The Greek Islands and Athens

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The largest island in Greece, Crete is a land of sparkling seas and soaring mountains, and has been a popular holiday destination for many years. Crete's position between North Africa and the Greek mainland makes it a stopping off point for migrant birds during the spring and autumn.

Crete

Rethymnon is one of Crete's most picturesque cities, it's lovely old inner harbor is an ideal place to sit and enjoy a drink or meal. The centre is wonderfully  preserved, with a mix of Venetian and Ottoman buildings, There is also a very good town beach that stretches for some miles to the east.

This is a view of Rethymnon from the Fortezza, a Venetian Kastro that dominates the town, and is one of the best preserved  Kastro's in Greece. It was built in 1574 to act as a defense from pirate raids.  Just opposite the entrance to the Fortezza, is the Archaeological Museum with a collection ranging from Neolithic through to Roman times.

At the centre of the Fortezza lies a large domed building that was originally a church then later converted into a mosque. It is surrounded by a large open space which contains the remains of officers quarters, barracks, and an arsenal. There are also some very deep shafts. As some of the building remains are underground, I would suggest you take a torch.

Close to the city of Heraklion, lies the ruins of the Palace of Knossos which is believed to have been the centre of Minoan civilization between 3000-1400 BC. The Palace was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans who started his archaeological excavations in 1900. He has since been criticized for some of his "rebuilding" of the site.

The Samaria Gorge is the longest ravine in Europe, and was established as a national park in 1962. The gorge has a trail running along it's length, starting at Omalos, 27 miles south of Chania, through to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli. At it's narrowest point, the two sides of the gorge are only nine feet apart, this narrow section is known as the Iron Gates. It is also possible to drive or go by coach to Chora Sfakion, from here you can catch a boat to Agia Roumei and take the comparatively short walk up to the Iron Gates, returning to Agia Roumei for the boat trip back to Chora Sfakion. If you do choose to visit this superb natural site, then strong footwear is essential.

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