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  • Writer's pictureGiulia M.

Western Crete: dream beaches, relaxation and lots of garli... ehm food


Balos Lagoon, Crete

Of all the incredible places I yet had to explore, until a few weeks ago the Greek islands were included. To make up for this huge miss, we decided to spend ten days in the beautiful Crete, the largest of the islands and the one that not only preserves some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, but also represents the heart of Minoan culture (but we can safely say that it also holds the record for consumption of 🧄 garlic 🧄 in cooking).


Choosing Crete turned out to be the perfect choice to completely disconnect from the hectic pace of everyday life. Travelling along often deserted roads in the Greek hinterland, resting on uncrowded beaches, stopping to eat in typical taverns and always receiving ouzo to drink at the end of the meal - this really made us understand what it really means to live a slow life - everyday.


At the end of the article (or by clicking here) you can find the map with all the places visited, from beaches to tavernas. I recommend, especially if you are planning a trip to Crete, to take a look at it, because I definitely won't be able to mention everything in this article 😀


Why choose Crete?

  1. To experience, at least for a few days, the slow life of its inhabitants, to breathe in the sea breeze and to be lulled by the gentle idleness in one of the remote villages on the island

  2. Because it is the right compromise between tourism (more on the northern side) and unspoilt nature (on the southern side) - you can choose to alternate between the two and never get bored

  3. To enjoy traditional, authentic Greek food, at prices that are always honest and affordable - one of the constants in Greece are the Tavernas. Even in remote places, where there is nothing but a convenience store, rest assured that there is always a taverna ready to feed you

  4. As well as for jaw-dropping beaches - there are plenty, but in this post I will try to mention the ones you should definitely not miss


Let's start with the last point which, for many, is certainly the most interesting one.


The most beautiful beaches we have seen and do recommend (a humble guide).


*you can watch a small preview in the video*


Seitan Limania

Seitan Limania beach, also called Agios Stefanou, is located just north of Chania on the Akrotiri peninsula. It is a beach set in a picture-postcard inlet, with white sand and pebbles and a turquoise sea. Once there, there are no bars/restaurants, so I recommend bringing enough water, while I advise against bringing food, as there are many goats on the beach that are eager to steal some from you.

A humble tip: equip yourself with comfortable shoes and clothing because the descent on foot to the beach is not very easy, especially if you have children or suffer from vertigo; it is not too hard but, without the right precautions, you could hurt yourself.


Balos Lagoon

Another must-visit beach in Crete, is the Balos Lagoon. What can I say, the pictures speak for themselves - it looks like a painting!

It is located not far from Kissamos, in the north-western part of the island. Here, unlike the previous beach, you can find umbrellas and a small, fairly well-equipped bar. If you go in high season (July/August), try to arrive early to grab the best spot, be it an umbrella or just a slice of the beach.

A humble tip: the road to Balos is unpaved (we are talking about ten kilometres). It is not an easy dirt road, in some places it is quite winding and bumpy. Therefore, if you decide to go by car (our advice - now I'll explain why), make sure you have full insurance that covers EVERYTHING, including off-roading. The other option would be to reach the lagoon by boat. Unfortunately, especially at the busiest times, going by boat means getting to that small strip of land with hundreds of other people. We recommend going by car precisely in order to reach it early in the morning, preferably before 10am.


Falasarna

Still quite close to Kissamos, there is Falasarna - a more classic beach I would call it: an expanse of golden sand with free areas alternating with lidos and bars. However, do not imagine the Romagna Riviera, which has very little to share with this wonder with water of a thousand shades of blue. This, if I am not mistaken, was the only time during the vacation when we decided to pay to take umbrella and sunbeds. There is very little shade on the beach, and since we planned to stay until evening to watch the sunset, we thought it was a legitimate choice. The prices are affordable, however, as we paid 15€ for one umbrella and two sunbeds (riviera what?).

Another humble tip: STOP UNTIL LATE EVENING TO WATCH THE SUNSET!

Just buy a beer from one of the lidos on the beach and sit down on the sand waiting for the sky to turn into burning colours of reds and oranges.


