Greece’s largest island has so much more to offer than just ancient ruins and pretty white sand. Pack those hiking boots and prepare for a holiday of active fun in the majestic surroundings of Crete. Not for the faint hearted, the natural rugged terrain is an adrenaline-junkie’s paradise complete with hidden caves, steep ledges and off-roading safaris. Offering up pretty much any extreme sport you can think of, the island south of the Aegean is anything but tame. Buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life with our adrenaline-junkie’s handbook to Crete, Greece.
Home to an abundance of natural gorges and small, high waterfalls, Crete is an amazing location to try your hand at canyoning. With some crossings needing technical equipment, the rough terrain makes for difficult climbing, so first-timers should always travel up the gorges with a guide. However, the experience is so worth it! Visit the island’s most famous gorge in Samaria where you’ll find the world renowned ‘Iron Gates’ and make your way to Ha, the supposed ‘king of the Cretan gorges’. The spectacular natural landscape will blow you away and make you wish you’d made the trip earlier.
There’s no better way to explore a new location than to head directly off the beaten track and trekking the island’s mountain ranges is the perfect way to do this. Scale the ancient paths of the White Mountain National Reserve and take in the panoramic views of the ocean below. With tons of protected trails, it’s really easy to find a route suitable for your walking standards. Indulge your inner geo-tourist and explore the entire ranges of Dikti, Ida, Kedros, Thripti and Asterousia. If you want to experience the trails like a local, join one of the many mountaineering and hiking clubs for access to Cretan guides and fellow adventurers.
Be brave and experience Crete’s steep ridges 4x4 style. Rent quadbikes or motorbikes and hit the dust tracks of the island’s mountain ranges for breath-taking ocean views and a thrill-ride to remember. Book into an off-road safari or attempt the routes solo and literally travel off the beaten track. For the cycling enthusiasts, Crete has its very own world-famous cycling tour which international off-road cyclists flock to year after year.
Being an island, Crete has just as much activity offshore as it does on. Wetsuit up and sink into the depths of the ocean for the ultimate scuba diving adventure. The rocky terrain covering the island extends beneath its surface giving way to a number of caves, reefs and abysses to explore. Almost all the diving schools on the island will offer an excursion to Skinaria Beach, next to Plakias – one of the most remarkable sea-beds in the area. Make sure to also dive at Souda Bay to discover the underwater cave of Elephants, home to a collection of petrified elephant bones which you can still see today. Cape Spatha and Peninsula Gramvousa are also prime diving spots which you should visit on your trip. For those that aren’t keen to go that deep, keep to the surface and discover the marine life through a snorkel or book into a glass-bottom boat tour.
Another one of Crete’s many adventure activities is its vast collection of water sports. Try anything from local favourite, windsurfing to stand up paddle boarding and kitesurfing. Head to Kouremenos Bay next to Palekastro for the best winds on the island and take to the seas with your surf board of choice. Rental shops for windsurfing, kitesurfing and plain old regular surfing are scattered around this area so you’ve got plenty to choose from. Hop on a stand up paddle board when the calmer days hit and try a spot of calming yoga in the middle of the ocean.
With over 4,500 mapped caves and sinkholes, Crete is a haven for geo-explorers eager to discover what’s beneath the surface. Internationally known and the deepest cave in Greece, Gourgouthakas is an absolute must-see. Explore the geoparks of Sitia and Psiloritis as well as the caves of Mount Ida, the tallest peak in the White Mountain range, to see the Ideon Cave – the supposed birthplace of Zeus the Olympian.
The strong winds on the island make it the perfect location to face your fears and learn to fly. The steep slopes are a playground for air sport enthusiasts with paragliding being the thrill of choice. The winds are best in the area of Avdou by Hersonissos so request that your guide takes you there for the ultimate leap of faith. With plenty of schools in and around the island, you’ll have lots of choice when it comes to learning the ropes before you set off.
Visiting Crete soon? Use the hashtag #ryanairstories, to tag us in your adrenaline-junkie snaps of things to do in Crete, for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s social media feeds.
Flights to Crete
- Lucy Norris