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allsons123 Oct 10th, 2009 03:01 PM

Crete itinerary
Okay- 5 days on Crete
I know you need 2 weeks or more to see everything.
But what are the must sees and dos for 5 days?
We will have a car.
We are thinking of staying in Chania.
Should we consider someplace else or maybe 2 places?

catsailor Oct 10th, 2009 05:07 PM

1. Hike Samarian Gorge
2. Hire a sailboat with captain in the port of Chania, sailing excursion for the day, stopping at secluded beaches or small island off Chania
3. Visit Loutro
4. Visit Rethymon
5. Dine at one of the wonderful outdoor restaurants in Chania
6. Stay in Old Town Chania and explore by foot
7. Eat at Tamam Chania (a must - favored by locals)
8. Spend a day exploring the coast
9. Visit Palace of Knossos

All these, other than the last are in Western Crete since you are considering that area. Palace of Knossos is outside of Heraklion so you could see that on your way from Chania to the ferry for Santorini.

I did not visit Loutro, the last trip, but marked it as a place I want to visit next time. It can only be accessed by water.

You could consider splitting the time between 2 destinations, but I found Chania a good base and 5 nights isn't very much time given the last day you would need to depart early for the port of Heraklion to catch your ferry. So now you're down to 4 1/2 days of sight seeing. Hiking the Samarian Gorge takes in excess of 12 hours if you count travel time to and from. It should not be missed, I consider it the most amazing hike I have ever been on.

How is that for starters?

travelerjan Oct 10th, 2009 06:35 PM

That is not the only gorge... there is one just outside of Rethymnon that gives you an invigorating hike of half a day, and you aren't wiped out, you can do it without a guide or company I think... just about 8 Km instead of 16... and a good choice if shorter on time. Hike from inland to the sea... then taxi backto your rental car. Here's the link: It's the bottom one,
Mili Gorge:

Take some of Catsailors 9 and try to work out a sequence.
Day 1. fly into Chania in AM, spend rest of day exploring town (don't pick up car yet).
Day 2. Consider an excursion? go to Vamos traditional village (google it) or the water one
Day 3. A gorge? consider above...
Day 4. Drive east ... stop at Rethymnon for Fortezza... stop inland of Panorama for Melidoni Cave .. go to Palace of Knossos AFTER 3 pm (avoid cruise crowds)... stay at Karteros, on the beach, east of Heraklion.
Day 5. Explore around below Heraklion if you are interested in food & wine .. ARCHANES -- Big farming Town center … ancient sites PLUS good tavernas, Cretan food stuffs Excellent FREE archeological museum… MIRTIA.. apparently center of best wine country ... VATHY-PETRO has A Minoan villa & vineyard (FREE) that is approx 4,000 years old!!... collection of farm implements found there INCLUDING a unique wine press…. It’s still surrounded by vines; may be the only still functioning vineyard in Europe if not the world. in nearby HOUDHETSI – an odd Museum of musical instruments of the world …. 9:30-3 s5:30-8pm daily --
Day 6 AM - turn in car at airport; get the rental guy to drive YOU to Heraklion port (so u don't have to figure out Heraklion crazy streets).

Day 5.
Day 5

travelerjan Oct 10th, 2009 06:36 PM

Ignore the last 2 i forgot to delete...

catsailor Oct 10th, 2009 06:47 PM

Thanks travelerjan to attempt a sequence. I failed to mention I braindumped in no particular order.

I like the sound of the gorge you recommended. In my future trip to Crete, I'd actually like to circumnavigate Crete and include some of the less known hikes in gorges.

sheila Oct 11th, 2009 02:07 AM

That list misses out so much. I would stay in Chania or nearby- I actually prefer the smaller villages, although Chania should be within easy striking distance. You have to go to Knossos. I would normally say you have to go to the Archaeological Museum in Iraklion as well, but it's closed just now with a small collection in a Portakabin or something.

I think seeing the mountains is more important than walking a gorge, although the latter can include the former.

The beach at Elafonissos is wonderful.

