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 on CreteThe 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.

Kato Zakros on CreteKato 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.

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

  • 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.

    A Drive around Attica

    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.

  • Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.

    Chania, in Western Crete

    Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.

  • Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

    Crete

    Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

  • 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 Botanical Gardens

    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.

    Irakleio

    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.

  • 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.

    Eastern Crete

    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.

  • Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.

    Driving on Crete

    Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.

  • These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.

    Shopping Tips for Crete

    These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.

  • How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.

    Eastern Crete in Five Days

    How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • What was daily life as a Minoan like on Crete, living in palaces like the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros, and what were their religious beliefs?

    Life as a Minoan

    What was daily life as a Minoan like on Crete, living in palaces like the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros, and what were their religious beliefs?

  • Is someone from Crete a Greek or a Cretan? They are both, of course, but most will tell you that they are Cretan first and Greek second.

    Greek or Cretan?

    Is someone from Crete a Greek or a Cretan? They are both, of course, but most will tell you that they are Cretan first and Greek second.

  • 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.

    Central Crete in Three Days

    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.

  • 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.

    Matala Beach

    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.

  • Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

    Agios Nikolaos

    Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

  • Elounda on Crete's north coast is a popular holiday town with a pretty harbour, from where you can take day trips by boat to see the island of Spinalonga.

    Elounda and Spinalonga, setting for The Island by Victoria Hislop

    Elounda on Crete's north coast is a popular holiday town with a pretty harbour, from where you can take day trips by boat to see the island of Spinalonga.

  • Cretan music is part of the island’s soul and visitors will hear live music wherever they go, with several distinctive Cretan musical instruments and songs.

    Cretan Music

    Cretan music is part of the island’s soul and visitors will hear live music wherever they go, with several distinctive Cretan musical instruments and songs.

  • Western Crete in five days allows time to visit Chania and Rethymnon, enjoy the beaches, hike the Samaria Gorge and see the monasteries at Arkadi and Preveli.

    Western Crete in Five Days

    Western Crete in five days allows time to visit Chania and Rethymnon, enjoy the beaches, hike the Samaria Gorge and see the monasteries at Arkadi and Preveli.

  • 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.

    Crete’s Wildlife and Landscape

    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.

  • Western Crete has some wonderful golden sand beaches as well as mountain villages, monasteries, caves, and archaeological sites to discover.

    Western Crete Beaches and Villages

    Western Crete has some wonderful golden sand beaches as well as mountain villages, monasteries, caves, and archaeological sites to discover.

  • This drive along the west coast of Crete and inland from there will take a whole day and starts and ends in Kastélli Kissámou, west of Chania.

    West Coast of Crete Drive

    This drive along the west coast of Crete and inland from there will take a whole day and starts and ends in Kastélli Kissámou, west of Chania.

  • Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

    Where to Stay in Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

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