Because it’s definitely safer to go to Crete for two weeks. Then we can be sure that a possible strike will not spoil our plans. Yes, because a man on strike is a tourist’s biggest enemy, and especially a Greek on strike. I learned something about it during my last trip. You want plan of 1 week trip go here.
Last minute to Crete and weather
Seldom do I travel with travel agencies. As a matter of fact it was the fourth time in my life and the decision, as usual, was connected with an attractive flight price and time limitations of my travelling companion. Briefly it looked like this that on Friday after work we decided where we were flying and on Sunday we were already on a plane. Although Crete is the biggest Greek island, sleeping in one place was not an obstacle for us to move around. All inclusive was a nice thing as we would at least have a packed lunch for our trip. One way or another, it was going to be great because I had wanted to visit Greece for a longer time. Crete, which is the cradle of civilisation of the Mediterranean Sea basin and the source of numerous myths, was ideal for a start. I also heard that it was more beautiful than Kos and it had more places to visit than Rhodes, and it took about three hours to get there from the most European airports.
Unfortunately my enthusiasm dropped as soon as I checked weather forecast after leaving a travel agency. They forecast about 22 degrees, clouds and rain for about the half of my stay there. At the first moment I thought it was impossible so I started checking another site with weather forecast. Unfortunately, the differences were only in the temperature which, let’s be honest, didn’t delight as either as we were already aware that it had been sunny with 30 degrees a week before our arrival and a week after we would leave. I didn’t want to give up and started to deepen my knowledge on the climate in Crete (see here more). I found out that summer there was the longest in the whole Greece (since May until the middle of October) and was characterised by a very beneficial microclimate owing to the combination of Mediterranean Sea climate with a continental and African one.
Crete: mysterious cave Paraskevi and Mickey Mouse
I wish you had seen my face when I read: “basically the season starts in May, it’s sunny but there may happen 3 -4 days of rain”. So I deliberately chose the week with the only May rainfall. Well, tough luck, I still had my faith though. Unfortunately, the airport in Heraklion welcomed us with quite a chill which was intensified by air-conditioning in a bus that was working to the max. Apparently, Greeks like to cool themselves down even if it’s 13 degrees! The effect was such that the next day I couldn’t speak because I had already come to Greece with a cold hoping to warm myself.
Having drunk 3 teas with delicious Greek honey I took my notes and rushed to meet our tour representative. I hoped she would give me a hint how to get to some places from my list. Unfortunately, the lady couldn’t remember, although she tried hard, where Mickey Mouse hill or Agia Paraskevi cave in Skotino was. Such a pity as they were only a few kilometres away from us. Don’t be surprised that while being let’s say in the eastern part of the island you may hear that there’s no point of going to the west, or that it’s safer and cheaper to go on trips with Grecos Tour Operator. The truth is that the whole island can be visited in a week, assuming every day excursions or in 10 – 14 days allowing for sunbathing.
Crete: by bus to Iraklion or Heraklion
We stayed in Kato Gouves and I think it isn’t a bad starting point. Already on the first day you can, for instance, take a 15-minute bus trip to Heraklion (Iraklion) where it’s worth taking a walk along huge defence wall by the harbour and then have a short stroll in the centre. The town itself will not sweep you off your feet but it will give you an interesting foretaste of Cretan culture and the nature of local little towns. We can see a Venetian loggia- the town hall seat and Morosini fountain with marble lions, two eastern churches: Agios Markos and Agios Titos. Some people also visit the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis – the author of “Zorba the Greek”.
Crete: famous labyrinth and Knossos palace
Later it’s worth taking a bus (it leaves every 20 minutes, ticket price is 1,70€ ) and going to Palace of Knossos, which is only 6 km away. Here is a very important tip for those preferring to sightsee in “combo”- you can buy a joint ticket for Palace of Knossos and Archaeological Museum with exhibits of Cretan culture in Iraklion. The Palace is among the most important attractions in Crete. I think it’s worth visiting if you’d like to see the palace of Minos with its construction reminding a maze, which allegedly was the home of Minotaur. But if you don’t feel like spending 15€ , then I believe you can simply skip it. As an alternative, you can try to enter the palace from behind. You’ll see it from above and if you get a little lucky you can visit it for free going against the flow.
I’m writing about this because not everyone can afford an expensive ticket, ant the attraction itself is not worth its price. Then you’ll have a chance to see the remains of stone and pottery workshops, throne room or original paintings (frescos) on the walls, ceramic figures, plates or gigantic clay barrows called pitos which, in ancient times, served the same purpose as jars do nowadays. A beautiful view on the town spreads form the courtyard. After you do your sightseeing you must definitely drop in for fresh orange juice. It’s exceptionally sweet and refreshing. The tavern is located right next to a ticket office. If you get a bit lucky, you’ll be able to pick your own oranges.
Crete: beaches in Malia are they worth to see?
The next day you can go by bus to beaches in Malia– allegedly regarded as the most beautiful in eastern Crete, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s an overrated attraction again. However, it all depends on what we have in mind when we mean a beautiful beach. In my view, the most beautiful beaches are wild ones with azure water and white sand, and not the ones next to hotels. This is why a misunderstanding may have been caused. Objectively speaking, however, if we are looking for clean and sandy beaches and we don’t mind crowds, then we’ll definitely like Malia. There is one beach after the other stretched along the coast. Each of them is directly connected with its hotel, so quite a large area is taken up by hotel deckchairs.
