Chania, try Yoga Class Chania for tourist-friendly yoga sessions. Mallinou 32, Chania 731 00. Tel: +30 697 394 8585.
Heading for Heraklion? Yoga Breath of Life focusses on physical and mental health, including Hatha Yoga classes, Yoga Retreat Crete – Greece and Yoga Teacher Training courses. Agiou Alexandrou 51, Heraklion 71500. Tel: +30 281 038 1420
Yoga Practice in Rethymnon is the perfect place to learn all about Ashtanga Yoga, a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Moschovitou 24, Rethymnon 741 00
Enjoy a slice of paradise at Elafonissi beach in western Crete. This small haven of outstanding beauty with a sandy beach and crystal-clear waters is about 70km from Chania. Explore the exotic landscape of postcard-pretty Balos Lagoon, with its sand formations and pale blue waters.
Take a step away from Chania’s old town to explore scenic Tabakaria, an old tanneries neighbourhood. Get off the beaten track and head to Oxo Nou Studio-Café, a secluded artistic space and café bar in an ex-tannery building lying close to the coast. Agias Kiriakis 29, Chania 731 00. Tel: +30 2821 045585
A short drive from Heraklion will take you to CretAquarium, the Mediterranean’s largest aquarium which seeks to contribute to the sustainability of the ocean. Gournes, Heraklion 710 03. Tel: +30 281 033 7788.
Get to know the native varieties of the Cretan vineyard with a memorable wine tasting experience at Oinoxoos House, just a short ride away from Rethymnon. 3rd Klm. National Road Rethymnon, Chania, Rethymnon 741 00, +30 697 172 2380
Want to see something truly ancient? Rent a car and drive to Agios Nikolaos to find excavations of the sunken city of Olus. Located on the strait between Elounda and the Kolokytha island, this was one of the most important cities in ancient Crete. When the ocean is calm, you’ll be able to see its impressive ruins through the water! Don’t miss the colourful mosaics at the ruins of the Basilica of Olus.
Urban Adventures tour – Crete from Gorge to Gulf: Fall in love with Crete as you hike, swim, eat and cruise your way around the island. Soak up awe-inspiring scenery, sample traditional food and explore ancient fortresses on the tiny island of Spinalonga. This tour offers the best of the Cretan countryside, all in one action-packed day!
Urban Adventures tour – The Best of Far West Crete: Head to the far west of the island to discover Sfakia, with its towering mountains, deep gorges and delicious local cuisine. This tour combines everything you could ever want from a day in Greece: hiking, cooking, wine-tasting, cheese sampling and story-telling make this one epic, authentic adventure.
Samaria Gorge – With a length of 18km, this is the longest trekking gorge in Europe! Found on the sierra of White Mountains in Chania region, the width of Crete’s most famous gorge varies from 150 metres to a very narrow 3 metres, where the two rocky sides of the mountains (called ‘doors’) almost touch one another. Look out for unusual plants and herbs growing on the steep land of the gorge. This famous Greek National Park is home to kri-kri (Cretan goats) and many endemic birds find refuge here too.
Looking for a shorter trek? Try Agia Irini (St. Irene) Gorge – part of the European Path E4 and with a length of 7.5km, Agia Irini is located west of the White Mountains, 43km away from Chania Town. The name honours the village and church of Agia Irini, which can be found close to the north entrance. This gorge has a turbulent history as many Greek rebels sought shelter here during the Turkish Occupation.
Rouvas Gorge (sometimes called the gorge of Agios Nikolaos and Gafaris) is one of the most important in Crete thanks to the rich eco-system of its forest. You’ll find its abundance of holly trees on the southern side of Psiloritis Mountain in Heraklion region.
Maintain your exercise regime by running, jogging or cycling along the Heraklion Fortification Walls, where you’ll pass incredible monuments including Bastions, Gates, Upper Bastions, Lower Squares and the Moat. Reward yourself with a refreshing drink at the Oasis canteen in the Moat’s leafy park, one of the quietest corners of the city.
With a height of 138 metres, Aradaina Bridge is the highest bridge for bungee jumping in Greece (and the second highest in all of Europe!) Thrill-seekers will love taking a breath-taking plunge into the gorge of Aradaina!
Urban Adventures tour – From Stomp to Sip! Vineyard and Harvest Experience: Head off the beaten track and taste life as a farmer for the day, with this hands-on once-in-a-lifetime experience tour! Get your feet wet and red in a roll-up-your-pants grape stomp! And if you don’t like physical labour, you can still enjoy the fruits of the grape harvest!
Urban Adventures tour – Antiquity and Adventurers Tour If you’re looking for adventure, join this tour to tap into your inner Indiana Jones! Discover a Cretan village, trek a gorge, wander through an ancient city, drink ‘healing’ water, swim in a turquoise sea and try your hand at preparing local dishes! Positive attitude + open mind = adventure of a lifetime!
Urban Adventures tour – In Focus: Healing Nature Tour: This special In Focus tour shines a light on the problems faced in the Cretan countryside, following a series of devastating fires which rocked the island. Explore the ancient hills and lush olive groves on the historic hills, and give back to nature by planting a tree at one of the affected.