Vryses Bfyiei

Most travellers just pass through Vryses, 30km southeast of Hania, on their way to or from the south coast, but this pleasant and sizeable village makes a good lunch-time interlude. The rivers Voutakas and Vrysanos run through the centre of the village watering the giant plane trees along the banks, where you can cool off in one of the shady tavernas. Vryses is a market centre for the region's agricultural products. Many locals stop here for yogurt and honey, a speciality of the town. The...

Road Distances Km

In many cases maintenance is minimal, so check the machine thoroughly before you hire it - especially the brakes you'll need them When you hire a moped, tell the agent where you'll be going to ensure that your vehicle has enough power to get you up Crete's steep hills. Motorbike-hire rates start from 20 per day for a moped or 50cc motorbike to 50 for a top enduro bike. Out-of-season prices drop considerably. Third-party insurance is usually included in the price, but this will...

Gay Lesbian Travellers

While there is no legislation against homosexual activity in Greece, it is wise to be discreet and to avoid public displays of togetherness. Unlike islands such as gay-friendly Mykonos, Crete does not have a thriving gay scene. Homosexuality is generally frowned upon and there is no overtly gay nightlife. A number of venues in Iraklio are quietly gay-friendly, as are relaxed resorts such as Paleohora and most nude beaches. The Spartacus International Gay Guide (Bruno Gmunder, Berlin) is widely...

Agia Galini Aha Taahnh

Agia Galini (a-ya ga-iee-nee) is another erstwhile picturesque fishing village where tourism and overdevelopment has spoilt much of the original charm. Agia Galini was once a port of the ancient settiement of Sybritos. Hemmed in against the sea by large sandstone cliffs and phalanxes of hotels and domatia, Agia Galini can be rather claustrophobic. It is probably the most touristy southern beach resort, though inoffensive compared to the north coast. While it still gets lively during peak...

Thrapsano OpafANO

Thrapsano, 32km south of Iraklio, attracts few visitors other than those visiting the town's pottery workshops. Thrapsano is a thriving centre for the production of huge distinctive Mi-noan-style pithoi that grace coundess hotels, restaurants and homes across the island and are exported throughout the world. An annual pottery festival takes place in mid-July. Human sacrifice is not commonly associated with the peace-loving Minoans, but the evidence found at the site of Anemospilia near the...

Airports Airlines

Most scheduled international flights arrive in Athens (or possibly Thessaloniki). Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venize-los) (code ATH 210 353 0000 www.aia.gr) is 27km east of Athens. Iraklio's Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport (code HER 2810 228 401) is Crete's biggest and main airport. Built many years ago when tourism was just taking off in Crete, it is adequate, but can be strained at times with the massive influx of arrivals during the summer. There are plans for a new...

Elounda Eaoynta

There are magnificent mountain and sea views along the 11km road north from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda (el-oon-da). A cluster of luxury resorts occupy the lovely coves along the coast. The first elite hotel was built here in the mid-1960s, quickly establishing Elounda as the playground for Greece's glitterati and high flyers - soon after, the world's rich and famous followed suit. Elounda boasts some of the most exclusive resorts in Greece, which monopolise most of the nice beaches in the area....

Environmental Hazards Bites Stings Insect Borne Diseases

Watch out for sea urchins around rocky beaches if you get some of their needles embedded in your skin, olive oil will help to loosen them. If they are not removed they will become infected. Be wary also of jellyfish, particularly during the months of September and October. Although they are not lethal in Greece, their stings can be painful. Dousing in vinegar will deactivate any stingers that have not 'fired'. Calamine lotion, antihistamines and analgesics may reduce the reaction and relieve...

Kritsa Kpitxa

The pretty mountain village of Kritsa (krit-sah), perched 600m up the mountainside 11km from Agios Nikolaos, is renowned for its strong tradition of needlework and weaving. It appears to have morphed into a tourist attraction, with weaving and embroidery draped on every available surface. Busloads of tourists swarm through the streets all summer and the villagers are eager to cater to these customers. It creates a colourful atmosphere, but not much of the stuff on sale these days is handmade or...