In order to find peace, nice views and rocks you need to take a longer walk- about 30-minute-long to Potamos beach. According to a waiter from a local restaurant, it’s the most beautiful beach in the area. And it definitely was the one. Remember to take comfortable shoes for walking besides your beach slippers because before you’ll reach the first beach, you have to take a two-kilometre walk from a bus stop. You have to get off before the centre and walk on foot down the whole promenade and then on the right.
Crete: crazy shopping only in Hersonissos
For those not fond of baking in the sun I recommend buying a boat trip along the coast to Sissi for about 25€ . I know it’s so commercial, but it was a great relax for me, especially that I went by myself. It was getting late and I had no idea what to do so I went to Hersonissos hoping to get to cave of Zeus from there and visit neighbouring villages. Unfortunately it turned out that the cave might have been closed but nobody knew as there was no official agenda. And even if it’s open I won’t get there without a car as it is situated at the foot of the highest mountain in Crete. My genius plan collapsed. Unfortunately Crete, like most of the islands, doesn’t have a good road transport, there are very few buses and the best thing is that they go according to their own discretion despite their timetables and sometimes you can wait even 40 min for a bus. So I had a short walk in the town and to the harbour. I got surprised by the fact that the half of the main street was occupied only by stores selling fakes of well-known fashion houses. So only by entering one store, we can get dressed into an Armani dress, Prada shoes, D&G glasses and leave carrying Michael Kors bag. I think it’s a good news for those who fly to Turkey for shopping.
What about small cruise from Hersonissos to Sissi?
I was wandering around in the city when I got stopped by a Russian guy called Iwan from a travel office across the street. Seeing my disappointment he decided to help me organise my free time. Having looked through a catalogue it turned out that there wasn’t much for me to be offered since I was already the next day. The only available option is a boat trip which leaves from the harbour in 30 min. I thought to myself- why not? The idea turned out to be right as I hadn’t had so much laughter for my whole stay. First from going on a clapped-out bus without doors and watching two old Greeks pulling a Dutch girl using texts like “Do you like tiki taka or taka taka?” Then from listening to house music performed by chickens- in one word real Greek wedding.
A boat turned out to be a traditional boat, so I forecast quite a rocking which was a great fun for a captain. Unfortunately for most of passengers with the faces in vomit bags it was no fun at all. One English woman used 5 bags so I was really sorry for her. Her thank you smile when I handed her a glass with water was priceless. No wonder some passengers simply did not return from an hour-long stop in Sissi. They preferred to take a taxi. It’s a pity because a picturesque coast and caves from the sea perspective look totally different. Sissi surprised me in a positive way as well with its beautiful cliffs and azure water in which I spotted some fish.
Driving on Crete in Greek style
To explore the island, I definitely recommend renting a car which is cheap. One day is 20-25€ for a small car. If we’re travelling on our own, it’s worth finding some company during a meeting with a holiday representative. We did that, and thanks to it we had 5-person team. Renting a car itself is very easy- it’s enough to show your driver’s licence, fill out the form, pay and off you go. Allegedly, insurance is included in the price but lucky for us we didn’t have to find out. It gets worse later. Firstly, Greek cars have no mandatory inspection certificates and for sure air conditioning hasn’t been cleaned since the year of production. So a driver must not only have strong nerves and patience for gear box that jams all the time but also strength to turn a wheel which power steering exists only in writing. Meanwhile, driving on Greek roads isn’t easy at all- first of all, Greeks developed their own unique style with one general rule- no rules at all. They are also fond of using a left indicator while braking which results in every second car having a burnt light. It can be explained by the fact that speed limit signs are very frequent and most often they come with a speed trap. Roads are winding, especially those along the coast, so you can forget about dizzying speed. Crete is also very hilly. So we should always make some allowances for the time of our journey which Google Maps sets. We should also include mistakes on roundabouts where a sign doesn’t necessarily show the right direction.
Crete: famous Bay Balos and Beach Vai
If we finally succeed, I think it’s worth going to a Vai beach with palms and rocks or to Balos bay. The views and breath-taking and the rout itself is full of views.
Crete: from Eloundy to island Spinalonga
From Gouves it’s quite near to Agios Nikolaos where the sea joins a freshwater lake Wulismeni. From there we can take a trip by boat to Spinalonga island to see fortress of lepers. It’s much cheaper, however, to take a ferry from Elounda to which you can get driving along a beautiful coast, and nearby there is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful wild beaches in Crete. You can’t get there directly and the descent is steep but it’s really worth it. I’ll write about it later.
Santorini and Greek strike in harbour
What I dreamt of personally was a trip to Santorini created on a volcano- the price which can be negotiated for a one-day trip is 105€ , which is not cheap but it is there where we can see the architecture of the white houses straight from “Mamma Mia”. Crete, on the other hand, is dominated by sand colour buildings and it’s not one of the prettiest.
Unfortunately, we were not meant to do it because on the day of our trip Greeks went on strike, which means that the harbour was closed. Now I’m able to take it with a pinch of salt, but on that day I was really pissed like thousands of other people. Some of them came from the other side of the island, leaving even at 5am. The best thing is that the strike was planned since January but even travel agencies themselves had no idea when it would begin. The idea itself is quite senseless because everybody loses- a carrier, harbour and several holiday offices which sell a trip. The latter are pissed the most as the next day they have to return the money to tourists, the money they weren’t returned yet. In this way the word debts and living on credit gets a totally different meaning. Well, there’s nothing we can do but wait for better days as Konstantinos from a car rental said to us.