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.

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.

Our Pick of the Crete Guides

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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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Northern Corfu Drive

    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.

  • Practical information on travelling around Greece by plane, by ferry, by bus, by train and by driving, including car rental, parking and other driving advice.

    Travelling Around Greece

    Practical information on travelling around Greece by plane, by ferry, by bus, by train and by driving, including car rental, parking and other driving advice.

  • Scenic Drives in Northern Greece, Ioannina, Meteora, Kastoria, Prespa Lakes

    Scenic Drives in Northern Greece

    Scenic Drives in Northern Greece, Ioannina, Meteora, Kastoria, Prespa Lakes

  • An account of driving in Greece for Greece Travel Secrets including links to the best drives in Greece, practical information and a note of some of the hazards.

    Driving in Greece

    An account of driving in Greece for Greece Travel Secrets including links to the best drives in Greece, practical information and a note of some of the hazards.

  • Santorini car rental companies include Budget, Hermes, VIP Rent a Car and Euro Dollar, with Santorini car hire at the airport, and around Santorini.

    Santorini Car Rental

    Santorini car rental companies include Budget, Hermes, VIP Rent a Car and Euro Dollar, with Santorini car hire at the airport, and around Santorini.

  • Driving in Greece practical information including speed limits, fines, drink-driving, buying petrol and other advice for driving in Greece.

    Driving in Greece Practical Information

    Driving in Greece practical information including speed limits, fines, drink-driving, buying petrol and other advice for driving in Greece.

  • The best drives in Greece chosen and driven by Mike Gerrard of Greece Travel Secrets including from Ioannina to Meteora, the Prespa Lakes and the Mani.

    Best Drives in Greece

    The best drives in Greece chosen and driven by Mike Gerrard of Greece Travel Secrets including from Ioannina to Meteora, the Prespa Lakes and the Mani.

  • The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Zaros in Central Crete, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.

    Zaros

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Zaros in Central Crete, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

    Where to Stay in Western Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Irakleio, the capital of Crete, including nearby beach resort hotels and accommodation in the city centre.

    Where to Stay in Irakleio

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Irakleio, the capital of Crete, including nearby beach resort hotels and accommodation in the city centre.

  • 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.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

    Where to Stay in Central Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Western Crete with tavernas and restaurants in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

    Where to Eat in Western Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Western Crete with tavernas and restaurants in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.

    Where to Eat in Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.

  • 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.

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

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

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