Holiday on Crete
These are the best conditions for vacationing on the »Leeward Island«! Enjoy the peace and seclusion in your room or on your balcony, but within 5 minutes you will find yourself in the middle of the tourist hustle and bustle between shops, tavernas and bars. Prepare a small snack at any time when you are hungry, or go to the nearest restaurant for a good 5 minutes and enjoy the Cretan cuisine. Walk 50 meters to the beach and the sea or use the pool in the neighboring hotel for free. Let yourself drift and do what you want, without stress and without constraints.
The first contact
Those who choose Crete as their holiday destination for the first time today not only read travel guides, but also search and ask questions in social networks, such as e.g. B. Facebook, corresponding information. You register in a group and ask for information - and it's raining tips and advice. In a matter of seconds one receives keyword-like information, comprehensive descriptions of places and hotels or even entire travel reports, which are often of a contrary nature and soon confuse the reader more than they enlighten them. Of course, every holidaymaker on Crete praises his vacation spot, his bathing bay and his favorite restaurant. There's the first-time holidaymaker who spent a week in Plakias last year and chose this place on the south coast as the most beautiful spot on earth. Then there are the regular vacationers who have found their (holiday) happiness in Georgioupolis several times a year for many years and have actually never left this vacation oasis during their stay.
Each of these tips and each of these recommendations comes from the heart and with passion, because everyone who answered you has found their piece of Crete on the island, is happy there and would like to pass on their experiences to you.
It will now be difficult, if not impossible, for you to sort, select and judge the large amount of information from afar. I would now like to contribute to your confusion and bring my Crete a little closer to you.
There is no recipe
There are people who love the hustle and bustle of Heraklion, others who prefer the solitude of the towns on the south coast and still others who hike the island and look for a place to pitch their tent in the evening. Everyone to their own taste, but unfortunately it can often be observed that many fail to think outside the box. Once Matala, always Matala. But Crete is not Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos, Chersonissos or Malia, Crete is much more. Crete is a small world to be explored and must (or at least should) be lived and experienced.
There is no prescription that can be issued for a (first) holiday. Everyone has their own ideas, wishes and views regarding the most beautiful time of the year, but maybe I can give those who tick like me some information and suggestions from which they can get initial incentives for a successful (first) Crete - can take vacation.
North vs. South
You can see very quickly on Facebook that there are two major factions: the supporters of the north and the zealots of the south. To get straight to the point: I am a Northern Lights.
It is of course almost impossible for an enthusiastic Crete fan to give objective advice and in the end everyone has to find their own spot on the largest Greek island that suits them. But it is more than annoying when you fly to the island for the first time and find out on the spot that the pictures in the travel catalog have hidden many »little things«. The hotel is too noisy, the way to the sea is via a busy road, the pool is too small, the food is not up to par, the immediate area is deserted and the evenings are boring. One or two more rainy days and the bottom line is: "Never again Crete!" That shouldn't happen, of course.
I've been flying to Crete for more than 20 years now - always to the same place in the same private pension. Unimaginative? no way. For my wife and me, Crete is not only sun, sea and good mood, but also adventure, real (and not touristy) Greek cuisine and lots of social contacts.
Storming a summit in a jeep on winding donkey paths in the hope that you can turn the car around at the top. Sit down in a small, inconspicuous mountain village in a private eat-in kitchen, which is signposted as a taverna, and enjoy the simple but fine, fresh cuisine. Talking hands-on with locals who don't speak English, let alone German.
But you don't want to know that yet. You are looking for a place on the island where you can spend your vacation, with your ideas and your plans for a nice stay.
I will now try to show you some facts, but of course also some subjective views that might make your decision a bit easier as to where you should spend your vacation in the near future.
The north of the island is fairly developed for tourism. From Kissamos in the west to Sitia in the east the »New National Road« mostly along the coast close to the beach over a distance of a good 300 kilometers and thus ensures fast connections if you want to go out and see something different. If you don't want to rent a vehicle for your discovery tours, you can also cover many routes in the north by bus - or by taxi.
Along this »freeway« there are areas where hotels, restaurants and typical tourist shops are lined up to satisfy every budget and to keep the guest on site. Key word: 5 stars all inclusive.
You can also find holiday homes or entire holiday home settlements in the immediate vicinity of the sea. Individual tavernas or »beach bars« as well as wide stretches of beach that are rarely frequented complete the offer.
Of course, there are also many tourist towns along the expressway that offer everything a holidaymaker's heart desires, from hotels to children's playgrounds. Examples are Georgioupolis or Bali. Both places are very popular holiday destinations.
Between Georgioupolis and Bali lies the city of Rethymnon , which extends far to the east with its suburban towns. We will come back to that later.
Further east you get to the tourist centers like Chersonisos, Malia or Agios Nikolaos.