When are you going?

catsailor Oct 11th, 2009 09:29 AM

eastcretemagazine: I added your website to my favorites for future reference. As I mentioned earlier my goal is to circumnavigate Crete as some poin in the near future.

stanbr Oct 11th, 2009 06:46 PM

Hey allsons.
Glad to see you have chosen some time on Crete. It is so large that you need to chose an area to explore and not waste time traveling from the West to the east.
Our experience is in Western Crete and I see you are interested in Chania. It is a very good location. The old town of Chania still has city walls, a Venetian Era harbour with lighthouse, a wonderful vibrant waterfront and a warren of back alleys to explore.
I have some pictures which to give you an idea of what to expect.

Chania also makes a great jump off place for many of the places Jan mentioned earlier.

catsailor Oct 11th, 2009 07:10 PM

stanbr: Great photos of Chania. What time of year were you there? Doesn't look as crowded as when I was there - mid July.

All the talk of Crete has me itching to plan a trip and I am looking at possibly going end of Sept 2010 if I can convince my husband to take time off.

If I were able to plan for 12 full days on Crete would I be able to experience both Western & Eastern Crete? Or would you suggest focussing on one area. We enjoy visiting small towns, dining, going to the beack/snorkelling and hiking.

stanbr Oct 11th, 2009 08:36 PM

We were in Crete in June. I suspect September would be similar but probably a bit warmer. Certainly not too crowded and there were walk up hotel bargains to be had in June.
We had two weeks in Crete and planned on visiting Western Crete only. Frankly we ran out of time and did not visit everywhere we planned to. Based on that experience I would say chose East or West and just stay there.
Here are smn epictures of our whole trip t Crete not just Chania. It really is quite breathtaking.

catsailor Oct 12th, 2009 08:25 AM

stanbr: Thank you for sharing your amazing pictures. You definately have an eye for photography.

We did not visit some of the places you did on your trip; Elafonisi looks wonderful. I see what you mean about time. Crete just has too much to offer to rush about. BTW did you stay in Chania or did you move and stay in other villages as well?

stanbr Oct 12th, 2009 08:57 AM

cat, on our two week trip we spend two nights in Rethymnon in the old town. I had read that Rethymnon has charm but you have to look for it. I would tend to agree.
Then we spent 4 nights in Chania with a day trip out to the Gramavossia Peninsula and Falararnia Beach however that trip was a disaster because of a huge freak storm ( thus no pictures)
That storm washed out the coastal road to Elafonisi so we took the interior mountain road. Quite spectacular.

We stayed two nights at Paleochora with its picturesqe location and ocen views on two sides. The little town did not seem to be too special until dinner time when the roads were all blocked off and tables suddenly appeared on the streets and the whole central town became a dining area. There are quite good beaches nearby.

After Palechora we headed back up the road to the north highway scooted east and down south again to Horaskafion. I have a knee woul;d not even consider a walk like that so we decided the closest we could get to the Samaria Gorge would be to be in Horaskafion to greet the hoards of people arriving on the ferry after the Gorge walk. What a disappointment! They all trooped to the dozens of tour buses and left without even stopping for a drink. Horaskafion was pretty lonely after that. Given what I know now I would slip further east on the coastal road to Frnagokasteli the haunted Venetian coastal fortress. It has two tavernas and a few small hotels with a good beach.

We then headed further to the east along the coast of the Lybian Sea. Beautiful views. We arrived in Plakias which is a dull little town but we found a lovely bougainvillea covered studio which was delightful. The town exists to provide service to the tourists who flock there for the 3km beautiful beach. It is so big you can easily find a whole section all to yourself and it never felt crowded. Plakias is a great location for an boat excursion to Prevalli Beach or a drive to Spili and the Prevalli Monistery. We got lost several times on our drive but discovered so many lovely places along the coast. We decided to hunker down at Plakias and spent 4 nights there. One highlight was a small grocery store that had hooked up a barrel of wine to a water cooler and you could sample the wine right out of the tap and buy it in two liter containers. What more could you ask for.

travelerjan Oct 12th, 2009 11:30 AM

Stanbr, that reminds me of a place I saw while I was on a bus last May out of Nafplio in the Pelopponese, back toward Corinth. It is in the heart of the wine district that produces the WONDERFUL Nemea red wine. Just before we reached the BIG highway, north of Argos, I looked to my Left and on our little road, there was a wine "filling station." A squarish building with clear glass front window. Inside were large steel barrels with spigots. People were going in with Huge Gallon jugs and filling them up, probably at 2€ per jug. Almost got off the bus!

progol Oct 12th, 2009 01:29 PM

Stanbr, travelerjan, other Crete "specialists"...

