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Holiday in Crete in October 2011

Hello lovers of the Greek islands, here is the update of my website The Greek Islands. If you have received this newsletter by mistake or if you want to unsubscribe please reply to this email and write "unsubscribe" in the subjectmatter.

Hello everybody, here is the newsletter about our visit to Crete this year. We left mid-September for three weeks and have been back for almost two months now. I worked hard on the updates, because I wanted to do it well and of course make it interesting to read.

Chania Kissamos, Kastania Lodge Kissamos, Kastania Lodge Kissamos, Kastania Lodge

As so often, we had a very early flight to Crete. We had purchased tickets only for the airport of Chania because it lies close to the destinations where we are wanted to go to, and because the airport is less chaotic than the one in Heraklion. To our surprise, we made a stopover at Heraklion and it all took one hour longer than we had hoped for before we arrived at our destination. The guy from Just Rentals, where we always reserve our car, was already waiting for us. By now we know each other face so the sign with my name so it was not really necessary.

They gave us a brand new car and we quickly left for the first destination, the Kastania Lodge on the edge of the town of Kissamos in western Crete. It was for us the third time that we were going to stay here. It's such a quiet spot and the owner Arianne has by now become a real friend. I don't know how, but one way or another we managed to take a wrong turn. I was a blessing in disguise though because we now passed by a Lidl supermarket, where we immediately filled the trunk of the the car snacks and drinks. We also had a magnificent view over the bay of Chania here.

Arianne was waiting for us with a drink and a snack at the Kastania Lodge and after a chat we headed to the pool with our books to relax. It was warm and sunny, so good weather to do nothing. That evening we had dinner with Arianne and one of her friends and after that we went to bed early because we were pretty tired.

The next day I woke up early, around six o'clock, and at sunrise I made a walk along the beach with Arianne. We had made many plans for things to do and go see, but eventually all these plans ended up in the dustbin and most of the time we were in and around the pool area. It was real weather for it: the sun did its best and it was too hot to make long walks.

Agia Sophia Cave Elos Keramoti Sfinari Beach

One of the trips we made during our stay in the Kastania Lodge was in a circle to the south, through the Topolia Gorge and the Agia Sophia cave to the village of Elos in the southwest of Crete. Many people follow this route when they are on their way to two major tourist attractions in that part of the island: the Chrisoskalistissa monastery and the beach of Elafonisi which is situated on a small island just off the coast (you can walk to this island). In the village of Elos we made a stop to eat something and to take a look at the Turkish aquaduct and the Byzantine church of Agios Ioannis. This church dates from the 14th century and there are beautiful and well-preserved frescoes inside.

Rather than going further south down to the monastery or to the beach of Elafonisi we took the road back north through some nice villages and the beach at Sfinari in western Crete, where I wanted to take a look. I had been on this beach before and at that time a large part of the coast was sort of garbage pile. I received a couple of reports that it had now been cleared away, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes. And indeed the whole coastline now clean. After Sfinari we quickly went back to the Kastania Lodge for a "dip" in the pool, a glass of wine and the next chapter of our book. In the evening we went out for dinner and after that we sat in our t-shirt outside the lodge, because the temperatures in the evenings were still very nice. Like this we spent the first 4 days in Crete.

Sophia's House Gonia Monastery Kolymbari Afrata Beach Rodopos

The next address on the list was also a well known address for us, Sophia's House in the Apokoronas, not far from Chania. This was our third time visit to this villa, which is on a lovely spot and has a private pool and stunning views. We felt right at home again. In Sophia's House there is a large kitchen and usually I cook something myself here in the evenings. Outside on the terrace there is a table with chairs and this is the perfect spot for a a nice meal or a drink. The weather was still good at that time so we could eat outside in a t-shirt. In the villa there is a large amount of movies and a DVD player so you can also relax on the couch and watch a movie. During our stay in Sophia's House we saw our friends Frankie and Pat again and we catched up during a lunch on the beach of Almirida.

The next day the weather had changed and there were some clouds in the sky. This is why we decided to get into the car and drive around to look at some things. We drove back towards the west and Kissamos, where we had come from the day before. Along the way we were suddenly in a heavy rain storm and during a coffee in the coastal town of Kolimbari it suddenly came down by buckets. When the weather had somewhat dried up we visited the Gonia monastery near the village and then we explored the Rodopos peninsula and went to the beach of Afrata. We made a walk following a sign towards a church but it appeared to be a relatively modern affair.

