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Iraklio to Chania - help with itinerary please!

Maryland
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Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Hi Everyone, although we’ve been to Greece several times, this will be our first trip to Crete. My husband and I and our two college-age daughters will arrive Iraklio airport from the States on the 14th of June and will have 8 nights/7 full days to visit Crete before taking the ferry from Iraklio to Thira. We will spend the first night in Iraklio and plan to visit Knossos and the Archeological Museum the next day before driving toward Chania by car (will rent car at the airport). Yep, would have been better to fly into Chania but this wasn’t an option using free airline miles (we are able to fly from U.S. to Iraklio, but not Chania, on an international ticket).

Have done some research (although have to admit that Crete is a bit overwhelming…) and our ‘must-sees’ on this trip include: Knossos/Arch. Museum, visit Chania, hike the Samaria Gorge and visit some of the beaches on the West Coast. Most days, we like to go at a moderate pace, do some sightseeing in the morning, hang out at a beach in the afternoon, find a good taverna in the evening and live music if we can find it. We like exploring interesting villages and towns, hiking, beautiful scenery, beautiful beaches (both isolated and organized) and interesting ancient/historical sites; the girls also like shopping (of course).

So here’s my question. Would you recommend trying to fit in Gortys/Phaestos/Agia Triada on this trip or are there other equally interesting things to see and do in Western Crete? It will be more relaxing for us to spend the remaining 7 nights based in the Chania area (I found a reasonably-priced maisonette for the four of us in Chrissi Akti). However, we are not opposed to spending a night in Matala if these sites are not to be missed and thus worth carving out a night and day from Western Crete (we like ancient sites and but are not archeologists and don’t need to tick off every site in the guidebook). If we skip the Gortys area, what are some other must-see or cool, out-of-the-ordinary places in the West to visit?

Thanks for your help!

London, United...
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1. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Personally, I'd be inclined to miss Knossos, and go straight to the Feistos, Gortys, etc. area. Stay overnight in Matala or Agia Galini, and then take the road to Rethymnon via Spili, calling in at Arkadi Monastery on the way.

Turn left at the New National Road, and Chania is about 40 minutes away.

One thing - which may or may not be an attraction - the Matala Hippy Festival is 21-24 June this year.

http://www.visitmatala.com/festival.php

Or you could continue along the south coast, and then turn right to Chania. The roads over the mountains have beautiful scenery - and are very slow. But it sounds as though you've taken that into account, and are planning to give Crete its due respect.

Maryland
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2. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Thanks, john s, but curious why you would skip Knossos? It's on the way (sort of) to the Phaestos/Gortys area. Too bad we'll have to miss the hippi festival (what kind of music, Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin or traditional Greek?); we meet up with other family members in Oia on the 22nd.

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3. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

I certainly wouldn't skip Knossos, or the museum, or indeed Heraklion itself, a very underrated city with a good deal of interest to see. Nor would I skip Phaistos and Agia Triada. Spend your first night in or near Heraklion, and proceed from there. You'll still have time for Chania and the Samaria gorge - though probably not much more, given that you quite rightly want to take it easy.

Crete, Greece
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4. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

I agree with Alabastron and would not skip Knossos either. Why come here and miss the biggest archaeological site here, especially as you are landing in Heraklion.

Matala is nice but it is essemtailly just a beach. The caves are small and unless you really want to visit the place where Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell spent a lot of their time in the 60s, then no need to spend a night here.

Samaria is very good. Doing it as a proper organised trip would be best, as you can park the car at the top, but at the bottom you have to leave by boat, unless you want to walk straight back up, or spend the night in one of the small places at the bottom. It is well worth doing , but make sure you take water. Although there are places to refill your water bottle on the way down, it's always better to start off with your own.The hardest part is the first few kms as you are walking downhill on very rocky terrain, but after that it's a lot easier. Please make sure you have suitable walking shoes.

Enjoy the Cretan food and chania. It's a lovely City with cobbled streets. Maybe if you have time, pop into Rethymno for a few hours. Again a nice city with cobbled streets, a promenade and a beach.

Have a good holiday

Devizes, United...
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5. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Hi there

Going to Crete for the first time and missing out Knossos is akin to visiting London for the first time and not bothering with Big Ben or the Tower of London, it's an iconic site and should be on the itinerary. I also totally agree that you should devote a few hours at least to walk the streets of Iraklion where you'll find some wonderful antiquities.

No need to drive out to Knossos if you don't fancy the traffic in Iraklion, just head for the main bus station ( you can't miss it, it's on the main road that runs from the cruise terminals to the Venetian harbour and sits in the shadow of the Sabbionera Bastion of the old city walls) and take blue bus #2 out to Knossos, they run all day, it takes about 25 mins to reach the site and return fare is just €3 or so. There's a small, separate kiosk where you buy the bus tickets to Knossos, look for this...

flickr.com/photos/…set-72157624830156381

When you've done with Iraklion & Knossos, head south on the E97 route, this crosses the mountains and passes through agricultural towns like Agia Varvara after which the road descends to the messara Plain, amazing views all around. Stay on the E97 and just after you go through Agii Deka, you'll see the pull in for Gortys on the right. After Gortys, keep heading west on E97 and you can't fail to see the signs for Faistos and Agia Triada.

