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Crete with the family - trip report and pictures

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This was primarily a family holiday but as there have been questions asked about travelling to Greece with children and we did a little exploring of the area, I decided to write a report anyway. I hope soomeone will find it of interest.

First, the pictures:

Part 1 - background and villa

I have always fancied the idea of having at least one holiday together as an extended family and this year we were in a position to make it happen. I also wanted to introduce the family to the delights of Greece - my daughter's only experience being to the likes of Falaraki in her younger, partying days, my son's a visit to Cyprus when he was about 17. To that end, we set about trying to find the ideal destination and accommodation for all the family, consisting of me and hubby, grown us son, daughter and her husband and our grandson, aged 2 and three quarters. We wanted a villa, rather than separate apartments and some privacy, at least in terms of separate bathrooms. For the resort we wanted somewhere fairly quiet, without being totally dead, a safe sandy beach and a choice of places to eat - preferably within walking distance. We wanted to make this holiday special, so were willing to spend more than our normal budget to get the right place - within limits.

After a lot of searching, we found what looked to be an ideal villa in the village of Plaka, near Almyrida in Crete. The villa was marketed by a company called Villa Select. They are primarily a villa booking agency, though they will also book flights and car hire, if required. We got them to book the Monarch charter flights for us but booked our own car hire through Economy Car Rentals.

Our villa was every bit as good as shown on the web site. It was about 100 years old, belonging to the people who ran the Elpis taverna in the village and had been recently lovingly restored. The villa was approached down a narrow alley way in the village, shaded by grape vines. At the end was an archway with a blue door that opened to a large courtyard. In the courtyard was a small swimming pool surrounded by sunbeds, a large wooden table and chairs and finished off with tubs and troughs of flowers. The villas double doors led into the central dining room and kitchen area. Off this were the 2 downstairs bedrooms and stairs to the upstairs bedroom, each room spacious, ensuite and with it's own living area. There were 2 roof terraces, each with views over the rooftops to the mountains and the bay at Almyrida. The villa had been well restored, retaining original features such as huge stone archways, wooden roof beams and exposed, honey coloured stone walls.

This was primarily a family holiday, so we didn't do our usual amount of touring and exploring and the younger members were largely happy to spend time sunning themselves in the courtyard and cooling off in the pool. In the evenings we either ate locally in the village or ventured down into Almyrida. We also had a few barbeques in our courtyard and a couple of even lazier nights when we got a take-away. We did have a few trips out - some as a family and some on our own - and a few walks in the local area.

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    Thanks Tod

    The villa is quite expensive high season but we paid less than half the high season price and it went for even less in May. Due to it's layout, it can easily house 3 couples with some privacy, to share the cost.

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    Hi Maria,
    What wonderful pictures. We did this same trip last year right at this time. We shared a villa with our son and DIL. Our villa was in the same area. We had a fabulous vacation. The beach at Almyrida is perfect for children. The water is shallow for quite a distance. I loved the drive to southern Crete. The views are fabulous. Didn't you love the food? We ventured off our usual Greek cuisine and tried many new items that were so tasty. I would love to go again as a family. Your pictures are lovely and bring back such good memories.
    Thanks, Yipper

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    Part 2 - local area

    The village of Plaka sits on the hill up above Almyrida and is about 30 minutes drive from Chania airport. There are 2 tavernas in the centre (Elpis and the one opposite, whose Greek only name I didn't write down), a couple of cafe-bars, a sweet cafe and a couple of small mini-markets. There is a further taverna called Sunset, 5 minutes walk down the hill - with a great view over the bay of Almyrida and of course the sunset. All the local tavernas were very good. Elpis was slightly more expensive but had a much more extensive and imaginative menu and even did a take-away service. My favourite meal there was chicken in a Metaxa and cream sauce - very tasty! We never had a meal without being offered small carafe of raki and either fruit or a sweet "on the house" afterwards. For 2 courses and drinks, we paid between 10 and 20 euros a head and all the tavernas were very welcoming of our grandson.

