A small harbour directly south from Heraklion, about two hours drive, about 30km east of Matala.
Quiet and peaceful, plenty of good quality accomodation, fantastic restaurants.
Lentas sits in its own micro climate at the foot of a mountain, there is only one road in and out, a long beach to the west, and several beautiful bays to the east with a fishing port newly built, accessed by a precipitous road from Lenas.
All in, its a place of peace and tranquility, hardly known but easy to reach.
Almosy directly south from Heraklion, head for Matala, but stay east across the plain. Its not easy to find the road over the mountain, but local people will guide you.
Google map: bit.ly/10moNjk
With so many places to stay on Crete, how do you decide? One of my favourite resorts on the north coast of Crete is Agia Pelagia, a lovely, laid-back seaside village ideal for a relaxing holiday on Crete.
Its main sandy beach is ideal for children, and the clear waters are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving.
There's also a good choice of cafes, bars and family run tavernas. One of the must eat places is the new bar/restaurant Almyra - it's a slice of Myknonos in Agia Pelagia with great cocktails and delicious food.
Agia Pelagia is within striking distance of bustling Heraklion and the ancient ruins at Knossos, so it's well positioned for some sightseeing.
In terms of hotels and apartments there's a good selection.
Google map: bit.ly/RbqDeO
Renting a car is a must for exploring the beautiful rugged western Crete - all doable on day trips from a charming Venetian town of Chania. Our favourite outings were Samaria Gorge, Gramvousa and Elafonisi. Samaria Gorge for a change of scenery and sightings of wild goat Kri Kri; relax to follow after the day hike in the laid back coastal village of Agia Roumeli. Explore the hills above the Balos beach for wonderful pre-sunset views of Gramvousa Peninsula. Drive to Elafonisi via the Agia Sofia cave; enjoy paradise settings of Elafonisi with its warm sands and shallow, blue/green hued waters; then back via the spectacular NW coastal drive. Late summer should be a perfect time to visit - the crowds are gone (not that it’s ever too busy) and the weather is good well into early autumn.
We stayed at Frida for easy access to everything.
A peninsula linked to the mainland by a causeway, with a lovely taverna, a sunken city, a byzantine mosaic, and lovely small beaches to enjoy.
Take the sharp turning to the east when driving to Elouda, drive along the causeway by the venitian salt flats, over the hump backed bridge, and enjoy.
Google map: bit.ly/kUoBVM
This was a highlight of my trip – €18 for a four-hour trip to the marvellous island of Spinalonga on board the MV Venus from Agios Nikolaos, including a swimming stop.
Excellent introduction on board ship and then left to wander the evocative island. You must read The Island by Victoria Hislop before entering the lepers tunnel – the book is an account of life on Spinalonga.
Prices for drinks on board was actually cheaper than in Agios shops. A must for a trip to eastern Crete.
Google map: tinyurl.com/2v4qv35
Agios Nikolaos is at the Eastern end of Crete. It would be wrong to say it is not busy or touristy but there is a mixture of real people and tourists. The several excellent local beaches are very cosmopolitan and in August, English is in the significant minority. The response in all tavernas and bars is a warm welcome.
To eat I recommend Pelagos restaurant for high quality, Christofyllis for the Greek experience and the Dolphin taverna on Ammoudi beach for the Shirley valentine experience.
The sea is wonderful.
Google map: tinyurl.com/32j7lvj
Situated at the mouth of a spectacular gorge and set in a tranquil olive grove. This spotless hostel lends itself to long spring sojourns for the intrepid walker or beach lover alike.
Eight person spacious dorms all with a patio, table and chairs surround a grass covered communal area with ample shade.
The manager is on hand to take care of simple needs like internet access, bottles of local wine and ice cold Mythos beers. Breakfast is a simple and cheap affair but the community spirit is what makes the hostel buzz.
Guests come from all over the world and some stay months or even the whole season to enjoy the local beaches and simple life that Plakias affords.
A world away from the resorts of the north the Plakias youth hostel gives much in return for the thoughtful and social traveller.
Plakias can be reached by bus from most major towns in the north of Crete.
Mirthios 74060, Rethymno, Crete, Greece
Tel. +30 28320 32118
book on reservations.bookhostels.com/psacreative.com/hostel.php?HostelNumber=10176
You have travelled 20 km since the last tourist shop. Way above the sea you round the headland and enter an amphitheatre of sculptured mountainsides as the road swoops down to the sea. A broad bay, three tavernas and a bar, beyond some old cottages, rooms to let and a few fishing boats. Inland a small chapel on a hill, small buildings among fields and olive groves. A huge gorge slices through a mountainside. That is all there is.
