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Help with planning a holiday in Crete

New Zealand
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Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Hello

My husband and I are planning a holiday to Greece next year. We are looking at either June or September. Is one month particulary better than the other? We will have 7 or 10 nights in Crete. I have been getting some wonderful ideas from the trip advisor site. We would prefer the Western part of the Island.

My thoughts so far:

Arrive from Santorini into Heraklion, stay 1 night (maybe Aghia Pelagia if possible, instead). While we are at this end of the Island we could spend a couple of hours at Knossos before moving on.

Bus to Chania, stopping at Rethymnon for lunch on the way.

Few days based in Chania, may rent a car to have a look around the area as far as Falassarna and maybe Elafonissi.

Bus/ferry to Loutro for a few days

Maybe a few days in either Palechora, Sougia or Frangokastello as well. We will possibly walk the Samaria Gorge or others in the area. I believe we can connect these places by ferry then bus back to Chania.

Other places I like the sound of Aghia Galini, Spili and Kefalas.

Apart from Chania, we are looking for more quiet, village type places for at least some of our vacation and would like a nice balance of villages, sites and beaches, not big resorts.

As you can see by all the places I have mentioned. It is impossible to do them all. I would love everyones thoughts on what I have planned so far and some help in picking out the places that we shouldn't miss. If there are any other places that anyone can recommend, I would also appreciate hearing them. This will be our first visit to Greece.

Looking forward to hearing from everyone. Cheers

Newcastle upon...
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1. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Hi

Both June & September are good months to visit Crete.

I prefer June as the landscape is much greener then, also there are more hours of daylight.

If you are a beach fan then the sea is warmer in September.

Your stay in Heraklion seems ok, also taking the bus to Chania with lunch in Rethymnon.

Once you have visited Falassarna & Elafonissi by car then I would return the hire car in Chania.

Then take the public bus to Paleohora. From there you can take the ferry to Sougia. If you intend walking the Samaria Gorge then Sougia is the best place to do it from. You can easily do it under your own steam by taking the first bus up to the start of the walk then get the ferry back to Sougia in the evening.

You can then get the ferry along to Loutro. There are no roads into Loutro. It can only be reached by ferry or on foot. There is little to do in Loutro & there are better places to stay for a few days if you want to see more of the island.

From Loutro get the ferry to Hora Sfakia then make your way to Rethymnon via the village of Vrysses.

From Rethymnon you can get the bus to Spili then onwards to Agia Galini. From Agia Galini you can visit Kokkinos Pirgos, Matala, Phaestos easily by bus.

There are several buses each day to both Rethymnon & Heraklion. The bus takes around 90 minutes to get from Ag. Galini to Heraklion.

There are of course many variations that you could do but if you would like more detailed info just drop me a Personal message.

Montreal, Canada
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2. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Hi Kiwi07,

As Mick says, there's not much to do in Loutro (unless you are an avid hiker like me), which is much of the attraction. Try to stay at least one night. I enjoyed hiking the Aradhena Gorge much more than the Samaria, but if the Samaria is on your list...

I'll second recommendations for Paleochora and Sougia. For some reason I am drawn to Sougia, though it is small and non-descript I could easily sit on a balcony there and while the time away.

With only 7 to 10 nights you can easily stay Chora Sfakion and west. If you do venture east from Chora Sfakion on the south coast: Frangocastello is very spread out. There are a couple of nice small beaches, but other than the half hour it will take to walk around the interior of the castle (if that) there's not much else on offer; I preferred Plakias to Aghia Galini--nicer setting, better beach, better food; the setting for Spili is pretty, but you can zip in, take the obligatory picture of the fountains and be off. I stayed for some hiking but the trails are poorly marked; thought Matala was going to be huge from all the press it has had over the years, but was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed my time there.

JQ

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3. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Thanks to both of you for your replies.

I like the idea of doing nothing in Loutro for a few days. We are avid walkers and like kayaking, swimming and eating. We will probably do the Aradhena and/or Agia Irini Gorges instead of Samaria.

If you had to pick between Paleochora, Sougia, Plakias, Matala or Aghia Galini which would it be? Crete is such a large and diverse Island, its hard to know where to begin.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Cheers

Montreal, Canada
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4. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Hi again,

Beware that doing nothing in Loutro can be quite physically demanding. In May of 2006 we stayed for four nights (hiked in from Aghia Roumeli and out to Chora Sfakion) and: hiked up the Aradhena to the bridge and then back through Livaniana; hiked up to Anapolis for lunch on what was supposed to be a day of rest; and then finally had a day of rest by kayaking in the morning and walking around the point to Fenix in the afternoon. May of 2008 we only stayed one night and actually sat about. Next day hiked up to Anapolis and stayed, renting a room from Giannis the baker. Giannis is extremely friendly--he'll pull out a bottle of raki (homemade), a basket of cookies, and sit you down for a chat, even if there's a slight language barrier.

