Adventure Activities to do in Crete

Heraklion calling out for Adventure… and restoring Cretan food

Better known for the extensive variety of natural environments it offers, the island of Crete, being the biggest of all Greek islands, is a heaven for those enjoying outdoor activities, challenges and fun.

Endless opportunities to explore the local territory culture promise a souvenir made of ever lasting memories of a unique holiday.

The island is much more than just sea, sand and summer laissez faire, it gives visitors a plethora of options to experience a magnificent nature. Hiking, scuba diving, trekking and even skiing in winter are some of the most popular activities everyone can enjoy while on Crete.

Let’s see some of them:

Go Hiking

Probably the most interesting way to explore the island is to walk off the beaten track, following old time paths while taking in the unique scent of herbs that grow in the mountains and valleys.

Climbing will also allow to discover the magnificent views of the Cretan sea, one of the most thrilling views anyone could find in Greece.

Many hiking trails or Crete go through protected areas, which gives a clear idea of the rich fauna and flora the territory treasures.

In the prefecture of Heraklion, Aposelemis is the longest geological canyon in the area crossed by the river of the same name. This represents an easy walk  which is conveniently located close to the capital.

Different recreational areas can be found at the beginning and at the end of the trail.

Ride that Bike

Cycling is among the better choices the island offers for those interested in off-road exploration.

A rugged terrain poses endless challenge opportunities to explore the hinterland, from dirt tracks to plateaus of unique beauty. Several are the local cycling clubs to choose from while, every year, the Cycling Tour of Crete attracts bike fans who reach the island from every country in the world.

The cycling route Heraklion-Archanes, about 15 km long, with a 340 meter ascent and a 20 meter descent allows cyclist to discover this amazing wine area, one of the oldest and most important of Greece.

Adventure Activities to do in Crete
Archanes – Attribution: trolvag [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Rock Climbing

Climbing is another popular outdoor adventure to be experienced on Crete. Visitors often combine excursions in the open air with this sport.

Certified instructors take care of every technical detail in order to provide a safe environment.

A well-known climbing site is  Voulismeno Aloni, only 14 km away downtown Heraklion. Voulismeno is a massive circular sinkhole likely created by the collapse of a cavern roof, with a maximum diameter of 90 m and a depth of 15-50 m where climbing is primarily on vertical or steep walls with pockets, holes and crimps.

There are training routes as well as very hard climbs.

Fly the Cretan Skies

Several local clubs organize clubs and lessons as well as all needed equipment for air sports.

The many steep slopes of the territory are ideal for paragliding, an activity that finds its natural home in Avdou (not far from the capital, Heraklion), probably the most popular paragliding area of Crete.

Horseback Riding: The Georgalidiko

Another popular option to explore the local scenario is riding a horse reaching one of the several riding clubs around the island.

The horse of Messara, or also Georgalidiko, is the Cretan domestic horse unique to the island where it has been breed since the Minoan era and considered to be the oldest European breed.

It is said that these horses have extra stamina and that are ideal for the local landscape conditions.

A famous equestrian competition is held twice a year in Stroumboulas plateau, little more than 10 km away from Heraklion.

Unique caves

Crete is home to over 4.500 mapped caves and sinkholes which highlight the geological importance of the island.

For those exploring the central Prefecture of Heraklion, the Cave of Chainospilios (known as Marmarospilios as well) is a unique opportunity. Locals know the cave as “Labyrinth” due to its long and rather narrow shape, presenting galleries that used to be the bed of an old underground river.

Adventure Activities to do in Crete
Chainospilios, Heraklion. Attribution: Gabi Ancarola

Canyoning

Large faults, steep descents are run through by many rivers through  different canyons, giving shape to hundreds of high and minor waterfalls.

The adequate techniques and training for this extreme sport can be provided by specialist companies found in every region of Crete.

About 52 km south Heraklion, the canyon of Achendrias offers a 6 km extension ending at the beach of Maridakis.

It is a dry gorge surrounded by high mountains and a rather dry landscape, typical of the wild Asterousia mountains.

The beauty of the canyon resides on the fact that, along the way, there many rocks reminiscent of the famous Grand Canyon.

Where to Sleep

After all the extenuating fun, a good dish of authentic local gastronomy is all you need to be back on track.

One of the best options in the area of Heraklion is to combine the flavors of Greek cuisine with the newest suites in town.

If you are not only into sports but also into the local culture, Legacy Gastro Suites offer guests the opportunity to learn about three of the most iconic representatives of the Cretan artistic heritage.

Adventure Activities to do in Crete
Photo, courtesy of Legacy Gastro Suites

Rooms, inspired by the work and life of the writer Nikos Kazantzakis, the poet Vincenzo Kornaros and the painter Domeniko Theotokopoulos (El Greco), are originally equipped with an all-Greek serviced food station that includes unique gastronomic products from all over Greece.

The hotel restaurant, My C. serves every authentic taste of the Greek culinary in an ambience where dishes combine traditional recipes with inspired cooking.

Looking for things to do in Crete? Read the posts in this section for Crete. There are tons of them.

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