    Almyrida is a small resort with a curving, shallow sandy bay. From the village, it took us 15-20 minutes to walk down to Almyrida - a bit more walking back up the steep hill, especially in the heat of the day. Alternatively it took 5 minutes in the car. There are sections of beach with sunbeds, for those who want them but also plenty of empty sand, ideal for making sand castles. With the exception of a couple of windy days, the sea was calm and safe for little ones. There are a dozen or so tavernas, cafe-bars and a few shops and mini-markets. The resort is primarily suitable for couples or families with nothing to suit the livelier tastes. All the tavernas we tried were good and lots of fresh fish was available. Many of the tavernas had their tables directly overlooking the beach. We had a particularly good meal at Erotokritos, which did a wonderful kleftiko, wrapped in a paper parcel. Again, free raki and dessert came after every meal.

    The local coastline is very attractive with a number of sandy bays nearby. Kalives is about 4km away and had a few more shops, tavernas, banks and it's own sandy beach. It was possible to walk there in about an hour and a quarter, largely on quiet lanes and tracks. Scattered about the hills above the coast are a number of small villages. There is quite a lot of new development in the area, mainly in the form of large, luxury villas but no all-inclusive or huge complexes that we noticed. How the new development will affect the old villages remains to be seen but some change is inevitable. Plaka's tavernas were kept busy and there were a number of offices offering real estate, furnishings and a flourishing garden centre, obviously aimed at stocking the well kept gardens round the villas.

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    Part 3 - excursions

    The resort of Georgioupolis is about half an hour drive to the east. It seems a pleasant enough place with it's little town square, the river flowing out to sea and the little white church on the end of a causeway. There were, however, too many sunbeds on the narrow sandy beach for my liking. A lot of the sunbeds seem to belong to Eden Park, which also has a large grassy landscaped area at the back of the beach with a swimming pool, taverna, bar, etc. We had lunch near the pool there, as there was a large climbing frame and slide that kept the little one happy while we ate. From here a tourist land train departs the 3km to Lake Kournas, which is apparently the only natural, fresh water lake on Crete. It is also obviously a stop for some of the coach tours, which piled in from time to time. At the waters edge there are a few tavernas and gift shops and a stony "beach" complete with sunbeds. It is an attractive area and a pleasant place to spend an hour or two, maybe stop forlunch and perhaps take a trip round the lake on a pedal boat or kayak.

    We had a couple of trips into Chania, the 30 minute car trip taking considerably longer when we got stuck in the weekday traffic - Sunday was a bit easier. Negotiating the one way system in town is a bit of a nightmare but we did manage to find the area to the west of the harbour where we knew there was some free parking. Unfortunately they are currently re-developing the area and until this is completed, it has reduced the parking spaces and our car almost got blocked in. The Venetian port of Chania is a fascinating place to wander round. The pedestianised harbour side is lined with bars and restaurants. Horse and carriage rides and numerous boat trips are available from the harbour. Heading back from the water, past the fountain we entered the maze of shady streets full of shops and restaurants. There are some fantastic looking places to eat, tucked away in little courtyards and ruined buildings. The market hall is also worth a visit, where you can buy everything from a sheep's head to jars of honey and olive oil. I came away stocked up with an array of aromatic herbs and spices. Unfortunately our plans to spend a few evenings there for a meal never materialised - it would be lovely to spend a couple of days actually staying in the town sometime, to avoid negotiating the traffic.

    We had one longer drive on our own, where we decided to head south across the island to Chora Sfakion. The road winds up through the mountains, with some beautiful views and we saw what we think were huge soaring eagles flying up above. Just beyond Imbros, where the road starts winding it's way back down hill, we hit road works. They are widening the road, cutting into the mountainside and building tunnels to take out some of the bends. In typical Greek style, we drove past whist huge diggers worked above on precariously stacked heaps of rock and I tried not to look too closely at the drops on the other side of the road. Lower down, the roadwork's have been completed and the tarmac snakes it's way down to the coast at Chora Sfakion. We stopped at the little harbour with it's shady tavernas for a bite to eat and a look round, before heading west up the road that finishes at Aghios Ioannis. This road starts by zig-zagging steeply back uphill and was also partly in the process of being widened. We couldn't work out why so much effort was being put into this road, as it only goes to a couple of tiny villages and then ends in a dead end.

