I’m back home for four weeks now and in the midst of another lockdown, it’s crazy to me that I was able to spend the summer the way I did – living my best island life aka. Mamma Mia life in Greece. In my last blog post, I wrote about traveling to Athens, Mykonos, Paros, Milos, and Santorini, so if you haven’t read it yet, you can click here. But let’s talk about my time on Crete.
On the 1st of September (after spending the first few hours of the day at the pool of our accommodation), we went to the port of Thira, from where we took our very last long-distance ferry ride to Heraklion, Crete. As the boat shipped into the harbor, I felt kinda sentimental because I spent some of my best holidays on this island and haven’t been there in over eight years.
After we left the ferry, we searched for the bus terminal, which wasn’t easy to find at first but ended up being only a few minutes away from the port. From there, we had to wait a few hours until we took a bus to Chania, the second largest city of Crete, which is located in the western part of the island.
I’ve never been to Chania before and haven’t done a lot of research in advance, so I had little idea what to expect of the city. Therefore, I was surprised by the fact that the old town didn’t look very Greek to me but rather Italian – which only makes sense now as the old town is located directly at the Venetian harbor. I stayed in Chania for almost two weeks, but rather than going on one crazy day trip after another, I took it a bit slower overall.
In terms of culture, Chania doesn’t have that much to offer, but it’s definitely the perfect destination for anyone who loves to take a stroll through a beautiful old town, eat gelato, and shop in cute local boutiques. Besides that, Chania isn’t far away from some of the most beautiful beaches on the island.
The first beach we’ve visited was Balos Beach, which is located in the north-west of Crete. To get there, you can either take the public bus to Kissamos and then take a ferry, or you can save time and money by simply renting a car and go there by yourself – in that case, you also don’t need to take a ferry. Unfortunately, we went there by public transport because we weren’t aware that the ferry ride was so expensive and slow, although it wasn’t even a long distance at all.
When we finally arrived at the beach, it was extremely crowded and we only had about 1,5 hours there, since we were dependent on the ferry that went back to Kissamos. Other than that, though, it was a nice day trip. A pleasant surprise on our way back was, that we made a stop at a little island called Gramvousa, which used to be a pirate island. After we left the ferry, we hiked up a small mountain to get to the castle fortress, from where we had an incredible view of the seafront.
On the next day, we took yet another early bus that went straight to Elafonisi Beach in the south-west of the island. Gladly, we had much more time there than at Balos Beach. Elafonisi Beach is well known for its pink sand that creates a beautiful contrast with the light blue water. Don’t be fooled though, the sand is actually not as pink as it looks on photos that you find online. Nevertheless, Elafonisi surely is the most beautiful beach that I’ve seen on the island of Crete.
After my friend flew back to Germany, I was on my own most of the time, but if you ever stayed in a hostel, you know how easy it is to get to know other people – even if you weren’t planning on it. At my second hostel in Chania, I met a bunch of people who I joined on a day trip to the south of the island, which ended up being one of my best days in Greece.
First, we went to some waterfalls that were FREEZING but insanely beautiful. Inside the little cave in the picture below, some rays of sunlight were coming through, and with the water from one of the waterfalls pouring down, they created two rainbows at the same time. Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the place.
After having a big lunch break at a local tavern, we drove to Preveli Beach to watch the sunset.
After my last day in Chania, I went to Georgioupoli. To be honest, there isn’t much to say about Georgioupoli itself as it is a very small and rather quiet town. However, it is situated along the route between Chania and Rethymno – the third-largest city of Crete – and therefore a good place to stay if you want to have a more relaxed holiday but still have the option to explore different areas nearby.
My second-longest stay on Crete was in Ammoudara, which is a coastal town on the western side of Heraklion. Ammoudara is supposed to be more of a party area under normal circumstances, but this year, it was almost deserted during the night and only moderately busy during the day. However, as it is only a 20-minute bus ride from Heraklion (the capital of the island), it’s a suitable option for anyone who doesn’t want to choose between the beach and having a lot of cultural sites close by.
Two of the most popular places to visit in Heraklion are the Archeological Museum and the Palace of Knossos, which are free for all EU citizens under the age of 25. If you are over 25 and want to visit both the Archeological Museum and the Palace of Knossos, you can purchase a combo ticket for 20€. I’m generally more interested in nature and therefore haven’t seen a lot of cultural sites during my time in Greece, but these two were worth a visit in my opinion.
My final destination before flying home was Anissaras, a coastal area close to Hersonissos. I stayed there with my parents with whom I haven’t been on vacation since I was 16 years old, so it felt kinda surreal in the beginning. The beach in Anissaras wasn’t that crowded and the water was rather calm, so it’s an ideal spot for renting a kayak, a paddleboat, or a SUP board.
One day, my mum and I went on a day trip to the island of Spinalonga, the fisher’s village of Elounda, and the historic city of Agios Nikolaos. The first stop – Spinalonga was definitely the highlight of the trip. I’m really not into history, but even I have to admit that the story of this island is really fascinating. Lepers from Crete once lived there not so long ago, completely isolated from their families, and had to build a whole new life on just 85 hectares. But even without the historical background, the island is an interesting place to explore.
My tip on booking tours like that is to check out tourist offices at the beach or in the city. You may think that every company offers almost the same routes for the same price, but this is definitely not the case at all. My mum and I, for example, paid 29€ each for our tour, which would’ve cost more than twice if we would’ve booked it via a german based travel agency at our hotel. So definitely do your research before you blindly book an overpriced tour.
I hope you liked my little recap & fingers crossed that traveling will be possible again next summer.