Our Hire Car on Crete:
Fun and Figs!
We drove into the main square of Neapolis, a hill town in eastern Crete, and couldn’t find our hotel, despite the fact that it was the only one in town. A man in a café pointed out the right street but forgot to mention the No Entry sign!
The Lasithi Plateau
We headed for the next street but that was No Entry too, so we went down the first one we could find and hoped for the best, but were soon back in the main square again. We set off once more, and after a nervous drive through narrow streets you could hardly get a donkey down, we emerged in the main square yet again. The man in the café came over, climbed in the car and guided us to the hotel before walking back to his spot on the square. I had forgotten the kindness of Greeks, and especially Cretans.
Driving in the Lasithi Plateau
Next morning we drove towards the Lasithi Plateau, famous for its picturesque little windmills, but what I enjoyed most was meeting an old man sitting outside his tiny house carving wooden spoons. We bought one of his spoons and he sent us on our way with a plate of fresh figs, oozing juice.
It's in out-of-the-way places you're more likely to experience such kindnesses, and despite Crete's popularity as a tourist island there are still plenty of those. In a month of touring Greece's largest island, researching a guidebook, we found plenty such places which we mentally logged for longer visits next time round.
To Kato Zakros
We drove down a dramatic winding road to Kato Zakros, where we had to pause while a duck crossed in front of us. Kato Zakros has everything for those who like to do nothing. One short street with a restaurant and a few rooms to rent (and a resident duck) backs a beach, and behind the single row of buildings is the archaeological site of ancient Zakros.
This Minoan palace was occupied only from 1600-1450BC, when the Minoan civilisation was swept away, probably by a tidal wave from Santorini. Today little terrapins swim in its old cisterns, and its low-key approach is ideal for this lazy location. Kato Zakros was perfection. If we hadn't had a book to write we'd probably still be there, sitting by the sea eating fresh fish.
On the south coast a place called Souyia worked its magic. No ducks here, except on the menus of the handful of tavernas. At the Lyvikon taverna the owner was charm itself, suggesting we try the oven-baked stew of mountain goat, and perhaps a local cheese on the salad instead of the inevitable feta. With a beach, good food, a few shops and a few places to stay, Souyia had it all, including the impressive backdrop of mountains on the island's dramatic south coast.
Yes, hire a car in Crete and you’ll find that the more you venture off that beaten track, the better Greece gets. With free figs thrown in.
Where to Stay on Crete
Mike's account of hiring a car and driving in Crete is also included in his book, Snakes Alive and Other Travel Writing, published by Blue Sky Books. Snakes Alive is available as a paperback from Amazon in the USA, for the Kindle in the USA, and for the Kindle in the UK.
Some other Crete pages
Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.
Greece Travel Secrets eats at Vegera in Zaros and finds a cheap but wonderful feast of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes cooked daily with fresh local food.
This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.
Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Zaros in Central Crete, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.
This drive around Attica offers visitors high hills, beach resorts, small villages and classical sites like Marathon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
Santorini car rental companies include Budget, Hermes, VIP Rent a Car and Euro Dollar, with Santorini car hire at the airport, and around Santorini.
There are two sides to every Greek island, the tourist and the traditional, and this drive from Corfu Town through northern Corfu shows the two faces of Corfu.
Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.
The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.
Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.
Ancient Gournia is a Minoan archaeological site between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in Eastern Crete where the visitor can see evidence of a maze of back streets.
The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.
Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.
How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.
Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.
Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Crete Botanical Gardens near Chania and finds a wonderland of colourful plants, trees, and flowers filling a lovely valley.
Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.
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