The next stop was the village of Rodopos where in the village square you can see an ancient Roman column with inscriptions. It dates from the time of Emperor Hadrian (119-138 AD) and it gave the distance to the Diktynna Sanctuary in the north of the peninsula. Also in the village there was a Byzantine church, but unfortunately it was closed. From Rodopos the road runs a bit toward the sanctuary on the northern tip of the peninsula, but it suddenly stops and you can only do the last (long) piece on foot. This is a journey that takes many hours, so for us it was not an option.

Agia Marina chapel in Ravdoucha Ravdoucha Beach Ravdoucha Beach, Waves in the Rock Taverna Korfolonas Beach sunset

We went on towards the village of Ravdoucha and we drove from the village to the beach of Ravdoucha which is 2 kilometer away. On the route we saw some really nice churches, including a cave church and the small Byzantine church of Agia Marina with its frescoes. Finally we ended up at a beautiful beach with a tavern. Here we had something to eat. We both thought that Ravdoucha Beach was very special and a place to return to another time.

Meanwhile we were already close to Kissamos and to our friend Arianne of the Kastania Lodge, so we went to visit her. In the evening we all went out to dinner at a fish tavern at Korfalonas Beach, where the setting sun lighted up the sky and the clouds.

Agia Kyriaki Monastery Agia Kyriaki Monastery Triopetra Beach Triopetra Villas in Triopetra Beach

The day after we visited some villages on the north coast of Crete and we visited the monastery of Agia Kyriaki which is situated at 12 kilometer from Chania. Here it is very quiet and there are several caves with churches in it. The rest of the time we enjoyed the peace and quiet in Sophia's House.

It was already time for the next stop in the program, because we had booked something in the south of Crete at the beach of Triopetra. We stayed in the Triopetra Villas. It was a beautiful house with several verandas and large balconies looking out over the sea. The day we arrived there was quite a strong wind coming up, but luckily there was a large balcony where you could sit out of the wind. Here in the evening it was nice to have a drink and enjoy the stars. Triopetra and the adjacent beaches of Agios Pavlos are for me some of the most beautiful beaches in the south of Crete. There are also large areas where you can lie as naturist.

Sotiras Christos church in Akoumia Timpaki Kalamaki Beach Agia Triada

After a visit to Triopetra Beach we decided to go to the nearby village of Akoumia to have a look around and buy some things at the local mini market and bakery. Akoumia is a lovely old village with several restaurants and some churches, of which the most outstanding is the Sotiras Christos church from the 14th century. In this church you can see beautiful frescoes. The most extraordinary frescos can be found in a corner of the church. They are of a singing man with a book in his hand and a woman with a turban, earrings and a long cape. These are the images of the two people who have donated the church to the village. After we had done our shopping in Akoumia we went back to our home in Triopetra to eat a little something and to relax.

The next day the wind had lied down a little bit, but we decided to take a look at some sites in southern Crete and explore the surroundings a bit better. We started with a stroll through the town of Timpaki. Around this fairly large city (for Cretan standards) are a lot of greenhouses with vegetables. Most buildings in the village are quite modern and you will not see many tourists. After Timpaki we thought it was fun to follow a sign that pointed to a Minoan tomb, but soon we were lost because a little further along the path it was not clearly marked and there were paths going all directions. Therefore we decided to give up and return.

We discovered a new sandy beach that was new for us, Kalamaki Beach with a pretty lively boulevard with taverns and shops. Here we sit down to eat. The last on the program that day was a visit to the site of Agia Triada. I was there for the first time 25 years ago, but I wanted to see it again. The last 500 meters to the site were, just like 25 years earlier, over a dirt track, but now there was a prking built at the end of it, and there was much more that had been excavated. There was also a house where you had to pass through to get a ticket. The entrance was free and you also got a flyer about Agia Triada. It was interesting to walk around and realize how many people so long ago walked on the same paths and stairs.

