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A road trip in Crete can lead you to some magnificent places of history, reveal breathtaking sea-views, and make your head get a little bit dizzy on multiple hairpin-turns on mountain roads. There is so much to see in Crete that it creates countless options on what to include in an itinerary for a road trip.
Below you’ll find a one-day car trip in the northern part of Crete. The drive itself isn’t that long, but the roads are steep and narrow in some places, so it takes time to drive them. Also, the stopping points are quite interesting, so you might want to reserve a reasonable amount of time for each one.
Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre
One of my favorite places in Crete is the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre. I have been there twice already and both times it was a great experience.
In the rescue center, you’ll see a lot of fish, turtles, and different other animals living in the water. Employees might even show which of these you might encounter when going for a swim at the local beach.
However, the most interesting part is the place at the back, as there the rescued reptiles live. There are iguanas, snakes, lizards, chameleons, and other weird-looking animals.
Both times when I visited the center wasn’t full of other tourists, so I and my friends got undivided attention from the employees working at the center. We could touch some of the animals and get to know more about them. I had never thought that snakes are warm and not wet at all. And that they are fed with frozen mice. And that they live quite long. And that there are so many people who don’t consider all of the taking-care-of-a-snake duties before adopting one, and then they end up just giving it away.
One of my friends is not that into touching reptiles, especially snakes. But here she was given a small lizard in the beginning and slowly got accustomed to touching a little bit bigger animals. It is so nice that this center not just houses the abandoned animals, but educates the visitors about them in such an encouraging way.
Cave of Zeus
The next stop in the roadtrip is Cave where the legends say, Zeus was born. Diktaean Cave is located in Lassithi Plateau, which means that you’ll have to drive up some mountain roads. But it is totally worth it because of the history of the cave and the surrounding views of Cretan nature.
The cave is located at 1025m altitude, and it is on a mountain compared to the Lassithi Plateau. There is a parking place nearby and a path to the cave. From the entrance, you’ll see an amazing panorama-view of the plateau.
According to legends, Zeus was born and raised in this cave. There is even one section called “Cradle of Zeus”. Many historic objects have been found here, which show that the people of Crete have been worshipping different gods here for centuries.
The stairs at the entrance quickly lead to some bigger portions of the cave. You’ll see colored stalactites and stalagmites there, as well as some water surrounding those. The temperature in the cave is a bit lower than outside, so make sure to take something warm to wear.
Minoan Palace of Knossos
After the Cave of Zeus, it’s time to go to another historically significant place – the Minoan Palace of Knossos. It is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and might be the oldest city in Europe.
The Knossos palace was the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilization and culture. It was inhabited for centuries and eventually grew to a population of around 100,000 people around 1700 BC. It isn’t clear why the palace was later abandoned, but the speculation is that the cause was human violence following an invasion of Crete by Greeks.
Knossos has been involved in the famous myth about the Minotaur. The legend says, King Minos built a large labyrinth to retain his son Minotaur, who was a half-man and half-bull. Theseus, son of the Greek king Aegeus, sailed to Crete where he was forced to fight the beast. The daughter of King Minos fell in love with Theseus and gave him a ball of yarn to unthread when going into the maze. Theseus killed Minotaur, found his way out of the maze, and fled Crete together with the daughter of King Minos.
In Knossos ruins, there is a prominent picture depicting a bull, and the surrounding buildings, staircases, and corridors strongly resemble a maze. This only enforces the magical feeling that the legends might have some truth in them as well.
And the last stop on the road trip is the medieval Koules Fortress in Heraklion. It was built by the Republic of Venice and offers nice views of the surrounding port, city, and the sea.
The nearby breakwater offers an opportunity for a nice walk. You’ll find a lighthouse tower at the end of it, and there will be a small staircase allowing you to climb up the higher part of the breakwater. The views here are amazing! Just be sure to pay attention to where you put your steps and take a hat with you, as there is no shadow where to hide from the sun.
What to read next?
You should check out other must-see places in Crete which you can check out on the other days of your stay.
If you haven’t already decided where to stay in Crete, here you’ll find several cool Airbnbs.