Ierapetraiepaietpa

Lerapetra (yeh-ra i-pet-rah) is Europe's most southerly major town that services the surrounding farming region. Ierapetra's main business continues to be agriculture rather than tourism, as the greenhouses that line the landscape along the coast will attest. Despite being one of the wealthiest cities in Greece, it is a largely unremarkable place and it attracts relatively few tourists. There are tavernas and caf s along the waterfront, a small Venetian fort on the harbour and the odd remnant...

Food Drink

Cretan cuisine has its own distinct identity within Greek cooking. Regional specialities found across Crete and the quality and range of produce grown on the island by various small-scale producers present a diverse gourmet trail. One of the delights of travelling through Crete is coming across a family-run taverna where authentic Cretan dishes are made with fresh, home-grown produce, where the wild aromatic greens were picked in the mountains, the oil and cheese is homemade, tender lamb is...

Environment

Fossils discovered in an underwater cave in Hania in 2000 were revealed to be a new species of dwarf elephant that existed only in Crete 50,000 to 60,000 years ago-the creature now known as the Cretan Elephant (or Elephas Chaniensis). Crete is the largest island in the Greek archipelago with an area of 8335 sq km. It's 250km long, about 60km at its widest point and 12km at its narrowest. The island has an extraordinary geographical and ecological diversity, with mountainous ranges, dramatic...

Gender Roles

The role of women in Cretan society is complex and shifting, and throws up some interesting paradoxes. While traditional gender roles are prevalent in rural areas and among the older generation, things have become much more Easter is the year's most important religious event and a good time to be in Crete. Many age-old ceremonies and rituals take place throughout Holy Week, culminating in the Resurrection of Christ on the eve of Easter Sunday. This is a week of strict fasting and many tavernas...

Avdou Abaoy

The sleepy agricultural village of Avdou is only a 20-minute drive from the north coast town of Malia, but the two worlds could not be further apart. Half the houses in the village seem to be abandoned, while the rest are spruced up and flower-filled, including some restored by foreigners. If you follow the signs to the town centre you will pass a mini-market and, turning left at the giant plane tree, come to a small square with a caf , with a store and a couple of tavernas further along. There...

Courses

The University of Crete ( 28310 77278 www.philology .uoc.gr) in Rethymno runs four-week summer courses in Modern Greek for foreigners during July. Classes are in the mornings and cater for beginners to advanced level. Contact the university for full details. UK-based YOGA Plus ( g +441273-276175 www .yogaplus.co.uk) runs Astanga Vinyasa yoga workshops for one week or longer at its retreat in Agios Pavlos. The courses include accommodation, other activities and wholesome food. The nearby...

Amari Valley Koiaaaa Amafioy

Youll need your own transport to explore the Amari Valley, southeast of Rethymno, between Mts Psiloritis and Kedros. This region harbours around 40 well-watered, unspoilt villages set amid olive groves, almond and cherry trees and many lovely Byzantine churches. The valley begins in the picturesque village of Apostoli, 25km southeast of Rethymno, reached via a scenic drive through a wild and deserted gorge bordered by high cliffs. The turn-off for Apostoli is on the coast 3km east of Rethymno....

Sleeping Eating

Generally, Omalos hotels are open when the Samaria Gorge is open, although winter tourism is evolving. Most hotels have restaurants that do a bustling trade serving breakfast to hikers and are open at meal times the rest of the day. Most will drive you to the start of the gorge. Hotel Neos Omalos faj 2821067269 www.neos-oma los.gr s d 20 30 has comfortable, modern, nicely decorated rooms which include phone, bath, with shower curtain and satellite TV There's a pleasant lounge in the reception...

Sights Activities

The new Archaeological Museum of Kissamos 28220 83308 Plateia Tzanakaki S 8.30am-3pm free admission , in an imposing two-level Venetian-Turkish building on the main square, has a well displayed collection of artefacts unearthed during archaeological digs in the area, including statues, jewellery, coins and a large mosaic floor from a Kissamos villa. There are exhibits from Falasarna and Polyrrinia and The unassuming fishing hamlet of Ravdouha Beach, on the western side of the rugged Rodopou...

