Author Topic: Where to Go  (Read 6110 times)

Offline George

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« on: December 10, 2002, 01:23:07 PM »
Plakias is a great place but Crete is a fabulous Island, and it would be a shame to go there and not experience some of the places that are all accessible on a day trip from Plakias.
Hopefully this wonít sound like a tour guide, just a few of the varied places weíve been to and some of the experiences we have had.

Tips.
1. Most of the places Iím going to mention are serviced by the Buses which are pretty regular, but being inquisitive, I tend to want to stop in some places and take in the atmosphere, which you canít really do on a bus. They will drop you/pick you up anywhere but you could be there for a while.
2. The roads are all good so you donít need a Jeep, but they are good fun and I do feel a bit safer in them. Keep in mind that the locals know the road, thatís only one reason they drive a bit faster.
3. Buy a good map, and hope that the navigator has remembered to bring their glasses!

Rethymnon
The nearest big town and will take about thirty minutes if you go straight there, but you wonít, just follow the road signs. There are a few traditional villages on the way, so you might be tempted to stop for Ďrefreshmentí.
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge that you drove through on the way in to Plakias is always a magnet and a photo opportunity. You can get down to the bottom, have a paddle in the icy water, and if youíre really brave follow the stream all the way to Prevelli Beach. You may need a machete!
Follow the road straight into Rethymnon Town - beware it can be busy - and you will come across a large car park. Check with someone in Plakias about market day as the car park is used for this purpose.
South of the car park you will see a stone archway, which leads to the old quarter. Great shopping/bars and restaurants. East of the seafront is the castle and the very cosmopolitan Venetian harbour, where the waiters hijack you into their bars/restaurants. It can be pricey here, but it is a nice place to sit.
West of the seafront is all a bit touristy, with crowded beaches and large hotel complexes.
There is a great character on Arkadiou Street - it runs parallel with the beach - he runs the leather shop called the ĎPartisaní. I literally got dragged in there once by his partner who hijacked me outside the shop, and they would not let us go until we bought something. Lovely old guy, very authentic dresser and still carries his Luger in a holster on his hip, which he tends to wave about a lot - the Luger that is. I brought a pair of shoes in there and he gave us presents of a wallet and a knife, which he gave to Tina and said Ďif he messes with you you dig himí. We left the shop after big hugs and feeling like a member of his family and quite light headed because of all the Ouzo and Raki he insisted on us drinking.

The road to Eligia Gorge
Just follow the map and the road along the coast going west. Lots of nice villages and people who tend to wave a lot.
Rodakino - has a nice beach just off the main road. General Kreipe (Ill Met By Moonlight - book/film) knew this place very well.
Frangokastello - worth stopping here. Very flat here, very quiet resort, surrounded by a mountain. I always found this quite a spooky place, probably because of the things Iíve read about the Knights who evidently appear as ghosts sometime in May I think. They had something to do with the ruined castle on the beach which is completely open and you can wander about inside. The beach is amazing, itís enormous and more often than not when weíve been there itís been deserted. There used to be a bar on the beach as you reach the end of the very long straight drive into Frangokastello, but they flattened it and built the most incredible bar across the road. Go in there, you will be impressed. Say hello to the guy with the very long curly hair and large moustache for me.
Imbros - If you or your partner want to walk this and the other does not, I suggest you drive up to Imbros village just off the main road, drop them off, then drive back down to the other end of the gorge. There is a bar where you can spend a very pleasant couple of hours waiting for them and enjoying the magnificent views back over Frangokastello.
Chora Sfakion - I think cute best describes this place; surrounded by a mountain itís very small considering that it is the ferry port for Samaria and Loutro. Hopefully they have put it all back together again after the horrendous storms they had a while ago. We always stop here for lunch; the keftardes (meat balls) are to die for. There is a very small man made beach area with a raised walkway leading to the ferry, full with restaurants/bars (about 4 or 5) and a few shops. Nice place to sit and people watch.
Anopoli - Not for the squeamish. From Chora Sfakion take the road west, it twists and turns all the way up the mountain. Itís a narrow road and buses use it, you have been warned!
Not that the drivers going to notice, but the view back down into Chora Sfakion is worth the trip alone. There are approximately 45 hair pin bends on this road and remember that the goats were there first. If you come across a herd, stop and watch for a while, you might have to, they can be a bit stubborn, the way they move around on the small ledges is a pleasure to watch, especially the ones which are all shoulders, very large horns and small bums (male I think) who have decided itís mating time.
There is not much to see in Anopoli, it very rural up there. On the road in Aradena you will come across a monument in the middle of the road with a glass case that contains human skulls. I never did find out what this was for, and if you are feeling energetic there is a footpath that leads down to the beach at Loutro.
There are a few farms with the odd goatskin hanging out to dry, but other than that itís just a pleasant drive and the quietness is deafening.
You will eventually reach the bridge that crosses the Eligia Gorge. Stop. Look down and look at the bridge then make the decision as to if you are going to cross over to the other side. Do it!
There are a couple of ruined villages and lots more goats on the other side and they are friendly and inquisitive, one climbed into the back of my jeep once and had to lure him (all shoulders and horns) out with some water, which he drank out of my hand.
We have done this trip a few times and for anyone with the slightest hint of adventurism in them I would highly recommend it.
Did I mention that the road does not go anywhere, you will have to come back down the mountain road to Chora Sfakion or perhaps now it does, we havenít been up there for a while. But do intend going again!

