Tourist holiday reviews of the Greek island of Crete. Holiday reviews of Western Crete resorts, beaches, apartments, tavernas and all aspects of Crete holidays from people who have visited the island. I welcome all opinions on holidays in Crete.
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Good: Crete is a sightseer's paradise with an extraordinary range of art and architecture, historic and prehistoric . . . Thanks to its rugged mountains and a rugged friendliness among the local population western Crete is unforgettable.
Bad: Because of Crete's early development as a package-holiday destination, many of its resorts grew up in an uncontrolled sprawl of concrete,making much of the north coast outside and between Crete's cities a continuous suburban ribbon.
Good: Crete is a great deal more than just another Greek island . . . when you lose yourself among the mountains and the less-known coastal reaches of the south it has everything you could want of a Greek island and more: great beaches, remote hinterlands and hospitable people. Every part of Crete has its loyal devotees and it's hard to pick out the highlights, but generally if you want to get away from it all you should head west.
Bad: The north east in particular is overdeveloped, and though there are parts of the south and west coasts that have not been spoiled, they are getting harder to find.
Good: Greek's largest island and in a hundred ways its most extraordinary. Endowed by a generous nature with every earthly delight . . . Crete's crushing popularity is a tribute to its extraordinary charms . Of all the islands, Crete has the sharpest sense of a separate identity and the most ferocious love of liberty.
Bad: The lovely beaches along the north coast have been raped by toadstool strips of jerry-built hotels, shops, restaurants and discos, tourist compounds often run by Athenians or foreigners where bars advertise daily video showings of The Beverly Hillbillies, the latest football scores, baked beans and permanent happy hours . . . Each year it becomes more difficult to visit even remote corners . . . without a dozen coach loads of tourists and rubber-tonsilled guides on your back.
We have just returned from three weeks in Crete and can't wait to get back. We opted for the west part of Crete (taking your advice) and had a holiday we could not fault in any way whatsoever. The only downside was having to leave when there was so much else to see. The White Mountains are simply magnificent.
I've never seen such beautiful mountains - and this from a regular visitor to Wales. The beaches too are a delight - the further west you go the better they are. But best was driving over the mountains to Paleochora. What breathtaking views and was a delightful resort. Plakias too - a hidden gem. I've travelled extensively around the Greek islands but have always avoided Crete thinking it was too big. What a fool I have been all these years. I look forward to spending many more years exploring this fabulous island.
Stayed in the Coralli Beach apartments (A+ rating) in Kokkini Hani, if anybody asks, it was very clean and well maintained and in a lovely quiet place (excellent for total relaxation). We hired a car and toured the island and visited the most beautiful places. The weather was fantastic (30+ degrees), but most of all the Cretan people are so warm and friendly. All in all, we had a brilliant time and I would definitely go back, (if only to eat baklava again!)
Kokkini Hani was a quiet up and coming resort, with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, without being spoilt by nightclubs and lager louts. I would recommend the Medusa Restaurant on the sea front (next door to the Coralli Beach Apartments) and the Elotia restaurant which is set back, just off the Old National Road that runs through the centre of Kokkini Hani. It's positioning of the resort was good for us also, as it is only 10 minutes from the Iraklion airport, so straight off the plane and start your holiday. The planes do go overhead at the resort, but after a day you don't notice them.
Elounda, was quiet in comparison to Ag Nik. I think it's main tourism is the trips to Spingalonga Island. It was too late in the afternoon for us to take the boat trip to it, but we got an excellent view from the hillside road and it certainly looks worth a visit. Gouves, Hersonissos and Malia etc, are all pretty much the same, regarding shopping, bars,beaches etc and are all very tourist orientated.
Agios Nikolaos (east coast) was superb, it is stunningly beautiful and very classy, but still has a real holiday atmosphere. It was 32 degrees when we were there and the lakeside bars were a welcome retreat from the sun. We found a small café with a sea view, off the main track called Mother Cook and ordered two meals with drinks and nearly fell over when we got the bill - how cheap! And they were so friendly too.
Chania (northwest) was an experience, it took us two attempts to find our way into the city (there is a distinct lack of signs offering directions to the harbour), once in, it was hectic!! Plenty to do for the shopping buff, but we found that prices were more expensive than smaller resorts. We visited the market, not a good place to go if you are an animal lover (lets just say the fish are fresh!). However the journey along to Chania was through some of the most beautiful scenery and we spotted wild goats. I'd probably recommend people travel into the city by bus rather than attempt it themselves though!
