Travel and Diving Blog

5 places to visit in Crete to discover Greek mythology


Greek mythology is a body of famous stories of gods, heroes and mythical beasts. Although there is a considerable element of fiction, the myths they have inspired have continued to influence the art and literature we recognise today. For those with an interest in Greek mythology or simply a love of historical sites a visit to Crete is not complete without a visit to these 5 ancient sites.

1. Archaeological site of Knossos

A must-seesightin Crete, Knossoshas been namedEuropes oldest city and is the largest site in Crete. Steeped in fascinating stories of Greek myths, Knossos is a site to behold. The ruinsare believedto have been the home to King Minos and the mythical Minotaur who was held in the citys labyrinth. This impressive historical site holds ruins of great palaces and ancient architecture. Thepartiallyrebuilt ruins paint a vivid picture of life in early settlements and ancient civilisation.

Knossos plays a heavy part in Greek mythology. The city's famous labyrinthwas designedby Daedalus to contain the mythical Minotaur. The Minotaur was the monstrous child of the kings wife and a white bull gifted to Minos by Poseidon. Trapped in the labyrinth by Minos, Daedalus invented wings for him and his son Icarus to escape. In the famous story his foolish son flew too close to the sun and his wings melted off. There is also the story of Theseus, son of Aegean, who eventually defeated the Minotaur. The daughter of Minos, Ariadne had fallen in love with Theseus and gave him a ball of thread so he could escape the maze.

2. The birthplace of Zeus

According to myth, Greek god Zeus was born in Crete. There are two caves in Crete, Ideon and Dikteon which both claim the honour. The Dikteon cave is notably more focused on visitors; located in the Lasithi Plateau in eastern Crete the caves are well worth a visit. The caves are adorned with impressive stalagmites and stalactites and five well-lit chambers. Discover the haunting remains of religious offerings at the historical altar. This beautiful cave is rich in animal life and a glistening lake in its lowest cavern.

In Greek mythology Titan Cronus was fearful that his children would overthrow him. To prevent this occurrence he ate all his children. His wife titan Rhea hid infant Zeus in a cave in Crete. Legend says she tricked Cronus by feeding him a stone wrapped in cloth.

3. Ancient Aptera

The ancient ruins of Aptera are just three kilometres east of Chania. A somewhat historical puzzle, the remains of an ancient temple and roman cisterns are still being uncovered today. Once a powerful city in Minoan Crete the city was destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century AD. Learn about the history of an ancient city with a guided tour or simply admire the ancient walls of the remaining landmark. Best take your camera as Aptera enjoys panoramic views of glistening Souda Bay and Akrotiri to the north and jaw dropping mountains to the south.

In mythology goddess Hera convinced the Sirens (half women half bird creatures who lured sailors to death with enchanting singing) to compete in a singing contest with the Muses (inspirational goddesses of literature and knowledge). After the Sirens lost the Muses plucked out their feathers and the Sirens cast themselves in to the sea. The term Aptera translates to wingless.

4. Phaistos Minoan Palace

Phaistos was known as the second largest city in Minoan Crete. Located upon a hilltop, the archaeological site enjoys beautiful views of the Messara plain in central Crete. A truly remarkable experience in Greek history, there is a collection of detailed artefacts and fascinating ancient walls. A slightly simpler version of Knossos, Phaistos shares some of its appearance but on further examination there is a complexity in its architectural elements.

Phaistos is one of three towns in Minoan Crete ruled by the children of Zeus and Europa. Phaistos was ruled by King Rhadamanthus who was later driven out of Crete by his brother Minos. In Greek mythology Rhadamanthus was later depicted as one of the judges of the dead.

5. Gortyn & the plane tree of Zeus

At the archaeological site of Gortyn there is far more than meets the eye. This quiet and unassuming site located south of Heraklion is still being excavated today. Uncover the ruins of an ancient theatre, the church of St Titus and the famous Plane Tree. Step away from the main sites and just across the road more fascinating ruins lay ready for exploration.

According to myth, Zeus disguised as a bull abducted Princess Europa from Lebanon (the origin of the name Europe is said to come from this princess). Their affair took place under a tree now known as Plane Tree. From the affair, three children were born, Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon who became famous kings of Minoan palaces in Crete.

