Let me set the scene: it’s July 11th and I’m walking through Europe’s largest accessible Gorge in the 35°C heat. I’m trying to find the right balance between getting through the rough, rocky land in the time we have left and not falling flat on my face, which would probably result in me losing most of my teeth. Where could I be? In the South-West of Crete of course, hiking through the magnificent Samaria Gorge.
By this point, my partner and I had now spent our third and final day on the West coast of the beautiful and well cultured island of Crete and we were in awe with absolutely everything it had to offer. In this first leg of our trip, we stayed in Kissamos (also goes by the name of Kastelli) just an hour bus ride from the main town of Chania (pronounced Hania).
We started our two week Greek exploration by visiting Elafonissi beach (also known as pink beach). Elafonissi was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. On the way there, we passed by the Chrissoskalitissa Monastery. The name of this monastery translates to ‘golden step’, based on an old Greek legend claiming that only those with a pure heart, who have never sinned will see the gold step… unfortunately, I think my sunglasses hid the gold from me! The whole day was fantastic. We ended the day by entertaining our taste-buds by visiting what I think is a hidden gem of Kissamos, Stelios & Katina, a traditional Cretan restaurant.
My favourite meal here has to be the grilled octopus and Stelios & Katina salad. You can check out my Tripadvisor review, here.
Our time on the West coast of Crete also involved a visit to Gramvousa island, which hosts the remains of a Venetian fort and a home to Cretan pirates. The beach that accompanies the bottom of the climb to the fort is magically refreshing, so after climbing to the top of the fort, we cooled our feet in the welcoming water. After departing from Gramvousa, the boat headed over to Balos blue lagoon which was too beautiful for words or pictures to describe!
Make sure if you do any of these trips to take food with you! On Elafonissi, you can get a snack like a Spanakobita (Spinach pie) or sandwich but on visiting Gramvousa and Balos you can only buy food on the boat once you leave the port of Kissamos. The boat to these islands leaves once a day at 10:20, returning at 17:45 and in the summer there is an extra boat at 12:30, returning at 19:30. Find more information, take a look here.
After 4 wonderful days on the West coast of Crete, we headed to our next destination: Ierapetra, South-east of Crete. We had a very long day ahead of us, so to avoid the midday heat on the bus, we caught the first bus our of Kissamos at 06:00.
With our trip to Santorini coming up in three days time, we were first of all on the hunt for not only what is great to do around Ierapetra (as well as Chrissi island which we had seen online) but also how we could get to Santorini from there – so we went on a hunt for someone local to talk to. That’s when we met Georgia! Her passion and enthusiasm for her island is second to none and we are so grateful to have met her. She recommended we visit the palace of Knossos, the temple of Zeus and Spinalonga, a small island previously used as a fort to protect Crete. I was sold, I had to visit the temple of Zeus. However, from where we were it was very difficult to get there! She then went on to introduce us to her husband Stefanos from STEFANOS TOURS who helped arrange everything for us… at no extra cost! He took us to Spinalonga on his tour boat, took us to sissi to join a tour to Knossos and temple of Zeus and also drove us to Heraklion to get the Ferry to Santorini!
I can not recommend booking with these people enough! They are genuine and passionate about what they do and they want you to learn and indulge in their history that they are so obviously proud of! We learnt so much from this couple and there is so much more to it… wherever you are in Crete, I assure they will do their best to help you explore what they know and love so deeply.
While we were in Ierápetra, we ventured to Kato Chorio, a village just 10 minutes away, for some traditional home cooked food. This took me back to the summers spent in the village in Cyprus with my paternal grandmother: so small, simple and full of the sound of people enjoying eachother’s company and fresh food cooked with love. If you want to visit the village, you can get the local bus / taxi to the village. As you arrive there is a central square where people will be sat playing backgammon, eating and drinking – just take a seat and embrace the experience!
Another place I would recommend visiting for food in Ierápetra, is a lovely family run restaurant just 20 minutes walk from the main town. The place is called Kleió and I recommend highly the Zucchini balls! I don’t have any photos of the food here, but I assure you won’t be dissappointed. The setting is lovely, right on the beach front, yet secluded and away from anyone who is not eating in the restaurant.
Crete is one of the best places I have visited! There is a plethora or Culture and history to immerse yourself in and not to mention the beautiful views and astonishingly fresh food that you will eat on a day to day basis! There is so much more that I could write about this beautiful and historically rich island, so if you want to know any more, please leave a comment or check my contact page and drop me an e-mail!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about what has been my favourite place to visit in a long time!
Live, Love, Create, Enjoy!