Planning Your Time

Enticing as Crete's beaches are, there is much more to the island than sand and surf. Archaeological sites in Crete open at 8 or 8:30 in summer, so get an early start to wander through the ruins before the sun is blazing. You'll also want to visit some of the folklife museums that pay homage to the island's traditional past. One of the finest collections is in Vori, southwest of Heraklion; there are also excellent folk collections at the Historical and Folk Art Museum in Rethymnon and the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion. An evening should begin with a stroll around the shady squares that grace every Cretan town and village, or along a waterfront promenade—those in Chania, Ayios Nikolaos, and Sitia are especially picturesque and jammed with locals. Most evenings are spent over a long meal, almost always eaten outdoors in the warm weather. For entertainment, seek out a kentron (a taverna that hosts traditional Cretan music and dancing). The star performer is the lyra player, who can extract a surprisingly subtle sound from the small pear-shaped instrument, held upright on the thigh and played with a bow. Ask at your hotel where lyra players are performing—hearing the enchanting serenade could prove to be a treasured Cretan memory.

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