Crete is the most popular of the Greek islands. But just like Mallorca you just need to step a bit off the main road to find a more quiet atmosphere.
I just returned from a week long trip with my husband and son to Agios Nikólaos on the East side of the Greek island of Crete. I have been to Crete at least 4 times – maybe more. Last time we stayed in Chania, because my sister was working there for half a year. It is ok, but crowded. The East side on the other hand stretching beyond the touristy Hersonissos is more overlooked; probably because it is a bit harder to get there, and even in July it is not overrun. You can fly to Heraklion and then it’s just an hour’s drive. But it is a more expensive side of the island with Elounda as the top notch place. I would recommend stay at an apartment just outside town – most have sea view and small pools. The rough guide is one of the best guides to Crete.
5 TOP SIGHTS
1: The small baroque church Panagia Kera near Kritsa with beautiful frescoes dating from 13th century. I like the one with the last upper that looks like it’s been painted by Picasso.
2: The Lasíthi plateau. The plateau is very fertile and it’s were you can find the famous windmills used for two centuries for irrigation. It takes a whole day.
3: The old leper colony on a small island of Spinalonga. The island is made up by a Venetian fortress from 14th century for protection against the Ottoman Empire who eventually seized it in 1715. In 1903 it became a leper colony until 1957! Take a ferry from Plaka or Elounda.
4: The ruins of the ancient town of Lato. The ruins are some of the best preserved Classical-Hellenic city and the views across the mountains and all the way to the Mediterranean are fantastic. And you get to climb!
5: Almyros beach. The beach is just outside the city but because there runs a freshwater stream into the sea here the top 10 cm of the Mediterranean are ice cold and the bottom warm. Or the Váï beach which is known for its palms.
LIKE A LOCAL
1: When it is hot, do like the Cretans and sit at a café drinking ice-coffee or raki and once in a while jump in the blue Mediterranean from a cliff. Many have ladders. We liked To Votsalo and the bar outside Polydoros –both just outside the city.
2: Rent a car. And not a big convertible – but a small one so you can park. And air con is for losers.
3: Learn to say “Efharisto” and “kalispera”. And then ask what they think of EU.
4: Order many appetizers and share. Remember the local snails, the fried cheese (saganaki) and the fish roe salad (taramo salad).
5: Greece have longest wine making tradition in Europe, so drink plenty of local white wine- I like the grape Assyrtiko. It is not easy or cheap to find back home.
Let me know if I missed anything, so I can do better next time! Because there is always a next time with Greece!