Our trip to wonderful Crete is now three weeks old and here fall fully has us in its clutch. I’m talking scarves and gloves here guys. Still, every time I am looking at those photos that I took I want to go back another time, experience the nature, the food and the people. Crete was fantastic, and I guarantee that we will be going back there in the future.
So why Crete exactly? We actually wanted to spend our yearly vacation in Croatia (remember my list?), but since Game of Thrones this place has become quite expensive, at least when you want to stay at the coast. As I have told you, I am a huge fan of hiking and my boyfriend is a huge fan of staying at the beach as long as possible, so we compromised. Crete was a must then! I know there must be other places suited for this split between an active and passive vacation, but since I knew the island from a previous visit we set our mind to it pretty quickly. And it was worth it!
We enjoyed the old town of Chania, saw beautiful beaches, explored gorges and enjoyed the beauty of the local flora. And the food! I fell in love with a bowl of hummus and some slices of pita bread. One evening I had so much tender and juicy lamb I couldn’t finish the plate. I basically lived off olives and feta cheese!
So what is it about Crete?
Crete is the largest island under about Greece’s 200 inhabited islands, and by far the most popular. It was once the center of the Minoan civilization, the oldest civilization in Europe and whose remnants you can see on the archeological site of Knossos. But not only the Minoans ruled Crete. You can find all sorts of influences in Chania’s Venetian harbor and labyrinthine lanes. Or in the Turkish bathhouses and mosques, or magnificent frescoed chapels, churches and monasteries telling the tales of the Byzantine era.
Crete is indeed a huge island, and its variety will surprise you. You have the chance to luxuriate on beaches or spend all of your time (or just a portion of it) exploring gorges or mountain ranges with small villages where locals are too happy to provide you with locally produced food and a good chat. You will need a hired car! Drive through olive and orange plantations. Stroll through the old town of Chania or snorkel, kayak and sailboard in crystalline waters. There is really something for every taste!
Where to stay in Crete
Since we wanted to truly relax, an apartment was off the table this time. We stayed at the Althea Village just outside Chania and in good walking distance to the beach. It’s a huge advantage if you reside in the west of Crete since you are in good distance to the best beaches and the best hiking spots. Samaria Gorge is just around the corner! And if you want to spend the evening in Chania, you just have to hop on a bus and you’ll be there within 15 minutes.
Althea Village is an assemblage of smaller houses, each containing three or four rooms on different levels. The rooms are modern and maritime, each having among other things a balcony with a pergola and (wonderful detail!) a rain shower. They kept everything in light colours and sandstone, and the place overflows with flowers and bushes and greenery.
What to do in Crete
The better question is, what not to do? If you’re more on the cultural side, make sure to visit Chania, especially for shopping (Elephant Store is a must) and museums. Then there is Rethymno with its Fortezza and a beautiful view over the town, and Heraklion with its old harbour. You have to enjoy a kebab there! And while you’re there and into archaeology, pay the archaeological site of Knossos a visit.
In case you’re more into exploring nature, enjoy a hiking trip along the many gorges of Crete. Samaria gorge is a day trip that you should book beforehand (all hotels offer this organised tour). You will encounter other tourists there, but it’s totally worth it. You start on top of a mountain and climb down stairs into the gorge, where you will follow the partially dry riverbed right to the sea. It’s stunning. For a more relaxed excursion, visit Crete’s beautiful and lush botanical garden. And do try their fruit salad!
Of course there a many beautiful beaches and bays as well, offering a chance to enjoy a bath, sailboard or snorkel. The loveliest ones are for sure Balos Beach, Falassarna and Elafonissi. The crystal clear water is pure heaven!
And for the foodies? I already mentioned the kebab in Heraklion (try Izmir’s), but there is also this wonderful family-run restaurant right where we stayed called Piato. It was so good that we went there twice! Then there was this beach bar where we would just drink a beer and enjoy some Snacks. Try that hummus that I told you about earlier! And if you want to taste some excellent mezedes, go eat at Ta Neoria in Chania.
You can discover much more on this beautiful island than we accomplished in ten days, so we will come back in the future. The people here are so nice and open that you just don’t want to leave! Make sure to visit this place at least once in your life. I am so happy to have done so this summer.