After packing my life into two small bags, I embarked on the most wild adventure of my life, travelling directly from my temporary home of 8 months in Sicily, hitching rides through Italy, flying to Germany, swinging into Prague, flying to Greece, Budapest and then settling in Australia. I took way too many photos and have way too much to say for just a single post, so in no particular order, this series accounts my trip up until now.

Greece is way bigger than you think.

In fact it’s made up of no less than 6,000 islands (however, only 277 are inhabited), 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and miles of sandy beaches.

Because it’s so big and brimming with stuff to do, it’s difficult to plan a trip. You’ll have to think a lot about the distance between each place, especially if you want to go a little off the beaten Athens – Mykonos – Santorini path. We had a limited time in Greece and a very limited budget, so as a result we ended up in the largest island, Crete, for four days.

It was spectacular and I highly recommend it to anyone, but with a few cautions.

Important Tips for Travelling in Crete:

  • Crete is alarmingly big and a lot like Sicily – you need a car and check everything carefully on a map before you make your plans. You’ll find yourself driving on many narrow and precarious roads (see my photos of Balos National park below), but at least it’s difficult to get lost. We made our way around western Crete easily with just some simple maps.
  • Biggest cities: Heraklion (Iraklion), Chania (Hania), and Rethymno
  • Best beaches: Balos Beach, Elafonissi Beach, Vai beach in Lassithi, Preveli beach in Rethymno, Matala beach in Heraklion
  • Smaller but notable townsMalia (party town), Georgopolis, Almyrida, Archanes, Anogia
  • Natural sights: Samaria Gorge National Park, Balos Beach, White Mountains, Kournas Lake
  • Historical sights: Knossos Ruins & Herakleion Archaeological Museum
  • For a relaxing little “hole in the wall” destination, stay at our AirBnb in Almyrida. A little ways away from the larger cities, it’s a more unique place to stay with lots of Greek/seafood nearby restaurants (everyone in the area gives a small free dessert and little bottle of raki at dinner! Shh!), plus it’s super cheap for a nice room with really nice owners.
  • Having a plan is ideal, you could save a lot of money and time given the size of the island and the amount of things to do, but sometimes being spontaneous is cool too. We came with almost no plan and ended up in some of the most memorable / crazy places on our trip!

Best of Western Crete

Balos Beach & National Park

The most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in person, a national park surrounded by goats and mountains, there’s nothing in the world like it. Be prepared to drive 7km on a terrifying *(not kidding) narrow cliff-road. No pavement. You’ll also have to walk about 15 minutes down a steep mountain from parking to the actual beach (coming back is way harder). Bring snacks, water, and arrive early. We got there around 11 which was perfect. By the time we left around 12:30 people were parking along the side of the terrifying narrow cliff and walking about 30 minutes to actually reach the water.

Now imagine doing that in 35’C. Yep.

Budget about an hour from the nearest town to get there and make sure you have perfect weather before you depart.

Elafonisi Beach

A vast, white-sand beach with a pink-tinged shoreline. Be warned, it’s full of tourists.

Chania

A positively stunning seaside town bursting with colour, greenery and life. Wander through Old Town’s maze-like labyrinth with Venetian mansions, take a stroll along the old harbour, eat al fresco at a Greek restaurant, or sample some Cretan wine.

Almyrida

Tiny off-the-beaten-path beach town filled with affordable seafood restaurants. After eating at Lagos Taverna and Dimitris Taverna, both well-rated on Trip Advisor, I recommend Dimitris Taverna because you get a huge portion for your money, the seafood is always delicious and they have a very authentic Greek menu. Their housewine is also way better. Both places give you  free bottle of Raki and dessert.

Kournas Lake

In my next post, I’ll speak more about my experience in Heraklion, Crete’s lively capital city!

M

#solocosebelleabroad

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8 thoughts on “Crete: The Greek island less-traveled [Photography + Travel]

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