Get off the beaten track in Crete

There are no sheep, but there are plenty of goats. They climb trees, they climb over your car. They climb pretty much everywhere. 

Why Crete?

Crete is well known for sun, sea and delicious food.

It’s also a great destination in the summer months because the wind means it doesn’t get quite as hot as some of the other Greek islands. Perfect if, like me, you get light headed the minute it gets any hotter than 29 degrees.

If you want to check out this part of the world but are less keen on getting stuck in a tourist trap with lots of burnt sun worshipers marking out their territory with beach towels, I’d highly recommend this itinerary.

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When we went

We went there back in August / September 2014 – so a while ago now. It was our first holiday together as a couple and we wanted to go off the beaten track a little bit.

So, this is the first of the “memories” series of this blog, where I document gems from past adventures. SO, the photos might not be up to my usual standard, but I really wanted to share these experiences as they’re some of the best holidays I’ve been on.

Itinerary

Please see bottom of the post for a map of these locations

1) Land at Heraklion and rent a car

We flew to and from Heraklion and rented a car (I won’t name the company as you could make a comedy sketch out of how bad they were).. and didn’t really hang around here very much. But you’ll need to rent a car for this itinerary, so here’s where to start.

2) Get in the vibe in Rethymno

This was our first stop.  A pretty port town worth exploring for a day or two.

We stayed in Casa Dei Delfini, a bed and breakfast which was really well located, right in the old town and with lots of character.

We also had some great drives in the surrounding countryside which was really spectacular.

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3) Soak up some of Marianna’s herbs

While staying in Rethymno we visited Marianna’s herbal workshop.   Set in the picturesque countryside, it’s a lovely trip to do one afternoon.

I love her story – she is from Athens but wanted to rediscover traditional herbal remedies and ended up moving to this area because the old people still had lots of traditional knowledge about how to pick and use local herbs.

Those of you who follow my blog will know I love the idea of foraging so this sort of thing is right up my street.

When we visited, Marianna was very welcoming and keen to speak to us about her experiences and her products. Highly recommended, and it’s a beautiful drive to get there too.

4) Get away from it all in Gavdos

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We had been looking forward to Gavdos since arriving on Crete. It is an island 4 hours south of Crete and it’s the southernmost point if Europe.

Some points to note before you go:

  • It has a washed up surfer feel to it, with beautiful beaches, a few beach huts serving food and fresh fish, a few accommodation options, and that’s pretty much it.
  • There are no high rise hotels. No large supermarkets. No cash machines (so take cash!).
  • The beaches are nudist. But if, like us, this isn’t really your thing – rest assured you can keep your distance as there are so few people there!
  • Going there in itself is a commitment: whether or not the boat leaves depends on the wind, so there’s always a chance you might get stuck out there longer than intended (no big catastrophe in my view, though we did have a plane to catch…). All went smoothly for our trip.
  • The island’s mystique is well established – when we mentioned to the lady running our B&B in Rethymno that this was where we were headed, she looked at us wide eyed and said “Oh.. be careful”. Concerned, we asked why, but she looked at us blankly. We tried to help her out, “is it the sea?”, we asked. “Yes”, she said, “the sea”. We weren’t especially reassured or any the wiser as to why we should be concerned… but we persevered and it was definitely worth it!

Sarakiniko beach Gavdos CreteSome quick tips:

  • Getting there: Gavdos Ferry times are worth checking in advance as they are not so regular! We took the boat from Hora Sfakion on the way there, staying in this seaside town overnight.
  • Where to stay: On Gavdos, we decided to stay on Sarakiniko beach as it is the only place on the island with any activity going on really (see photo above).  The beach bars serve delicious food and you can quite happily spend the day chilling, eating and drinking. Heaven. We stayed at Consolas Gavdos Studios  – a pretty basic beach hut but it had a nice terrace with a table where we could sit, drinking and chatting in the evening. it was all we needed really.
  • Visit the Southern most point in Europe: The walk to Tripiti seems to be the thing to do when you’re on Gavdos. The interweb is full of images of people getting there and getting their photo taken in a giant chair, celebrating their reaching the end goal.Unfortunately, we never found Tripiti. We tried the walk on more than one occasion and just couldn’t figure out which way to go. We are sure we missed something really obvious. So if you go, and find it, leave me a comment!
  • Getting away: On the way back, we got the boat to Paleochora, which is a significantly longer, but stunning trip (view below)

Boat from Gavdos

5) Get in with the village people at Milia mountain retreat

Another really unforgettable location. Milia is an eco friendly sustainable mountain retreat.

An old abandon village was brought back to life by some descendants of the people who lived there. They turned their ancestral land into a quirky but reasonably up market retreat with incredible views. The old houses have been turned into guest rooms so it really has a village feel to it.

The food is sustainably sourced and much of it grown on site. Absolutely delicious.

The road there is not for the feint hearted, but when you arrive you certainly do feel like your on to something magical. It was dusk when we arrived, and as the village is nestled in the forest you can’t immediately see where you’re headed. We were led to the village by the smell of the food cooking.

As it’s a good few degrees cooler you can happily go on some of the spectacular walks in the mountains surrounding the village.

Milia Mountain Retreat Crete

6) Finish off with a stay in Chania

The drive from Milia to Chania was long but beautiful.

Chania itself is another lovely port side town with small stores. It’s the perfect place to get a last taste of Crete before heading back to the airport.

If you have been to Crete & any of the places mentioned in this blog, or would like to go, please share your thought in the comment box below. And if you found my blog helpful – follow me to get updates on future blogs!

Thanks and happy travelling!

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