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CRETA: PHOTOS AND TRIP REPORT
It's surprising how Crete in the mid of August can look like a deserted paradise.
In a few hours you can drive from some active nightlife to completely isolated beaches.
So here below there are almost 50 beautiful photos (they are beautiful because of the landscapes, of course,
not because of our photographic skills) and an entertaining trip report. Check them out!
If you haven't seen it yet, there is a map of the travel itinerary here: www.wildtrips.net/crete.htm.
CRETE TRIP REPORT
Who wouldn't like to enjoy a week of summer
on a Greek island? And who wouldn't like to do it by driving a 4x4 over mountains and through canyons, looking
for beaches that are empty even in August, along imposing coasts and fascinating villages? Well, I hope that every sane person is up for it.
Crete is the ideal island for this purpose, being the largest one of the greek archipelago. During a relaxing holiday, you can
enjoy the beaches and nightlife of the northern coast, but the rest of the island can be explored like in a real adventure.
So, here it is a phantasmagoric (to be modest) trip report.
It was the 8th of August 2014, we were two, the plane was
Ryanair, the sun was shining. We flew from Pisa to Chania,
we landed at 3PM. We pocked up the Suzuki Jimny, a
4x4 convertible that would be our companion till the end of the holiday: 490 euros for a week with Anna Cars
(a local agency), including insurance - the high
season price. After just twenty minutes driving we parked the Jimny in Stavros,
on a beautiful beach with crystal clear water and
a rocky mountain as background. A good start for our
improvised travel itinerary.
For the evening we stopped in Chania, perhaps the most
fascinating town in Crete; it lies on the sea, is full of bars and
restaurants, with streets and alleys on the water and an old,
quaint harbor. There were lots of tourists and the city was quite animated.
The next day we drove to Balos beach
along dirt roads that became more and more panoramic. You can reach this beach also by ferry, with organized boat trips,
but the view from the top on this bay is something unique and
the lagoon and the rocky islands.
The dirt road to Balos is viable even with a
normal car, albeit very slowly, so the road access is really advisable. We took several photos, one more spectacular
than the other, and we explored
the hidden corners of this very famous yet
We left Balos in the afternoon. While walking uphill, towards the car, under the sun, we understood while many prefer the boat...
But still, it's not so terrible, and there are also mules for rent. We reached Falasarna before sunset. Here we found a huge beach,
occupied only for a small part by bars, chairs and equipments for water sports. It was dinner time when we began looking for a
place to stay, planning to sleep in the car if
we couldn't find anything for less than 30 euros each.
Amazingly, even if it was August, we soon found a double room in a hotel with a superb view and a
swimming pool. The room obviously was nothing special, but A) who cares and B) it came for 20 euros per person.
In the following days, this kind of room and
price would prove to be the norm for Crete, despite the
last-second organization and the peak season.
We had fish for dinner (for the food, in Crete, one has to be careful,
as the restaurants on the sea are often overpriced and the quality is not always great) and we spent the evening
in the only bar with some nightlife. Along a road that skirted sinuously the wild and sensual sea,
passing near protruding rocks and deep valleys, we arrived at Elafonisi, a famous and inevitable beach
destination in Crete.
Here we faced once again the miracle of
Crete. The beach was touristy and crowded, but it was sufficinet to walk for a few hundred meters along the sandy peninsula
to find beautiful, secluded bays with crystalline waters.
We explored the area, then I hired a windsurf.
The wind was exhilarating, gusty, violent. And by violent I mean very violent,
it kept throwing buckets of water at me, shaking the board, hitting me with the boom and trying to drown me.
Since this is my trip report, I can write here that I was skillful and acrobatic, but in reality
it was mostly a struggle for survival, in which
a thrilling glide on the water always terminated in an involuntary dive on the sail.
In the afternoon we decided to continue our travel itinerary along the coast (we didn't have a precise plan, but
we wanted to follow - more or less - all the perimeter of Crete).
"So, shall we go to Paleochora?"
"Unfortunately, according to the navigator and the map
we have to go back and follow a very long detour in the interior."
"We need to find a road along the coast"
In that moment we saw two road signs: a big one,
in Latin characters, that led to the interior of the island, where we didn't want to go;
and a small, run-down signal in Greek characters,
that indicated Paleochora along a dirt road that seemed to follow the coast.
We switched off the GPS navigator and we took the dirt road.
The track, in terrible conditions, full of rocks and holes,
climbed to the top of a steep mountain on the sea. In the Suzuki Jimny we shaked as in a washing machine,
but our choice was rewarded by the landscapes and a big sense of adventure.
After the wild climb, the route downhill was paved (with lots of goats on the road).
We arrived to a beautiful beach when it was about 4PM, so we took the opportunity
to have a swim and explore the
area, which wasn't famous nor busy, but that we loved. Later, we continued our drive, we crossed Paleochora
but in the end we decided to continue to Sougia, where we arrived at sunset. The place
was amazing: the town looked out on a long beach
surrounded by huge cliffs. We found a room, and we went to
dinner. In the restaurants the sea food was nothing special, and the very romantic
atmosphere was more suited to couples, especially if
with bad taste.