So the north offers almost all the options that are important to holidaymakers, no matter what their budget or type. You can spend the day at the pool or at the sea, you get delicious (Europeanized) Greek cuisine and there is an inexpensive bus network for a day trip. At first glance, everything looks perfect and the great photos in the travel agency's brochure do the rest. Whether you want peace, relaxation and solitude or fun, adventure and action, both are offered on the north coast.
But we should take a closer look!
The smaller holiday resorts such as Georgioupolis, Panormos or Bali have island character. They offer the vacationer all the comforts that one would want during the most important time of the year, but unfortunately no variety. Nothing on the left, nothing on the right, the sea in front of you and behind you - nothing.
Example Georgioupolis:In the Street View we look north, towards the town and the sea. Turn yourself 180 degrees!
Next example Bali. Turn right to Bali. The bus stop is right next to the »Autobahn«. What if we turn left?
Example of the tourist stronghold Chersonisos.Please turn!
And the tourist center Agios Nikolaos. Do a 180° pan!
Yes, of course I didn't choose the prettiest corners, but who can guarantee you that you haven't booked exactly this vacation spot? You wanted to go to Crete - you are on Crete.
Good thing the 5 star properties in these areas have more to offer. So you stay in the hotel, let yourself be encouraged and stroll through the town from time to time, there are often no other options.
If you want to see something different, you absolutely need a vehicle, be it a rental car or a taxi. Or you can stand directly at the expressway at the bus stop (see Bali).
For families with children, well-equipped »all-inclusive» hotel complexes are of course worth their weight in gold. The children can move relatively freely, get drinks at any time and find many playmates. In addition, there are many animation offers, also for smaller children, which ensure that you can relax yourself.
When my children were small, five of us went on vacation. The children didn't care where the trip went, the main thing was sun, pool, sea, free drinks all day and getting to know other children.
At that time we booked Mallorca.
My statements are certainly biased, incomplete, one-sided and one or the other may find them provocative. I can live with that if I can help you have a great vacation on the »Leeward Island« to spend.
I'm also less interested in the north-south comparison. I would like to introduce you to Crete in a way that allows you to avoid any mistakes when booking and that makes you say afterwards: "We want to go back!"
Now we come to my favourite: Platanes (or Platanias, depending on which side you come from), about 8 km east of Rethymnon. Here you will experience peace if you have booked the right hotel, but also a lot of variety within walking distance. It is important that you make sure when booking that you get a hotel that is north of the »Old National Road« otherwise you'll have to cross this very busy road if you want to go to the sea. In addition, the hotels are located south of the »Alte Nationalstrasse« very often directly on the street. So there is nothing to do with rest.
With today's technical possibilities, I can only recommend you to go into street mode in Google Maps and follow the »Alte Nationalstraße« times eastwards ⇒here to go through virtually.
If you move to the east, you will find the hotels on the left (to the north) that are more or less directly on the sea and on the right (to the south) the hotels on the street to be crossed.
Stavromenos is about 3 km east of Platanes, but the website lists more than 250 hotels between Panormos and Rethymnon, so there should be something for everyone.
My note again: In Rethymnon you won't find any hotels on the beach!
Since 1996 I have been coming to the island regularly at least once a year and since 1998 I have stayed with Antje in "Villa Dorothea". Antje, the lady of the house and landlady, originally comes from Düsseldorf, got married on Crete and then built the Villa Dorothea with her Greek husband Geórgios less than a hundred meters from the sea, the six rooms and apartments of which serve as accommodation for travelers to Crete. Here we too find refuge year after year, far from the tourist noise and the organized constraints of a hotel. Family connection included. (Video 1)
In the basement there are 3 spacious rooms with an integrated kitchenette. Each room has its own bathroom.
Antje and her husband live on the mezzanine floor.
On the first floor there are 2 more double rooms and a family room with 2 bedrooms. Again, each room has an en-suite bathroom and one room offers a private balcony with sea views. This includes a communal kitchen, a hallway with seating and a spacious, separate balcony.
If you want to customize your holiday, can do without an oversized buffet and don't need a footman to carry your beer after you, this is the place for you. All rooms are very clean and offer enough space. Hotel hustle and bustle, schedules and annoying neighbors do not exist here. Antje pays meticulous attention to who wants to take advantage of her hospitality. So it can be that you use the upper floor for yourself or share your stay with other nice guests. Either way, the days are always pleasant and relaxed. And if you don't have anything else planned in the evening after a culinary treat in "Sky Park", "Kellári", "Remember" or "Fantástico", you can sit comfortably with Antje outside with a glass of wine or beer. There is always something to talk about (Video 2).
TheSky Park has a garden restaurant in the back and a bar in front of it, which is converted into a disco from around 11 p.m. There is also a grill and an internet café right on the street. /p>
In the restaurant, the »tortellini à la crème« and the »gypsy schnitzel«.
