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Touring Crete, mostly by public transport - Trip report

Bucharest
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Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Hello,

This is a very much delayed trip report, from a week spent in Crete between August 5 and August 12, 2013. I thought that I should post it nevertheless, since it might help people planning their future vacation.

I am a solo female traveller, aged 52, and I reached Crete with a charter flight; the package (offered by a Romanian Travel Agency) included also accommodation – I choose Hotel Minoas in Ammoudara since it seemed the best suited for a trip intended for visiting as much as possible of the island and spending very few time on the beach. Being part of a package, my choice was somehow limited (travel agents do not offer city hotels) but in the end the location proved to be perfect for what I intended to do – touring Crete by public transport, since I do not have a driving licence.

For those that want to see places, as I did, I strongly recommend renting a car, if possible, but I discovered that you can cover a lot by public transport also; fortunately Crete has an extensive network of buses, even if not always easy to figure out; but with determination and lots of help from the locals everything is possible.

The hotel was modest, not really recommended for a beach – oriented holiday, but perfect for my needs and with very friendly and helpful owners. I made a separate review here:

tripadvisor.com/…CHECK_RATES_CONT

Crete is a large island; for those used with the tiny Cyclades, seeing all (or almost all) Crete in only one week is a challenging experience. There are many wonderful places, but separated by hours spent on the road. Actually I think I spent more time on busses than in any of my trips, even if I move around a lot everywhere I go.

This report is intended also to be a big “thank you” to all the people I’ve met in Crete; as always, Greek people are so nice and welcoming, always ready to help and always smiling despite the difficulties of the crisis. That’s why I tend to return there again and again ... this was probably my 20th trip in Greece (or more), and I am already booked for Naxos in August 2014.

Since I tend to write long reports, I will split my text in separate posts for each day; it will take several days to be completed, it takes time to put order between all those memories.

Alia

Bucharest
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1. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Day 1 – Monday, August 5, 2013 – Bucharest to Ammoudara

I boarded the charter flight from Bucharest airport at 5 pm and after a 1:45 hrs flight I was at Heraklion airport. The transfer to the hotel was included in the package, so I boarded the bus of the Travel Agency in Crete and I was left in front of my hotel at about 8 pm. No time to open luggage, I intended to explore first, mainly because I left home with the intention to book as many tours as possible from the local Travel Agents.

Easy to say, more difficult to do. From all what I wanted only tours to Samaria Gorge and Vai beach were available in Ammoudara. For the rest I was invited repeatedly to rent a car (no, thanks, I don’t have a driving licence) or a car with a driver (no thanks, I am on a budget and I can’t afford). But I was so decided on visiting several places that in the end a nice lady form a Rent-a-car office decided to help me - she found a timetable of the intercity buses and started to work with me on schedules.

And ... surprise! I realized that using the bus network – and accepting that I will wake up early and return to my hotel late – I could cover more doing it by myself. And much cheaper...

So I bought the Samaria Gorge (long way) tour (44 euro) for the next day and the Vai trip (42 euro) for the last day of my stay. While the first was a perfect choice, the last one was not so good – but this is a story to be told later.

It took me a couple of hours to organize myself and I ended the evening at Taverna Petrosikos, with a pickled octopus and a frappe – could not spend a day in Greece without my favourite drink! And the octopus was delicious, even if too big – I got half of it packed and stored in the refrigerator in my room. Paid in all 9 Euros, very convenient – food is good and cheap in Greece and I like local specialities.

Followed a short tour through the shops, for the necessary things as sun-tan oil, some fruits, juices and the tickets for the local bus to Heraklion – sold very conveniently at the supermarket in front of my hotel. Another think that I like in Greece is the shops being open late, as late as midnight. In Bucharest there are in all neighbourhoods shops open 24/7 and I usually do my shopping after 11 pm; in Greece it’s the same and very different from most Western Europe countries where shops and sites have roughly the same opening hours – it’s sometimes difficult to split the time between the two.

As for Ammoudara, it’s a new resort, consisting practically of hotels, shops and restaurants. Not a place I would have chosen for a calm, beach-only holiday; I prefer less touristic, more authentic places, as are the villages in the Cyclades. But it had the great advantage to be at a short distance (15 min by bus) form Heraklion, which is a transport hub so it gave me the possibility to move around Crete, which I intended since I left home.

I returned quite early in my hotel room (early for an evening in Greece) – I had to open my suitcase and the next morning the bus for Samaria Gorge was leaving at 6 am, so I thought a good night sleep would be much needed. I could not wait for the next day, and indeed the Samaria trip was one of the highlights of Crete!

Alia

Rethymnon, Greece
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2. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Hi Alia

Thank you for your interesting report, we'll be expecting your next installments :o)

Sale, United Kingdom
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3. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

I'm looking forward to hearing how you got on, Alia! Thanks for posting.

Bucharest
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4. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Day 2 – Tuesday, August 6, 2013 – Samaria Gorge

This was absolutely the highlight of my Crete trip! The road through Samaria Gorge is fantastic! A deep valley, shadowed by old trees, with a winding river that cut into stone producing fantastic landscape... The nature at its best. Some trees were so old that I could put myself under their roots with place to spare!