Plakias Iaakiai

Plakias is one of the liveliest resort towns on the southern coast. The well run youth hostel helps attract a younger crowd than many of the resorts nearby. The mid-size hotels and domatia in town attract a mix of package and independent travellers. Off-season it attracts many families and an older crowd. Plakias has some decent eating options, good regional walks, a large sandy beach and enough activities and nighdife to keep you entertained. It is also a good base from which to explore the...

Myrtos Myptoi

One of the few places on this stretch of coast that retains an element of authenticity and vil lage ambience is Myrtos myr-tos , 14km west of lerapetra. It is popular with more mature travellers, many of whom have been coming back for years. Myrtos has no big hotels, there's a reasonable patch of beach, some decently priced places to stay and eat and some interesting excursions in the area. There is no post office or bank. Internet access is available at Prima Travel 28420 51035...

Anogia AniffEIA

If ever there was a village in Crete that embodies the quintessential elements that make up the 'real' Crete, it is Anogia, a bucolic village perched on the flanks of Mt Psiloritis. Anogia is well known for its rebellious spirit and its determination to hang on to its undiluted Cretan character. It's a macho town where the kafeneia on the main square are frequented by moustachioed men, the older ones often wearing traditional dress baggy pants and headdress , the younger ones driving...

Sougia Xoytia

Sougia is one of the most laid back and refreshingly undeveloped beach resorts along the south coast, with a lovely wide curve of sand-and-pebble beach and a few tavernas and rooms along a shady tree-lined coastal road. It was once a popular remote hippy hangout and many nostalgic ex-hippies return religiously each year. It retains its chill-out atmosphere and there is little to do other than relax and recharge depleted batteries for a few days. Sougia's tranquillity has been preserved largely...

Tickets

Ferries can be prone to delays and cancellations in bad weather, so it's best not to buy a ticket until it has been confirmed that the ferry is operating unless you want a cabin or it's the August peak season . If you need It wasn't too long ago that ferry travel in Greece was a true ordeal. Deregulation of the formerly closed domestic ferry market, a gradual upgrade of fleets and the aftershock of the F B Express Samina sinking in September 2000 have significantly improved the domestic and...

Spili Iihai

Spili spee-lee is a pretty mountain village with cobbled streets, rustic houses and plane trees. Its centrepiece is the unique Venetian fountain in the square that spurts water from 19 lion heads, though its recent refurbishment was ill-advised. Bring along your own water containers and fill up with the best water on the island. Spili is no longer an undiscovered hideaway. Tourist buses on their way to the southern coast regularly stop in the town during the day, but in the evening Spili...

Hiking Climbing Biking

Trekking Plan 28210 60861 www.tyding.gr Agia Marina In Agia Marina, 8km southwest of the old town, Trekking Plan offers hikes to the Agia Irini and Imbros gorges, and climbs of Mt Gingilos, as well as canyoning, rappelling, rock-climbing and kayaking and mountain-bike tours. Alpine Travel 28210 50939 6932 252 890 www .alpine.gr Boniali 11-19 Organises a range of eco-tourism, mountaineering and hiking programmes. EOS SS 28210 44647 www.eosha n ion .g r Tza n aka ki 90 S 8.30am-10pm The Hania...

March April

Easter The most important religious holiday in Greece is Easter which most years fall at a different time to non-Orthodox Easter because the date is calculated using a different formula and calendar . On Palm Sunday the Sunday before Easter , worshippers return from church services with a cross woven of palm and myrtle. If you are in Crete at Easter you should endeavourto attend some of the Easterservices, which include a candle-lit procession through the streets on Good Friday evening and...

Moni Toplou Monh Toiiaoy

East of Sitia, the imposing Moni Toplou 28430 61226 admission 2.50 S 9am-6pm Apr-Oct looks more like a fortress than a monastery - a necessity imposed by the dangers it faced at the time of its construction. It is one of the most historically significant and progressive monasteries on Crete. The middle of the 15th century was marked by piracy, banditry and constant rebellions. The monks defended themselves with all the means at their disposal, including a heavy gate, cannons the name Toplou is...

