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Home base(s) for Crete?

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We arrive in Crete September 13 at 1:30pm from Washington, DC. This will be our 2nd time in Crete.

9/13: taxi to Heraklion hotel, recover from jet lag
9/14: Pick up car, drive to Knossos (our 2nd time there), Herakleion Archaeological Museum, Phaistos, Matala beach.
9/15: Check out of hotel. Drive to Rethymnon: visit the town, Eleftherna, Preveli Beach, maybe Melidoni Cave, drive to Chania hotel
9/16-9/17: Lake Kournas, Samaria Gorge (if there is a short hike version), Balos Beach, Falasarna Beach.
9/18: Drive to Heraklion, return car, take 9:30 Hellenic Seaways ferry to Santorini.

When we go to the beaches, for most of them it is just to have a look for an hour or so, not to sunbathe or swim.

Do our home bases in Heraklion and Chania make sense? If so, can you recommend where in Heraklion to stay? It is a big city and we would prefer a “relaxed” part of Heraklion if possible. We are taking a taxi to the hotel because we think we will be dangerous driving after so much sleep deprivation. Likewise, does Chania make sense? Or would Rethymnon be a better base? Any area of Chania or Rethymnon you can recommend staying at?

Thank you.

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