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Trip Report Our first trip to Greece: Wow! Crete, Santorini, Naxos, and Athens

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Wow. I can't believe how fantastic our trip to Greece was. Thank you first of all to Traveler Jan, Heimdall, Brotherleelove, and Stanbr for all of their frequent advice on this board. Thanks also to Tejana for her fantastic trip report from a couple of months back that gave us some great ideas.

Crete:

We flew into Chania on a Saturday afternoon and shortly after arrived at Casa Delfino where we were greeted by Margarita who was such a wonderful host to us. She gave us a few introductory words to practice in Greek and then we set off to explore over the next two days. Chania was a beautiful place to start our trip as we loved wandering through the winding streets and walking by the harbour and beach. Margarita gave us some great restaurant recommendations and we enjoyed them all. Portes on the first night was a great introduction to the wonderful meals we would be enjoying over the next couple of weeks. We also had a great lunch at Tamam and then our final dinner was at a fish tavern on the water, close to the museum. The name escapes me, but the friendly older gentleman who was the owner brought us into his kitchen to show off our fish options for the evening as we had our first of many whole fish dishes during our trip that night.

Casa Delfino was a great place to stay. We stayed in the executive suite on an upgrade and the breakfasts were some of our best from our entire trip. Some of the preserves were based on Margarita's family recipes and her family, in fact, has beeen associated with the hotel dating back to a couple of centuries back. The staff were ever kind and helpful. When the taxi strike began (at that time, it was only supposed to be 48 hrs!), Margarita phoned our car rental agency and had them drive over to bring our car as we were initially to meet them in the airport.

Two nights in Chania were just perfect for us. We had arranged our rental from Anna Cars and they promptly delivered our car the next morning and hopped in the car to help guide us out of Chania. I would highly recommend them. With the help of the GPS, we then began the drive to Frangokastello where we planned to stay for one night as we began our exploration of Southern Crete. We enjoyed the winding drive down which was beautiful. We then arrived at our hotel, Kallicrates Village, where we were greeted by the friendly owner Antonis. It was a beautiful property and only a quick drive to a couple of beaches and the castle. We enjoyed our afternoon on the beach right in front of the castle, our first of many beach days in the coming days. We then returned to our hotel where we had a relaxing swim before getting ready for dinner. Antonis had recommended a tavern on the beach closest to his place, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner overlooking the water and enjoying the first of many sunsets. The next morning, we took a walk on the beach and then returned for a great breakfast before setting off to our next destination, Triopetra. Antonis told us it would maybe take us 90 minutes. Famous last words!

Triopetra is a beach that had been recommended by a friend who travelled to Crete the previous summer. She warned me the drive was quite windy with gravel roads near the end. But I thought to myself, 'Hey, I'm from Vancouver...I've done plenty of mountain driving, how hard can it be?' Well, even after numeous drives through various winding country drives in Provence and Tuscany, this was totally a new experience for me! The GPS didn't register our destination so we were reliant on our maps. We stopped in Plakias for some additional directions from a very helpful woman in the tourist office. We then continued our drive through the mountains on the perfectly paved, but very narrow, windy, and guard rail less roads through the small tiny towns en route. I always had a laugh when I saw the sign indicating a winding section was ahead...they were all winding! After about 2.5 hours, we made it to the turn off for Triopetra. It said we were 11 km away. Easy right? Well, this was where the narrow roads turned to gravel. On top of that, they were in the process of paving the road so along the way we were encountering these massive trucks on this narrow road. After the longest 11km of my life, we arrived at our destination: Pension Pavlos at Triopetra. It was worth the drive!

Pension Pavlos is operated by a father and son. The father opened it about 25 years ago and is still invovled in the operation but Giorgos, the son, seems to primarily run the show right now. We overlooked this wonderful remote beach where we enjoyed suntanning, swimming, and exploring over the next two days. The pension is quite bare bones which totally fits the feel of Triopetra. We had all of our meals at the Pension as there is nothing else around. The food was incredible. The father would catch the fish in the morning and in the afternoon we could 'reserve' our fish for the evening. The meals were absolutely outstanding, as nearly all of the food was sourced from their nearby farm. Here in British Columbia, we always talk about 'eating local' but here it was the only option they would ever consider. Giorgos would always take the time to answer all of our questions about the food and about Triopetra and Pension Pavlos. He was there for every single meal of our stay. The beach was beautiful with another one close by within a short hike to explore. Staying here was one of the highlights of our trip as we were so far removed from anything. It felt wonderful. It was interesting because from our perspective, we were happy to see they were paving the road, as I selfishly thought it would make it easier to drive. The perspective of Giorgos was different, however; he thought it might make things too busy, and that sometimes the most special of places should take a little bit of work to get there. I would agree.

After two nights, we said our goodbyes and began our trek to Heraklion. The 11 km drive to the main highway went well, only a few big trucks to avoid! On the way to Heraklion, we stopped in Spilli which was a lovely town filled with artisans. What a great spot. We then continued on to Heraklion and the route here was far less challenging...until we got to the airport to drop off our car. It seemed quite busy on our approach and many cars were parked on the side of the road. When we got to the road toward the parking lot, there seemed to be a number of cars blocking our route and we were turned away and ended up back on the highway! So, after a few death defying turns, we found an exit and made our way back to the aiport to try again. This time we asked what was going on and the gentleman turning us around, a taxi driver, told us the taxi drivers had blockaded the aiport and we were to park our rental car on the off ramp from the airport along with everyone else. We parked our car, phoned Anna Cars, and they informed us they would not be greeting us as they had been blockaded at Chania Airport from the strike. He told us to leave the keys and the GPS with the parking lot cashier and assured us it was not a problem. We did as instructed and then walked 1.5 km to the nearest bus stop to take the bus into Heraklion, which was luckily not that far away. Our hotel, Lato Boutique Hotel, told us when we phoned them that they would then pick us up in the main square as the taxi strike had gone from a 48 hr. strike to an indefinite one, which we had been unaware of after being internet free for 3 nights in Southern Crete. We finally made it to our hotel, and lost only a minimal amount of time in the process. We spent the afternoon wandering through Heraklion and were glad we only had an afternoon here as this city had a grittier feel than the rest of the trip to date. We enjoyed our hotel, however, and our meal at their rooftop restaurant Herb's Garden, was one of our most memorable of the trip.

The next morning, we walked to our ferry which was close to our hotel to catch the Flying Cat to Santornini. We loved our time in Crete. Everyone was so friendly and the Cretan Cuisine was outstanding. Wow. We've already found some Cretan Olive Oil and Mountain Tea back home :)

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