As we previously reflected, the ancient sights of Crete make it worth a visit in their own right. But what makes the island so remarkable is that besides these ruins and historical centres are dazzling natural wonders. From the beaches and mountains to the immense wildlife, this is one of the most enrapturing islands in Europe.
Though a busy area to visit in the summer months, the beach of Vai is a charming part of the island. With a forest of Cretan Date Palms complementing the wonderful shore, there is a uniqueness that is uncommon in most coastal areas. How the trees developed no one is quite sure, but there are theories and myths surrounding their planting – the best of which being that they accidentally grew from the dates that Arab pirates left when they stopped off for a snack whilst travelling the Mediterranean Sea.
The beach consists of tanned, unspoiled and clear water, and because it is in a remote location it has not been contaminated by rubbish or waste over time. If you’re in the mood for a walk there are rocky areas that get steadily larger where you will be able to obtain a better viewing point.
Sfakia and its mountains
The province of Sfakia is well known for its history of rebellion. Whilst other regions were taken by previous empires or invaders, it remained largely untouched. The hiding place for many of these insurgents was the Lefka Ori, a cluster of white mountains.
Today it is a hotspot for those looking for a good hike and magnificent views of Crete’s rockier scenery, and there are guided tours throughout the year where it is possible to safely make your away around the vicinity to see wonders like Pachnes, the second tallest mountain on the island and the central area which consists of a high desert.
Samariá Gorge National Park
The range of animals of Crete over time has been unique and varied, to say the least. From the dwarf elephants and giant flightless owls of the Pleistocene era to the modern-day kri-kri that are indigenous to the island, it’s hub of wildlife. One of the best places to witness this is Sfakia’s Samariá Gorge that rests within the white mountains.
Amongst the incredible backdrop, it is possible to see the aforementioned kri-kri goat, many different types of eagles, vultures and other birds, and reptiles.
But in terms of wildlife, there are other places where it is possible to see wildlife. Along the coastal areas, it is possible to see sea turtles, as well as dolphins, porpoises, octopus and squid. As for reptilians, they are found all over the island and include different types of gecko, spur-thighed tortoise and four species of snakes.
Should you have the pleasure of visiting Crete on your gap year, it would be a Greek tragedy if you missed out on discovering its rich wildlife.