Nick Munday is Managing Director at Classic Collection Holidays.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, pleasecontact us.

Related posts:

3 of the best beach spots in Greece

The best new things to see in Greece in 2017

5 of the best art stops in Amsterdam, Holland

Get me to the church(es) on time!

Top 5 secret (and best!) experiences in Rome

Summer in the Three Valleys our 5 favourites


Meribel and the Three Valleys are world famous ski and snowboard destinations, there is no doubt about that. However, when the snow retreats from the Three Valleys there are a number of things you can do with the wide open spaces and mountain passes that hikers, thrill seekers and music lovers can enjoy at a fraction of the cost of visiting in Winter. Summer in the Three Valleys is not to be missed.

Hiking

Regardless of what takes your fancy in Meribel, a leisurely stroll or a much longer hike over a few days might leave you breathless with the clear mountain air and incredible views. Stay for a week or stay for a two, the numerous trails mean you will never have to do the same route again. You could always break your hike with a round of golf!

Meribel is a part of the Vanoise National Park. This was France's first national park and has diverse wildlife and a rich history, with evidence that suggests that it was once inhabited by humans during the Neolithic era.

Music and festivals

One of our firm favourite events of the Summer has to be the country-wide celebration of Fete De La Musique. The festival's history goes back to 1982 when it was launched by the French Ministry of Culture. This one-day event coincides with the summer solstice and towns and villages across the Three Valleys explode into life with celebrations and music from all over the world. Meribel in particular sees the streets, bars and restaurants lined with multicultural musos and food and all your favourite Savoyard drinks to match.

Our favourite thing about this full day of music is that all the concerts and performances are free for everyone to enjoy. More recently this has been adopted by many other countries around the world and is now commonly known as World Music Day!

A few weeks later, the jazz festival in Brides Les Bains takes place in the Parc Thermal de Brides, a short 20-minute drive from Meribel. The jazz festival sees local and international acts playing in open air concerts from the 6th to the 9th July each year. And don't forget its Bastille Day in France on the 14th July! This is a hugely important national holiday in France and the Meribel celebrations culminate with a spectacular fireworks display in the evening.

Glacier walking

If you want something a little bit different, glacier walking may be exactly what you're looking for. Some of the most breathtakingly stunning views of the Meribel Valley are to be had by hiking around the glaciers. There are guided walks of varying difficulty ensuring that you can find something that suits your experience or fitness level.

Mountain biking

If you visited Meribel during the winter months and enjoyed skiing down the mountains then imagine visiting a few months later and hurtling down the same mountains on your mountain bike!

Accredited by French Federation of Cycling, Meribel offers almost 100km of pristine trails and benefits from specially adapted ski lifts with hooks and racks, so bikers have the perfect way to access the very best alpine terrain. You can bring your own bike or hire top quality bikes from one of the many hire shops (as well as the safety kit!)

For those who just like to watch the type of mountain biking that usually requires body armor, the Three Valleys Calendar in July and August has a lot for you. There's a long list of biking events in the three Valleys including; the Three Valleys Addict Tour for Downhill and cross-country lovers on the 8th & 9th July and the French Mountain Bike Cup, held in Meribel on the 16th-18th August, bringing together the very best French mountain bikers.

Road cycling

If you've ever watched the Tour de France then you will have seen the famous Cols of the Alps being ridden by the greats. Stage nine of the 2017 Tour will finish in Chambery so you could combine your own series of mountain rides with a day of watching the great spectacle that is a stage finish of the Tour. If you've not watched a stage of the Tour then it's something you will never forget! Road cycling is very popular in the mountains in Summer, so don't be surprised to find many cyclists taking on the challenge of the famous cols like their heroes!

Something for the kids

Visiting Meribel in the summer there are so many things to keep the children occupied. From mountain biking and high ropes courses with zip wires to trying out Segways and climbing walls, they'll be exhausted at the end of each day. It really is a great Summer holiday destination!

Anne Wooley is Owner at Ski Cuisine.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, pleasecontact us.

Related posts:

5 best ski resorts in Europe

8 great reasons to visit Courchevel this Winter

10 fabulous Alpine luxury ski resorts you can visit by train

10 unmissable things to do in Provence

A family trip to the Paul Ricard Circuit in Provence