Lake Kournas
Northwest of Plakias, itís easy to get to although there is one village that you have to go back on yourself and the turning is easily missed, so stay alert!
Drive through Kournas village and almost immediately you are on the road that surrounds the Lake. There is a bar called the Empire Cafť. Stop, have lunch and take in the atmosphere, itís eerie. The bar is built on the side of the mountain so you get an unobstructed view all round the lake. There are eagles playing on the updrafts and the owner is into American Red Indians so tends to play ĎSacred Spirití a lot, which adds to the atmosphere. There is a myth/local rumour that the lake has a monster (nessie II?) so I would not recommend the paddleboats that you can hire at the bottom of the hill.
If you drive on and hit the coast, take a left into the very busy Georgioupolis, it will make you glad you chose Plakias!

Lappa
Northwest again, we like Lappa because there are a lot of sites there, and itís a very pleasant place to explore. Tina always makes a ĎBí line for the local shop that makes the skin creams made with avocados, she recommends them to anyone, and they last for ages.

Agiroupoli
Northwest again. If you need cooling down this is the place. The village is built on the side on a hill and it is very popular for coach excursions, usually German. There is running water everywhere so the land is very fertile and the village is almost entirely covered with trees. Loads of restaurants, staggered all over the place, all with very cool ambiance. If youíre into plants there are some really odd looking things growing up there. Go for a walk around.

Agia Galini
This is a very cosmopolitan beach resort, built on the side of a hill/mountain. The main road east takes you straight there. When you drive in follow the road all the way to the bottom of the hill, there is a large car park there, by a small marina. You will need to be reasonable fit, as you will realise when you look back up at the village. The streets are very steep in places but it is worth a walkabout. Lots of posh shops, restaurants and bars and the main large beach is further east around the point, where there are facilities for most water sports.

Matala
Another beach resort very popular with the Germans, but a lot quieter than Galini. Very busy village square with all the usual going on, but go further into the village by the beach and there is a sort of Turkish bazaar, which is totally enclosed. Great atmosphere, very buzzy, with a wide range of goodies from Rolexes to Nike Air.
If you look at the hill on the west side of the beach you will see lots of holes, go up there and explore, evidently the hippies lived there in the sixties. See if you can find the face carved into the rock.

Sites
If youíre into archaeological sites, skip Knossos, which, OK is very impressive, but very very very busy and very commercialised now, and go to Phaistos on the way to Matala.

These are just a few of my favourite places and if you do venture out, I hope my descriptions of the places are not disappointing. One canít help but have an enthusiasm for Crete and itís people. Itís nice to get back home to Plakias though.
Maybe this will provoke you to get off the beach John, they do sell Mythos all over the Island!!
And in some places they give you a Raki chaser!!!
George

Offline ostraco

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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2002, 06:59:29 PM »
OK OK George - promise I'll get off my bum this year and get about a bit more!  
I did do the Sumaria Gorge a few years ago - a fantastic experience, and my feet have just about recovered!