On the way back we went off the main road and visited a fresh water lake at Kournas and hired a pedalo , the water was a pretty shade of turquoise, lovely and clear and very quiet, considering there was so many people there, which made it quite eerie.
Matala (south coast)crystal clear waters teaming with colourful fish, set in a sheltered sun trap cove - fantastic!. We went snorkeling here and before we knew it, we'd been in the water for over two hours! The temperature was 35 degrees + and a lot of people were visiting the caves (were the hippies used to live) which edged the cove, to get out of the sun's glare. The drive to Matala via Phaistos was a short easy drive, we stopped to have lunch at a spot in the hills with lovely views across the countryside and eagles gliding on the thermals - magic!.
Knossos was difficult to find, the signs directing you to it, suddenly disappear when you get within 1 km of it. Once there, it was a slight disappointment, although you can still see the scale of the palace, which is impressive, a fair bit has been reconstructed to help the public envisage what it did look like, which to me just spoils it. It was only six euros each to get into and we were there for over two hours, so not bad for the money. Phaistos however was a smaller site, but better for being left alone with no visible signs of reconstruction.
The food! Well what can I say about Cretan food, apart from it's fantastic! Every meal we had was superb,tasty,decent sized portions and still cheaper than catering for ourselves. We stayed away from the English type food and tasted what Crete had to offer and we weren't disappointed! We found to our delight, that the bakeries of Crete, do a fantastic range of sweet pastries and from the first bite, I was hooked (they put chocolate to shame!), so anybody going, must try them!
We hired a 4x4 jeep from Anna Cars in Kokkini Hani. However the initial start at driving on Cretan roads was a shock to my system to say the least! But it wasn't too long before I 'got with the locals' and got the hang of it. They are maniac drivers in the extreme! And I lost count of the number of times that I exclaimed 'did you see that!' or 'I can't believe he just did that!' (people overtaking me, as I am overtaking someone else!). I would advise people going to Crete, to hire a car, if only for a day or so (but take the map provided as a rough guide and be prepared for surprises!) and get up into the hills and see the real Crete, its fabulous scenery and its people at work, as it is totally different to the touristy coastal resorts.
I'm Italian and this for summer holidays I went to Crete and I highly appreciated the wonderful landscape and also the Cretan culture and people. But I was shocked by seeing some dogs under the sun, linked to the chain on a not paved road to the palm beach at Preveli with cars passing and covering them with powder.
A woman told me that they are shepherd dogs and are left there all day long during summer and winter. The shepherd goes there only some times a week to feed them. I hope someone can do something because this is not a good way to attract tourism in that area.
The accommodation I would recommend in Crete was Alpha Studios in Gerani (about 10 mins drive from Chania). It is a family run hotel which we stayed in through Olympic Holidays - a great company with friendly, helpful reps on hand when you need information or advice. The room was clean and homely with patio doors which opened on to fields. Our morning wakeup call was from the goats which were grazing behind the house! It is also a great location as it is within easy reach of the harbour and its restaurants and bars, but far enough away to be tranquil and relaxing. Crete is my favourite holiday destination (so far!) so I appreciated your website. Maybe we'll try Kalives next time we go away.
Chania is a charming city, especially around the harbour. North facing though, so don't expect great sunshine that time of year but still some very warm days when I went. Wonderful cafes, especially away from the more commercial areas. Cheap too, as has been mentioned elsewhere on the site. The motorway is nearby so its a great base for exploring the wild western beaches or tackling the mountain roads to the south which always seems to be sunny even when its raining in the north.
Chania is a great city for a holiday with nearby coastal strip of resorts if you fancy a few days on the beach, the Aktori peninsular for walking (and some great small beaches). If you go please visit the Theotokopouliou street behind the naval museum in the old Jewish quarter - wonderful small shops selling art, craft works and jewellery. The naval museum is worth a visit too.
Chania is a wonderful city - but it is a city, so noisy and lots of traffic (except around the old but expensive harbour). I always stay in the Almyrida - Kalives area where it is quieter and you can bomb down the highway to Chania or Rethymnon - though Chania is much nearer. If you go to Kalives don't forget to visit Il Fornio for some wonderful food.
