Islands Near Crete That Worth A Visit During Your Holidays
Despite the fact that Crete is an amazing island by itself, it has its own small, inviting satellite islands in the sea! Altogether are more than one hundred, most of them are wildlife sanctuaries or even present traces of ancient settlements of great cultural importance. Only one (the largest) is inhabited: Gavdos Island! Just invest a couple of days of your stay, to visit the most heavenly and dreamy islands near Crete!
Gavdos Island is the ancient Ogygia, Calypso’s island. Do you want to discover the reason why Odysseus stayed so many years here in the lap of Kalypso – renouncing the family warmth of his motherland? Take the boat from Paleochora or Sfakia, switch off your mobile and forget the concept of time.
The island is magical. It is said that it has strong magnetic fields, which, according to the local legend, “cured” the Russian nuclear scientists fled here after a strong dose of radioactivity in the Chernobyl accident. In Gavdos, you will renounce the contracts, you will swim in “Agios Ioannis” (St. John)”, one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, you will scorch your heels on hot sand dunes and you will enjoy endless naps under the shade of the cedars.
You will have the chance to admire one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life in “Faros” (Lighthouse), the highest point on the island, taste “tsigariasto” in the tavern of Kastri and gaze the amazing view from the bar Sorolop.
The two main beaches of Gavdos are Sarakiniko and Agios Ioannis. Sarakiniko is more “cultural”, with several restaurants, mini markets, and in the evening, some bars with music and tables on the sand. Agios Ioannis is located west of Sarakiniko. It is a beautiful beach with huge sand dunes and junipers. It is preferred by the lovers of “hippie” style, because the only element of “culture” is the tavern which is about 15 minutes walking (through the dunes).
Gavdos is ideal for one or two day trips, provided that you can stand the saltiness on your body and the semi-hippie life style.
Chrissi, the Breezy Island
The boats leave from Ierapetra to Chrissi every day from 10:30 – 11:00 in the morning and return back at 5pm. Taking the boat from Ierapetra and approaching the island, the sea creates all shades of the palette of blue. If you are lucky, you will enjoy the sea without waves and you will see dolphins during the trip! When you reach the north beach of the island, you will face an exotic scenery!
In many places the sand is pink, due to the infinite crushed shells and seashells. The water is crystal clear and turquoise, the cedars resemble natural sculptures and the feeling of isolation, especially since the boat leaves the island, is tremendously refreshing.
Observation of the endless stars in the clean sky, away from the annoying lights of civilization, and a first dive early in the morning when the sky is still painted in the colors of dawn, are highly recommended. Stroll the island, discover its small beaches to the east and the west and admire the countless shells. Finally, keep in mind that the taverns of the island are not always open, so be aware to bring some snack with you.
In Koufonisi, you will find the desert – exotic landscape of Chrissi, without cedars, but with long history back to centuries. Located opposite Makrigialos of Lasithi, Koufonisi is full of dunes leading to beaches with crystal blue waters.
The island was called Lefki. It was an important center of purpura processing (red dye comes from shells) in ancient times, and a place for marine sponges fishing . Archaeologists brought to light a well-preserved ancient theater, ancient houses, workshops and many other important findings.
If you do not have your own boat and want to visit Koufonisi along with your family or friends, you should get to Makrigialos. There, you will find the unique private vessel with capacity up to 10 people, which make every day trips to Koufonisi, with a charge of about 350 euros. Finally, the island does not have many trees, so do not forget to take along with you your hat, your sunscreen and shoes to walk.
Dia, the island of Zeus
Just 6 nautical miles from the coastline of Heraklion is a small island with a total area of about 12 square kilometers, called Dia. Dia is announced in as protected area in Natura 2000, due to its particular biodiversity, so you may see wild rabbits and hawks. In Dia there are beautiful bays with crystal clear water, like that of Kapari, Panagia (Virgin) and Agrielia. You can also visit the picturesque church of Holy Ascension.
In addition to seven ancient shipwrecks in Dia, Cousteau, in 1976, discovered in the seabed of Dia, squared and rectangular rocks that made up an artificial breakwater. Researchers called them the Cyclopean walls. As other islands near Crete, Dia was the largest and most important port of Knossos. According to myth, Zeus created the island, so the ancient Cretans dedicated it to the God.
To get there, you must take the boats that run daily trips from the port of Gouves and Heraklion. It is an island easy to explore, as it has an altitude of no more than 220 meters, length of just 5 km long.
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