In our previous articles we introduced you to the most beautiful beaches of Crete and its gastronomy. In this article we wanted to talk about the Cretan towns and villages that we visited during our 10 days in Crete.
Region of Hania:
The first 3 days of our holiday we stayed in a family run hotel in Kissamos. Kissamos itself is not very nice to visit but is a good place to visit the west coast of Crete. The bay of kissamos is still very beautiful and a walk in the morning or in the evening is strongly advised. Boat trips to visit Balos and Gramvoussa start from the port of Kissamos.
A few kilometers from Kissamos, lost in the mountains is the small village of Polyrrinia. This village is the site of the ancient Agropolis built by the Byzantines and Venetians. The road to Polyrrinia is small but the views it offers are amazing. A little walk in the village will reveal many things to the traveler. It is a beautiful place, calm and serene, where civilization has not taken place on nature.
Further south of Kissamos, about 44 km, is the town of Paleohora. You have to cross the mountains to reach this city with very winding and dangerous roads. Caution is required. Paleohora is also a seaside town with many restaurants, cafes and shops along the beach. The shopping streets of the city center are very busy especially at lunchtime. The ruins of the castle are disappointing as there is not much to see. So you can continue your way without any problems.
To the west of Paleohora or southwest of Kissamos is Elafonissi. It is possible to reach Elafonisi from Paleohora what we did but it takes 2 hours by car using mountain roads. Elafonisi itself is not a town but rather a street with some restaurants and B & B and an access to the beautiful beach.
To continue this adventure, you must take the road that follows the west coast of the island to return to Kissamos. It is a mountain road that runs through many small villages.
Chania is 30 minutes east of Kissamos. It is the largest city in the Hania area and it is possible to have a direct flight from Manchester to Chania. Only the old town of Chania, which runs along the harbor, is pleasant to visit. The small shopping streets have many charms and the port is beautiful. It is quite difficult to drive in Chania, so it is best to park the car near the port and do everything on foot.
Further east from Chania, near the border with the region of Rethymno is the lake of Kournas. It is the only freshwater lake in the Hania area and is very popular for kayaking or renting pedalo. It is very touristic and not necessarily spectacular.
Region of Rethymno:
Rethymno is a very beautiful city with many museums, restaurants, bars, shops all located near the port. There is also a fortress to visit, which we did not do. We merely walked through its streets with no specific purpose, just a desire to get lost in the midst of this civilization and had a very pleasant day.
To the south east of Rethymno is Agio Galini which is a seaside resort as we can find along the coasts of the Mediterranean sea. Not much to see or do, just swim and eat in one of the many restaurants.
Between Rethymno and Agio Galini, lost in the middle of the mountains, is the village of Spili. Spili is well known because of its fountain with 12 lion heads in the middle of the village. Its traditional market and its local produce shops gave us the wish to visit this village. It is the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs.
The region of Iraklion:
The north coast of this region from Rethymno to Agios Nikolaos in the Lasithi region is very touristy. The hotels, restaurants, shops invade the beaches and render this part of the island ugly. We didn’t like it because less traditional and overcrowded.
The town of Heraklion has no charm and we regretted to have spent time there. The town is not terrible to say lousy. It was destroyed several times during the Second World War and is now an industrial landscape. It is impossible to bathe in Heraklion itself. The streets are crowded and dirty.
Just outside Heraklion is the Palace of Knossos and here too we were disappointed. The price € 15 per person (without guide) is terribly expensive for what you get. The tour took us 1h to see everything and we did not learn anything more. As Matt would say: it is stones what!
To the south east of Heraklion, lost in the middle of the cliffs, there is the town of Matala and its Red Beach. Matala is known for being the city of hippies that also live in the caves that surround the city. There are a lots of shops, restaurants and tourists.
Malia, north of Heraklion is the city of the party-goers. Full in July and August and empty the rest of the year. It is not a beautiful city to visit or a place to rest in high peak.
The Lasithi region:
The plateau of Lasithi with its mountain villages is absolutely to be seen. The road to get there is a bit small at some point but less dangerous than the roads of the west of the island. The views are stunning and breathtaking.
Agios Nikoloas is a seaside town typical of the Mediterranean Sea. It is very popular and with a lot of charm. If you are looking for tranquility this is unfortunately not the place to go.
If, like us, you do not especially want to visit the island of Spinalonga but just see it from afar is enough, we recommend you go for a walk in the village of Plaka. You will be able while drinking or eating something to admire this island that was once a community of lepers.
In the south coast of Lasithi lies the town of Lerapetra. A walk takes you along its harbor, its fortress and its narrow streets of the Turkish quarter. It is an exotic place away from the tourists.
To sum up, we would say that the northern coast of Crete is the tourist coast while the southern coast is wilder. The middle of the island gathers mountains and a high plateau with very interesting places for hiking.
If we were to go back there it will be in the south that we would go without hesitation.