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real greece

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High Wycombe...
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real greece

Hello i went to crete 9yrs ago and we are returning to stay in Chania with our 2 children aged 14 and 10. Previously we have stayed in hotels and this time we have an apartment to give us more freedom at mealtimes ect. My kids are very interested in history and sightseeing and we really want them to see the real greek hospitality and experience different ways of life. I would love to hire a car and take them maybe to the mountain villages for lunch can anyone point me in the right direction and recommend where to go ? Any other ideas aswell for where to take them would be wonderful. We leave in 3 weeks !

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1. Re: real greece

I suggest a trip up Theriso gorge, which is a pretty drive, near Hania, to Theriso, which is a nice old traditional village with a small war resistance museum, then either on to Meskla & Zourva or to Drakona, to Dounias taverna for fabulous very traditional Cretan food. You'll be welcomed into the kitchen to see everything being cooked the old way. & a drive back down the hillside via Malaxa gives great views down across Hania.

Or take a look at Milia, up on the hills behind Kolymbari - a journey through stunning wild countryside, it's a sort of reconstructed hamlet, with a very good restaurant.

Or a drive around the foothills of the White mountains of inland Apokoronos will take you to some quiet old villages - places like Ramni, Vafes, Fres, etc. not touristy, just normal day-to-day quiet country living.

If you want to go a bit further, Sfakia is great, with a stop at the old-fashioned war museum at Askifou, with huindreds of found items. & you could detour from here to Kalikratis, definitely a traditional village. Or go on past Sfakia & up to Anopolis, where the men still wear the old headdresses & boots on a daily basis. You can visit the old bridge & ruined village at Aradena.

Or Aptera, or Polyrinia.

There's a few ideas to get you started You don't have to go far in Western Crete to find small old-fashioned places, all of which will have a taverna & will welcome you & your kids. Especially if you can try to speak even a few words of Greek.

High Wycombe...
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2. Re: real greece

Wow thats really helpful thankyou so much ! I really want them to see the old village squares where the old men sit outside the coffee shops and take them to a traditional cretan restaurant so all that info is fab.

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3. Re: real greece

I second all of JWugg's suggestions, and would put in a special recommendation of Anopolis. It will take you over two hours to get there - longer, with stops in Askifou and Chora Sfakion along the way - and you'll be rewarded with one of the very few truly traditional villages left in Crete (several hamlets, really) nestled in a huge, fertile valley with the high Lefka Ori towering behind. The Garden of Eden comes to mind. :-)

On the plateia, in the main village, Anopolis itself, is the Kopasis taverna, where the old men sit outside and talk, and a kitchen inside where Eva cooks excellent food.

A few minutes' drive takes you to the abandoned (but now returning to life) village of Aradena, with wonderful examples of traditional Sfakian houses. If you wished you could descend into the Aradena gorge via the magnificent paved track - for centuries the only route between Aradena and Agios Ioannis, the last village on the road, but since the 1960s (I think) connected by a Bailey bridge - hair-raising and noisy, but safe - to drive over.

The drive to Theriso, Meskla, Zourvas is beautiful, much nearer to Chania, and would be another great trip. Perhaps you can do both!

High Wycombe...
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4. Re: real greece

Fantastic tips thankyou !

Edited: 20 July 2013, 23:10
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5. Re: real greece

If some of your family are interested in history, there are several good museums in Chania. I specially like the Maritime Museum of Crete, near the harbour entrance. It has a lot of general displays about the history of Chania, as well as a section on the Nazi occupation of 1941-45 - though parts of that might be too upsetting for teenagers.

Alabastron has mentioned Meskla as a nice destination. One of our favourite tavernas is there, the Taverna Xalaris, opposite the modern church at the top end of the village. Good Cretan home cooking, to be eaten under the shade of giant trees in a peaceful courtyard.

If you want a few photos of the Xalaris (and other places in and around Chania) I have some on my flickr page at:


Edited: 20 July 2013, 23:13
Sao Paulo, SP
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6. Re: real greece

sound like a fantastic program!! can it still be done if we are staying in rethymnon?


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7. Re: real greece

Yes. You'll just have to drive a bit further to some of the destinations. For others it will make no difference. To drive to Milia, for example, which is west of Chania, you'll first have to drive to Chania, which is about an hour from Rethymnon. But to drive to Chora Sfakion and Anopolis, you will go through Vrysses, which js about half way between Chania and Rethymnon.

