Crete’s Still Kickin’
Our friends at Gadling recently pointed out that the top-ranking islands on Traveler’s latest Destinations Rated survey (Denmark’s Faroe Islands, Portugal’s Azores, Lofoten in Norway) aren’t very well known or highly visited. That’s certainly true, given that the tourist traps of Ibiza and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands scored predictably low. The 522 panelists gathered by National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations were asked to rank islands according to their sustainability and stewardship. But there are also places you’ve definitely heard of that still have pockets of authenticity and untouched landscape. Here are some of the unpublished comments from the panel.
The Greek island of Crete receives four million visitors a year and got a middling score of 62, but one of our experts said this:
“I very rarely go on holiday to an island destination twice—Western Crete was an exception. The Pure Crete company takes the environment seriously. For 18 years they have specialized in providing all-inclusive, self-catering holidays to traditional village houses set in the foothills of the White Mountains. Many have been restored from dereliction by Pure Crete in cooperation with local families thus contributing to the livelihood of the local community. Pure Crete was a founder member of Green Flag International (now known as Green Globe) and has sponsored a loggerhead turtle hatchery, supported preservation of the Lammergeir or Bearded Vulture, and helped to promote a donkey sanctuary. Most recently they have introduced a carbon offset levy that their clients may choose to adopt.
The food, wine, and hospitality in local tavernas remain as authentic as ever. The historic and archaeological treasures are numerous, and it was good to see the authorities have now provided excellent bilingual interpretive materials for the first time at Aptera archaeological site. Everyone has heard of the best-known gorge in Crete, the Samaria. If you want to avoid the frenzy of hundreds of walkers then why not try some equally spectacular but much less well known, quieter, and peaceful gorges like Imbros.”
Another panelist said:
The still-lively mountain villages, historic Chania, remote Orthodox monasteries stuffed with iconic treasures, forested canyons of birds and fascinating geology, and 2,000-meter-plus snow-capped mountains were all a treat. The future looks good if they stay on track!
The sunshine, starkly blue seas, and rugged mountains are still the same, and the archaeological sites there have been given care. One must look hard for the island’s amazing past, which figures into crucial epochs that include the rise of civilization and the Second World War, beneath the Euro-vacation clutter, however.
And another pointed out the difference between the North and South of the island:
- Nat Geo Expeditions
You can’t judge the island as one entity. The mass tourism North and the wild and distinctive South are two different destinations appealing to different types of tourists; Give the North a 40 and the South a 70.
Stay tuned for more unpublished tidbits from the Destination Rated survey.
Photo: Top, Port of Chania courtesy of gek_at2000; Right,Toplou Monastery in Crete, courtesy of Stefan Marckx