It’s difficult, 13.2 km walking mostly on steps and stones, but it was worth! The bus took me from Ammoudara (the parking at Dolphin bay hotel) at 6:30 and we reached the entrance of the gorge at about 11 (with a breakfast break at Skaletta – a modest tavern on the road). Each bus has a guide that takes care of the people not to be left on the road, and in my case this was a good thing. I am reasonably fit (at home I go hiking in the Carpathians once per month, but on low-difficulty paths) but since we came from a long distance we reached the gorge late so we had less than 6 hours for the Gorge. That meant to accelerate a bit, which was challenging for me; I left the canyon between the last ones and if not for Sergio, our guide, that was there to keep me moving I would have probably lost the boat from Agia Roumeli.

But it was so beautiful ... I took so many pictures, and I found a young couple that accompanied me all the road to the exit of the gorge. It was fun, we were talking in English and after about 2 hours they exchanged some words between them in their own language ... which was Romanian! We laughed a lot, sometimes you find your compatriots in place you never thought you will!

On the road there are refuges at certain places, the only ones where smoking or eating is allowed and there are some toilets also (very basic). They are at more or less equal distances – according to the map given to us by the guide after every 60 minutes on the road ... that transformed in 1.5 hours for me, but I am happy that I did it, even if I had to rush the last part since I was behind the group. Note that no food is sold in the gorge, so you have to pack some sandwiches or buy something in the cafeteria at the entrance.

After exiting the gorge my feet gave up, so for the last 3 km to the port I took the minibus. With this I had the time for a rushed tzatziki at Taverna Pachis in Agia Roumeli, before boarding the ferry-boat for Chora Sfakion. My first sail on the Libyan sea, if not so tired I would enjoyed it more.

Looking back, I would have done better going to Samaria for the last day of the trip, because my muscles felt it, and the next days every step was a real pain, but I did it and it was a real wonder!

Late in the evening (about 11 pm) the bus left me in Ammoudara (it stopped again at Skaletta on the road back) – to be received with a smile by the hotel owner. A smile and a bowl of yogurt with honey, he noticed that I was not there for breakfast and thought to treat me with something. And since I left almost every day before breakfast that cup of yogurt was waiting for me every evening in the refrigerator of my room!

Sorry it takes so long to write it all, but I had to browse through many memories and I want not to forget anything.

Alia

Athens
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5. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Thankyou for sharing.and your kind words about Greece and the Greeks!

sligo
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6. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Very interesting, thank you for sharing your holiday, looking forward to hearing more.

Padraig

London, United...
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7. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Glad you enjoyed the Samaria gorge. We look forward to the rest of your report.

Wales, United...
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8. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Excellent report. I have visited Crete but did not have the opportunity to visit Samaria gorge, I will add the gorge to my list! Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next day.

Bucharest
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9. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Day 3, Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – Chania & Rethymnon

Another day that started early, at 6:30 I was in the bus station in front of the Minoas hotel to take the local bus to Heraklion. My destination was Chania, for which the intercity bus (13.80 Euros) departs from Bus station A (port). I asked the driver of the local bus to tell me where to step down for the Port bus station and after a bit of asking around I found it, just in time to buy tickets and to board the 7:30 am bus for Chania.

The first part of the road is very scenic, I admired the sunrise while in the bus, then I slept a bit, until reaching Chania bus station at 10:30 am. There is a short walk to the central square, where I stopped for a frappe and then I visited the Archaeology Museum. Located in a former Venetian Monastery, dating from the 16th century, the museum is worth a visit for its Minoan and Roman artefacts. It includes pottery, glasswork, mosaics and some statues and clay coffins, plus some exquisite Minoan jewellery.

After the museum I browsed a bit the shops, since the old bag I had with me finally gave up and broke, so I had to replace it with a new one. Then I directed myself towards the Old port, probably the best site of Chania. It is very atmospheric, a large port lined with old buildings and the horse driven carriages waiting on the shore add to the feeling of another era. I stopped for a lunch with mezes at taverna Galini, a terrace with a nice view – the food was very good an nicely presented, the bread came with olives, butter, tomato sauce and avocado sauce, to which I added some tzatiki, taramosalatta, and tirokafteri. Together with a frappe it amounted to 9 Euros.

At 3:30 pm I left Chania and took the bus to Rethymnon, that I reached in 1.5 hours. I spent some time going around the city centre, to see the venetian fountain and to lose myself on the winding streets of the old quarter. From all the cities in Crete, Rethymnon is my favourite, small enough to feel cosy but large enough to be able to lose yourself and to discover something magic around every corner. I had an early dinner at Taverna Pigadi, a place that looked so nice... The tables on the terrace were decorated with so much taste, and the bougainvillea that literally covered the small street added colour to the setting. I had a graviera cheese in pastry cover (8 euro with water), delicious – I was not hungry, but there were many interesting things on the menu, it’s a place I highly recommend.

At 6:45 pm it was time for another bus, and I reached Iraklion at 9 pm; another half hour by the local bus and I was at Minoan Hotel in Ammoudara, tired but happy with what I’ve seen and ready to start again the next day.

Thank you all for your kind comments,

Alia

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: Touring Crete, mostly by public transport – Trip report

Great trip reports! They are a pleasure to read, thank you.