The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is a patchwork of buzzing cities and charming villages pieced together by staggering mountains and serene coastline. Visit the birthplace of Zeus or explore museums with artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age, as well as ancient structures that are still standing. While you're at it, try local flavours (from fresh seafood to olives) in quaint tavernas or refuel at traditional kafeneia (coffee shops).
When in Greece, stay at a Crete hostel located in an olive grove. Or how about a room with views of the lapping shores? At a place with a pool, you can dip in and cool off when the temperature peaks. Crete hostels with free Wi-Fi make calling home easy. If you're on a budget, you can try a hostel that includes a free breakfast or look out for hostels in Crete with cafes so you can wake up to fresh coffee.
Heraklion is the capital of Crete. Here, you can explore ancient ruins and archaeological delights interspersed with old churches, tavernas and the quaint old town harbour. If you want a party atmosphere, head to Malia. A hotspot for travellers, it has a young vibe with plenty of bars and beaches that are alive with music, dancing and drinks. Hersonissos, a charming harbour town with serene views and a tranquil feel, is ideal if you're looking for a quieter break.
Put Knossos on your list of things to do in Crete for ancient architecture. The 3,000-year-old palace is said to have been the seat of King Minos. Elafonisi Beach is famous (and photo-worthy) thanks to its pink sands and clear shore. Take a hike through the Samariá Gorge, a 16km terrain through a ravine. Slow the pace in Rethymnon Old Town, a sweet spot with cobblestone alleys and a Venetian Church. Balos Lagoon is a picture-perfect alternative to the beaches – it's a slice of paradise between two capes and with views of Gramvousa Island.
If you plan on flying into Crete, head to Heraklion Airport, which is just a 10-minute drive from the city's centre. For ferries, the main ports are in Heraklion, Chania and Sitia. You can easily get between cities and villages by car, regular local bus services or on the water by boat. Plus, there are plenty of countryside trails to take on foot, so make sure you pack your walking shoes.