An ambling six km walk through the Sirikan Gorge, amid cooling chestnut groves, wild olives and plane trees, brings you to the ruined hilltop acropolis of Polyrinia, ‘rich in lambs’. A powerful city-state built by the Achaens, it dominated western Crete and later flourished under the Romans, who added a subterranean reservoir and aqueduct. It was re-colonized in Byzantine and Venetian times and there is much to see among its ruined fortifications, decorative arches, rock-cut tombs and later Church of the Holy Fathers. Rest in the shaded chapel courtyard and admire the jaw-dropping views of Kissamos Bay and the White Mountains before turning back for the sleepy village of Ano Paleokastra. Call in on Yiorgos’ workshop where he’ll ply you with olives and raki until you buy one of his beautiful olive wood boxes, or just pet his friendly dog, Lula.
An amazing site for everyone to enjoy including families, with its legends and myths of the minotaur, impressive frescoes and murals and space to explore and wander without rush. This is a centre of Minoan civilisation and culture. There is enough information for enthusiasts, a decent shop, nice cafe and unintrusive staff who let you take your time to absorb the atmosphere and wonder of this important historic site. The dolphins and griffins in murals appeal to the younger visitors and there is plenty of shade when a break needed from the sun and heat. Wonderful.
This was the most unassuming, beautiful, restful spot one could imagine. An hour from the airport through hilly countryside and quiet villages takes you to this wonderful place in the middle of Crete, among mountains and olive groves with the most amazing views from your bedroom balcony on waking. Eleonas is a treasure, peaceful and with amenities like air con, swimming pool and fantastic Cretan traditional cooking. They love children which was a bonus and helpful with anything you need.Great value too, you can book per night. There is also a lovely lake…walkable, and quaint village with tavernas for a local treat. Pure Simple Bliss.
This was the most unassuming, beautiful, restful spot one could imagine. An hour from the airport through hilly countryside and quiet villages takes you to this wonderful place in the middle of Crete, among mountains and olive groves with the most amazing views from your bedroom balcony on waking. Eleonas is a treasure, peaceful and with amenities like air con, swimming pool and fantastic Cretan traditional cooking. They love children which was a bonus and helpful with anything you need. Great value too, you can book per night. There is also a lovely lake, walkable and quaint village with tavernas for a local treat. Pure simple bliss.
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
Tucked away on a leafy square just off 25th August St, this quirky, family-owned restaurant/taverna prepares creative and original dishes which touch all corners of Greece. There’s no doubting that their range of fantastically fresh local fish and seafood, many of which can be served as small plates (mezedes), ranks among the best in Heraklion. Fresh salads, grilled meats, pastas and risottos, not forgetting their signature dish of pork tenderloin cooked with wine and tomatoes and served in a pita roll (my favourite!) are sure to hit the spot.
Agios Titos 18, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
I am actually writing in response to the article about Greece in TRAVEL, 23.6.12: I have just returned from SW and central southern Crete - Paleochora area and Sphakia (Chora Sphakion/ Frankocastello). This part of Crete is mainly wild, spectacular mountains, empty, spotless beaches with deep clear sea, incredible gorges, tiny roads ending in villages and trails off up to the peaks, very pretty towns. There is little sign of economic catastrophe here. I was amazed to see some German tourists .. either unaware of the 'dialogue' between the two nations'media and politicians, or arrogantly sure the Greeks would welcome them - which they were doing. There is masses of accommodation easily obtained on site - or in advance simply by googling accommodation in the areas/ places mentioned. Travelers should be aware though that 1) Greece has always been a cash economy, even more so now: we had to pay cash for car hire, accommodation, food, petrol. But everything is cheap (apart from car hire). A beautiful room + fridge/ shower/ balcony over the sea/ cooking area easily obtainable for 40 euros or less - so much cheaper than the £40 mentioned in the article. But medical services are stretched: there is an excellent, cheap, private clinic in Paleochora - also Chania (cash only!). But in Chora Sphakion there is only the local public medical centre. Wonderfully helpful, free, but struggling to cope with demand from locals and sometimes there are no doctors there - I know about this as my wife had an accident - do not fall down holes in Crete at the moment! The drive from Chania to Chora Sphakion over the White Mountains, passing through beautiful, prosperous little towns such as Vrysses, follows the arduous, spectacular track that allied soldiers walked when retreating from the battle round Chania in 1941, to the tiny, attractive port of Chora Sphakion from where they were evacuated to Egypt.
Recommended: Haris studios, Paleochora; Paradiso Apartments, Frankokastello - huge amount of accomodation available in both places. You can get to both regions from Chania airport by local bus or taxi but car hire makes you able to really explore - easily obtainable at Chania airport, or in Chania. We used autoclub Crete - cheaper than the rest - but cash only!
Pitsidia, Crete. A village to open you up and re-affirm what you have always believed life should be like. Chancing upon a Cretan means, at the least, a friendly ‘Cala Mera’ and a wave, sometimes an invitation to come in and drink tea. Bars and Cretans really move the welcoming spirit another notch; if the owner is not around then customers are trusted to simply help themselves and pay their bill later that day or even the next. The most seductive Cretan music just helps to confirm what you have always wanted to believe – that life and people are beautiful.
