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Lerapetra in Crete

Crete lies about 160 kilometres to the south of the mainland of Greece and is the largest of Greece's many islands. There is an extremely interesting mix of things to see and do on the island. Having been inhabited by the ancient Minoans, the Venetians, the Romans, Arabs and others, the influences of this mix of cultures throughout the centuries is easy to see.

Crete has a timeless feel although recent years have seen a growth of tourism with its accompanying hotels, bars and restaurants. These have not been detrimental to the island, however and Crete's charms remain, particularly in the little villages and towns tucked away amongst its inland hills. In fact, two thirds of the island is hilly and over one hundred and thirty unique wild herbs and flowers grow in the countryside. Olives and other fruits grow in the little plots dotted around the island and many vegetables are produced for the European markets.

Crete has several important towns and the largest on the south coast, Larapetra, is blessed with a mild climate and low rainfall making it the perfect place for a holiday destination. In fact the town is the most southerly town in Europe and boasts over three hundred and forty days a year of sunshine! No wonder that it has become a popular tourist hotspot throughout the year. Larapetra is a great place to visit in winter because the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees centigrade. Tourists are mainly from other parts of Europe although Greek people from the mainland visit Larapetra regularly. The beach here stretches for around four miles and the sea is clear, warm and inviting.

Two of the beaches to the town are organised with sunbeds and umbrellas. There are other quieter coves where nothing much happens except that the sun is almost guaranteed to shine and the waters will sparkle. Bars and cafes abound and water sports are very popular. The European Community Blue Flag has been regularly awarded to Larapetra's beaches year after year.

Larapetra is the place for a vibrant nightlife. Whereas other parts of the island can be quiet, not so Larapetra! There are clubs and bars which stay open till the early hours and provide fun and entertainment for everyone. Taxis are readily available to take tourists back to their destinations whatever the time of night. Greek people enjoy fun and dancing and so they are well used to late nights. Cretans enjoy their own music which is based on various instruments such as the lyre and the flute but there are many clubs and discos providing Western European style entertainment.

Larapetra has banks, excellent shops, restaurants, bars and local tavernas as well as a hospital. Designer shopping is readily available in the town but if you turn off into 1866 Street you will find smaller shops selling locally made items.Other towns are easily accessible and there is a good local bus service to Sitia, Iraklion and Agios Nokolaos.

Valuable pieces of old pottery and statues have been found in the town which actually stands on the ruined city of Lerapytna so the local museums are well worth a visit as interesting artefacts are on display. Pay a visit to the Natural History Museum as well as the Battle of Crete Museum. Also of interest is a new aquarium with sea landscapes of the seabed around Crete. The palace of Knossos is well worth a visit too. This well preserved palace allows you to piece together the lives of the ancient Bronze Age Minoan civilisation and is a fascinating glimpse into a time past.

Boats leave in the mornings from Larapetra's small quayside taking tourists on trips to Chrisi Island, a subtropical paradise well known for its turquoise sea and white beaches. The waters are clear and clean, making the area superb for swimming and snorkelling.

Travelling around the area of Larapetra is fun. Car hire is easy and there are several firms in the town from which to choose. However, if you do not want to hire a car, bus services are good and this is a great way to explore Crete, particularly the mountainous interior where there are some steep slopes and winding roads.

To get to Crete, you can fly to Athens and then take a boat from the port of Athens (Piraeus) to Crete. This is a fabulous journey. The boats arrive in the early morning and the sights and sounds of Crete bring a certain excitement to the start of a holiday. Alternatively you can fly direct to the island with flights to either Chania or Heraklion from many of the UK's airports.