In my opinion, the Giros pita that you get at the front grill is the best on the island.
The mentioned disco in the Sky Park is a MUST for kids and also for adults who are not yet of retirement age!
The Kellariis purely a restaurant and also offers an excellent menu. We like to sit in the front part with an »English Breakfast« and watch the hustle and bustle on the street, in the evening we prefer the rear, quieter part of the restaurant and enjoy the highly recommended »Spareribs» with a good bottle of house wine.
A restaurant in a dream setting with a fantastic view of the north coast is the Fantastico. Here are Greek starters ( Mezedes) hip. Many different dishes in small quantities, from which everyone can take at the table. There is also the obligatory house wine.
The Fantastico is located above Maroulas and is difficult to find for those unfamiliar with the area. But once you have spotted it, reserve a table at a time that allows you to see the sunset. An unforgettable experience.
If you want to get to know the surrounding area but don't want to rent a car, then just get in this or this little train and let us show you the hinterland with smaller villages or the city of Rethymnon.
If you drive to Rethymnon by car, don't follow the locals when looking for a parking space, that could go wrong. Put your car here for little money and don't risk an overpriced ticket.
Do you want action? Then rent a jet ski (wet bike), enjoy a round of parasailing or sit on the banana boat.
Or you can take the Busto Rethymnon. Take a look at the old town, enjoy the »Old Port« a cool drink and an overpriced meal, book a »Dolphin Tour« or a ride on a pirate ship or go shopping.
You can rent a car, motorbike, quad or bicycle, usually just around the corner, and explore the island.
By the way: if you rent a car, do yourself a favor and don't insist on air conditioning. The most beautiful is the ride in an open jeep, because you not only have to see Crete, but also feel and smell it.
If you like hiking, cross the »Old National Road« to the south and you will soon have left the tourist noise behind you.
The south of Crete is by no means as developed as the north. There is no dual carriageway along the coast and often the same road goes in and out of town.
It's hard for me to remain impartial here. From Elafonisi until Ierapetra we have more or less explored everything over the years. There are many beautiful places on the south coast that are well worth visiting, but they are not holiday homes for us.
Chora Sfakion, Plakias, Frangokastello, Preveli or Agia Galini are very worthwhile destinations, as some of the ways there mean fun and adventure, but from our point of view they are not suitable for a longer stay. Driving there (sometimes via adventurous Serpentines), Have a snack, jump briefly into the Libyan Sea and then head north again.
Are you a writer or painter, do you like to read and do you want absolute peace and quiet? Is the back and forth between the hotel and the beach, between bed and sun lounger, enough for you? Then you should definitely choose the south.
Many of the resorts here are like small self-sufficient islands. Wasteland to the left and right, the sea in front of you (which, by the way, is a lot cooler than in the north) and behind you the barren mountains. Here, too, I advise you to take a look at the places in Street View and judge for yourself.
The range of leisure fun on the sea or in the evenings in a disco or bar is rather limited here, so not very suitable for young people.
However, if you like snorkeling or diving, you should definitely go to the south coast. I think all diving courses that are offered in the hotels in the north take place in the Libyan Sea.
I don't want to draw a conclusion, because that would be far too biased. As I mentioned, I'm a northerner and I just love the south for nice day trips. I also think it's almost unthinkable to convince a North Coast fan of the South and a South Coast devotee of the North. But nobody wants that. Make up your own mind, visit both regions and then make your own decision.
This type of catering has (unfortunately) now also established itself on Crete. The consequence: you don't have to leave the hotel - and many don't leave it either. You can say afterwards that you were in Crete, but it could also have been Mallorca or the Dominican Republic. You saw almost nothing.
My tip: book breakfast as much as possible and otherwise use the wide range of good Greek restaurants. Enjoy an »English Breakfast« in the morning, an omelette or a salad with an iced frappé at noon and mezedes (Greek appetizers) with a good house wine and an unforgettable sunset in the evening. You will remember this vacation forever.
If you want to discover and experience Crete, you have to get out of your hotel. A car is quickly rented, e.g. at Eurocars.
However, the Cretans move their motor vehicles a little differently on the streets than we are used to and know.
We don't have to emulate them in every respect, but we shouldn't be out of character too much and attract attention as tourists.
Please do not take my remarks as tips or advice, but rather as personal experience.
The most important rule from my point of view: I'm a guest here and I have to comply. Give the locals priority and don't mess with them. You can only draw the short straw, especially in the mountains on winding roads.
