Situated in the south of the Greek Continent in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Egee Sea, Crete is the biggest island of Greece. It has a mild climate winter , hot in summer and enjoy good sunshine most of the year. The island is mountainous in the center which gives nature lovers lots of hiking trails. The Samaria National Park day trip is one of our favorite program.
On the other hand, when we talk about Crete, we can not miss the Ancient Minoan civilization. The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion hosts some of these most beautiful ancient Greek art-pieces.
After all, Crete is an island , there are beautiful beaches everywhere. You can relax and enjoy the healthy Greek cuisine. It is a destination that suit all travelers.
In our 8 days trip, we have enjoyed the beautiful beach in Elafonisi, explore the old town of Chania, visited the famous Heraklion museum , hike in Samaria Gorge National Park and much more. As it was not yet in high season, we could do last minute booking at the spot and really enjoyed a no-stress holiday.
|1||Departure from Paris to Chanee, Crete, 3.5 hrs flight||Chania|
|2||Explore Chania old town, market on foot||Chania|
|3||Hiking tour Samaria Gorge National Park||Chania|
|9||Flying from Heraklion back to Paris|
Chania is touristic but I should say that it is attractive after all. The XIV century Venetian Harbor is full of restaurants for tourists but it is absolutely magnificent. Take a walk here at different time of the day.
We are not crazy shoppers but enjoyed strolling in the town center and in the market. Crete is one of the major producer of olive oil in Greece. There are a lot of products of olive oil here : soap, skin care, cream… We also bought a lot of Ditanny . Ditanny only grow in Crete and it is good for strengthen the immune system, soothes the digestive system, relieve headaches and cure cold…
One of our great moment was diner at Thalasino-ageri. This was the most impressive restaurant that we have in our trip. See restaurant part.
As for accommodation, we have rented a 3 stories small house in the old town for 4 nights. The location is very central so very easy to go around. However, it has the inconvenience of noisy in the morning when the garbage lorry passes.
Samaria Gorge National Park hiking is the favorite part of our trip. We had picked a tour which includes transportation in bus to Samaria Gorge with a local guide accompany the group. Price is around 32€ per adult. (Entrance fee and ferry fare of 15€ not included)
There is a stop for breakfast near Omalos before entering into the National park. If you have not brought anything with you for lunch, it is the last place that you can get food. As for water, you just need a small bottle as there are drinking water fountains along the way. The entire trail is 13km. The first few kilometers are the most difficult as you need to walk down the hills and sometimes it is quite steep.
The second half is easier and the landscape varies more with the stream. You can walk in your rhythm. It takes around 4 to 6 hours to do the whole path. The boat leave at 6 pm to take you to the other side of the island where the bus takes you back to your hotel.
For the less adventure walker, you can ask for the « Lazy Samaria » tour. Instead of starting from the top of the hill, you take the morning ferry from Sougia at 9:30am or from Sfakia at 10:30am to Agia Roumeli. Then walk from the exit of Samaria Gorge to the last resting area Christos and then going back. This part is beautiful and no steep hills.
You can consider to do a private tour which you can combine other things into the excursion of Samaria Gorge such as the visit of the castle at Agia Roumeli. Our guide, Martha is very nice and you may contact her if you want any private tour. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Elafonisi Lagoon is also called the pink beach because there is pink sand. The lagoon water is not deep, one can walk across the lagoon. At the other side of the lagoon is a rocky landscape almost like a desert. Further up the little hill is a chapel where you have nice views.
Rethymnon – Visiting the Rethymnon Fortress is a good way to understand the history of Crete. In the 16th century, the Venetian, occupant of Rethymon constructed the fortress to protect the city from the invasion of the Ottoman, the Turkish. Nevertheless, Ottoman conquered Rethymnon in 1645. We can see the mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Han which replaced the former Saint Nicolas cathedral. Though the mosque is no longer used, we can still see the mihrab inside. Not far from this building is the Saint Catherine church which was constructed in the 19th century. Crete became part of Greece in 1913. The Cretois are mainly Orthodox today.
A 17th century venitian fountain in the center of Rethymnon city
Matala – More in the south, the sea here is warmer for swimmers. Some part of the sea-bed is rocky and sometimes with deeper holes so need to be careful.
Matala is famous for the gatherings of the hippies in the 60s -70s. Some hippies even stayed in the caves on the northern cliff.
These caves dated probably from the Roman time or even older. The caves are opened for visit (2€). However, it is rather difficult to climb up to the top as it is steep.
On the other side of the shore is a fishing village. We had lunch in Scara which has good view and good food.
Heraklion – It is not possible to leave Crete without seeing the Minoan treasures. The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion has a great collection of ancient Greek art-pieces. We had not able to get a guide on the spot but the explanation inside the museum is great.
On the other hand, The Archaeological site of Knossos is a bit deceiving. Well, we did not have a good guide and it is not always easily to imagine how it was a palace with just a few stones in ruin.
Aghios Nikolaos – This city reminds me of Port-Grimaud in South of France.
We had done the trip in 9 days but it is preferable to have 2 weeks. There is really a lot to see.
Rethymnon : Polyxenia Boutique Hotel. Polyxeniahotel.com Tel. 2831036142
The cretoise cuisine tastes good and is healthy. It uses a lot of olive oil and local cheese. Most restaurants offert a free desert and sometimes a small digestive drink too. You can clip on my review on Tripadviser for some of the restaurants.
Taverna Tamam, 49 Zambeliou 96080 Chania This was our cantine in Chania. We had 2 diners here. Good food, good service.
Thalasino-ageri, 35 Vivilaki street, Tabakaria, Halepa, Chania Tel. +30 28210 51136 www.thalasino-ageri.gr
The fish and seafood are excellent. The seabass steam cooked in olive oil was simple and delicious. After all, the price is not expensive. The main courses are less than 15€ except the lobster.
Elafonisi Resort & Restaurant, Elafonisi 73400 Chania, Crete Tel. +30 6983516137 Local fagri fish 25€ for 2 person, service is a bit long.
Bakalogatos Restaurant, Petihaki Square, Rethymnon, Crete Very good Cretan salade 5.5€, moussaka 9.8€ is Ok, Kleftiko lamb fresh 19.80€ is good.
Vassilis, 27 Chimaras ,Rethymnon 741 00,Grèce Green salad 8€ ; Grilled Cretan cheese with grilled vegetables and tomato jam 8.5€ ; Fried eggs with Apaki 8.5€ ; Pork morsels in lemon sauce 10.50€ https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g189421-d7038776-r676210765-Vassilis_Restaurant-Rethymnon_Rethymnon_Prefecture_Crete.html
Scala , Matala, 70200 Crete https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g656572-d1803989-r676204865-Scala-Matala_Crete.html
Avli Taverna, 12 Prigkipos Georgiou, Agio Nikolaos , 72100 Crete https://www.tripadvisor.com/Profile/CeliaSoParis/Review/676175643
Peskesi, 6-8 Kapetan Haralampi, Heraklion 71202 Crete. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g189417-d6513925-r676170796-Peskesi-Heraklion_Crete.html Celia SO, Paris 2019