I stayed at the Atrion Hotel/studios in Aghia Marina, near Chania, across the road from beautiful sandy beach. It has a fantastic pool/snack bar. A supermarket and giros bar both across the road. There is a fresh bakery to the left on main road, a short walk from gorgeous tavernas in old Aghia Marina and it's a short bus ride to Chania! PERFECT, you will love it!
Kalives is a village I know very well and have visited many times since 1998. I have spotted the message from Dawn Treacy and am very happy indeed to say that the gentleman who appeared to be the "meeter and greeter" no longer lives in Crete. He has been seriously ill and has now recovered, and I wish him well, however, there is no cure for his annoying personality. So Il Forno welcomes everyone and no longer has the feel of a private club as mentioned by Dawn.
I am very happy to report that when I visited the pizzas at Il Forno are back to excellent standard. We ate there twice in June. Meals are very good value and the house wine is still extremely cheap and mostly excellent quality, especially the white at Il Forno.
There is a new couple running Medusa (English lady and Greek husband - lovely people) which is now re-named Icarus and the food there is also very good. The set up with Sunbeds is the same as it is in other places, which is that they are free if you purchase food or drink from the taverna behind them.
The village remains mostly unchanged except that the night club is now a modern and fashionable bar aimed at the younger end of the spectrum but perfectly acceptable to all ages (the music was very relaxed and chilled). I was very sorry to see that the wonderful treasure trove of a hardware shop that was at the harbour end of the village (just before the road climbs the hill to Almirida) is now sadly closed.
Near to the church, Zorba's is still going strong with mum still doing the cooking and Stelios rushing around to serve (food still excellent as usual!). Although the restaurant named Provlita on the rocky sea front road has a great following, I have to say the last two times I have eaten there, the food has been dreadful, cold and badly cooked. We tried this year and also four years ago so we will not be going there again. Someone told me this happens when the boss had a night off.
The bar under the plane tree in the village square has been completely revamped and looks nice but the wonderful lady who serves is still the same (sorry I've forgotten her name and that of the bar) - it's bang opposite the butcher's shop. Sadly the smaller INKA supermarket near the old bakery had to close but the large one as you leave Kalives is still there (at the Nostos and Christie end of the village).
We stayed at Villa Georgia - Valeria's place and it was wonderful, ideal for those who like to be at the harbour end of the village. She has studios and apartments with a lovely medium sized pool. As far as I'm concerned, Kalives still retains it's character and the welcome was even warmer this year because they are so happy to see customers.
Just to say we have been to Kalives about seven times and stayed in the Nostas Apartments for four of them and really enjoy the the views and meeting the local people who are so friendly. We have booked to go again this year. The locals never forget you and it is nice to see them all again. Crete is a lovely island with fantastic scenery and so much history. We never tire of it - so many happy memories.
Maurice & Georgie
I am writing with regards to your report on Kalives, Crete. Whilst many of the points raised are fair, I feel you have not pointed out that these are the reasons that Kalives is loved by the tourists who visit and why they return year after year. The "scruffy main street" may be as you state but this is because Kalives was a village long before the arrival of tourists. The "crumbling buildings" are mainly owned by the elderly population, who do not have the incomes to fix them in order that they are attractive for the tourists. These things though, are pointed out time and again as the reason why people return. The fact that Kalives has not been made for the tourists but welcomes the people who visit it.
I would like to make a point as to the provision of free sun beds. My husband and I have a taverna on the beach and as far as I know were the first to introduce this practice. The reasons we did so was of course in the first place, because we believed that if you attract people to your business once and they like it, they will return. Good for us and good for the tourists. Last season though, we were threatened by the hotel that if we continue to offer free sun beds, the reps. from the travel company will be told that people have contracted food poisoning in our business. What do you do? I myself came to Kalives nine years ago and fell in love with it. Whichever way you look, it is beautiful. If it was all antiseptically clean then it would be indistinguishable from a million other resorts all over the world and more than anything it wouldn't be Kalives.
Liked your web site! Have visited Kalives three times in the last 15 months and am sorry to report that on my last visit in July they have started charging for sun beds and umbrellas on the beach. Il Forno have extended their business by making the dusty old car park next door into a garden restaurant - well worth a visit. Apart from that, little changes in Kalives which is why I like it.