I'll take a print of your posting with me - and see how many places I can cross off your list.
John - Ostraco

Offline hopper

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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2002, 08:44:39 AM »
Hi George,
Thanks for the report on the villages you visited. When I first came to Krete in 1975 we travelled all along the south coast, the road was still dirt road then. Sounds like nothing has changed much. Frankocastello was spooky then as well, and Chora Sphakion was a backwater. Between 1975 and 79, I walked along the coast various times and always met the wonderful hospitality of the Greek people, no matter how poor they were.
I was one of the hippies that slept in the caves of Matala. It was good in March, but then it became too busy and unberable. Things were stolen etc. I looked all around Krete, but could not find a better place then Plakias.
Good to hear that old guy from the shoe shop in Rethimnon still exists. He hasn't changed by the sounds of it.
I found also a very nice road, when you go inland from Chania. I went up there on a motorbike, and it is just majic, from memory. Green and lush. Samaria gorge is certainly worth it, in fact most of Krete is nice. Sad to hear, that Plakias has become so cosmopolitan.
Cheers Hopper

Offline Yvonne

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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2002, 09:24:22 AM »
Hi george

We do agree with you, having visied most of the places mentioned.  Please include the Amari Valley next time, fantastic!
Yvonne

Offline JulieB485

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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2003, 01:03:19 AM »
This site is great - I am keeping printouts of all the suggestions of things to do / places to see for when we go in July (hurry up July!) just have to make sure I don't lose them all before then

Offline beanie

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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2003, 12:17:53 PM »
This is my first posting on the site - hi everybody!

I thought I'd add a few more suggestions of places to go, but before that I have to say that Plakias is the best I've seen on our travels - I wouldn't stay anywhere else!

Last time we went to Plakias (October 2002) we hired a car for a few days and did a 2-day tour of the west of the island.  The main purpose was to visit a couple of the beaches out that way - Elafonisi and Falassarna.  

Elafonisi (far south west coast) was really something, with its offshore island - white sand, turquoise waters - you have to wade through thigh-deep water to get to the island, which has sand dunes and a series of little coves with white beaches.  My top tip is to get there early though - we took the First Choice rep's recommendation and got down there for 8 am - we were the only ones there for several hours.  After about 11 am it starts to get busy with coach parties and then you lose the atmosphere of the place.  Getting up early and holidays don't always go together, but for this it's worth it.

Falassarna was also good - a bigger beach with lots of waves, and again white sand and turquoise waters.  The drive along the west coast is fun, but maybe not for the faint-hearted!  You can come back a different way, through an impressive inland valley.  At one point there's an impressive cave set above the road, which is worth a look.

Hania is a beautiful place.  The harbour is really charming, and it's fun to explore the winding back streets, which have some amazing, atmospheric architecture and some interesting shops selling great souvenirs.  I wouldn't mind staying here for a night next time.

I agree with George, Phaestos is better than Knossos.  It's in a more impressive setting and is less busy.  Gortyn, near Phaestos, is a Roman ruin (I think) which is also quite interesting.

We've walked both the Samaria and the Imbros gorges.  The Samaria gorge is really hard work - I thought I was quite fit but it's amazing how knackering walking 10 miles downhill can be!  It is very impressive but also very busy.  Take lots of water, food, suncream and a hat - the last few miles involve walking straight into the sun!  The Imbros gorge is much more manageable, and quieter.

I think that's about it from me.  But I do have a request from other readers: has anyone been to Paleohora, or the east coast?  I'd be interested to know 'cause we're thinking of visiting there next time (whenever that may be - hopefully not too long).

Thanks,

Beanie.

Offline Greecemad

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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2003, 02:22:27 PM »
About six or seven years ago I visited Paleochora. I arrived by bus from Chania. That took 3 hours and was quite an interesting hair-raising journey over the mountains. I wouldn't recommend driving.

The village is on an isthmus between a rocky outcrop (with a castle on the top) and the rest of Crete. On the east side is a stony beach and on the west side is a fabulous sandy beach (with a 'far end' as at Plakias), but the trouble is that it is exposed to the wind. There are other (mostly pebbly) beaches within walking distance, and there are boats to Elafonissi.  The main street in the middle of the village is closed to traffic at night and becomes full of taverna tables.

From Paleochora I travelled by ferry along the soutch coast past Aghia Roumeli and Loutro to Chora Sfakion and then managed to share a taxi with three other people (not all one group) to Plakias.

Greecemad.

Offline Allan Barham

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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2003, 05:00:16 PM »
I've stayed in Paleochra and found the 'far end' of the beach very windy without the sand dunes and Tamarisk trees that give Plakias wind protection and mid day shade.  There is a good selection of tavernas in the town.  There are fewer walks in the immediate vicinity than Plakias but one in particular is worth doing if you are staying there.  Walk inland (and up) to the village of Anidri where you can enjoy a beer in the old schoolhouse which is now a taverna with lovely views over the anidri valley.  Once refreshed take the short path to the church which has some wonderful medieval frescoes.  You can then walk down the Anidri Gorge (hard going in places!) to reach the sea where you can top-up the all over tan before returning along the coastal path to Paleochra.