Edited: 22 July 2013, 06:57
Sao Paulo, SP
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8. Re: real greece

Great!!! thank you so much!

Agii Apostoli...
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9. Re: real greece

There are many places to visit both in Crete and in Chania, depending on your interests. Many visitors prefer to explore the nature and different places in Crete. Others are more interested in culture and want to visit museums and archaeological sites. Most tourists though prefer to relax under the sun, on a sandy beach with crystal blue waters. In the following sections I try to describe what to see and how to get to the attractions.

For your trips out of Chania, you can take the public or the travel agency bus for the main destinations. For public bus check timetable: www.bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetable.php. The difference between the public or the travel agency bus is in the price (public bus is 3-5 € cheaper) and location pick up (travel agencies bus pick up are closer to the hotels). Many public busses depart really early in the morning, which means getting to the Chania central bus station might need taking a taxi. Renting a car might be cheaper if you are 3 persons or above, but always add 15-20 € extra each day for the extra cost of gas. The best time to visit the beaches by car is before 11:00am and after 16:00pm because it’s the time before the tourist busses come and after they leave.


The first and most obvious place to explore is Chania itself. Chania is a very beautiful and interesting town to visit, with its old town, museums, attractions and restaurants. It is very close from the hotel, only 15 minutes by bus. It’s always pleasant to wander in the small alleys of the old town, which was built by the Venetians. All around Chania the visitor can find many shops where he can buy souvenirs, traditional products, fashion items or food. In the old town there are also many restaurants to choose from, with delightfully relaxing views of the old port and lighthouse.

Most sightseeings in Chanea are within walking distance. You can visit the old market which is built in the shape of a cross. There are also three major museums: the archaeological museum, the naval museum, and the foclore museum.

For transportation options from Chania, please see our ‘Transports’ section.


The Old Town (stroll in the narrow alleys, smell and taste real Chania).

Faros (the lighthouse, landmark of Chania).

The museums (Naval, Archaeological, Cretan Culture, in Chania old town, only the Military is 5 minutes out of old town). The museums close around 15:00, its 3 € to get in.

Halidon street and Trimartiry cathedral.

The hill at Kasteli, particularly Prytania (the headquarters of the University of Crete, with the best view of the old port).

Splantzia square and St Nicolaos church with the minaret and bell tower.

Agora (the indoor market in the shape of cross).

Tabakaria (an area east of Chania, by the sea, close to Halepa, where the old tanneries used to be, spooky like going back in time, full of old buildings and factories).

Halepa (an area east of Chania, close to Tabakaria, used to be aristocratic, with the houses of Venizelos, the ex-French school and other old mansions).

Platanias and Agia Marina

Platanias and Agia Marina are located west of Chania, along the beach. There are plenty of hotels, shops, sun loungers on the beach, small bars and restaurants. They are the place to go for the younger generation as there are plenty of clubs and bars during summer.

Young Greeks hang out in Agia Marina beach bars, namely at Ilios ke Ammos, Costa Costa, Okeanos, and Big Apple. These beach bars are a combination of bar, café, restaurant, sometimes with swimming pool, beach volley and water sport facilities. They are trendy and attract mainly young Greeks, between 10-19:00. In July and August Djs are invited and mini parties last between 18-23:00, free entrance.

The biggest open air club in Chania is Villa Mercedes and is located among the above beach bars. Greeks usually go there after 1:00am, the music is mainstream and entrance is 8 euro with a drink. To get there take bus, taxi or drive west of Chania, along the old national road. By bus its 30 minutes, 2.50 €, you buy the ticket on the bus, take one of the green long distance busses from Chania central bus station. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday there are night busses departing on the hour from Chania and returning on the half hour.

South- Western Crete

There are many picturesque villages doting the rugged coastline of southern Crete. If you are adventurous, want pristine crystal clear beaches and want to avoid the masses of tourists, this is the place to be.

