Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Holiday: Crete

Keenan and I just returned from a week long family holiday to the Greek Isles with my older sister and her husband in town from Hong Kong and my kid sister from California who just finished her first semester of nursing school.
The first leg of our family holiday took us to the largest and southern-most island of GreeceCrete - which is known for its rugged landscape, famous gorges, hiking, and sun-drenched beaches. Crete is a hiker’s paradise so if you fancy hiking, then you should base yourself in either Rethymnon or Chania for the Samaria Gorge, otherwise, head to the eastern part of Crete and stay in or around Elounda Bay, or as far as Vai. 

Scenic views of Crete:
After touching down in Heraklion, we made the obligatory visit to the Knossos, the largest Minoan palace, located about 5 miles south of the airport. If you are an archaeological enthusiast of all things related to the late Bronze period, then Knossos will be your little slice of heaven. But for us, it was a bit underwhelming. My suggestion is to get a guide as the palace isn’t very well signposted, otherwise, you may feel like you are looking at piles of stones and a few reconstructed buildings. 

We booked a 3br-2ba villa with a pool and view of the sea just outside of the Venetian city of Rethymnon. The villa was well-designed with an open plan kitchen, dining and living room -- perfect for socializing and entertaining. We spent most of our time in the villa due to the dreadful rain. Yes rain in Crete in late May – way to spoil a sun holiday! However as it has been well over two years since we were all under the same roof, we ceased the opportunity for some quality family-bonding time playing board games, following President Obama’s European tour through Ireland, U.K., France, and Poland on the BBC, and BBQed...English-style in the rain!

When it wasn’t raining, we spent lazy mornings and afternoons sunbathing in the garden, explored the town of Rethymnon, and went on a scenic drive to the south coast. Like the rest of central Crete, Rethymnon is a gritty city with a Venetian castle built in 1590 to protect the city from the Turks as well as a lively harbour and pleasant old town. For dinner one evening, we went to Taverna Kyria Maria (Moshovitou 20, Rethymnon), a small family-run restaurant located in a small narrow alleyway in Old Town for a traditional Cretan dinner washed down with Mythos beer and a complimentary strong shot of raki.
Rethymnon Harbour and Venetian Castle: 
Perhaps the highlight of Crete was the drive to the southern coast through Kourtaliotko Gorge to the beaches of Plakias and Damnoni, and visiting the hilltop monastery of Moni Preveli. The beaches along the south coast are less crowded and the sweeping bay of Plakias makes it ideal for sunbathing (beware for the nudist beach at the far end of Plakias) and swimming although the water was freezing.

The Moni Preveli is also worth a visit though I should note that the road up to the monastery is treacherous. Due to its isolated position, Moni Preveli played an important role in Cretan revolts against the Nazis during World War II. There is a statue commemorating the Battle of Crete in 1941.
After spending a few days in Crete, we took a 2 hr high-speed ferry from Heraklion port to the island of Santorini. More to come from Greece


  1. Amazing article and nice pictures. I've been to Crete twice and I love the island. I am a big fan of hiking and the SamariĆ” Gorge is pretty challenging!

  2. Thanks! Wish we had time to hike Samaria Gorge...next time.