At 35 miles long and 160 miles wide (the same width as Florida, by the way) Crete is Greece’s largest island, providing a number of different landscapes and unique activities. Undoubtedly, you could spend weeks in Crete simply exploring all it has to offer, but as a study abroad student, a long weekend may be the most time you have or want to take up on a vacation away from your home institution. For our purposes I put together a list of things to do to make the most out of three days on “the big island.”
Day 1. Hike the Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge runs from the White Mountains in west Crete for 18 kilometers, or 11 miles, down to the south coast of the island. It’s the longest gorge in Europe and it typically takes 5-7 hours to complete depending on your pace. The hike starts off with a descent down to the bottom of the gorge and then is relatively flat for most of the way, allowing you to walk at a leisurely pace and take in the spectacular mountain views. Bonus: since the gorge ends directly to the water, your efforts are rewarded by a nice swim to cool off and relax your muscles after the hike.
*Note: Because of public transportation to and from the gorge, this is an all-day activity, so plan accordingly.
Day 2: Head to the Beach
You know those beautiful white sand beaches you’ve pinned on Pinterest? Or the rare pink sand you thought you’d only get to see in your wildest dreams? Surprise! Those are both found on Crete. The pink sand is found at Elafonissi beach, while the Balos beach-lagoon boasts a beautiful contrast of white sand and bright, blue water. As with the Samaria Gorge, you must devote an entire day to each of these beaches because they are on different sides of the island and bus transportation drops travelers off in the morning and picks them up in the late afternoon/early evening. But no matter which one you choose, you are guaranteed a slice of paradise.
Day 3: Bungee Jump or Explore Chania
I’ve included two activities for Day 3 on Crete—one for the adventurer and one for the explorer. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, I point you to the second highest bungee jump in Europe. A taxi ride into the mountainous region of Sfakia will lead you to the 452-foot-tall Aradaina Bridge. The jump costs 100 euros, which includes pictures, video, and a souvenir shirt, and is a must-do for any thrill seekers out there! If willingly jumping off tall objects isn’t quite your thing, you can opt for exploring the town of Chania, located on the northern coast of Crete. Here you will find quaint cobblestone alleyways, seaside restaurants, gift shops, and relaxing beaches. Be sure to stick around late in the day though because, like most of Greece, Chania truly comes alive at night!
This post was contributed by Emily Fisher, who spent her summer studying abroad with AIFS in Athens, Greece.