Imbros Gorge Oa Pa It Imipoy

The Imbros Gorge admission 2 year-round , 57km southeast of Hania, is less hiked than its illustrious sister at Samaria but is just as beautiful. Cypresses, holm oaks, fig and almond trees gradually thin to just cypresses and Jerusalem sage deep within the gorge. The walls of rock reach 300m high, while the narrowest point of the ravine is only 2m wide. At only 8km the Imbros walk is also much easier on the feet. Most people begin the walk in the mountain village of Imbros but you can also do...

Private Transport

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Sitia Xhteia

Sitia si- ee-a is an attractive mid-sized coastal town with a pretty harbour-side promenade lined with tavernas and caf s that makes for a pleasant evening stroll. It has fortunately managed to escape the tourist frenzy that grips most of the north coast in summer. While the town is traveller-friendly, it exists for the locals, who rely on agriculture and commerce rather than tourism. In the bustling streets of the old town that wind their way uphill from the harbour, you'll find the occasional...

Argyroupolis AprYpoyiioah

When the summer heat becomes too intense for the beach, you'll find a natural, outdoor air-con-ditioning system at Argyroupolis, 25km southwest of Rethymno. At the bottom of this village is a watery oasis formed by mountain springs that keeps the temperature markedly cooler than on the coast. Running through aqueducts, washing down walls, seeping from stones and pouring from spigots, the gushing spring water supplies the entire city of Rethymno. Towering chestnut and plane trees and luxuriant...

Moni Arkadiou Monh Apkaaioy

This historic 16th-century monastery Arkadi Monastery 28310 83136 admission 2 S9am-7pm Apr-Oct stands in attractive hill country 23km southeast of Rethymno. The exterior is coldly impressive but the Venetian church inside dates from 1587 and has a richly decorated Renaissance fa ade with eight slender Corinthian columns topped by an ornate triple-belled tower it used to feature on the old 100 drachma note . In November 1866 the Turks sent massive forces to quell insurrections gathering momentum...

Margarites MaprAPITEI

Known for its fine pottery, this tiny town is invaded by tour buses in the morning but by the afternoon all is calm. Then you can enjoy wonderful views over the valley from the taverna terraces on the main square, dominated by giant eucalyptus trees. The town has only one road, which runs through town to the town square, where the bus stops. There is no bank, post office or travel agency, but you'll find more than 20 ceramic studios on and around the main street. The pottery is of mixed quality...

Xerokambos Hepokamiiox

Xerokambos kse-ro-kam-bos is a quiet and spread-out agricultural setdement on the far southeastern flank of Crete. Its isolation means that tourism is pretty much low key and most certainly of the unpackaged kind. Its appeal lies in that very isolation. There are a couple of splendid beaches, a few scattered tavernas and studio accommodation. Ambelos Beach, north of the rocky headland that splits Xerokambos in two, is a small, intimate beach and enjoys some shade. Mazidas Beach, on the south,...

Rethymno Peymno

Agia Varvara Crete

Rethymno reth-im-no is the island's third-largest town and one of the most picturesque, with a charming Venetian harbour and delightful old Venetian-Ottoman quarter. The old quarter is a maze of narrow streets draped in floral canopies, graceful wood-balconied houses and ornate Venetian monuments, with minarets adding a touch of the Orient. While architectural similarities invite comparison with Hania, Rethymno has a character all its own. The name Rethymno means 'stream of water' and evidence...

Ha Gorge Oapam XA

Some 13.5km north of Ierapetra is the wild and beautiful Ha Gorge, perhaps the most challenging gorge to traverse in all of Europe. More of an extreme climbing experience than a hike - most of the time you need ropes or must swim - the Ha Gorge is a narrow rent in the imposing mountains with water running its entire length - including 27 waterfalls. The first intrepid climbers to successfully cross it 1987 took seven days to tackle the 1800m gorge. It was secured in recent times and an...

