Don’t limit your Archaeological sight-seeing to Knossos! Although wonderful, this home of the Labyrinth myth serves a primer to appreciate non-reconstructed palace sites like Phaistos and Malia. As an accredited tour guide, Maria had a great knowledge of ancient customs and history of each site. The countryside is also beautiful in and of itself – the Venetian windmills on Lassithi Plain in the mountains, the fertile valleys, and the drive south to Matala where the old Roman burial caves are is very pleasant.
Yiannis and Maria our driver and guide were wonderfully friendly and kind. They offered us advice about local wines, traditional Cretan music and even Erotikritos – special Cretan poetry. On discovering we loved Mizithra – a soft Cretan cheese – Yiannis arrived with a box of Mizithra pastries. Maria also gifted us some beautiful ceramic Raki cups as we have grown very fond of this spirit!
Dictamus Cave, legendary site where Zeus was born – is a must-see. A beautiful – if steep, but well-paved – 15 minute hike. You can technically also ride the donkey “taxis” up the mountain, but only extremely thin or petite adults and children should ride to keep the donkeys safe.
You can go inside the cave – lots of stairs, but it’s cooler inside the cave and you can take your time to do the loop down to the floor of the cave and back up.
At the start of the hike is a small tourist village – you can buy the famous Dittany or Dictamous tea here – a herb which tastes like lemony thyme and is believed to have medicinal qualities. A local cafe also has amazing homemade pastries to go along with the view, and the creamiest frozen yoghurt and freshest strawberries (fresco fraoula in Greek) I’ve ever had. Plus the view over the Lassithi plain is enchanting.
Keep an eye out for the local Cretan vultures that soar like eagles at the top of the mountain peaks. Crete is a truly magical place for food, culture, people, and history – see as much as you can.