The day after our trip continued
to the interior, toward the canyon of Imbros, which we walked on foot,
downhill, between imposing cliffs.
At the end of the trekking itinerary, lasting two to three hours, a woman with a mustache and her shaved
husband loaded us into the back of their pickup and they gave us a lift, for a few euros, to the starting point of
the walk - I don't think there are other options, apart from walking
back. Satisfied by the trip to Imbros Gorge,
we drove down to the sea, we swam in the always clean sea and we continued
along the coast, in places gradually more and more fascinating.
We arrived at Plakias at sunset. In this case
it wasn't easy to find a room , but eventually we did it spending
the usual twenty euros per perons. The evening in Plakias was quite lively... nothing
amazing, but better than a high mountain stable
full of Himalayan yaks in heat (I've never tried it, but
I liked the comparison).
Plakias is perhaps the most touristy place on
the southern coast of Crete, thanks to some large
beaches within easy reach. At this holiday destination
you can rent canoes, as we did the next morning, and try windsurfing, sailing dinghies, water skiing, etc.
the kayaking itinerary, we were back in the Jimny and we continued for several hours
along dirt roads overlooking the sea, stopping every now and then to visit
a beach and to take a swim. Every kilometer the coast became more and more wild and spectacular. With
the eyes full of salt and memorable views, we reached Agia Galini at sunset,
where we decided to stay overnight. We found
a room that was nicer compared to the previous ones, and the price was even
lower. Satisfied, we went out and we had some moussaka. The food
once again wasn't anyyhing special, but the village of white houses
overlooking the sea was fascinating.
So far the trip report was exhilarating,
right? Amazing, no? No. Okay. But it continues anyway. I forgot
to write that, between Plakias and Agia Galini, we visited the beautiful
Preveli beach and the lush canyon behind it.
The beach is spectacular, but in the south of Crete
there are many beaches which are just as beautiful and much less popular: the
canyon, however, makes all the difference.
The next destination was Matala, famous
for its natural caves inhabited since prehistoric times, but also
by the hippies in the 60s. The village is really picturesque, although
a little touristy, and it overlooks a beautiful bay. On
the rocky peninsula on the right of the village, there are several caves, to be visited (entrance is cheap). Not far from Matala and
reachable on foot through a short but strenuous trail,
there is the beautiful Red Sand Beach.
We spent hours swimming and snorkeling, then we left Matala
and, in the grip of an insane desire for improvisation,
we abandoned any logical travel itinerary and we drove to the north of Crete.
We reached the highway and we drove east until we reached, Mohlos, or Mochlos, a beautiful village
where we enjoyed a panoramic Mythos (the local beer). After
some more driving we arrived at Sitia, a nice town where
The objectives of the next day were two: Vai
and its beach with palm trees behind, and Palekastro,
an ideal place of windsurfing. The first is so famous that it let us down a
little: we arrived there in the early morning and it was deserted, but it looked trivial, and numerous parking spaces for coaches
We left pretty quickly and through
pleasant landscapes we reached Palekastro. Here the wind
brushing the bay. In the water there were dozens of windsurfs, on the coast there was
a huge beach, mostly empty, with, in the background, a
fascinating promontory of red rock.
We decided to explore the area by 4x4. We followed a dirt road that led us to
drive along the sea on a wild peninsula. While the
road got worse we were more and more excited. We passed a
gate for goats and we continued adventurously in a beautiful landscape until the road, in bad conditions, ended
directly on a pebble beach. We parked on the gravel 4 centimeter
from the shore. Away from it all, we plunged and we enjoyed the beauty of the place.
Feeling a little wild, we went back to
Palekastro beach and I rented a windsurfi. I fought against
the gusts of wind. When defeated, beaten and satisfied,
I returned to the beach, it was time for lunch. Looking for a
restaurant we found another beautiful deserted beaches. At
3PM we finally found a characteristic and
spectacular taverna where we got drunk of beer and meat and
grilled octopus. In Crete you can eat at any time, and it you are in the interior or out of the beaten path the food is very good.
After some sublime and invigorating sleep on the beach,
we drove for a couple of hours until we arrived to Malia, where we decided
to stop - it was dinner time, for that matter. It was the last day of our vacation, and with it,
unfortunately for you and for literature in general, also this travelogue must end.
Before taking the plane from Chania, though, we had
the time to visit the ruins, largely rebuilt, of
Knossos - that after all the beauties of Crete and the adventures
we had lived was quite disappointing. It's touristy and a bit fake and there are
more fascinating archaeological sites in Crete, less rebuilt and in beautiful natural contexts.
Knossos looked to us like a playground.
On the way to the airport we stopped for one hour in Rethymno, a charming seaside town of
Venetian origins. The prize for the most beautiful city of Crete remains in Chania, in my
opinion. Ryanair brought us back home salty and safe. As conclusion of this trip report, I am
to write that an adventurous holiday in Crete is possible even in August:
it takes just a rental car, some
initiative and ability to improvise. In short, if
you decide to spend your summer holidays in Crete, you will have
Wild Trips' blessing (I know that without this blessing
you would be lost!).
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