Around Hra Sfakion

A scenic, hair-raisingly steep, 12km winding road west from Hora Sfakion takes you to Anopoli AvootoXt , a quiet village in a fertile plateau at the base of the Lefka Ori, with a memorial to resistance fighters in the main plateia square . It was one of the few areas that did not fall to the Turks, which you can appreciate when you see its location. The Orfanoudakis bakery 28250 91189 has some exceptional semi-sweet biscuits, rusks and sweet treats including mega-size Sfakianes pites. They also...

Moni Hrysoskalitissas

Five kilometres north of Elafonisi, is this beautiful monastery 28220 61261 admission 2 S 7am-7pm perched on a rock high above the sea. Hrysoskalitissa hris-os-ka-iee-tiss-as means 'golden staircase'. Some accounts suggest the top step of the 98 steps leading to the monastery was made of gold, but could only be seen by the faithful. Another version says one of the steps was hollow and used to hide the church's treasury. In any case, during the Turkish occupation the gold, along with much of the...

Lendas Aentai

The major appeal of the small beach settlement at Lendas is its remoteness and laid-back feel. Reached via a long and winding road with a dramatic last few kilometres descending to the village, Lendas clings to the cliff over the beach and has a pleasant view over the Libyan Sea. The narrow pebbly beaches are pleasant enough, but there are some better beaches to explore nearby and some stunning rock formations. Lendas attracts mostly independent travellers, including regulars who have been...

Sights

The massive fortifications built by the Venetians to protect their city remain impressive. The best-preserved section is the western wall, running from the Firkas Fortress to the Siavo Bastion. It was part of a defensive system begun in 1538 by engineer Michele Sanmichele, who also designed Iraklio's defences. Entrance to the fortress is via the gates next to the Naval Museum. From the top of the bastion you can enjoy some fine views of the old town. The Venetian lighthouse at the entrance to...

Innahorion Innaxopion

Innahorion is the highly scenic mountainous region south of Kissamos-Kastelli, which is renowned for its chestnut trees. It is often referred to as 'Ennia Horia', meaning nine villages, but there are actually more than nine villages dotting the region. If you have your own transport you can drive through the region en route to Moni Hrysoskalitissas and Elafonisi or, with a little backtracking, to Paleohora. Alternatively, you can take a circular route, returning via the coast road. Heading...

Clara S Crete Lena Troelso

Accommodation throughout the region consists of rather scattered and largely underutilised domatia. There are no large tourist hotel complexes. Panorama Taverna and Rooms 28220 51163 Katsomadatos d 25 With a balcony overlooking the gorge, these simple, clean rooms make a great base for walks. There's no air-con but they are cool at night. Run by Manolis and his Dutch wife Antonia, the taverna has a range of mayirefta and can make meals to order for guest on longer stays. Arhontas Taverna and...

Around Kissamoskastelli Polyrrinia IMupphvia

The ancient city ruins of Polyrrinia pol-ee-ren-ee-a lie about 7km south of Kissamos-Kastelli, above the village of Ano Paleokastro also called Polyrrinia . It's a steep climb to the ruins, but the sea and mountain views are stunning and the region is blanketed with wild flowers in spring. The city was founded by the Dorians in the 6th century BC and was constantly at war with the Kydonians from Hania. Coins from the period depict the warrior-goddess Athena, who was evidently revered by the...

Kaitfi Kepatokamiiox

At the twin mini-resorts and now contiguous villages of Kastri and Keratokambos, 13km downhill, there's a pleasant tree-lined beach and a number of eating and sleeping choices. The tranquillity of this tiny resort is its chief asset. Many Germans have moved in and bought property here. If you like peace and quiet and have a few books to read, this is your kind of place. There are no facilities other than a mini-market. Filoxenia Apartments fax 2895 051 371 studio 25-30 S These lovely two- to-...

Zaros Zafoi

If the name rings a bell, it's probably because 'Zaros' is the label on the litres of mineral water you've been guzzling. Around 46km southwest of Iraklio, Zaros is a refreshingly unspoilt traditional village that's known for its spring water and bottling plant. Various excavations in the region indicate that the Minoans and the Romans settled here, lured by the abundant supply of fresh water. The spring water from Zaros also supplied the great Roman capital of Gortyna Byzantine monasteries are...

