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The area around Villa Pantazis - Crete
The area of Madaros is close to the town of Rethymnon and not far from villages such as Georgioupoli and Episkopi with its ten kilometers long beach. Also nearby are interesting villages such as Argiroupoli, the green area of the Apokoronas and Lake Kournas. There are many nice old mountain villages in the backland.
Rethimnon with its 20.000 inhabitants is one of the bigger cities on Crete, and unlike Chania and Heraklion it depends heavily on tourist for its excistance. It has a historical centre with remains from all periods in history, including Turkish remains, and a Venetian harbour, lighthouse and castle. The harbour is one big stretch of restaurants that overlook the beach and the ferry harbour (with boats which go regularly to Piraeus). Directly behind the harbour is the old part of the town with narrow alleyways, tourist shops, Turkish minarets, churches, a city park, musea, Venetian style houses with covered wooden balconies, old mosques and an aold Turkish bathouse with junk piled up in it. Over the years Rethimnon and the road leading to it (with beautiful long beaches) have become more and more exploited and touristic. Hotel after restaurant after souvenir shop have been build along this road, making it in my point of view less attractive than it was before. The village of Rethimnon itself was to my surprise rather quiet while we were there, but we visited in october, so out of season. In any way it is interesting for people that like good beaches with sunbeds and umbrellas in combination with for instance several watersports. If that is what you like than it is a good option to book an accommodation in this area. The fortress and the harbour of Rethimnon with all its colourful wooden boats can certainly be described as picturesque.
For more information about Rethimnon - click here
Argiroupoli is a village just southwest of the town of Rethymno. You take the road at the exit that says "Episkopi 2" from the highway which runs between Chania and Rethymno, and then you follow the signs. The village is located in the hills and there are many remnants from Roman times to find, such as a port, floor mosaics and many tombs. In the neighborhood are also plenty of waterfalls and a monastery from the 10th century wall paintings from the 12th century.
For more information about Argiroupoli - click here
Georgioupoli lies on the northern coast of Crete, about 35km away from Chania and 20 km from Rethimnon. It is a coastal village with a very large beach. There are several roads leading from the coastal highway to Georgioupoli and one of them is over a 4 kilometers long road leading through some very pretty scenery to the bay of Almiros. You drive through a green landscape with lots of trees and some houses, and there are nice views of the mountains. A part of the drive is graced with large eucalyptus trees on both sides of the road.
Georgioupoli is built on the delta of the river Almiros, which floats in from lake Kournas, the only lake in Crete. It used to be a swamp area untill the late 19th century, and the place was avoided because of fear of malaria. The swamps were made dry, trees were planted and a couple of bridges were made to cross the river (which divides the beach in two). Now there are plenty of hotels and pensions, a nice village square with taverna's, some souvenir shops and supermarkets, and two churches. One of them is a cute little white church that is set on a pier in the water, the Agios Nikolaos church. You can walk to this church and burn a candle if you like. The sand beach stretches on for ever and ever (it's 10 kilometers long). Some parts have beach chairs, other parts don't, but the whole stretch is good. There's plenty of space and sand for everybody. Compared to some other villages on the north coast of Crete it's rather quiet and relaxed. It's a secretly hidden gem on the heavily build on this part of the coastline.
For more information about Georgioupoli - click here
Situated a couple of kilometers inward from the coastal village Georgioupoli (beteen Rethimnon and Chania) people seem to disagree about the only Cretan sweet water lake: Kournas. Some like it, some think it's not that interesting. Is it worth a visit at all? I absolutely loved it and would recommend the detour to everybody. The special colours of the lake, from green to turqoise and blue, and the beautiful and special mountains around it, the abundance of wildlife, the cosy taverna's and souvenir shops around the edge of the lake: Kournas has a lot going for it. The area where the lake is situated, the Apokoronas area, is one of my favourite parts of the island because of the beautiful nature and the nice small traditional villages and peace that you can still find here.
Kournas Lake is about one and a half kilometer in diameter and at the southern end it is up to 45 meters in depth. There are special birds floating in the water, big orange fish swimming around, and it seems trees are growing from the bottom of the lake (when the water is really high). On my visit we even saw a turtle swimming around. For the people that love it enough to wanna go and explore some more on the lake it's possible to rent a water bike (cost: 7 euro in may 2003 and prices are steady - visited again in 2009). There's some sort of a beach and a lot of olive trees and other vegetation. It is a special place for wildlife including for birds. You can even swim in this lake if you like. In my point of view Lake Kournas is defenitely one of those special unexpected surprises you sometimes can find on a Greek island.
For more information about Lake Kournas - click here