2022 was the year we returned to Greece, and this visit we decided to make Crete a big focus of our trip. We started in Mykonos, meeting up with friends for four nights before striking off on our own. We spent one day in Mykonos in 2019 and decided then that we would return. This visit allowed us plenty of time to explore the old town and lounge by the pool. Highlights of Mykonos are wandering Little Venice, taking a daytrip to Delos (a must), and maybe splurging for a day at a swanky beachclub like Scorpios.
When it was time to leave our friends, we took the ferry from Mykonos to Paros/Naoussa, which was about an hour. When using the ferry in Greece, I suggest booking in advance to avoid long queues at the port on the day of departure. Depending on the time of year, the ferries schedules can be significantly delayed due to winds. I would not take a ferry to catch a flight!
When we arrived in Paros, the ferry port was chaotic. There are a few taxis (shared) but we had to wait about 30 min. Consider arranging a car service to collect you at the port to take you to your accommodation. We spent two nights in Naoussa at a beautiful small hotel called Angel’s Pillow, which I definitely recommend. It’s a 50 euro taxi from the ferry port, but an easy walk to the best area of Paros for eating and shopping. There are dozens of tavernas and cafes along the harbor by the Venetian castle where you can relax with a cold beer and fresh seafood.
The ferry from Paros to Heraklion was approximately four hours, and was relatively comfortable. It seemed that the AC was not working correctly in the section we were seated, but we were able to move to an empty seat in another part of the boat that was much cooler. We arrived in the evening and booked a night at the Megaron Hotel. We were able to walk with our luggage from the ferry, and the hotel breakfast is fantastic. The next morning, we walked back to the ferry port to pick up our rental car, collect our bags and start our exploration of Crete!
We drove two hours to our first destination. Getting to Chania gave us our first look at the Crete countryside, which seemed to consist of beach, ocean and rock, and occasionally resembled an alien landscape.
Being our first visit to Crete, we decided to stay in more populated towns where we would have lots of options for food and things to see; we didn’t want to rely on our car at all. In Chania, we were lucky to find parking in a free lot at Talo Square, within an easy walk of our apartment on Theotokopoulou St. We only had three nights, so we spent the bulk of our time just wandering the Port and getting lost in the labyrinth of streets and alleys. Chania felt a little touristy, but the crowds weren’t crushing. We had some really good meals here (and a couple mehs). Our favorite was Oinoa, followed by La Bodega. Reservations are recommended at both.
The main attractions of Chania are the Venetian Port, the lighthouse, the Romantic Stairs, and the Monastery. You can expect to find herds of tourists along the waterfront and Venetian Fountain, but just taking the random left and right turns will lead you to some beautiful places (and a few dead ends). When we were ready to rest our feet and whet our whistle, there was always a shady taverna and an ice-cold Mythos close by.
We had initially planned to explore Balos or Elafonissi beaches while in Chania, but we decided they would have to wait for another trip. So, when it was time to leave Chania and head to Rethymno, we made a detour to Zorbas Beach (Gold Coast Beach) to get our feet in some sand. It was an easy drive, and we had no problem parking. We didn’t swim but we did stand in the water up to our knees and admired it a whole lot. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen water so blue. We lucked out and found a decent beach café (Almyriki Restaurant) and had a great lunch by the sea.
We continued on to Rethymno, arriving at 4:00PM, and made our way to our apartment. We were ready for food so we unpacked quickly, mapped our way to a restaurant and set out to explore. We were really enchanted with Rethymno right away. It offered an abundance of flower-filled alleys and tavernas, and its waterfront had a very different vibe, lined with beautiful and chic restaurants and bars.
From Rethymno we took a daytrip to Preveli Beach, driving through the scenic Kourtaliotiko Gorge. To get to the beach, we used GPS to drive to Ammoudi Beach (GPS was accurate, and parking was plentiful and free when we were there in September). Ammoudi beach is free, or you can rent two chairs for 5 euro. The beach cafe serves beer and sandwiches. Water shoes are a must! From the parking area, there is a path to Preveli beach, which isn’t too difficult but is not handicap accessible. Other ways to reach Preveli beach are by boat, or, parking at the top of the Gorge and hiking/wading in. Preveli is a site to see, but we really enjoyed the water and beach at Ammoudi (less people) so there are options.
Our four nights in Rethymno went too quickly, and before we were ready, it was time to head back to Heraklion to catch our flight. On our drive to Heraklion, we stopped at the Palace of Knossos. The Palace is believed to have settled as early as the Neolithic period and became the center of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace was abandoned 1380–1100 BC for unknown reasons. The mythical Minotaur was believed to live below the palace. In addition to incredible ruins, the frescos will definitely awe. We were on a deadline to return the rental car in Heraklion, so we only spent about two hours at Knossos. For those inclined, there are quite a few tour operators by the ticket window, so if you want to really get the most of your visit, I recommend a tour. Heraklion is a bustling city and may not be the most scenic for a vacation, but is perfect for an overnight stop. The old town and harbor have lots of history.
Despite ten amazing days in Crete, we definitely were not ready to leave! However, a flight awaited, so we said our goodbyes and vowed to return to discover more of this otherworldly place.