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Picturesque Cretan Villages

Close enough to Heraklion lies the wonderfully picturesque village of Archanes, recent winner of the European Upgraded Village Award. Caution is advised though, as the cobblestone streets, traditional houses, little shops and hearty food of this Cretan village will make you want to move to Crete permanently. This Mediterranean island is known to capture the hearts of many and keep them there.

If you're longing for a more seaside adventure, visit the small islands or islets off the coast, such as Spinalonga. The latter was once a leper colony with a sad history, yet today forms a major attraction for visitors with historical buildings and stunning beaches. Catch the boat to Spinalonga from the picturesque traditional village of Plaka, or head to the cosmopolitan beachside town of Hersonissos, famous for its nightlife, young crowds and party atmosphere. For a more hidden side of old Crete, above Hersonissos lies the traditional village of Koutouloufari, full of lovely stone houses and narrow paved streets. In the same area, you can also go to the charming seaside town of Elounda that's also famous for its beaches. Even more to the east lies Limanaki a quieter beach spot that's ideal for scuba diving.

On the other side of Heraklion's northern coast, in the region of Rethymnon, drop by the renowned village of Anogeia, a major outpost of resistance against the Nazis during World War II. Continue to the attractive village of Zoniana and on to the stunning Sfendoni cave with splendid stalactites and stalagmites.

Another region of Crete that begs to be discovered is the Lasithi Plateau on the Eastern part of the island, representing a green fertile plane with attractive windmills surrounded by high mountains. Here you might come across the ancient Minoan cave called Psychro, where Zeus was supposedly born.

Lastly, if you're really a mountain lover, you will revel in all the hiking paths and villages as you head up to Mount Psiloritis and others. The European E4 passes through the island, taking you through a cornucopia of surreal experiences. Mediterranean nature, wild herbs, cooler breezes, running fountains and local fauna will greet you, as Greece's most hospitable and friendliest people will open their warm hearts to every guest.

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