Greece: Crete

It’s very easy to say a big ‘Kalimera’ to this slice of Greek island paradise tucked firmly and squarely 400 kms south of Athens. Stretching 260 kms east to west and 60 kms north to south, Crete is big and packed to the brim with all the good oil. Looking for a destination to finish a three month trip, we figured west Crete would fit the bill. And it did.

Here we found exactly what we wanted – little villages with stunning beaches, family run cafes serving up Cretan fare, simply furnished rooms with fabulous sea views, good hikes and friendly people. For 12 glorious days, we feasted on whatever west Crete threw at us.

We flew into Chania from Vilnius Lithuania via Athens. A couple of days spent in Chania’s attractive Old Town, admiring its Venetian harbour and wandering narrow cobbled lanes was good for the soul.

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Street scenes in Chania Old Town – easy, relaxing and friendly.

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Greek or Turkish – not sure. Both countries claim it as their own!

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We opted for a room in this small 4 room guest house down a laneway lined with little cafes.

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Leaving Chania, we bussed south to Paleochora. Chania Old Town’s bus station is very efficiently run with buses arriving and departing on time. The road to Paleochora runs alongside the sea before heading inland over the mountains and through a landscape of olive groves.

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Paleochora was lovely with a couple of very nice beaches in the town area. There’s a swathe of cafes and shops and at night the streets are closed to vehicular traffic and open to all sorts of foot traffic including lots of local children riding their bikes and playing. Dinner time always had a good vibe.

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Our accommodation was right here overlooking the water. Maria cooked a cake every day and left a basket of fruit for her guests. As each guest left, she presented them with a small gift. Incredibly thoughtful guesthouse owner.

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Captain Manos is one boatie I highly recommend. He ferried us to the well known Elafonisi Beach on a day when the seas were a little rough. We rocked and rolled and bumped along in his little boat, grateful when he pulled into a cove to give us some relief from the unrelenting waves and winds.

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Spied this good camping spot on the way to Elafonisi.

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Elafonisi Beach with its pink sand, well and truly deserves its accolades. The word ‘stunning’ is an understatement. It’s not only a beach, it’s also a river, an island and a peninsular.

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Hundreds of people swarm here in the height of summer. Most come by bus from Chania. Lucky we were to be visiting before the summer hordes descend with a vengeance. It’s easy to understand the concern of locals who want to protect such a beautiful place by imposing a daily limit on numbers in the future.

From Paleochora we headed to the little village of Sougia, a short ferry ride away.

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Sougia’s an easy village to while away a couple of days.

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We stayed at this family run guesthouse and enjoyed the views of the incredibly blue blue seas from our balcony.

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Hiking is popular in this part of Crete and there are plenty of good hikes through the many gorges. The trail is called the E4 and it is a European trail that begins in the Pyrenees and continues on to Crete. There is a wealth of information online about the E4. We hiked from Sougia to the ancient town of Lissos which just happened to be near a picturesque beach. The hike was rocky, but well signed. Water taxis can return you to Sougia, but we hiked back, enjoying the views from a different angle.

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At the top
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Making our way down the other side
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This beach is our destination
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Lissos – 3rd century BC
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Mosaics inside the temple
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Spring water flows constantly
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Someone’s well kept house

From Sougia, we ferried to Loutro, a gorgeous little town perched on a small bay and an ideal spot to spend 3 nights. The ferry from Sougia travels to Agia Roumeli where there’s an hour’s wait (time to walk around the little village and indulge in a coffee) and then onto Loutro. Check the fluorescent blue water in this pic.

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Agia Roumeli – nice and quiet
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Agia Roumeli

Loutro is not accessible by road. Everyone and everything arrives by boat. We stayed at Sifis Hotel which offered fabulous views, a wonderful, quirky cafe and a friendly owner who grew up in Loutro and regaled us with past stories of the village and its people.

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loutro beach (2)

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A pink sunset

We did another hike here, climbing high to get this photo and then onto an ancient Venetian fort.

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We continued hiking to the other side of the hill to Phoenix Beach which had a tavern that served up good strong Cretan coffee.

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From Phoenix Beach, we kept on the E4 path and headed for Marmara Beach.

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This part of the E4 was easy walking, but a lot of the path was rocky and quite narrow. We had plenty of goat company. Quite honestly, it’s mountain goat country.

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The photos below are of Marmara Beach. We made our way down, down, down to find a beautiful rocky beach with crystal clear water. A taverna completed this idyllic picture.

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We hitched a ride back to Loutro on this friendly water taxi.

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One thing I do not do well, is take food photos. Usually, I’m half way through a meal before I remember. Anyway, here’s a sample of some healthy fare we chowed down!

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We really enjoyed our time in Loutro. It had everything we needed for a few days’ stay. From Loutro, we caught a ferry to Chora Sfakion where a pre booked taxi was waiting to drive us to Heraklion, a two hour trip. Heraklion, Crete’s capital with its Venetian architecture was our final destination on this fabulous island.

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Venetian Fortress
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Inside the fortress – well preserved with great displays
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Town Hall
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Fontana Morosini in Lions Square

We visited the famed Knossos Palace, centre of Minoan civilisation 4000 years ago. It’s huge, covers 5 acres and easily takes half a day to do it justice.

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The incredibly interesting Archaeological Museum showcases treasures from Knossos. Buy a combined ticket at Knossos for the best deal. The museum offers a most interesting collection in excellent condition.

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The boar’s tusk helmet described in Homer’s Iliad
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3700 years old The Phaistos Disc – 45 pictures arranged in 61 groups. No one is sure what it all means.
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The Draughtboard – a board game made of ivory, blue glass and rock crystal plated with gold and silver – 3500 years old
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Minoan axes

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Jars for wine, olive oil, grains

There ends our very brief time on Crete. With so much more on offer in this terrific island, I guess we’ll be going back!

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