Along the coastline there are many small shallow bays and beaches. Most of them are accessible by car, for others, you have to walk for a while. The most well known places and bases for excursions in south-western Crete are Paleohora, Sougia, Sfakia and Plakias, where you can find hotels and restaurants. They are around 2 hours from Chania by public bus and its 15 € return. Along these villages and the southern coastline lies the European path E4. There is no direct road connecting them, and takes around 45 minutes by car, no bus connections, only by boat (7-9 € per ticket). There you can hike, swim, go fishing, dive, or enjoy the tranquil atmosphere they offer, with splendid restaurants offering fresh fish. In the south Loutro and Agia Roumeli are also located (the exit of Samaria gorge) villages, which are accessible only by boat.

Hiking and other activities in south-western Crete:

At Paleohora there are nice beaches east and west of the village. The beach of Grammeno on the west, is quiet and filled with old small cedar trees. On the west there are more beaches but with small pebbles. Also hike to Anydri village, for 1 hour, east of Paliohora. Gyaliskari beach on the far east of Paliohora is ideal for nudists or those who want peace and quiet.

Sougia is a quiet hippy village, has a nice pebble beach. If you like hiking go to Agia Irini gorge, 2.5 hours long. Leave your car in the entrance, hike until you reach Sougia and take the afternoon bus (which takes the Samaria gorge hikers) to Chania and ask to make a stop at the entrance of Agia Irini, to return and pick up your car. Alternatively, drive to Sougia and hike 45 minutes westwards, to Lissos archaeological place. In Sougia you can find Captain George, who can take you with his water taxi to nice beaches for around 3 euros, depending on weather and a minimum number of people. Just ask there how to find him.

At Agia Roumeli is the exit of Samaria gorge with a pebble beach, you can hike the easy way to Portes, the narrowest part of Samaria. Alternatively hike eastwards, to Agios Pavlos beach, one of the best and most quiet beaches of southern Crete.

At Loutro you can relax on the pebble beach or walk along many small hiking paths. It’s a small village inaccessible by car.

At Sfakia there are very few small beaches. You can hike Imbros, Asfentou and Kalikratis gorges, around two hours one way. Imbros is the easiest to access. From Sfakia you can drive to Frangocastelo or other beaches eastward such as Kato Rodakino, Plakias or Preveli.


Elafonisi is located in the south western tip of Crete. It’s a small island which is connected with Crete by a strip of sand and forms a shallow lagoon, ideal for kids (safe) and adults (just lying on the crystal clear water). The whole area is a protected natural environment. One kilometer to the east is Kedrodassos, a nice idyllic beach filled with cedar trees. It is quieter than Elafonisi and popular with nudists and free campers.

Visit Elafonisi by car or bus, 1.5 and 2.5 hours respectively from Chania. By public bus its 20 € return, with a travel agency its 24 euro. Take the new national road from Chania towards Kasteli or Kissamos (it’s the same place) and before you reach this village follow the signs on the left that go south.

On the way don’t miss Agia Sofia cave, with the church inside, which is located in Topolia gorge, and Chrisoskalitisa monastery before you reach Elafonisi. Both are on the way to Elafonisi and take 15 and 30 minutes respectively to visit.

At Elafonisi there are 3 restaurants, and small cantines on the beach for snacks and water. The best time to go to Elafonisi by car is before 11:00am and after 16:00pm because it’s the time before the tourist busses come and after they leave.

If you want to taste original Cretan food cooked in a wood oven, and not touristic, go to Gialites restaurant at Livadia, 20 minutes away from Elafonisi.

Gramvousa and Balos

Gramvousa area is at the north-western tip of Crete. Like Elafonisi, Balos is a small island which is connected with Crete by a strip of sand and forms a shallow lagoon, with Gramvousa island and castle opposite it. Gramvousa can be reached only by a boat from Kissamos port, while Balos by boat or car. Both places are of pristine beauty with rugged cliffs rising around the area. Balos is ideal for kids (safe) and adults (just lying on the crystal clear water). The whole area is a protected natural environment.

Visit Balos by car or bus until Kissamos port, 45 minutes from Chania. By bus it’s 10 euro return, and from there you have two options: Either take boat, departs 10:00-12:00am, costs 22 € return. You can buy the boat tickets from a kiosk at the port. The bus always waits for the boat to return and then departs, around 16:00pm. Or drive along a dirt road, 40 minutes (8km) from Kaliviani village, and then hike for 30 minutes (1.5km) to Balos. This option might be cheaper but has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that if you have an accident on a dirt road, it’s not covered by insurance, and the hike might be tiring. The advantage is that it’s a cheaper option and enjoy spectacular views of the sunset around 19:00pm.