I'm planning a 6 day itinerary for Crete (followed by Santorini & Naxos) for either next May/June or September/October. I'd like to stay 3 nights in Chania to start and end in Iraklion, and visiting Knossos the afternoon before arriving.

The other 2 nights are open, and I'd like to stay in 2 different places, and would appreciate your feedback or suggestions.

I think on the 2nd full day in Chania, we would take a short day trip (Vamos or the Akrotiri peninsula.

I'd like to visit either Falassarna or Elafonissi beach, so that we get a feeling for the less-touristy south/western beaches. There are ruins at Falassarna, and I wonder if those would satisfy my interest in seeing ruins that are still untouched.

I'm also interested in taking a spectacular inland route, and the description of the inland route you took to Elafonisi, Stan, sounds like what I'm interested in.

The rough guide to the Greek Islands (p. 300)describes a trip from Kasteli, through Elos & Topolia, including the chapel of Aya Sofia, that sounds gorgeous, and I wonder if that's the route you took.

I would love to visit Phaestos, although the central coast doesn't sound nearly as appealing as the south/western coast. If we stayed in or near Elafonissi on Day 4, where could we stay on Day 5 to visit this site?

Or, how would you use those 2 days to take in the elements of spectacular mountain scenery, beautiful beach, and possibly unvarnished ancient ruin?


travelerjan Oct 12th, 2009 05:29 PM

I'm doing a very similar thing, come May, progol. Land in Chania Friday may 14 ... will go out on Wedneday May 19, unless it turns out to be a "no-sail day" for Hellenic fast ferry -- in which case I'm hoping IJ has an alternate catamaran, or the usual Tuesday nite "slow ferry"is operating.

We're driving down via Spili, stop at Phaestos, we'll be at Matala by 2 or so... really, it's a short drive. ... Problem with going down to Elafonissi -- have you looked at the mountain ranges? they run vertically so except on north coast u can hardly move west to east. You have to go back north & then back down. A map like this (click to enlarge) makes it clear:

I have done the Falassarna thing ... drove down Topolian, went to St. Sophia, Turned west at Elon to the sea, then UP to Falassarna. In may the water temp was BRUTAL!! Then we drove back East to Heraklion -- didn't go down to Libyan sea that trip.

stanbr Oct 12th, 2009 05:48 PM

Jan is correct you really can not get anyplace from Elafonesi with out heading back north again before heading East.
While Elafonisi was a memorable beach it really had no infrastructure. There wasn't even a gas station, just a taverna which appeared to have a few rooms but for the most part Elafonisi appeared to be a day destination where you need to go someplace else to stay the night.
You can head back up into the mountains and circle back down to Paoachora. From there it is an easy drive back north to Chania and on to heraklion easily doable in 4 to 5 hours.

Better bet is Jans suggestion. Head down the spectacular switchback road to Horaskafion but at the bottom head east to Frankakastelli. While it is quite small you do get a good beach and a Venetian Fortress although a small one. I think it was probably a getaway location for overworked Venetian soldiers given its location on the beach. From there it is easy to get to Plakis, Spilli and Matala and then back up to Heraklion.
Sorry I cannot comment on Falasarnia as we never made it there. The rain was blowing sideways in a gale and we thought discretion was the better part of valor so we headed home to Chania that day.

sheila Oct 12th, 2009 11:58 PM

Well, there is one way to do it and that's to take the little ferries along the south coast, but, from memory, and I haven't got time to check right now, they stop at Hora Sfakion.

The Akrotiri is a really nice visit, esp. if you do the monasteries.

