Quest Greek Islands takes a look at some of the cosmopolitan and lively towns in Crete. One of the most popular spots is Chania. Not surprising, as the town is a sublime mix of modern and old providing a wonderful blend of Cretan life. Built on a historic site, the old town has a multitude of narrow streets, dotted with cafes and is full of charm.
Another town crowned by a fortress is Rethymnon. A place for great cafes and restaurants and surrounded by beaches. This is the third largest town on the island. It is attractive and traditional and one can't help but be impressed. From the old Turkish monuments and ancient houses you can feel the history of the town. Yet it successfully combines all the modern facilities you would expect with plenty of taverns, bars, live music and nightlife. If you want to see delightful architecture, then this is it: stone, arches, Byzantine, Roman...
The largest town in Crete is Heraklion: bustling and noisy. It is a busy town which is a main communications hub where tourists land and move on to other islands. Not the most popular resting place as, despite the old town, there are plenty of plain buildings. Worth a stay of a couple of nights before heading off to other more attractive spots, Heraklion is full of cafes, clubs and designer shops.
The two most important attractions are the Archaeology Museum and the Palace of Knossos and it is worth a visit here to see these two alone. Numerous hotels, from luxury to basic. Don't worry what your budget is as eating out has prices to suit everyone. If you are a shopaholic, then the number of stores selling clothes, shoes and jewellery is impressive. The outdoor market is worth a walk round to experience the full choice of fresh Greek food. The centre of the town is considered to be Venizelos Sqare with the Morosini Fountain in the middle. The locals call the square Lions, from the lion heads carved on the fountain. Tip : Stop in at the Kirkor cafe behind the fountain for a snack.
For a town with plenty of charm and its own rhythm of life, Agios Nikolaos on the hills surrounding the gorgeous Lake Voulismeni is a must. This is one of the prettiest harbours. It has endless beauty and a super dry climate with little humidity. Agios Nikolaos is one of the most developed tourist areas on the island, competing happily with any of Europe's popular destinations. Walking around shopping is a real pleasure and you'll never go hungry and there is an inexhaustible supply of cafes with snacks and Greek dishes. For a breather, the lake is stunning to sit happily at any one of the cafes to simply enjoy the view. The marina is one of the best in the Aegean Sea. Tip : try the local raki - but watch out, it is strong!
Right in the heart of Crete is Mires, an agricultural town. Worth going to if only for the massive market which takes place every Saturday. All the locals come in from the surrounding area to sell foods, animals and local handmade products. This is a vibrant town in an agricultural community. Plenty of life and dozens of places to eat and drink.
If you are looking for a laid-back town, then look no further than Sitia on the eastern coast. This is a lovely town on the coast built around a beautiful bay and a small peaceful port. The town is particularly vibrant during the olive harvest. The most impressive place to visit is the fortress of Kazarma which dominates the town. Tip : don't miss the "soultanina" celebrations, which happen during August.
On the north western end of Crete, lies the small coastal town of Kastelli Kissamos. This is not massively touristy but it has all the modern comforts you would wish for. Surrounded by some of the best wild beaches on the island, there are lovely taverns along the promenade overlooking the sea. This is an agricultural centre which maintains the natural rhythm of daily Greek life. A genuine small Cretan town. Tip : taste the local dry red wine: excellent.
At the other end of Crete, in the south west, sits Paleohora. This is where the mountains dip down to meet the sea and the view of the rugged mountains is unbeatable. There are plenty of taverns and cafes which are busy in summer and the town is surrounded by beaches. The area is known for olives and vineyards although more recently tomato production has become popular with locals. Paleohora is a great town as a base for exploring. The town itself is easy to get around as the streets are well laid out. Tip : this is one of those places in Crete where you can just sit for hours and watch the world go by.