At Balos there is only one canteen, for a restaurant, you can eat at Gramvousa restaurant at Kaliviani or at the fish restaurants in front of the sea at Kasteli.

The best time to go to Balos by car is before 11:00am and after 16:00pm because it’s the time before the boats come and after they leave.


Falassarna is a 6km long beach on the western coast, with crystal clear and deep waters.

It’s easy to reach by car or bus along the national road. Its 45 minutes by car or 1 hour by bus. There are frequent busses between 8:30am and 13:00am, last bus to return is at 21:00pm, costs 10 euro return.

It’s an easy and quick option for a clean and pristine sandy beach. There are restaurants on the hill before you reach Falassarna, where you can enjoy an amazing sunset.

If you have a car, you can visit the ancient port of Falassarna, where you can see traces of the Minoan village which is located by the side of the mountain. Alternatively, on the way you can visit the old beautiful village of Polyrinia, and the Roman fort nearby with amazing views on the bay of Kissamos.

Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge is the most popular destination for nature lovers in Crete. It’s a well organised national park located in south-west Crete. The gorge is 9 km long and takes about 6 hours to cross it. In Samaria the visitor can see the terrain, the fauna and flora of Crete. You can drink the water from small springs in the rest areas or from the river that flows year round. You will need sport shoes and the hike is along a well marked path. Go as early as possible, so you can walk in the shade and have plenty of time.

Public busses depart at 6:00am and 7:45am, is 1 hour ride, and cost 14 euro return ticket. Travel agency busses cost 24 euro but have the advantage to pick you up at 6:00am close to your hotel. At 6:00 there are no busses to Chania and the only other option is to wait for the 7:00am bus to Chania and then catch the 7:45am bus to Samaria. There is a 5 euro entrance to the national park.

After hiking for 6 hours you will reach the village of Agia Roumeli, by the sea, where you can eat in one of the restaurants, swim and buy the 8-9 euro boat ticket from the small kiosk. The boat will pick you up around 16:00pm and take you to village of Sfakia, where the busses wait for the boat to arrive, and will take you back to Chania.

In Chania prefecture, there are many large and small gorges. Nevertheless, few are accessible without private transport or guide.

By bicycle to Agia lake

Crete is very mountainous and due to the summers’ high temperatures cycling is not recommended.

From Agii Apostoli though there is one easy and beautiful route you can take. You can rent a bicycle for 10 euro for one day, 8 euro per day if you rent for 3 days or more. Cycle to Galatas village, then to Stalos and finally to Agia lake. It’s a small rural road away from traffic, where you can see the original Crete with stone houses and fields filled with olive and orange trees. Agia lake is a popular spot for bird watchers, especially in April-May and September-October, as it is a passing ground for migrating birds. This should take you 1-1.5 hours cycling and can make small diversions depending on what draws your attention.

On the way back you have two options. Either return along the same way, or take the road next to the river that flows to Gerani village. Before you reach Gerani and the old national road turn right and try to return along the secondary small farm roads. In any case avoid riding along the old national road, as it is filled with traffic, hotels, it’s noisy and not a pleasant ride.

For the stronger cyclers, continue from Agia towards Omalos and the village of Zourva 700m high, and then descent towards Therisso village and gorge. You will see unique mountain nature and life with panoramic views of Chania. In total its 5-6 hours of continued cycling without stops (including 1.5 hours downhill ride), and many steep difficult curves up to Zourva.

Akrotiri peninsula

Akrotiri is the peninsula north west of Chania, where the airport is located. At Akrotiri there are certain places of interest which you can visit mainly by car.

Two historic monasteries are worth to visit, Tsagarolon (Agia Triada) and Gouverneto. To reach them you need a car. The monasteries were built around the 16th century and are located in beautiful countryside filled with olive trees. From Gouverneto monastery there is a 40 minute easy well marked path towards the old monastery of Katholiko and Saint John cave.

Alternatively you can drive or catch a bus to the beautiful beach of Stavros, where Zorba the Greek was filmed. There are frequent busses from Chania and cost 7 € return.

