Crete is a dream destination for everyone, but perhaps most especially for seniors. This unique island delivers a combination of service and sophistication paired with the rugged, authentic simplicity of island culture that appeals to the senior traveler especially. Crete is ideal for those who seek something real – a fresh adventure – but who don’t necessarily want to backpack and sleep rough to find it.
What Makes Crete Ideal for Seniors
Whatever type of experience particularly speaks to you, Crete delivers it. For instance, even if you prefer a comfortable city boutique hotel and comfortable car to backpacking around the island, you can still explore on foot – some of the most spectacular scenery of Europe awaits you in the gorges of Crete, with hikes for every level of stamina.
Are you fascinated by archaeology and history? Crete offers it in abundance – from the treasures of the Minoan civilization, to key sites of the second World War.
What about cuisine? The Mediterranean diet is nowhere more elemental, bold, and delicious than on Crete – this is cuisine that nourishes, body and soul. And the oenophiles will love exploring Crete’s ancient wine tradition and contemporary wineries.
What about music? Experience the joy of a traditional Cretan festival, complete with the finest lyra-playing and dancing you’ll experience anywhere in Greece.
Are you a golfer? Try it with a Mediterranean twist, on some of the most stunning courses of Greece. Last and yet foremost is the eternal fascination of the sea – explore it on a sailing cruise to discover secret coves, or experience some of the finest beaches in all the world.
The Nature of Crete
This largest of the Greek Islands has extraordinary terrain. That famous jewel-like sea and coastline of an extraordinary array of beaches encircle a treasure of mountains and gorges. Crete’s highest mountain – Mount Ida (also called Mt. Psiloritis) – in the center of the island – reaches close to 2500 meters, and Mt. Spathi of Lasithi is over 2100 meters. The White Mountains dominate the island vistas of Western Crete, grazing the skies at also close to 2500 meters.
This landscape makes for some extraordinary drives – going from the north coast to the south through tremendous gorges and mountain passes treats you to some spectacular vistas. Then you glimpse the shimmering expanse of the Libyan sea far below before descending and exploring the less visited secrets of Crete.
For example – after one of the most beautiful drives that Europe has to offer, you’ll find yourself in Chora Sfakion, a sleepy and enchanting fishing village where you can catch the boat to Loutro and Agia Roumeli. What makes them special? You can only reach them by boat (about 20 minutes to Loutro) or on foot. Loutro is a tranquil tiny paradise.
Come for a lunch of fish soup from a fresh-caught fish as the waves lap the pebbles. Or stay on the boat to Agia Roumeli – this is where the legendary Samaria gorge leads. It’s 17 kilometers from the top. But if you want just a taste, the last portion is relatively flat and the most dramatic, between the high and narrow walls of the gorge.
The east side of Crete is less explored still. In fact, it’s a wonderful combination. Some of Crete’s most luxurious resorts are in Lasithi. But right nearby is the Sitia geopark, a paradise that covers over 350 square kilometers of unique biotopes and ecosystems, rare flora and fauna, waterfalls, gorges, secret coves, and remote plateaus. A gorgeous drive to the south coast of Lasithi brings you to Ierapetra, for another fantastic boat ride. This one is to Chrissi – a gem of an uninhabited island of white sands, turquoise waters, and rare Lebanese Cypress trees.
The Cuisine and Wines of Crete: A seniors activity
The Mediterranean Diet reaches its finest expression on this extraordinary island. The Cretans are both pleasure-loving and resourceful, and they have had centuries of practice to develop their cuisine. Are you adventurous?
Then you will want to try ‘cochilous’ – wild-gathered snails, cooked in rosemary. Perhaps you’re a carnivore. The meats of Crete are of exceptional quality, raised humanely in the rugged terrain, where the goats and sheep dine on wild herbs that give their meat an extraordinary perfume. Enjoy them with wild foraged greens dressed in extra-virgin olive oil – all local, of course. “Farm to table” is not a fashionable catchphrase in Crete; it’s just how things have always been done.
The cheeses, too are extraordinary, from the fresh and tangy mizithra cheese of goat’s milk that tops the barley rusk and tomato “dakos” – soon to be your favorite new meze – to the aged semi-hard graviera cheeses, rich with complexity.
What goes with an aged graviera? A local wine. By local, we actually mean hyper-local, vinted from indigenous grape varieties that are uniquely suited to the uncompromising terrain. Liatiko, Malvasia, Mandilaria, and Kotsifali and just some of the local grape varieties that a new generation of winemakers are growing. Or, an older generation – the monasteries of Crete sometimes also have excellent wineries, perfecting age-old techniques in wonderful surroundings.
Religious Tourism: Visit the Monasteries of Crete
Speaking of Monasteries, they alone are reason enough to come to Crete. While much of the mainland of Greece was under Ottoman rule from the 16th century, Crete had centuries of Venetian presence (the Ottomans came much later). This means that Crete experienced the “Cretan Renaissance” – a time of cultural, intellectual, and architectural flourishing. Monasteries such as the Arkadi Monastery, the Agia Triada Tzagaroli Monastery, the Toplou Monastery, and Moni Preveli – the Monastery of Preveli – are just a few of the dozens of exquisite monasteries on Crete. Here you will also see masterpieces of religious art, as some have extraordinary icon collections.
History and Archaeology in Crete
Crete is fundamental to the narrative and identity of ancient Greece. Zeus grew up here – raised by nymphs in a cave where his mother Hera placed him (to protect him from his ravenous father, Cronos). Myth and history intertwine on this magical island. Over a millennium before the Parthenon was built, the Minoans of Crete were thriving. This advanced Bronze age civilization (3000 – 1100 BC) flourished on Crete, in great palaces.
Knossos – boldly yet beautifully restored by Sir Arthur Evans in the early 20th century – is the most spectacular.
Gortyn – mentioned by Homer – flourished later, in the Hellenistic era (323 – 30 BC), and here are magnificent ruins of early Christianity.
The Venetians too loved Crete – see their spectacular fortifications of Spinalonga island (also worth visiting for fans of Victoria Hislop – this is the inspiration for her work “The Island”).
Closer to the present, many come to Crete to pay their respects to the heroes of the battle of Crete (May, 1941) of WWII. Many ANZAC war soldiers, especially, fought in this crucial battle, a turning point in the war.
Why Seniors choose Crete?
For all its rugged appeal, Crete is also a place to come to spoil yourself. The art of hospitality reaches a stylish apex in Crete’s world-class resorts. Do you want something more intimate? Boutique hotels in historic buildings provide character and creature comforts in equal measure. In addition to all the excellent local tavernas, there are also plenty of fine dining options on Crete, where the local resources of rich seas and land reach new gastronomic heights. Getting around in comfort and safety is also a priority – a quality car rental in peak condition will make navigating those gorgeous curvy roads a pleasure.
The Cretan hospitality for senior travelers
Last but not least – one of the best reasons to come to Crete is the character of the Cretans themselves. Known throughout Greece for their proud and uncompromising character, they also exemplify Greek virtues. You will meet with an authentic welcome and heart-felt hospitality for a genuine sense of encounter, making Crete for seniors an ideal holiday destination.