Almost as important: Clear the way if you're being overtaken. The Cretan uses the entire road for this, including the »hard shoulder«. You drive as far to the right as possible (possibly on the hard shoulder) so that the overtaking person has the necessary space. Please don't think about the fact that there is actually no space to overtake, and also don't become a typical German moralizer (here is 50 and I'm already driving 51). On Crete, people overtake in the third lane and speed limits are there to be ignored.
Prohibition and mandatory signs are often completely ignored. So don't be surprised if a local drives 80 km/h in a 50 zone, smokes, talks on the phone and drinks while driving or parks in the third lane. Everything completely normal. If possible, just follow the flow of traffic.
Flash systems were bought, installed and »deactivated« by the Cretans within a few days. They may have been reactivated in the meantime, I don't know the current status. Of course you can try it, but I don't know the consequences. It might be better to follow the signs that basically point to a »star box« Clues. And something else: the parts only flash from behind!
Cretans love their horn. He honks when he wants to overtake, when his neighbor is walking past or because you are driving like tourists.
I would like to assume that the right-before-left priority rule also applies in Crete. That's the theory. From my personal experience, however, the broader road always has the right of way, no matter which direction it comes from. If you are unsure, just stop, even if the Cretan behind you, who also had to stop because of your sudden braking, honks wildly and curses the tourists out loud.
This is our way of travelling: from home
If you start looking for suitable flights early enough, you can often get to Crete for around 100 euros and similar price back again. It's not always direct flights, but since we're basically three weeks on the island, it suits us not on for an hour or two.
The jeep that I reserved with Eurocars will be handed over to us at the airport. Fill out the papers, pay the rent and off we go towards Platanes.
We don't want hotel stress and noise, we don't want hotel food, we don't need an »all inclusive« and we don't want to have to stick to fixed times. We're on vacation!
Admittedly, of course there is something about being served from front to back in a 5-star environment and don't have to worry about anything. You can eat and drink at any time, drinks are served by the pool and also has every other comfort. For many it is an all-round feel-good package. But honestly: you can get it on Mallorca the same service for 300 euros less per person.
We need freedom and want to organize our time as we like. Also some flexibility in the shape that we are being able to make a sandwich or boil an egg yourself is important to us.
It is precisely for this reason that we move into our room in the Villa Dorothea (see above) in Platanes every year.
If you also want to make your holiday a little more individual and adventurous, then you will find it here directions from Heraklion Airport to Platanes, or to the Villa Dorothea.
If you are interested in staying with Antje as well, please contact me by e-mail email.
I don't know if there are more car rental companies or more restaurants on the island. You will find one on every corner »Rent-a-Car« office where your »cheap« Cars, motorbikes or quads can be rented. There is well-known companies such as »Sixt"« or »Europcar«, but also a large number of Greek providers whose Names are not necessarily known in Germany. One of them is Eurocars.
I don't want to and can't make any comparisons here, I just know that I've never had a problem in many years with »Eurocars« had.
The rental is based in Adelianos Kampos, about 3 km east of Platanes. Contact person is Ingo, German citizen, good friend and now more than twenty years with the company Greek speaking »Yellow Angel«. If we ever have a problem on the way (which hasn't happened yet), let's just call him; he cares.
»Eurocars« and Ingo: absolutely recommendable!
And one more thing, even if I'm repeating myself: don't use the air conditioning!
Such a travel guide is not only informative, it is also entertaining reading when you stretch your legs out on the terrace or balcony in the evening, with a glass of red wine on the table next to you and want to relax a bit. You choose the region on the island where you are currently staying and get suggestions and interesting information about nearby places and destinations lie and which you can add to your to-do list if necessary.
I've held and studied many books of this kind in the past, and I got stuck with this one Travel Guide "Crete" by Eberhard Fohrer from the Michael Müller-Verlag (ISBN 9783899539714). In the 20th edition of 2015 you will learn everything worth knowing about mythology and history, traditions and modern way of life, Cretan manners as well as places and places worth seeing on 756 pages Greece's largest island.
If you don't want to go that deep, you should read the Travel Guide "Crete" by Marco Polo (ISBN 9783829704632) are sufficient. The author Klaus Bötig provides information on 142 colorfully illustrated pages Country & people and in a rough grid everything you need to know about the most famous places on the island.
If you want to explore the island, you need a map. There is a large selection and depending on your desire to travel, you can get simple overview maps at a scale of 1:300,000 or detailed material at a scale of 1:100,000.
My favorite and my constant companion on Crete is the tear and waterproof one Crete Map from Reise Know-How-Verlag (ISBN 9783831772933). In terms of scaling, it is completely sufficient and ensures that I can find even the smallest places inland.
If I really can't find something there, I'll definitely find it on the Crete map from Harms-Verlag (ISBN 9783927468160). The map consists of two individual maps, divided into East and West Crete at a scale of 1:100,000 and is more suitable for home study.
I don't want to reinvent the wheel here. All important phone numbers can be found here.