Discovering places in Crete only locals know can add special touches to your overall experience while visiting Greece’s largest island. There are plenty of lesser-known places in Crete that are mostly favored by the locals and hold on to their authentic charm – far away from the lively cities and famous archeological sites, such as Knossos and Phaistos.

    At a intersections between Europe, Africa and Asia, Crete attracts plenty of tourists every year. But from its mountain villages to secluded beaches, Crete still has many hidden secrets. Let us show you through our list, below.

    1

    The Abandoned Village of Aradaina

    Walk around this atmospheric ghost town

    Aradaina (or Aradena) is an abandoned village, located to the west of Anopolis in the Sfakia region. The village was deserted in 1948 when a dispute over the bell of a goat led to a vendetta culminating in the killing of 7 people.

    To enter this village, which was built on the side of Aradaina gorge, walk along the long metal bridge that connects the 2 sides of the canyon. Stroll around the narrow paths of this ghost town and marvel at the empty stone houses, with their overgrown yards and ruined wood ovens for an atmospheric, otherworldly experience.

    Location: Aradaina, Crete 730 11, Greece

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    2

    Agiofarago Beach

    Hike through the gorge to reach a secluded beach

    Agiofarago is a secluded beach at the end of the namesake gorge, around 80 km south of the city of Heraklion. Getting to the beach is an experience in itself, as it requires an hour’s hike through the gorge.

    During your hike, you’ll see colorful rocks, lenders, and wild olive trees, as well as various species of endemic birds. Fill your water bottle from the well in front of St Anthony’s church and move on to the cave of Goumenospilios, where the area’s hermit monks met once a year for an annual body count. Once at the beach, you'll be rewarded with crystal-clear blue waters and an impressive rock arch formation which you can swim under.

    Location: Sivas, Crete 704 00, Greece

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    3

    The Agrotouristic Village of Vamos

    Experience tradition in this eco-friendly village

    Vamos is a village in the west of Crete, 25 km away from the city of Chania. The village’s local population has formed a collective committed to the promotion of ecotourism, making Vamos a great destination for traditional yet unique tourism. Stay at one of the well-preserved old mansions and take part in one of the many activities on offer in the area: making bread in a wood-fired oven, picking olives or preparing raki, the local pomace brandy.

    If you’re lucky enough to be in Vamos in April, you will get the opportunity to taste Cretan snails, a local delicacy, at its annual snail festival. This jasmine-and-bougainvillaea-filled village is also a popular destination with Cretans from cities such as Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion, as it's the epicenter of many cultural events.

    Location: Vamos, Crete 730 08, Greece

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    photo by Wolfgang Sauber (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    4

    Zacharioudakis Winery

    Taste a variety of Cretan wines

    The Zacharioudakis Winery can be found atop Orthi Petra hill, near the village of Plouti in the south part of Crete. With its vineyards planted dramatically on the edge of the cliffs, it's not only a location of unique natural beauty but also an area of historical interest given its proximity to the archeological site of Gortyna.

    Go to the winery to try some of the best local varieties of reds and whites and enjoy spectacular views of Psiloritis and the Lybian Sea, while taking in the Cretan energy and aromas.

    Location: Plouti, Crete 700 12, Greece

    Open: April to September: Monday–Saturday from 10am to 2pm

    Phone: +30 2892 096226

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    5

    Islet of Gavdos

    Travel to this idyllic islet of Greek myth

    Gavdos is a triangular islet that constitutes the southernmost point of Europe, being closer to Africa than it is to the Greek capital. The island can be reached by boat from Crete, departing from either the port Paleochora or Sfakia.

    While Gavdos goes way back in Greek mythology, as it is said to be the island where Odysseus was held captive by Calypso for 7 years, today it has fewer than 100 permanent residents. However, the islet is a natural jewel, hosting many species of migratory birds and the Caretta-Caretta turtles. Go to the lighthouse, which doubles as a café and museum and visit Tripiti with its signature sculpture of a giant chair.

    Location: Gavdos, 730 01, Greece

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    6

    The Fishing Village of Loutro

    Live peacefully in this quiet village

    The picturesque fishing village of Loutro is about 70 km south of Chania, near Sfakia. It is a tiny, remote village that is accessible only by foot or boat. Given there are no cars and only limited amenities in Loutro, it is the perfect place to escape the stresses of everyday life.

    The village has 2 pristine beaches and many walking paths leading to canyons and rocky trails, making it perfect for nature lovers, while the village’s harbor protects it from strong winds and bad weather.

    Location: Loutro, Crete 730 11, Greece

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    7

    Lefka Ori Mountains

    Reach the white tops of Lefka Ori

    The Lefka Ori, or the White Mountains, are a range of mountains located in Western Crete. They are named after the fact that they are almost always white, retaining their snowcaps until the middle of spring. Due to the high altitude, the central and southern part of the range naturally resembles a lunar landscape, rewarding visitors with truly unique and slightly surreal hiking experiences.

    The Lefka Ori feature plenty of deep caves and a variety of fauna and flora, making them an ideal destination for nature explorers.

    Location: Lefka Ori Mountain Range, Crete, Greece

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    8

    Kalogeros Beach

    Take a boat to get to Kalogeros beach

    Kalogeros is an isolated beach near the west end of Agia Roumeli. Located 57 km south of Chania, the beach can only be accessed only by boat but locals will tell you that it is well worth including in your itinerary.

    Kalogeros offers an idyllic landscape of turquoise waters and white sand, surrounded by impressive rock formations, such as the one the beach takes its name after which resembles a kalogeros (monk). This beach is somewhere to go to enjoy nature, truly undisturbed.

    Location: Kalogeros, Agia Roumeli, Crete 730 11, Greece

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    9

    Tromarisa Gorge

    Feel like you’re in a fairy tale

    Next to the tiny village of Zourva on the island’s White Mountains, you'll find the Tromarisa gorge. The gorge, which takes its name from local legends about fairies and elves, can be hiked in approximately 3 hours. It’s a popular destination with local islanders when they’re seeking some shade and peace during the summer months.

    The gorge boasts massive pine trees and forests of wild pears and figs. Fill your water bottle from Tromarisa spring and immerse yourself in the lush nature.

    Location: Mousoures, Crete 730 05, Greece

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    10

    Vreiko Cave

    Explore the depths of the island at Vreiko Cave

    Vreiko cave can be found near the village of Pefki in southwest Crete. The island of Crete is well-known for its underground wonders and this cave is no exception. Use the steps to go down into the cave, the entrance of which is covered by the bushy foliage of a fig tree growing inside the cave.

    Check out the marvelous stalactites and stalagmites and take a dip in the small lake at the back of the cave. Before leaving, stand back near the cave’s entrance and make sure to admire the sunset over the Libyan Sea.

    Location: Makris Gialos, Crete 720 55, Greece

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    Olga Kousi | Contributing Writer

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