November’s prelude was quite impressive here in Munich – grey, moody, rainy and even snowy. Not to mention that the sun sets at 4:30 pm and it feels like Christmas is just around the corner. Yet I feel ready and prepared to tackle the long winter season. I owe this mainly to a good dose of sunshine and warmth in early October. I spent one week in Crete, Greece, and recharged my body with sunshine for the coming season. And let me tell you one thing: Crete is particularly amazing in the after season. You will see why.
Crete embodies perfectly what makes Greece such a beautiful country. It bursts with amazing beaches, crystal clear waters, magnificent mountains, buzzing cites, archaeological sites, and picturesque villages. It is an island yet it doesn’t fell like one. Green mountains, barren hills, deep gorges, and sandy beaches seem to unite all Greek landscapes in one island. That is Crete. A good slice of Greece.
Moreover, Crete is located in the far south of Greece and marks the borders between the Aegean and the Libyan Sea. Thus it is a perfect location for late beach vacations. Early October did not feel like autumn – it was pure summer there. But the after season has many more advantages for the visitor. It is not as hot as in summer, it’s less packed, and the sea is incredibly warm. Going there in September or October is probably the best way to experience Crete.
In one of my recent blog posts I shared a great hotel in Crete. Today I want to talk about a few spots in Western Crete that are worth visiting. Let’s start with Chania, the biggest town in Crete’s west. Chania is also considered the most beautiful town in Crete. And it truly does not disappoint. The old town is a charming amalgam of Venetian, Ottoman and Greek architecture. The Venetian harbor is the city’s main sight and buzzing with life. I recommend discovering the old town without a plan. You might get lost, but you will discover all sorts of charming little alleys and passages. However, if you prefer a more structured discovery check out my friend Louise’s blog post.
Eating and drinking is pure pleasure in Chania. Traditional restaurants like ‘The Well of the Turk’, Semiramis, Mesogiako, or Portes serve excellent Greek and Turkish cuisine (the former). Salis is a great option for seafood as well as Glossitses. Bars line the old harbour but you might want to stop at the Sinagogi Bar. In a nutshell: You will not starve in Crete!
Western Crete is popular for its beautiful beaches. Two beaches are particularly amazing: Balos and Elafonisi. The former is a breathtaking lagoon on a peninsula west of Chania. The best way to get there is by car. After a bumpy ride you will arrive at a parking on top of the hill and then an amazing descent will lead you to the lagoon. Here, Crete looks like the Caribbean. Literally. Even in October it was pretty full – I don’t want to imagine it in peak season! Still, go there and see this beauty of nature for yourself!
Elafonisi is a nature reserve in the southwest of Crete. Count 1.5 to 2 hours by car from Chania and opt for the route through the Cretan mountains via Topolia and Elos villages. You will be rewarded with magnificent views while passing through impressive gorges. Stop in one of the many villages along the route and stock up on local heather and thyme honey. Elafonisi beach is very popular for surfers as constant winds make it perfect for this sport. But the crystal clear water and the sandy bays attract many sunbathing visitors too. Here again, I do not want to imagine the masses in peak season!
But Crete is not only about food and beaches. Culture is big on this Greek island too. Knossos, just south of Crete’s capital Heraklion, is the most popular and known archaeological site of the island. It is the site of a vast Minoan palace. I recommend taking a guided tour for a better understanding of the excavations – you will get a good idea of what the palace looked like 1,500 years ago. I also strongly recommend you go and visit the archaeological museum in Heraklion. You will be blown off your feet when you see how many artifacts have been found all over Crete. Countless pottery pieces, numerous frescoes, and world famous artifacts like the Phaistos Disc or the Snake Goddesses from Knossos. My Indiana Jones heart almost skipped a beat there!
I am not done yet with Crete. But I will keep the visit to the home and studio of a Cretan artist for an upcoming blog post. So stay tuned. And warm yourself up with the pictures from Crete! Winter you can roll in!
Photography/iPhone Photography by Igor Josifovic