Before the end of the tarmac road you are already captured. The pace has slowed, time to slip off your shoes and live the moment of arriving at this jewel of retreats. A gentle swim, a quiet lunch under tamerisk trees, a sleep after.
Zakros will imprint your soul; you find your own rhythms and retreats. My favourites are: a small hidden cove with a flat rock surrounded by a gentle turquoise swell; a small shingle beach shared with a kingfisher or two; the hill top chapel reached along a dusty track then ancient stone steps, where you will find a quiet peace in the courtyard or contemplation inside, among the icons, candlewax and rickety chairs; a stroll up the gorge takes you to a shady fig tree where you can rest in solitude and breathe the aromas of hot sun on vegetation, only the scuffle and bleet of goats as background. You might walk along a thyme-scented path leading along the coast to Pelekita's cave – nobody there but you. Here you look down on the bright wind-patterned Libyan sea and out beyond the edge of Europe. Almost 3 millenia ago Minoans settled here, trading across these seas; they left a fine palace to show for it.
As darkness falls and you take your unhurried evening meal, the full moon could rise from the sea, rose turning to silver. No need for tears on leaving since you will, for certain, return.
Literally anywhere on the south west coast of Crete; a mix of bustling little ferry 'ports' (Sfakia, Ag. Roumeli etc.), bijou mini-beach resorts (Loutro), deserted beaches with nearby basic rooms and authentic tavernas (Licos, Phoenix). Just sit back and relax watching the crazy hordes head off to the Samaria Gorge and guessing which ones will be half dead by the other end having never walked to the supermarket let alone tackled a challenging lengthy hike wearing flip flops!
Start off on the harbour side at Chorio Sfakion (Sfakai) but be sure to buy ferry tickets from the office near the bus stop first.
Idyllic Elafonisi is the sort of beach that dreams are made of. Soft, white sand; warm, shallow waters; a little islet that can be swum or waded to. Thankfully, it's also very isolated. People do know about it, but as the only ways to get here are by a lengthy drive along windy low-grade roads through the hills, or a relaxing boat ride (far preferable), numbers are limited. You won't have the beach to yourself but neither should it be overrun. The perfect place to relax in the warm Mediterranean sun.
Elafonisi is at the far south-western tip of Crete. There are regular boats from nearby Paleohora.
There are 3 beaches in a line on the bottom of the island called Skinaria, Amoudi and Damnoni.
They each have something special. If you go to one and the sea is too rough, it would be fine on the next beach.
If you take the road to Plaxia from the village of Asomatos, the first beach you reach is Skiniria. This is a safe sandy little beach.
The furthest beach is Danmoni, it is a really long sandy beach where you can hire pedalos, and there is a great floating pier that you can swim from.
The best beach of all is called Amoudi. We call it the drop off because it is like the drop off in Finding Nemo.
It is a small beach with a river on one side, and what makes it really special is that you can walk out into the sea on a huge flat rock, and then jump into about 10 feet of water.
If you are wearing a mask or goggles you can see hundreds of fish. The last time we were there we brought some little bits of salami from our sandwiches
into the water with our snorkels on and all the fish went mad for the salami, and that is my favourite place to be.
On the road from Asomotas to Plaxia, Crete.
At the end of a long, winding road through stunning mountain scenery is a little piece of Crete as it was in the 60s and 70s - but with electricity.
A traditional family-run taverna offering fresh food and four simple-but-comfortable balconied rooms, all with stunning views along one of the most picturesque and unspoilt coastlines in Europe.
Situated in a secluded bay and literally perched at the water's edge, you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves after a perfect meal of freshly caught and perfectly cooked fish and a carafe of local wine.
Perfect for those whose idea of nightlife is counting the stars, and who don’t need any water sports other than swimming and fishing.
Stavros & Vicky Peraki;
tel: (0030) 6937124600;
North-west Crete - particularly the Apokoronos plain - is beautiful: good beaches with gorgeous views of the White Mountains. The national road makes travelling across the north of the island easy and safe. Good access to Xania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Knossos. Kalives, Almerida and Plaka all make good beach holiday bases. Or for somewhere more secluded go up into the mountain villages.
Crete is big enough to have plenty to offer: culture, historical sites, stunning gorges and mountains, and probably one of the best beaches ever at Elafonissi (south-west Crete, but it can be crowded at peak times).
Of all the Greek Islands visited we've found Cretans to be the friendliest and most hospitable people. Greeks are generally very friendly, but we found Cretans to be exceptionally so.
Nice stretch of coast a little bit to the west of the main city, Xania. Even though the touristy main drag can be very tacky, behind all of that is a long stretch of family-friendly beach and activities. About 800 metres across the bay is the island of Thedorou, with excellent scuba and snorkelling sites. 30 minutes' drive away are more sandy beaches and snorkelling coves. Overall, a great location for a holiday.
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