Set in the Mediterranean sea Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and at over 280kms long is filled with a wonderful diversity. The north of the island may be filled with holiday resorts offering a playground for those wishing to party but venture further afield and you will find a very different Crete; a Crete filled with warmth, with hospitality and a heritage that stretches back to prehistoric times.

Cut off from the mainland Crete developed a unique culture that dovetails perfectly with the rugged and often unexpected beauty of the island; you will find no animals here that are dangerous to humans – according to local folklore this is down to the Greek Gods love of the island and its inhabitants, visit the real Crete and you’ll understand why.

Accommodation in Crete is often very good value for money. Whether you are after a five-star, spa resort, a beach-side guesthouse or a vibrant hostel, Crete will have what you are after.

The larger, tourist hotels are centred on the north side of the island, where most of the large, package deals to Crete will send you.

In Rethymno, ‘Rent Rooms the Sea Front’ have bright and airy rooms at good prices, equipped with Wi-fi, televisions and all a stones throw from the beach. In Hania, Hotel Delfino offers luxury in an elegant seventeenth-century building, in the old part of the town, serving breakfast in a beautiful courtyard with mosaics.

Eating together is an essential part of Cretan daily life, and the food to be had here is simple, delicious and fresh.

The Middle East and Turkey have heavily influenced Greek food, and so many of its signature dishes could well be familiar. The best ingredients are the fruit, vegetables and fish. All available on the island, eating within this vein will ensure a delicious and simple culinary experience.

Grilled fish, lamb and goat are staple parts of the Cretan diet, and when teamed with a Greek salad drizzled with golden olive oil, you will have no desire for anything more fancy.

A meal will usually start with some appetizers: try stuffed vine leaves, taramosalata and tsatsiki. Grilled fish or meat usually follows, with fried potatoes and Greek salad on the side. Vegetarians may like to try peppers or courgettes stuffed with rice and herbs. You should wash all this down with some cheap, and often very delicious, local wine. Raki is the Greek spirit of choice. Dilute it with water, or try it neat if you are feeling brave!

In Rethymno, try to get to Avli, a modern Cretan restaurant in a former Venetian palace, where the smell of fresh herbs flavours the air.

Europe’s only palm-forest beach is found on the east side of the island, Vai Beach, is only one of the many wonderful beaches to be found all over this island.

The Palace of Knossos is Crete’s main tourist attraction. It was here that King Minos kept his fearsome minotaur – part bull, part man – in a labyrinth, and the hero Theseus killed it. Fantastic ruins and some colourful frescos can be discovered, as well as a reconstructed marble throne room.

For those with a thirst for more Ancient Greek mythology, the Dikteon cave is the legendary brith place of Zeus. It houses some good stalactites and stalagmites and was used for a long time as a place of cult worship.

Rethymno is a seaside town dominated by a harbour and some lovely Venetian architecture. Alongside this, there are Ottoman minarets, demonstrating the rich history of the island. There are lots of students here, which makes it a lively place to have a coffee, and hang out on the beach in the town centre.

More firmly on the tourist trail, and offering similarly fine examples of Venetians and Ottoman architecture, Hania is a similarly stunning Cretan town.

From Hania it is possible to visit the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s longest, and certainly very spectacular. 16KM long with dramatic cliffs and, in spring, lovely wild flowers, the gorge offers great walking from the mountains almost right down to the beach. Go early in the morning to miss the worst of the crowds.

Tourists throng to Crete in their thousands during the summer months, when the island offers fantastic weather. What you sacrifice in peace and solitude whilst wandering around ancient ruins, you will make up for with a great tan and a vitamin D boost. However, during the hottest months, it can get oppressively hot, especially during July and August.

Winter is from January to about March, and the weather can be fairly rainy and cold. Autumn and late spring/early summer, however, usually provide fantastic weather and the sea will still be warm enough to swim. These are the best times to visit Crete, unless all you want to do is lie on a beach all day and bask!