Zakpox Kaikat Zakpox

The village of Zakros zah-kros , 45km southeast of Sitia, an important agricultural centre, is the nearest permanent settlement to the east-coast Minoan site of Zakros, 7km away. While there is little incentive to linger in the village there is only one hotel , it's a lively place where the kafeneia and ouzeries are always animated and there is rarely a tourist in sight. Zakros is the starting point for the trail through the Zakros Gorge, known as the Valley of the Dead. It takes its moniker...

Iraklio Hpakaeio

2810300225

Bustling Iraklio also called Heraklion can be a shock to the senses when you first arrive with a Greek island holiday in mind. Crete's hectic, noisy and traffic-ridden capital is a sprawling modern metropolis of concrete apartment blocks that lacks the architectural charms of Rethymno and Hania. Yet Greece's fifth-largest city has undergone a significant makeover in recent years and is experiencing a period of urban renewal. The waterfront redevelopment has made a marked difference and the...

Matala Mataaa

Matala ma-ta-la , on the coast 11km southwest of Phaestos, was once one of Crete's best-known hippie hang-outs. When you see the dozens of eerie caves speckling the rock slab on the edge of the beach, you'll see why '60s hippies found it, like, groovy see boxed text, opposite . The caves were originally Roman tombs cut out of the sandstone rock in the 1st century AD and have been used as dwellings for many centuries. Windows, doors and beds were carved out of the soft rock. Since those halcyon...

Around Iraklio

Once the capital of Minoan Crete, Knossos 2810 231 940 admission 6, ind Iraklio Archaeological Museum 10 S 8am-7.30pm Apr-Oct, 8am-3pm Nov-Mar is the island's major tourist attraction. The palace site is in an evocative location, about 5km south of Iraklio, surrounded by green hills and shaded by pine trees, though the road leading up to it is an uninspiring gauntlet of souvenir shops. The ruins of Knossos k-nos-tw were uncovered in 1900 by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans pl62 ....

Entertainment

The harbour's lively and prominent waterfront bars and clubs around the mosque are mostly patronised by tourists, while the row of clubs along Sourmeli are frequented by American soldiers from the nearby bases. There are some lively bars in the streets of the Old Town. Synagogi 28210 96797 Skoufou 15 Housed in a roofless Venetian building that was once a synagogue, this popular lounge bar is the favourite haunt of young locals. Fagotto 28210 71877 Angelou 16 S7pm-2am Jul-May A Hania institution...

Tzermiado Tzepmiaao

Tzermiado dzer-mee-n i-do is a sleepy town with dusty little streets lined with houses overgrown with vines and hanging plants. It's the largest and most important town on the Lasithi Plateau and has a fair amount of visitors from the tour buses going to the Dikteon Cave. A number of shops sell rugs and embroideries, although they're not of a particularly high quality. Of better quality are Lasithi's superior potatoes, which are celebrated in a three-day festival at the end of August in...

AriOi Iiayaox Tpioiietpa

It's not surprising that the fabulous remote sandy beaches of Agios Pavlos and Triopetra have been chosen for yoga retreats see p211 . These unspoilt and peaceful beaches surrounded by sand dunes and rugged cliffs are arguably one of the most beautiful and serene stretches of unspoilt coastline in Crete. Agios Pavlos claims to be the location from where Icarus and Daedalus took their historic flight in ancient mythology, although nearby Agia Galini makes the same claim. Agios Pavlos is little...

Index

Language 234, 236 activities 70-6, see also individual activities Adele 133 Agia Fotini 133 Agia Galini 142-3 Agia Irini Beach 141 Agia Irini Gorge 101-2 Agia Marina 91 Agia Paraskevi chapel 206 Agia Roumeli 95-6 Agia Sofia Cave 113 Agia Triada 171-2,171 Agias Fotias 205 Agiofarango Gorge 174 Agios Antonios church 166 Agios Georgios 191-2 Agios Georg ios church lerapetra 202 Agios loannis 202 Agios loannis Beach 106 Agios Kirkos 102 Agios Markos Basilica 153 Agios Minas Cathedral 153 Agios...