On the way to Chania stop at Eleftherios Venizelos graves to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Chania, especially during sunset. The Venizelos graves is like a big park with 2 graves of the famous Greek politicians, a small church built by the Russian Tsar in 1900 and a statue of Kagiales, a symbol of Cretan resistance and the quest for freedom. Nearby there are cafes to sit, the best is Koukouvagia café.

Therisso gorge, mountain villages and archaeology

Another nice route is to drive towards Therisso village through its beautiful gorge. Then go left towards Drakona village where is Dounias restaurant, the best in the area. Continue east to Stilos with its springs and then to Aptera. In Aptera there is a Turkish fort and an ancient Roman town with huge cisterns and spectacular views over Suda bay. Then either go east to Kalives for a swim, or drive along the mountain road to Malaxa on the west and enjoy the scenic route and return to Chania. Its one full day excursion.

Agia Irini gorge, Sougia and Lissos

The following route is nice if you want to combine a small gorge, sea and alternatively, antiquities.

Take the early first bus from Chania or drive to Sougia and stop at Agia Irini gorge entrance. Hike 2.5 hours through Agia Irini gorge until you reach the main road to Sougia and follow it. Bring your own water and snacks, or eat at Sougia. We recommend Polifimos restaurant on Sougias’ main road before you reach the beach.

Alternatively you can hike 45 minutes to Lissos, where there was an Asklepion (ancient medical healing centre), a spring, a small temple with nice mosaic and two nice old churches. To return you can take a water taxi after you contact Captain George from Sougia, who is easy to reach, just ask around Sougia.

To return to your car at Agia Irini, take the bus which departs at 18:00 from Sougia port, after the boat arrival and ask to be dropped off at the entrance to the gorge.


Sfakia is a region with high mountains, rugged coastline and deep gorges. The area is best explored by car.

You can visit 3 beautiful small gorges, Aradena, Imbros and Kalikratis gorges. You need around 3-2 hour hike one way. Many other hikes are possible in this area. Take water with you.

Sfakia is dotted with small beaches, but the best is eastwards, Fragocastelo with the old Venetian fort.


Paleohora is a small village with plenty of beaches to choose from. East and west of the village has nice beaches.

Further to the east is the hippy beach of Gyaliskari. If you drive 10 minutes to the west is Krios beach covered by cedar trees.

For small hike, walk through Anidri gorge.

Lefka Ori

Lefka Ori, or White Mountains, is the main mountainous landmass of western Crete. For the adventurous traveler who has its own transport, it’s the ideal area for discovering the genuine Cretan way of living, following centuries of traditions. Every village and every villager has a story to tell. It’s up to you to discover it!

Knossos and Heraklio

The archaeological site of Knossos is well known as it marked the beginning of the Greek (and European) civilization. Chania to Knossos is 2.5 hours by car. By public bus its 2.5 hour to Heraklio, depart every hour and cost 22 €, then change busses and pay an extra 2.50 €, 20 minute ride to Knossos.

In Heraklio you could also visit the archaeological museum, which has many of Knossos artifacts and walk along the pedestrianised street where the main Venetian buildings are located. Don’t miss the Lions’ square and fountain.

Rethymno Prefecture and beaches

Rethymnon is a nice small city which many people would describe as a ‘miniature’ of Chania. There are busses from Chania every hour and cost 10 euro return. To venture further south for the day is possible only by car.

South of Rethymno, on the mainland, the most beautiful villages are Argyroupoli and Spili, both famous for their springs and archaeological ruins.

If you wish to visit beaches, Rethymno offers many options. South of Rethymno is Preveli monastery and nearby Kourtaliotis river flows, filled with palm trees. If you drive west, you will come across Plakias, Kato Rodakino and Frangocastello villages. All have gorgeous sandy beaches and restaurants. If you want to be more isolated though, go east to Agia Fotini, Triopetra and Agios Pavlos beaches. There are many smaller beaches between the above places that is hard to describe how to get there as you have to drive along dirt roads.

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10. Re: real greece

Wow, George T. This was not my question but I thank you for the detail in your response. I'm visiting crete for the first time in october. My itinerary is sorted with just a couple of your suggestions, no need for me to buy a guide book - just a good map now!