Kiriana Arkadi Monastery Ancient Eleftherna Ancient Eleftherna

The next stop after Triopetra would actually have been Makrigialos all the way in the southeast of Crete, but because we realized it was quite a long drive, we decided to leave one day earlier and a stopover in Agia Pelagia which is roughly spoken in the middle of the island on the north side. The roads in the north are wider and more in a straight line, and so you reach your destination faster than you would on the winding roads in the south.

We took the opportunity to go ans see a couple of places on our way. On our way to the Arkadi Monastery we came along a beautiful Byzantine church in the village Kiriana. The Arkadi Monastery I had already visited 25 years earlier. At that time I was with my parents and we were the only visitors, now there was a lot busier, but not less beautiful. The Arkadi Monastery was built in the shape of a fort during the late Venetian period and dates from the 16th century. Its history goes back even further, to the Byzantine period. The Arkadi Monastery is situated at an altitude of 500 meters and for the Cretans it is probably the most important symbol of the freedom struggle against the Turks. The monastery also has a bloody history.

After visiting the Arkadi monastery we went looking for the excavations of Eleftherna. In the village itself we found a few nice churches, but no archaeological site. There was a sign that showed the attractions in the area and were they could be found but it didn't make it any clearer to us where we had to look. We decided to eat something, and upon inquiry found that the archaeological site was a few kilometers away, in a village that was called Ancient Eleftherna. Spread over the area you will find a Roman tower, a Hellenistic bridge, underground cisterns, a Hellenistic city and a Byzantine church. It was interesting to see. The Hellenistic city was not accessible (closed on the day we arrived). We ended the day with a drink on the balcony of Zorbas Apartments, saw some old friends and were stuffed with cake, ice cream, pancakes and raki by our friend Stella of the Mouragio restaurant in Agia Pelagia.

Lagada Bayview Bungalows Makrigialos, Lagada Bayview Bungalows Makrigialos, Lagada Sunset at Bayview Bungalows Makrigialos, Lagada

The next morning we were up early and we headed to our next accommodation, which was in Makrigialos. We made a stop at the Selinari monastery and after a lunch in Agios Nikolaos arrived in Lagada (approximately 1 kilometer east of Analipsi / Makrigialos). We had rented a bungalow at Bayview Bungalows. What a wonderful house it was, really great, modern but very comfortable and in one way or another it felt very cozy. There was a large (shared but very quiet) pool immediately next to our veranda and we had a large roof terrace overlooking the sea and the sunset. The bungalow had a nice kitchen and there was a good seating area and a large screen TV (satellite reception with good channels) with DVD player and so we have looked at a movie every night. The veranda next to the pool was out of the wind and was a wonderful place for a glass of wine in the evenings. Bayview Bungalows is highly recommended by us and we liked it so much we want to go back some day soon!

Kalo Nero Agia Triada Praisos Voila

The four days we stayed at the Bayview bungalows we started every morning with a dip in in the pool and after that explored the area, and we have seen quite a bit in those four days we were there. In the vicinity are many small nice and clean beaches (unfortunately not all reachable on foot). The first morning we found a small paradise beach in Kalo Nero, lied down and later that day we took a look at a couple of villages, including the abandonned (Venetian?) village of Platani and the village of Agia Triada, where time has stood still.

One of the other tours went north to Lithines with its 15th century church, Agios Georgios (where we were unable to find a Minoan villa) and the quiet village of Chandras. We also visited the ancient city of Praisos. In Praisos there are remains of a temple, of houses and of a city wall, but there is not a lot that has survived. In the 2nd century BC Praisos was inhabited by the descendants of the Minoans. They had fled to this area in order to escape attacks by the Dorians, but eventually after a battle the town fell. After Praisos after we drove to the medieval Venetian village of Voila where there are remains of houses, a fortress and a Byzantine church with a fresco.

Achlia Beach Ferma Beach Ierapetra Ierapatra

We visited a number of beaches west of Makrigialos that we had never seen before, such as Achlia Beach and decided to see if our friends Loes and Peter of the Tania Apartments were at home. It was nice to see them again just to chat over a cup of coffee. Their bungalow style apartments are on the beach of Ferma, which is one of our favorite stops to lie on the beach and swim in the sea. In Ferma there are three beaches. On two beaches you can find umbrellas and sun beds but the easternmost beach is almost always empty or as good as empty and at the end of the beach you can lie down without your swimming textiles.