Sougia

It is no exaggeration to say that we literally fell in love with this village in the deep south of Crete. There is absolutely nothing to do here, and that is the beauty of it. We spent almost five days in Sougia, between relaxing (and some rain), hiking in nature, and a few games of backgammon (which, apparently, the Greek people are passionate about). The days spent there were completely rejuvenating for us. The routine was simple: wake up, breakfast, sea, lunch, sea, walk, tavern, bed. The village was mostly frequented by German tourists, almost all of whom were hiking enthusiasts.

The beach at Sougia is extensive and there are both several equipped areas and naturist areas where you can relax without ever feeling judged and out of place.

Tip from us: From Sougia starts a road to the lovely beach of Lissos, a walk of about a couple of hours in which you climb over a hill to get to this natural cove (photo exhibits above). I recommend it to anyone who enjoys hiking in nature.


Elafonissi

Perhaps the most famous on the island of Crete. Ladies and gentlemen - Elafonissi, aka the beach with pink sand. Well, let's say it's a little less pink in person than in photos, but still a breathtaking sight. It lies a bit further south than Balos and Falasarna, so it is a bit more inconvenient to get to (we went while staying in Sougia and it took us about an hour and a half), but unlike other beaches, it is much more accessible and equipped. Again, we recommend arriving early in the morning if you are in high season (we fortunately caught fewer people in late May than we were told) and if you want to rent an umbrella.

Aaaand one last humble piece of advice: if you are not planning to get an umbrella, do not stay at the beginning of the beach, i.e., in the most crowded area; instead, move more toward the sand dunes on the other side of the lagoon to the right. You will find several small, more secluded areas where you can rest away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the same beautiful sea.



🏠 Where we stayed

To best enjoy all that the island could offer us in ten days, we moved several times during the vacation.

The first two days we stayed in Chania, in the Mosaic Hotel, which was perfect for exploring the city. It is within walking distance of the Old Town and the value for money is really unbeatable (overall rating: 9, staff rating: 10).

Then, as anticipated earlier, we moved to Sougia, where we stayed in a bungalow practically in front of the sea, found on Airbnb. Very nice atmosphere, too bad there was no kitchen (overall rating 8, hosts rating: 10+, they even offered us a shot of Ouzo).

Next, to better explore Balos and Falasarna, we moved near Kissamos, to a small but very quaint tourist village called Kaliviani; here we spent a few nights in the Agarathos Rooms, in a really tactical location for visiting the aforementioned beaches (outside vote: 12, inside vote: 6, overall average: 9). Excellent breakfast by the pool, lovingly prepared by a very nice lady every morning.

Last stop (just for the night before we left, as we had an early flight from Heraklion), Sartori Concept Hotel. Probably one of the best-kept hotels I have ever seen. I highly recommend it if you want to explore the city, even for just one night (rating: 9).



I was kidding, here are some extra tips


  • Take time to visit Chania and/or Heraklion, they are very quaint little towns and definitely worth (out of the two I would choose Chania) a visit

  • Do not limit to visiting the north, a decidedly beautiful but more touristy part of the island. Choose one of the villages in the deep south and get carried away by their slow-paced life

  • Linked to the previous point, I had no idea how not easily connected Crete is (especially the southern part). The southern towns, despite being relatively close to each other, are connected by very circuitous routes and, often, it is easier to move between them by boat. Consider this point before booking, because some roads, although well-trodden, are full of dangerous curves

  • Still related to the point made earlier, be sure to rent a car from a serious company that has no hidden costs and covers EVERYTHING. I strongly advise against Surprice, as it adds insurance costs not made explicit when booking (like a 'surprise' for real!)

  • Also take the time to visit ancient Greek ruins -we visited Knossos

  • Try the fava, a typical cold cream from Crete, it is sooooo good as a starter!

  • Folks, last piece of advice that, as a lover of garlic and onion I never thought I would give you, is to bring some Biochetase or similar. I usually eat and digest dishes too (those who know me know this quite well), but this time Greece beat me 1 to 0 with all that garlic!!!



And here's the map collecting all the places we've been. There are lots of restaurants, so if you are looking for some ideas, take a look.


Thanks to: thanks go first of all to Fiorda (@fiorduz), who - leveraging her immense knowledge of the Greek islands, gave us so many valuable tips 🙏

The second thanks goes, as is now customary, to Ale - with whom I am lucky enough to always spend wonderful moments of relaxation and adventure.



Xx,


Giulia

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