Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.
We loved Sitia right from our very first visit. We'd driven there from the wonderful Istron Bay Hotel, which we were sad to be leaving as we think it's one of the best hotels on Crete. It's only an hour's drive but it's a beautiful one with good winding roads and views of the mountains and occasionally the sea.
We'd booked a room for a few nights at the Elysée Hotel, right on the waterfront. Its two-star rating didn't bother us as we know that in Greece you don't judge a hotel by how many stars it has. Two-star hotels can be just as good as three-star and four-star hotels, and much cheaper.
The Elysée was perfectly clean and comfortable, we got a room at the front with a balcony overlooking the sea, and the owner immediately took us under his wing, introducing us to his delightful wife and young children. It was the Easter weekend and he invited us to watch some of the processions with him and his family, giving us a better insight into Greek Easter customs.
The Elysée was excellent and we'd definitely recommend it, but to be honest there were two other two-star hotels along the same seafront promenade - the Itanos and the Flisvos - and I bet we'd have been happy in either of them.
We were soon wandering along the seafront and looking forward to having Sitia as our base for a while. Even though it was Easter, the town seemed very quiet, certainly compared to bigger places like Agios Nikolaos, where we'd been earlier in the week. Sitia has a much more-laid back and relaxed feel to it than most places. It's got a bit busier since we were first there, but not much.
Sitia's Archaeological Museum is excellent, helped by the fact that there are a number of fine Minoan sites in the area. That's another reason we chose to stay there for a few days, as Sitia makes a good base for touring this part of Eastern Crete.
There's information about the Palace of Zakros, too, which is about an hour's drive from Sitia on the east coast. It's one of our favourite spots on Crete.
This was founded in 1975 and is in a beautiful building. It's worth a look-in to see its collections of traditional costumes, textiles, icons, kitchen items, furniture and especially (for us) musical instruments.
Our absolute favourite place to eat in Sitia was a restaurant called The Balcony, but we won't tell you how good it was because it closed not long ago. Very sad.
When we didn't eat at The Balcony we simply walked along the waterfront and checked out the menus and daily specials. We liked Sitia because no-one was standing outside the restaurants trying to persuade you to come in, which can become an irritation in bigger and busier places like Chania and Rethymnon.