After this, swing northeast on E97 and follow it back to Agia Galini, after which it becomes the E77, goes via Spili and Armeni back to the New National Road on the north coast where you turn left for Chania.

Knossos

flickr.com/photos/…

Faistos

flickr.com/photos/…

Gortys

flickr.com/photos/…

Iraklion's sights

flickr.com/photos/…

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6. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Thanks, john s, but curious why you would skip Knossos

======================================

That's just my personal view; I think it's dusty, crowded and vastly overrated. Sorry to those who love it, but I just don't think it's worth the time it takes.

Phaistos, to take one example, has a lot more of the original structure than Knossos, as well as being on a slight slope, with a fantastic view down to the sea.

I agree about Iraklion - definitely worth a stroll around. And there'll always be disagreements about how people should carve up their precious time on Crete. One thing's sure, whatever the OP decides, they're unlikely to be disappointed.

Maryland
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7. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Thanks again, terrific advice!

GB, if we get up early the next morning after arriving, do you think we can reasonably tour Knossos, Arch. museum, Gortys, Faestos, etc. in one day and still make it to Chania that night? I don't have a feel for the roads you've suggested (E97, E77). I know from the Naxos mountains that what you think should take 20 minutes ends up close to an hour of driving.

Danielle, I've read up a bit on the S. Gorge, and we'll probably take an early morning bus from Chania to Omalos, then the ferry from Roumeli to Sougia and bus back to Chania. However, I'll look into an organized tour once we arrive in Chania. We plan to pack our hiking boots and will definitely bring water bottles and food for the hike.

As Danielle suggests, I was hoping to fit in Rethymno. Another option is to spend the second night in Rethymno (after Knossos, Faestos, etc.) before heading to Chania. I'm game but, hopefully, my husband and daughters won't squawk too much about packing, unpacking, checking into and out of hotels.

Filakia!

Devizes, United...
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8. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Hi again Lam

You would be very hard pressed to squeeze all that in inside a day, even a very full one. But in June, you will have maximum daylight hours so who knows, you "might" just be able to do it. I don't know what time the museum in Iraklion opens, I doubt if it's as early as Knossos which opens at 8am so if you wanted an early start, which you would need, you'd have to double back to Iraklion for the museum after visiting Knossos. But, that wouldn't really matter as you'd have to go back towards Iraklion and the New National Road to access the E97 route anyway to make your way south.

You can make the ride to Gortys in an hour very comfortably from Iraklion, the road crosses the mountains but it's well maintained, full width and although it is twisty in places, there are no really steep or bad sections. You will probably want to stop after Agia Varvara as the road descends to the Messara Plain, the views are indescribable.

As mentioned Gortys is just to the west of Agii Deka, you can't miss it on your right, and Agii Deka is just a further 15kms from Agia Varvara. Once done at Gortys, it's just 13-14 kms west to Faistos and then Agia Triada is just 3-4 kms from Faistos on the road to Timbaki.

I would estimate that once finished at Agi Triada, it would take you around 2.5 hours to reach Chania via Spili, Armeni and Rethymno ( from where it's highway to Chania) so if you were done at Agia Triada by 6pm, you "should" reach Chania before dark. It'll be a long day for sure, and personally, I would look at finding a room in Matala or Timbaki for the night so at least you can enjoy the day without clockwatching and not worry whether it will get dark before you reach Chania.

Unless you are scholars of ancient history, I doubt you'd need to spend more than an hour each at Gortys and Agia Triada, maybe 90mins - 2 hours at Faistos and Knossos but I'm not suggesting that you rush things. Faistos is an amazing site, very atmospheric and in a wonderfully scenic location, you can get lost in the views there before you've even looked around the site.

The other benefit of staying out that night is that you could, the next morning, take in the superb Museum of Cretan Ethnology, just up the road from Agia Triada at Vori, and also, if you did decide to stay down on this coast , or close to it, you could make time for Matala for a bite to eat, a swim and to see the old tombs in the cliffs there.

Maryland
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9. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

Thanks, GM, any suggestions for a good, but reasonably-priced, place to stay in Matala or Timbaki? Near the beach would be ideal.

Devizes, United...
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10. Re: Iraklio to Chania – help with itinerary please!

I haven't I'm afraid, I've visited those places a few times but only as a drive from wherever we were staying on the island. There is plenty of accommodation in Matala for sure but there's more than likely to be cheaper rooms available in Timbaki. I'm sure someone will have a recommendation for you.