Personally, and this is based on things I enjoy, such as hiking (I'm not a good beach person), split your remaining time after Chania between Paleochora, Sougia and Loutro (but not one night each if you only have three days left). Don't skip Elafonissi.

If you have more specific questions on gorges, my wife and I have hiked the Aghia Irini (down), Samaria (down), Aradhena (up--and in a crazed moment up the ladders that are now avoidable), Ilingas (up, twice--you must be prepared for this one), Imbros (down), and a couple of others further east.

After you have had a taste of Crete, you are going to want to go back. Having spent a total of 42 days on Crete, have only seen Chania and Iraklion on the north coast, and have not been east of Lendas on the south coast. So much more to do...

JQ

New Zealand
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5. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Hi JQ,

Thanks for the helpful info. Yeah, I agree about Loutro. For us, doing nothing doesn't actually mean doing nothing literally. Like you and your wife, we will be doing plenty of walks, kayaking etc. Our idea of doing nothing can indeed be very tiring!

I will definately take on board your suggestions of places to spend our time. Many thanks.

England
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6. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

You may well have already planned your holiday but I just noticed youquestion and thought i may be able to help.

We have been travelling to Crete for 21 years and of course have now developed some firm favourite destinations.

We love Loutro and if you plan to walk the Samaria gorge this is the obvious place to stay for at least one night after the walk. The ferry that picks people up from the bottom of the gorge calls in to Loutro on its way back to Chora Sfakion. It is about a 30 minute trip. I would recommend the Porto Loutro Hotel or Nikos House as great places to stay. the Porto Loutro (look at their website) is right on the beach and Niko's House is the last house out on the northern side of the village (note from end to end the village is about 10 minutes walk.) Alternatively over the hill is a tiny cove with just one taverna with rooms: this is The Old Phoenix hotel. I have not stayed here but the location is wonderful, they have a website for booking and will pick you up by boat from the ferry arrival point in Loutro (there are no roads).

We have stayed in Sougia and whilst we liked it, it did seem to us to be a bit characterless. The same with Paleochora, for us it was a bit big but it does have a great beach and is attractive. Same goes for Agia Galini, except poor beach and too many tourists.

Frangocastello is one of our most favourite destinations and we always stay at the Flisvos Taverna see my new review (written yesterday and should be available to view in a few days).

Spilli is lovely, cool, pretty and with a good choice of tavernas and shops. Perhaps just one or two nights is enough. But moving on from Spilli is another real favourite (you will need a car, a taxi or some good luck hitching a lift to get there) this is Agios Pavlos (sometimes called Akrotiri Melissa) near to the villages of Ano and Kato Saktouria. this is a tiny place with just two tavernas at coast level and another two further up the road. We stay here at Mama Eva's rooms but the other alternative is the Agios Pavlos Hotel (more taverna with rooms than hotel) this has a website so is bookable on the internet. In front of the tavernas is a sheltered pretty beach (slippery rock access so be careful) and just over the hill are a string of unspoilt beaches stretching for miles, the best known of these is Triopetra which also has a taverna with accommodation.

When you land in Heraklion, if you have time, I would try to stay outside the city and a good place (about 20 minutes by car) is Ligaria (close to agia Pelagia). However if you are set on going to Knossos that may not be appropriate as it is in the wrong direction. Knossos has a reputation for being very busy you could consider the unrestored palace of Festos (in the south) instead.

If you do go to Falasarna and Elefonisi I recommend that you use the ferries to travel eastwards along the south coast as it is a treck back to the north coast to get south again. Last time I was in Elafonisi there were ferries from there to Paleochora and another on to Sougia and from there to Roumeli (bottom of Samaria gorge). From Roumeli the first stop is Loutro then Chora Sfakion. Each trip is very inexpensive, maybe just 2 Euro.

I note that you have only 7-10 days so you should be careful not to try to pack in too many stops. Crete is only 150 miles long but it seems much bigger because of mountainous terrain and dubious roads.

You also ask about which month to travel, well I can only speak for Sept/October we always go at that time of the year because as well as there being less tourists than high season the sea is very warm! I am told that June is also a quiet time to visit.

Hope all this is helpful to you. If you have any other questions I am happy to answer if I can.