    Just after the village of Anopoli, we were flagged down by a long bearded, weather-beaten shepherd, carrying a twisted staff. He indicated that he wanted a lift and as the road headed in one direction only, we picked him up and headed up the road, crossing a wood and metal bridge and dropping him off where he indicated in the middle of an olive grove. He shook our hands and vanished into the trees. We carried on the end of the road which finished in a dead end at the church - it can only be a couple more miles from there to the end of the Samaria Gorge. We headed back along the road, passing our shepherd, now re-united with his flock. There were beautiful views up towards the southern side of the white mountains. When we got back to the bridge and looked more closely, we realised that it crossed over a deep gorge. Stopping at the side we found this was the Aradena Gorge, which has trail running down it to the sea. I walked very gingerly back across the bridge to take some pictures, trying not to look down and realising that some of the planks that made up the bridge looked rather cracked and worn. There was a sign on one side of the bridge advertising a bungy jump but no sign of anyone there. We drove back (holding my breath as we re-crossed the bridge), down towards Chora Sfakion then back up the winding road heading north, this time taking a right hand turn through the mountains just past Imbros. There was more spectacular scenery, though by this time the afternoon cloud had built up on the mountains, so we did not stop to take pictures. It made in interesting day trip though some beautiful scenery.

    Another, more local trip, was to the site of ancient Aptera. The site is just south of the national road, not far from Kalives. The ancient city dates back to around 14th century BC but most of the remains to be seen are from Roman times (3rd or 4th centuries AD) or later. The large site is free to enter and there were few tourists when we were there. There are some huge water cisterns, a Roman bath complex, a later monastery of St John Theologos and nearby a Turkish fort. There are some good views towards the mountains and sea, making it a pleasant area to wander round. The Turkish fort is not at present open but appears to be undergoing major restoration. There are some good views form there along the coast and of another fort below, still occupied by the military though I'm not sure you should take pictures of that one!


    This was a lovely holiday that I'm sure will leave us all with many happy memories - and more than a few photographs. The villa was fantastic and village life was very relaxed and generally very peaceful apart from a few local dogs barking and a couple of days when the Greek airforce were playing tag over the bay. Despite some development, the north of Crete has some attractive areas, not spoiled by mass tourism and we were not disappointed in the area, resort or village. I'd definitely recommend Plaka and Almyrida for a relaxed family holiday with plenty to explore further afield.

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    Kalives as well as all the Apokoronas region is a very beatifull place to explore. Apokoronas is situated between Chania and Rethymnon, in the beautiful rolling foothills of the White Mountains and only a short distance from the northern Cretan sea. It is the traditional area with a rich cultural heritage.

    Widely known as a destination where someone can become immersed into the real authentic Crete, relax and combine holiday entertainment with cultural pursuits. Mountain and plain, river and sea, wild nature and cultivable ground.Landscapes of absolut beauty, settlements that maintain the traditional element, but also built-up areas with cosmopolitan atmosphere, good night life, modern hotel units with services of high quality, restaurants, travel agencies, car rentals and possibility of easy access in each point of Western Crete via the highway that links the big cities of island. In Apokoronas area the most known seaside villages are Kalyves and Almyrida.

    Moreover in the Apokoronas region you will find several beautiful villages you can visit by renting a car. You can find the best prices in flisvos tours ( ). One of these villages is Plaka. Plaka is a very nice village built on a hill at an altitude of 70 meters, almost amphitheatrically offering great views to Almyrida and of course to the blue Cretan Sea and the Bay of Souda.

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