THE LARGEST of the Greek islands (at 3,200 square miles), Crete is in many ways the least "Greek isle" of all. Get yourself to the right parts and it's a vast and mountainous place echoing with history and demanding hardier travelers than those who hit the clubs on the coast. While the steep, deep, 11-mile-long Samaria Gorgethe Zion Narrows of the Medremains the island's marquee adventure draw, it's the more serene, mountain-ringed Amári Valley, in the island's center, that hides a secret hiking gem.
In the Amári, stuccoed villages gleam in the spring sunshine. Crowds simply don't exist here, unless you count the sheep. Pilgrims and hikers share the thrill of scaling 8,058-foot Mount Psiloritis (a.k.a. Ida, the mythical home of Zeus), a nontechnical peak best descended, snowpack permitting, by glissade. Explore the Amári on your own, or check out KE Adventure Travel's eight-day Crete itinerary: a week-plus of sea kayaking, trekking, and plunging into the winding Samaria Gorge (from $1,165; keadventure.com).