Barbara

Ontario
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7. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

We stayed in Crete for 5 nights in Hersonisos and rented a car to travel the island. Not sure I'd stay in Heraklion when there are so many pretty towns around. Check out Agios Nikolaos which is a very pretty town, I believe it's between Heraklion and Hersonisos. That would be my first choice to spend a night. Crete is a fairly large island (compared to others) and you would benefit from renting a car to see what you want to see. It's very easy to drive around the island and if you're there for 7-10 days, there's plenty of time to see the main sites. Palace of Knossos is very interesting to visit, sounds like fun!

Philadelphia
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8. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

Disregard the last post as it's about East Crete and you wisely have chosen WEST Crete. THE best. THe others have done well in giveing u advice about that area. I have hiked the Imbros Gorge and looooved it. Agree that Frangokastello is worth a visit if u have a car, but don't stay there. Beach is VERY shallow. We took a boat from Hora Sfakion ot Loutro one may, and did the cliff-edge walk from there back to H.S, swimming half-way there at Sweetwater beach FUNN.

Here's a GOOD map of Crete for your planning

http://66.29.86.75/crete-maps/Crete-eot.png

-- click on it and it gets Huuuuge; shows every road however teensy, and distance in KM between places.

MY specific thought is about your first night, and seing Knossos (w.o. renting car before you get to Chania). I gather you'll be coming in by that daily fast-ferry that gets there around 5:15. Ag Pelagia is the wrong side, as someone said, and besides, it USED to be a nice small resort but the bulldozer have been at it, and it's NOT a serene place any more.

The bus station is right by the dock. Ask for a local bus to Karteros (see map) just about 7 Km East of town. There are lots of small hotels around there; friends did that w.o. any reservations last May, just a 'walk-up." The next day you can bargain for a taxi to take you to Knossos (about 10km?). There are frequent public busses back from Knossos to the Heraklion bus station where u get bus to Rethymnon.

YOur only issue would be, where to leave bags. I would suggest checking them at Heraklion bus station on arrival and taking only a small overnight satchel with you to Karteros. I carry a small zip-unfold bag with shoulder strap for such occasions.

Devon, UK
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9. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

We've recently returned from a holiday in western Crete, visiting many of the places you mentioned, with a rented car (we used Anna Cars, who seem good and reliable).

We chose Agia Pelagia for the first couple of nights, as we were arriving in Heraklion in the evening and didn't want to drive far. On a previous holiday we stayed at Bali instead. Of the two, I prefer Bali, as we found the beach areas around AP were either tiny and crowded or private/inaccessible. But Agia Pelagia is closer to the airport. The best beach in that area is Ligaria, where there may well be accommodation too - there are certainly a few tavernas. We also found Ligaria a good place to spend our last afternoon on the way back to the airport, as you can park the car within sight of the beach and tavernas, so you don't have to worry too much about the leaving your suitcases in it.

We weren't that taken with Knossos, to be honest. It was so crowded with endless coach parties that it was difficult to get any feel for the place. We also found the way it's been reconstructed a bit strange and fake in places. But it's unique and you may not want to miss it.

Falassarna has fantastic beaches, but not much else. Well worth visiting for a couple of days if you like beaches. And Elafonissi is something special. The ferry from Paleochora is the simplest way to get there, but it's also quite driveable from Paleochora, via Elos (takes about 2 hours ).

If you decide the Samaria Gorge is too long a day, there are easier (and quieter) alternatives such as the Imbros Gorge and the Agia Irini Gorge.

We loved both Paleochora and Sougia, and also Frangokastello which we visited last year. Both Frangokastello and Falassarna are beginning to shut down in the autumn and you may find the tavernas a bit quiet or even closed. Paleochora, by contrast, stays busy late into the season and the first couple of places we tried for rooms were full. Do have a look at a good road map - there is no proper road along the south coast and you'll have to narrow your choice a bit. Frangocastello is a bit remote from the rest of the places I've mentioned. Oh, and there are mosquitoes there - the place we stayed (Ariadne rooms, I think) supplied mosquito nets.

I think June is probably greener and prettier inland, but the sea will be colder in June than in September.

See my recent post on western Crete for some more details of our trip.

England
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10. Re: Help with planning a holiday in Crete

We have returned from Frangocastello only a few days ago and it is incorrect to say that the tavernas close early in the season here. In fact it is one of their busiest times of the year as those in the know always return in Sept/Oct.

It is true to say that there are mosquitoes here but probably no more than in many other places in Crete, We never find them to be a problem as we always use Jungle Formula repellent (excellent and not too smelly) and the plug-ins supplied in every room (these are supplied nearly everywhere in Crete).