After a few hours on the beach we drove to the town of Ierapetra, in which we never really had looked around before. We didn't have high expectations, but it was not that bad and it was certainly not unpleasent. There is a nice car-free promenade with shops and cafes and there are beaches and churches. At the head of the port is also a Venetian fortress. As usual we decided to end the afternoon with a cup of coffee and a metaxa at the pool of Bayview Bungalows, and after that had a meal and put a dvd in the player.

Vasiliki Pachia Ammos Elounda Solfez Villas Elounda Solfez Villas

We were entering our last week and it was now time for the next destination, which was in the village of Elounda in the north of the island, not far from the town of Agios Nikolaos. We would go and stay there in the Elounda Solfez Villas. We made a stop at the Minoan site of Vasiliki which was a bit disappointing. The site was behind a locked fence and it looked like not much of it was left. What was very nice though was the village of Vasiliki itself. After Vasiliki we made a stop in Pachia Ammos for breakfast. After that we drove through Agios Nikolaos to Elounda.

Fortunately the route to our next stay was well marked with signs. The villas were set high on a hill on the outskirts of the village. We were welcomed by Nikolas, a very nice guy. The refrigerator was full of fruit and drinks, there were things to eat and there was coffee. The villa was very nice and the view was really spectacular. We decided not to go anywhere anymore that day and we just lied at the pool with a book and a cup of coffee.

Elounda Olous Spinalonga Spinalonga

We had a good and long nights sleep and the next day we walked through Elounda and the opposite peninsula of Spinalonga, where there are a number of old windmills and churches. Here you can also see the remains of Venetian salt pans, an early Christian basilica with well preserved mosaics of dolphins and an ancient city (Olous). Olous was a Minoan city of about 40,000 inhabitants. The eruption of the volcano on Santorini and the gradual lowering of the soil in the eastern part of Crete have ensured that the city is now largely submerged under the sea. It was a very nice walk to a couple of small beaches (Kolokytha) and then if you continue along the coast you can walk to the Byzantine church of Agios Fokas.

Altogether we have walked around about 3 hours in Elounda and over the peninsula and then we had lunch in the village and did some shopping. The rest of the day was for relaxing by the pool. The next day was again another lazy day and we didn't do anything, and instead we just stayed at home to enjoy the peace and quiet at the villa.

Luxury Villa Provarma Hills, Crete, Kreta Luxury Villa Provarma Hills, Crete, Kreta Luxury Villa Provarma Hills, Crete, Kreta Luxury Villa Provarma Hills, Crete, Kreta

The last three days of the holiday had arrived and it was already time for the last accommodation. We were in Luxury Villa Provarma Hills, a beautiful large villa on a hill near the village of Modi and the coastal village of (Kato) Gerani with its beach. On the way to the house we passed the new Lidl supermarket of Platanias and again we filled up the trunk of our car.

The villa was really beautiful and very large. It is placed very private, with a stone wall around it and it has its own olive grove and a private chapel where you can burn a candle. Views from Villa Provarma Hills are over the wooded hills, some villages, the sea and the uninhabited island of Agii Theodori, which is according to legend actually a petrified sea monster. I have to admit that in these last three days we looked around in the area a little bit, but mostly we have been very lazy. We know the area quite well and it was so nice at the pool that we no longer wanted to make long trips to go and see something special.

Koufos Patelari Gerani Beach Souda Bay

The area where we were stationed, northwestern Crete, is very green and you will find lots of agricultural fields and many olive trees and orange trees. We also discovered the 14th century Byzantine church Zoodohos Pigi just outside the village of Koufos and we visited a couple of other villages such as Patelari. Also we made a walk on the beach of Gerani.

Unfortunately the time had come to pack our bags again and go home. Early in the morning we drove to the airport of Chania and we enjoyed how the sun rose over Souda Bay. Meanwhile we have already made plans for the holidays in May 2012. Probably we fly to Santorini and we go island hopping. First back to Milos, because we liked it so much this year and after that probably a new island. We were thinking of Sifnos. Anyway, it's not all fixed so we will see at that time it. Okay people, this is the end of my newsletter. I hope to see you some day in Greece and I wish everybody the best.

Kind regards,
Hans Huisman, webmaster of The Greek Islands.


Hans Huisman 2011