You appear to have lots to say on Kalives (which I read avidly before my first visit) so having just returned I thought I'd add my bit. I read many things about the tavernas and Il Forno in particular so we made an early visit and I have to say we were quite disappointed. There appears to be an Englishman who is a 'meeter and greeter' therefore it was full of Brits moaning and complaining about taxpayers' cash been wasted on foreigners at home. They all appeared to spend most of their holiday eating there (clearly the idea). It felt like going into a private club. The pizza by the way was naff. Apart from that disappointment Kalives was a delight and there are many good tavernas with the one opposite the church a favourite. Do try the local wine from the barrel. It's ridiculously cheap and very drinkable.
Stayed at the Nostos studios in Kalives. They're decent enough apartments set on the main road into Kalives between the two beaches and at the back of a sea wall. The balcony overlooks the sea wall and there was a storm when we arrived so all we could hear was mighty waves crashing against the rocks which kept us awake most of the night. The smaller and quieter beach is just five minutes walk but its a good 10 minutes to the main beach, though the walk is pleasant enough along the sea wall - don't try walking the main road as it is very narrow and busy with traffic.
The apartments are bog standard but kept very clean - it's a family run place and the owners live next door. I rate Kalives pretty high on my list of favourite resorts. The Kalives Beach Hotel has rather spoiled the frontage in my view but the sands are clean and there are lots of tavernas and cafes along the beach. I agree with the site's recommendations on Il Fornio - great place and cheaper than most. Go to nearby Almirida (taxi or cliff walk) for a change and take a taxi to Chania for a city break.
I stayed at the Louis Creta Princesss Hotel. It rates 4 star but it's really only 3 - that said it wasn't too bad. The swimming pool is fabulous, and a good job too as Maleme beach is rubbish and Maleme village is not particularly attractive. The main road runs right through the resort and is VERY busy. It's also at the tattier end of a string of resorts along the coast from Chania. The food at the hotel is first-rate and much better than the local tavernas. The hotel is spotless and the rooms kept very clean. There is a German cemetery on the hillside, as this patch was bitterly fought over during the Battle of Crete, but it's not really worth visiting.
I agree about the beach at Maleme. Stone, stone, some dirty sand and some more stone. The hotel was a bit on the shabby side but still OK and very clean. Staff are great too. Just a pity about the location. Hire a car and see some more of this fabulous island.
There is a nice sandy beach with others within walking distance. There are several very good tavernas and a few bars. It is definitely NOT 18-30 territory. It is a very good walking area. The only thing it lacks as that it is not an old village as it developed from nothing purely as a resort. However there are a few old villages in the hills within an hour's walk or a short drive.
My first visit was many years ago on a SunMed walking holiday in the last week of April and first week of May. The weather was mixed, i.e. some days it was sunny and good sunbathing weather without being too hot, other days were partly cloudy and breezy but good for walking. Plakias is known for very strong winds, but these occur in mid summer. It was chilly in the evenings in May so you need a sweater and will probably need to eat inside whereas in the summer season everything is outside. That time of year is a good time to walk the Samaria Gorge if you are up to it as there will be water in the stream - most of the summer it is dry.
The Samaria Gorge is a national park and one of the major tourist attractions on Crete. Some say the gorge is 18 km long but this refers to the distance between Omalos on the northern side of the plateau and the coastal village of Agia Roumeli. In fact, the gorge is 16km long, starting at an altitude of 1250m, at the north entrance. The walk through the park is 13 km with an extra 3 km to Agia Roumeli. The most famous part of the gorge is the 'Iron Gates', where the sides of the gorge are 4m and reach up to 500m. At Agia Roumeli walkers catch the boat to Hora Sfakion and then a bus back to Chania. The walk takes between four and seven hours and can be strenuous in high summer.
I have looked at your website and found it extremely interesting. Can I just say, my husband Richard and I have been going to Crete every year for about the past five years for our holiday. We took one summer holiday out and went to Kefalonia, which was also very nice but it "wasn't Crete". We would of course recommend the south/southwest of the island, in particular Paleochora, Elafonisi (that sort of area anyway), but a trip to the Samaria Gorge is an absolute must of course.
We are both in our mid fifties, but found everything about the holiday absolutely wonderful. Loutro also is highly recommended. Where can you go in the UK today where you never see a car? We have found the people in Crete to be so truly genuine, honest, kind and helpful. I have hung my belt bag up (including my purse and credit cards, etc) on my sun shade on the beach whilst Richard and I have gone swimming and it has always been there upon my return (where could you say the say if you went for a swim in this country and left your handbag on the beach??!) Thank you for such an interesting website.
