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!

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.

The Lasithi Plateau

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.

Kato Zakros

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.

Souyia

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.

Our hire car in Crete was arranged through Sunvil Holidays.




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.

Check out some of our other Crete pages...

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • Hiking the Samaria Gorge

    Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Best Beaches on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets chooses ten of the best beaches on Crete including the beautiful beaches at Vai and Elafonisi.

  • Hiking in Southwest Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets goes hiking in southwest Crete with Ramblers Walking Holidays based in Paleohora and hiking the E4 footpath and to Anidri and Azogires.

  • Eco-Tourism Accommodation on Crete

    The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.

  • Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • Rethymnon in Western Crete

    Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

  • Airbnb near Chania

    This Airbnb in the quiet village of Malaxa, a 30-minute drive into the hills above Chania, is a peaceful retreat with a delightful and thoughtful artist owner, with wonderful views and amenities.

  • Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Samaria Gorge

    The Samaria Gorge is one the longest gorges in Europe and doing the hike is one of the best and most popular things to do on Crete.

  • Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Paleohora and the South-West Coast

    The area east from Paleohora along the south-west coast of Crete includes resorts like Agia Galini, gorges like the Imbros Gorge and quieter towns like Sfakia.

  • Matala Beach Crete

    Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

  • Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

  • Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

  • Maleme and the German War Cemetery on Crete

    Maleme near Chania is where the people who died during the battle of Crete are buried, in the German War Cemetery with the Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby.

  • Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Knossos

    Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.

Latest Posts

  1. Where To Enjoy The Most Amazing Views In Athens

    When you set off to discover Athens, you will be surprised by the amount of amazing vantage points the city has to offer. Due to its unique geography, Athens offers a number of places to visit and tak…

    Read More

  2. Commission: All Non-essential Travel ‘Strongly Discouraged’

    One day before EU leaders meet to discuss actions in the fight against the Covid-19 crisis, the European Commission called on member states to discourage non-essential travel and to accelerate vaccina…

    Read More

  3. Strefi Hill Revamp to Create an Oasis in Athens for Residents and Visitors

    The Strefi hill, located in the neighborhood of Exarchia near the center of Athens, is set to undergo a major revamp, as part of an ongoing drive for the overhaul of the Greek capital, the Municipalit…

    Read More

  4. Tough Measures Continue in Greece Due to Covid-19 Variant

    Greece plans to keep its strict lockdown measures in place in view of a Covid-19 variant which appears to be spreading at a fast pace. The new strain of the deadly virus believed to be more contagious…

    Read More

  5. Underwater Excavation Off Kasos Uncovers Ancient Shipwrecks and Cargo

    A shipwreck of the Roman period and its cargo are among the significant finds of an underwater excavation that was carried out by archaeologists off the Greek island of Kasos in the Dodecanese. Accord…

    Read More

  6. Conde Nast Traveller Shares its List of the Best Greek Islands to Visit in 2021

    UK travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller (CNT) has compiled a list of the “Best Greek islands to Visit in 2021” and features some of Greece’s most popular vacation spots. After a challenging summer sea…

    Read More

  7. Athens to Welcome Olympic Museum in 2021

    Athens will soon welcome its own Olympic Museum dedicated to the long history of the Olympic Games. The Athens Olympic Museum will be located at the former International Broadcasting Center of Athens…

    Read More

  8. Greece Extends Ban on Non-essential Domestic Air Travel

    The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on Sunday issued an aviation directive (NOTAM) that extends travel restrictions for domestic flights (travel between prefectures) in Greece by one week, un…

    Read More

  9. Greece to Reopen Retail Stores and Shopping Malls Under Rules

    Greece will begin to gradually ease lockdown restrictions taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), Greek Minister of Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis announced on Friday.

    Read More

  10. Covid-19: Greece Keeps Night Curfew in Place, Lifts Strict Lockdown Measures in Some Areas

    Although retail stores and shopping malls will reopen in Greece on January 18, the country’s night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am remains in force, Greek Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias sai…

    Read More