If it were me, I'd do Elafonissos on the second day out of Chanis- maybe add a day to Chania to do it. The ruins at Falassarna are fairly unreadable and if you haven't done one of the excavated palaces/towns, I would think they would lend you little. It's a beautiful beach and they are worth seeing, but I think you need a context.

progol Oct 13th, 2009 03:36 AM

I have looked at the mountain ranges, and that's why I've been trying to figure out what would make sense to do, and which places would be most worthwhile. In fact, I was trying to create an itinerary in which we would stay in one of the far-flung places on the west coast, but it really doesn't make sense if we're travelling in an easterly direction along the southern coast.

For now, I like the suggestion to take the switchback road toward Horaskafion and on to Horaskafion or one of the other beaches. That way we can visit Phaestos, which appeals to me. I did visit Knossos more than 30+ years ago, but my husband didn't, and though I know it's overly done, it's worth seeing. But I will feel pleased if we get to see ruins that are in their natural element and not so restored.

From what you're saying Sheila, Elafonissos or Falassarna is a manageable day trip from Chania? If that's the case, it probably makes sense to stay in Chania for 4 days, then travel on to Matala (or other beach) and see Phaestos on day 5, before heading to Knossos and Iraklion.

Many thanks for your thoughtful suggestions. I knew I could count on all of you for good feedback.


travelerjan Oct 13th, 2009 06:47 AM

Paule --
Here is the BEST online map Click on it to enlarge. Look at it carefully, and Scroll around on it.

If you want to "experience" a far west beach and ALSO go to HOra Sfakon and ALSO go to Phaestos... I don't think you can spend 3 full days in Chania. If you do not go to HOra Sfakion but instead do as WE are doing this year ... take the easier road diagonally down from Rethymnon to Spili to Phaestos ... it will take less time.

BTW, Horas Sfakion does not have a decent beach.

Here would be one scenario (AFTER your time in Chania):

DAY 1 - Drive west to Falassarna... enjoy beach, stay overnight (Hotel Petalida is ideal ofr the sunset, on bluff above beach... google it has a website. They fish... get fish dinner!

DAY 2 - Drive to Vrisses on Big Road 75, then down on Imbros Gorge Road (switchbacks!) to Hora Sfakion. That will take you half a day? in the 2nd half of day 2 alternatives
A --- if u were feeling energetic you could take the CLIFF walk from Hora Sfakion to Loutro (which is inaccessible by car), Halfway in the walk is a spectacular beach, Sweetwater beach. At Loutro take a ferry back to Hora Sfakion... spend the nite there OR at a beach hotel by the castle of Frangokastello ... a medieval ruin. OR --
B -- just have lunch at Hora Sfakion, drive to se Frangocastello, then dirve on to Plakias, which is a beach resort, and stay the night.

DAY 3 -- This is the mountain-driving part. I was with a VERY skilled driver, and from HOra Sfakion at bout 2 pm, it took us until nearly 8 pm to reach Matala ... that's a bit beyond Phaistos, but not a lot. Start by 9 am from PLakias the hard bit is getting through the mountain roads to Spili ... it can be hair-raising ... then it's a good road to Phaistos. After all that you will not feel like going on to Knossos! Stay the night at Matala.

DAY 4 -- Climb up to the beach caves at Matala? (Joannie mitchell stayed there in the60s) ... then drive north through Mires to the Knossos area. Rather than stay in Heraklion, we are planning to stay in beach area near airporter, Karteros... hotel Prince of Lillies.

The Simpler Scenario

DAY 1 -- as before

Day 2 -- drive east to Rethymnon, stop JUST to see the Fortezza, not old town, then drive diagonallly south on GOOD road thru Spili to PHaistos, then on to Matala for the night

Day 3 -- to Knossos area

progol Oct 13th, 2009 03:47 PM

Wow, thanks for creating some possible itineraries - exactly what I was looking for!

Question about the mountain-driving part - is the easier route that you are taking still scenic? It sounds like the Imbros Gorge Road may be more stressful than pleasurable, and all those switchbacks may wreak havoc on my stomach (I'll come fully-supplied with bonine and dramamine!).

I've already bookmarked Hotel Petalida, thanks to one of your earlier posts - I do like the idea of staying there with the balcony overlooking the sea and fresh seafood for dinner.

You've given me much to think about - and now I'll just have to wait until we're ready to make this trip a reality. The planning is fun - but not the same thing!


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