Thanks for your informative homepage. My wife and I have visited Kriti since 1987 and have many good friends there and elsewhere in Greece. We very much deplore the development in north-eastern Kriti. When we visited Chersonissos in '97 it was a most enjoyable place to stay - with a true Greek atmosphere. Ten years later: Playa des Ingles, or even worse. Our favourite haunt is now Chania (northwest), which has a true Greek flavour (avoid the beach area). We like to stay in a narrow ally; Episkopi Dorothea. A modest place, but you sample the true atmosphere of the town here. It borders on the bay area. Name: Jannos.
We drop by Chania every year as a point of departure to the Greek islets. Unfortunately, the only ferry connection is to Piraeus, near Athens. The bus connection to Iraklio is, however, excellent. Iraklio is the main port of Kriti. Do not forget to recommend the Samaria Gouge. An excellent hike (15 km). Absolutely commendable - but not in July - August due to a congestion of tourists during this period.
Svein Arne Rasmussen, Norway
The opening time of the Samaria gorge in the spring depends on the weather. It is impassable after heavy rain in the mountains and Omalos plain. You will have to take local advice, by about mid May it should be OK. For bus times get the timetable from the main bus stations. In small villages ask the locals. http://bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetables.html
The decision is made by the National Park Authorities, with (I understand) not much notice. The Samaria National Park has traditionally always opened to the public at the beginning of May. The park administration will make all possible efforts to open earlier and the crossing of the Samaria gorge may be possible from the April 10, provided there is no heavy rain around (or shortly before) that time. Contact west-crete.com for advice - he's an experienced mountain walker who lives on Crete. If all else fails, there are other, quieter gorge walks. Imbros is lovely and only 3 hours!
I agree about the well-advertised short walk. It's not really worth doing as you only get a glimpse of the gorge itself. Get on a bus to the head of the gorge and walk the whole lot. It is very impressive though it is a nose-to-tail job with the numbers now walking it.
For the Imbros gorge I stayed in Loutro (you could also stay in Chora Sfakia), taking the first ferry to Chora Sfakia and then taking the Chania bus as far as a stop just before the village of Imbros, there is a cafe at this point and a sign for the way down to the gorge. At end of the gorge there were signs to 'bus station' following these led to a road near Komitadies. Go in the taverna nearby and ask for a bus back to Chora Sfakia, sometime in the afternoon one goes. Then the ferry back to Loutro. For the Zakros gorge you can make use of the Sitia-Paleokastro-Ano Zakros-Kato Zakros bus service (you could stay in any of those places), get off in Ano Zakros and walk down the gorge to Kato Zakros, you could also visit the Zakros palace archeological site at the end. You then can take the late afternoon bus back to your starting point.
You can also walk (along the road) from Komitades to Hora Sfakion - I think it took us about 40 mins/1 hour - we'd missed the bus due to a leisurely lunch in Komitades! The walk along the road has no shade, but you are rewarded by wonderful views along the coast!
Just returned from a week in Chora Sfakion in southwest Crete. According to this site it "isn't worth more than a glance being little more than a row of expensive cafes, souvenir shops lining the small harbour." But, actually, its a friendly quiet, inexpensive and relaxing place to stay which is very convenient for exploring the spectacular region of Sfakia. The only sign of mass tourism is at 10.30am and 4.30pm when the ferry to and from the Samaria gorge embarks and drops off "mass tourism" gorge walkers, but they soon disappear. The rest of the time its sleepy and peaceful.
You can take local buses to the start of several spectacular walks back to the coast, and the boat to equally sleepy Loutro or Samaria Gorge where there are spectacular hill, gorge and coast walks and remote unspoiled villages.
The area has many pretty peaceful beaches and spectacular coastal paths. We stayed at the Hotel Stavris, an inexpensive but excellent family run hotel where the laid back brothers Georgis, Stavros and Aristotle made us very welcome. This hotel has been welcoming walkers here since 1969. It was apparent that many of the other guests returned year after year, which either means they have no taste, or perhaps that they know more than the authors of the load of old tosh on this site. This won't be our last visit to Sfakia.
Alan & Val Goswell
The Cretans have always been known for their fiery tempers and family feuds especially in the hills around the Sfakia region. Sheep and goat stealing was common and shepherds would arm themselves to defend their flocks. After WWII there were lots of weapons around and plenty of recriminations against German sympathisers and communists. The tradition of carrying guns has continued though rarely used today except for blowing off steam at celebrations when passing road signs make good targets.