Allan

Offline compage

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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2003, 09:52:27 PM »
Haven't been to Paleohora.  We set out one day from Plakias intending to get that far but ran out of time.  We went north to Rethimno then west along the good road to Hania.  Just before Hania we stopped at the allied cemetery run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  It is a beautiful spot overlooking Souda Bay and was very quiet and peaceful.  We spent quite some time wandering up and down the rows of stones and reading about the people who died defending Crete.  A very moving experience.
We did not stop at Hania, having been there before, but further west we visited the cemetery for the Germans who died in the assault on the island.  Remarkably different from the other one but equally well maintained.  Had a very good cup off coffee at the cafe there.

Setting off west again, we intended to sample as many as possible of the places around the western end of the island with a view to finding an area in which to stay on a subsequent visit to Crete.  The roads and the secenery of the western end of Crete are spectacular to say the least.  Unfortunately, we did not see it's full splendour because the day was misty and the clouds low on the mountains.  There are large areas with with very low population density so it feels very remote in places.  We finally abondoned the idea of going to Paleohora because it would have meant re-tracing our steps for quite some distance and it was getting late in the day.

As far as eastern Crete is concerned, immediately east of Heraklion there is a coastal strip many miles long with lots of bacon and egg, pizza and burger joints.  Not what we look for on a Greek holiday.  Further east this pattern peters out into more rural country and, in places, the coastal road is very pleasant and the scenery spectacular.  Eventually you arrive at Agios Nikolaos which a pleasant but busy and somewhat over-developed town with a nice feel to it and an unusual harbour.  My wife tells me that Ag Nik 30 years ago was very enjoyable.

Further east from Ag Nik there is another strech of spectacular corniche with small villages just off the main road which can be very pleasant places to stop for refreshment.  I remember one early afternoon sitting in a cafe in one such place drinking beer and watching the locals buying cheese and shoes from the back of a pick-up truck that arrived tooting his horn to announce his presence.

Skopi is very industrial and Sitia comes as a welcome place to stop after a long drive east.  Nothing remarkably attractive about it but we did find a very nice B&B a couple of miles to the east of town just off the main road providing a pool for guests and good breakfasts with excellent coffee.

The jewel of eastern Crete has to be Vai with it's beatiful palm-fringed golden sand beach.  However, despite the strict regulations put into force to protect it, it seems over-commercialised with it's regimented ranks of beds and brollies.

The eastern end of the south coast of Crete did not make a good impression on us.  We would have been happy to stop over for a night or two, had we found a place that appealed.  But, it just seemed to be a continuous strip of coastal development with no character.  Of course there were highlights, such as the little private museum run by a local historian.  We stumbled across it on yet another coffee break along the road.  The curator was just returning from her lunch break as we arrived and we spent an hour there as her only customers.  There were fascinating insights into the rural way of life as well as poiniant reminders of the suffering of rural Cretans under German occupation during the second world war.

After our 3 day tour of eastern Crete, we happily returned to Plakias for the rest of our holiday.  Eastern Crete seems very different from the central region.  Away from the coast and the main roads we visited villages which seemed deserted, perhaps with just one shop cum cafe, a church and a few houses.  We felt hostility from the few locals seen in these places.  I suspect they thought we were Germans, despite the fact that I don't have a moustache or checked trousers.

I agree with the earlier comments about Knossos and Festos.  If you could find a way to get to Knossos at opening time in order to avoid the crowds, it would be fantastic.  But that isn't easy if you're based in Plakias.  Festos is much less crowded but equally well worth a visit and much nearer to Plakias.  Further afield, the Akrotiri site on Santorini is by far the best archaeological site I have visited anywhere.  It is stunning, as is Santorinin itself.  Well worth investing 3 or 4 of your 14 days for the trip.  We flew from Heraklion and returned by hydrofoil after 3 nights on the island.  Mind you, I would not want to live there!

Finally, as a relaxing break away from the coast and more targeted occupations, consider a drive up into the mountains where the air is cool and tourism is not a major part of the local economy.  Stop in a corner cafenion, smile at the locals and play backgammon while you drink your beer.  Cretan hospitality often results in you being given a plate of olives or fruit and you will be glad you took the time to learn a few words of Greek.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2004, 11:28:34 AM by compage »
John Page

Offline ostraco

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« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2003, 08:26:20 PM »
Anyone tried any of these trips this year? - Be good to know how you got on and what you discovered!
John - Ostraco

Offline harribobs

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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2006, 09:58:23 AM »
here's another thread that deserves more attention, some great ideas for day trips ( and longer)

here's the main beach at Paleohora