Google map: bit.ly/xP652a
Pitsidia, Crete. Chance upon an isolated home and at the very least that means a friendly 'Cala Mera' and a wave - sometimes an invitation to come inside and drink tea. Climb the hill that overlooks this very unspoilt village and listen to a chorus of sheep bleating, cattle lowing and instantly be transported to a time two thousand years ago. Bars in Pitsidia really reflect a true Christmas spirit: always friendly and if the owner is not there then customers help themselves and are trusted to pay their bill later in the day ... or even the next. Fresh local fish, grilled halloumi, crisp vegetables and the most seductive Cretan music all make a refreshing change from turkey and Christmas carols.
Google map: bit.ly/sZgiJQ
Eleonas is a beautiful hotel made up of cottages straddled on a Cretan hillside and a main taverna/reception/bar at the base of the hill. If you want to get away somewhere quiet and friendly, with amazing food and the possibility of walking in the hills, gorges and forests of upland Crete (or, a short drive away, the beaches, Minoan palaces and towns of the beautiful South Coast), then this is for you.
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.
The Enneahora - meaning nine villages – is an off-the-beaten-track domain in the lush green mountains of Western Crete. Trawling deep gorges, it’s easily reachable by local bus from the unassuming seaside town of Kastelli Kissamos – an ideal base for exploration of the region. Enjoy cool walks beneath ancient chestnut, plane and walnut trees; criss-crossing mountain streams and rare flora and fauna, including high-flying buzzards. Take inexpensive rooms in friendly Elos, main hamlet of the nine, to enjoy its shady square and unobtrusive tavernas serving freshly roasted dishes and local wines. Be tempted to stay on for the unique annual chestnut festival in October.
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
We had a one of our best holiday memories in Bellevue in Agia Pelagia beach. The hotel complex is in the centre of Crete and is in easy reach of many attractions and archaeological sites such as Knossos which is 20 km away. Bellevue is run by a English/Greek family that help you any time you need info. Their son George is a very helpful and polite person and has a shop down in Agia Pelagia. During the first days we didn't have a car and George after serving Bellevue's super breakfast offered us a lift every day down to the village of Agia Pelagia and a couple of times to the lovely beach of Ligaria. Bellevue is a simple but a very good hotel/apartment complex. Our room was very big, simple but tastefully decorated. The view was one of the best we have ever seen or experienced. During our stay we explored the six beaches in and around Bellevue. One day we walked till the next mountain village and visited the monastery of Sebbatiano that was a super experience.
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
This tip is a comment on the story by Aida Edemariam in the travel section on 4 July 2009 about the Agia Fotini Taverna and the couple who run it, Stavros and Vicki Perakis.
My wife, Karen, and I live in Wollongong Australia, about 80km south of Sydney where Vicki grew up and Stavros lived for about 10 years. I worked with Stavros in the Abrasive Blasting game and got to know them and their extended Greek families and friends very well. When they went back to to Crete to take over the family taverna they always said we must come and visit. Well in 2002 we did just that and spent two weeks with them and a week on Santorini.
You always get the cliches and all the Greeks told us before we left "you'll love it, it'll be the best holiday you will have" and we went "yeah, right". But I must admit they were right, it was sensational.
The trip to the taverna was a holiday in itself and it is perched right on the waters edge. Karen and I stayed in the "honeymoon" suite (inside facilities) and my brother stayed next door. From there we ventured out and did all the touristy sites as nowhere is far away on Crete. When we decided to stay in a typical day was; late up, dip in the ocean, Stavros would call us in for a cooked breakfast then read a book, walk on the beach, try a Mythos (local beer), more food, chat to the customers and end up about 1am sipping Ouzo and Raki with any late comers. We even helped them out around the tables when things got busy.
It was and still is the best holiday we've had and we would like to thank Aida for telling it just like it is.
Google map: tinyurl.com/2u9rwux
Agia Pelagia is a small fishing village which doesn't really qualify as a mainstream tourist resort - and that's a good thing. Situated 23 km west of Heraklion, it has a rich history going back to Minoan times when, because of its strategic and sheltered location, it was an important harbour.
Nestled in the curve of a wide bay at the foot of a hill, its picturesque setting was noticed by a few intrepid businessmen who understood the area's potential in the burgeoning tourism industry of Crete. Slowly but surely, hotels and restaurants were built but never too many and so the area has kept its charm. Today, it is a popular destination for families and couples who prefer a quieter getaway.
Near Agia Pelagia is the small hotel&aparts Villa Bellevue built just over the beach of Ligaria.
The hotel is nestled at an idyllic spot in Agia Pelagia.
Villa Bellevue Apartments, +30 2810811102, www.agia-pelagia-bellevue.com
South eastern Crete remains one of the few areas on the island that has not been swamped by a dependence on tourism. The infrastructure is there to provide for tourists' summer needs but agriculture remains the main source of income for locals. The two-hour drive from Heraklion Airport has helped to keep the area largely unspoilt, with many hidden gems of isolated beaches and traditional mountain villages just waiting to be explored. There is a good (daytime) public transport service between Heraklion Airport and Ierapetra with an hourly service on to Makry-Gialos which has the widest selection of accommodation and is a good base for the area.
We stumbled across this lovely restaurant when wandering the back streets in the old Venetian quarter of Chania and ended up eating there almost every night of our stay.
It's located in what was the plunge pool of an old Turkish bath. Ignore the main courses on the (Greek) menu and go for a selection of the mezedes. There's a huge variety with generous portions at only a few euros each. Our favourites were the horta (steamed wild greens served with olive oil and lemon juice), the favakeftedes (split pea croquettes), and the lovely local sausages.
Two people could happily eat their fill and wash it down with a carafe of local wine for under thirty euros.
49, Zambeliou, Old Town, Chania
Tel : +30 282 109 6080
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