1. To discover the grandeur of the Minoan civilisation, the first great European culture, in the place where it was born. Learn about its history as you tour the imposing palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Zakros, and the remains of dozens of Minoan cities.
2. To wander around picture-postcard medieval towns where the splendour of bygone days is very much alive: the atmospheric Old Town of Chania, the “Venice of the East”, with the fairy-tale setting of its lovely harbour; the Venetian Old Town of Rethymnon, with its vibrant Renaissance atmosphere, overlooked by the imposing Fortezza Castle; the busy Mediterranean city of Heraklion, with its iconic 16th century fortress, the Castelo a Mare, known for having the strongest walls in the Eastern Mediterranean; and the eerily beautiful former leper colony of Spinalonga.
3. To visit excellent museums such as Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of Europe's finest, with its astounding collection of Minoan treasures. See the remarkable Phaistos Disc, one of the world's great archaeological mysteries, whose 241 symbols remain undeciphered to this day.
4. To enjoy unique road trips to the traditional villages of the Cretan interior: Anogia, the heart of Crete, with its great musical tradition; proud Sfakia, with its rugged landscape on the steep slopes between the White Mountains and the coast of the Libyan Sea; the beautiful Archanes, with its fine architecture and centuries-old tradition of winemaking in the foothills of Mount Iouktas; and Vamos, a gorgeous stone-built village in a setting reminiscent of Tuscany.
5. To learn the secrets of the real Cretan diet, the original Mediterranean Diet declared by UNESCO to be part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012.
6. To explore a place of unparalleled natural beauty with a unique and diverse landscape, a paradise for nature walks, extreme sports, and off-road adventures. Walk the majestic Samaria Gorge, the longest in Europe, with narrow passes reaching 500 metres in height; visit the legendary Dictaean Cave, the mythological birthplace of Zeus; and explore the exotic palm forest of Vai, the largest in Europe.
7. To visit historic monasteries that are sites of spiritual importance, symbols of bravery, and showcases of Byzantine art: the heroic Arkadi Monastery, a “European Monument of Freedom” according to UNESCO; the amazing Toplou Monastery; Preveli Monastery; and the legendary Chrysoskalitissa Monastery.
8. To swim at some of the most fabulous beaches in the Mediterranean, with exotic settings and seas straight out of a tropical paradise, from the famous Falasarna and the legendary Matala, a favourite of hippies in the 1960s, to the much-photographed Vai.
9. To discover a mecca for luxury holidays, haute cuisine, and exclusive entertainment at some of the world’s most cosmopolitan tourist resorts. The best known is the gorgeous Elounda, long a playground for celebrities from every corner of the globe.
10. To experience a special way of life with a unique culture of hospitality and ancient cultural traditions. Take part in a Cretan celebration and enjoy the poetic art of the mantinada accompanied by a lyre or lute.