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Help for newbie with Crete

My husband and 3 of our young adult children will be traveling to Crete May 2020 for 5-7 days. Among the things everyone wants: water sports (windsurfing and snorkeling), hiking (easy) and archeology. Crete seems to fit the bill for all of those but I am struggling to figure out where to make home base, accommodations, car or not and how to narrow down which places to go and how many days to stay. We are not big partiers and prefer less crowded places.
I think the ideal would be
1-2 days in Herklion (flying in from Munich where we are visiting friends). It's easy to choose places here.
2-3 days either on western or southern shores-if I could find a bus tour with accommodations figured out that would be my preference.
2-3 days in Palekestro (there doesn't seem to be much hiking in the area but lots of water sports)

I have never planned an overseas trip and I'm a bit overwhelmed. Crete in particular seems difficult to figure out-often different names for places, etc.

Thanks for any help.
Kate in NC

Posted by
2416 posts

We'll try to help ... May is a GREAT time to visit Crete. It would help in thinking thru a strategy if you could tell us where you will go after Crete. Will y ou be going straight to ATHENS, or some European airport, or do y ou plan to "hop" onto another island such as Santorini (please just for 1-2 nights max).

The reason is, if you're going onward in GReece, you'd need to leave from Heraklion. And if you don't want to waste time in backtracking, it would be better to fly from Munich to CHANIA, if possible, then make your way during those 5-7 days toward Heraklion. And don't think about a "home base" -- the island is nearly 180 miles long, and a "homebase" will eat up precious hours, long driving to backtrack. I would think about 3 places in the 7 days. Here's a good online map (click & it gets huuuge) - -- shows all roads, color-coded for size, PLUS terrain... makes it very clear how mountain ranges dictate where u can drive (north coast & valleys - almost NO roads across S. Coast due to cliffs/gorges).

As for Party places, they're pretty much restricted to a stretch east of Heraklion packed with UK package-tour crowds... easy to avoid. Elsewhere in Crete, everything's open, nothing is crowded. The rains are over but the greenery & flowers will be lush, the water will be "brisk" but wonderful... and the days will be getting nice & long.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you so much Janet!
We will be flying back to Munich after our time in Crete. We don't have a lot of resources so are limited in how long we can be away from jobs etc. After posting my initial question I read more on the forum and started wondering if Hania is a better place to start and then work our way east.
My husband did find a place to windsurf on the west coast as well. Now we have to decide which direction to go!
I will check out the map you suggest. I have seen various recommendations for books on Crete but in looking for the "Blue Guide" recommended by some, the last update was 2010. Maybe things don't change there and that old a book is ok?
I'm sure more questions will come up. I had hoped that early-mid May would be a good time. It just worked out that way-sandwiched between one child's college graduation and the end of a semester abroad for another.


Posted by
2416 posts

Kate, if you are posted in Munich, you will not have access to a lot of English-language guides... but since you say "NC" I know there are fab libraries at least in Charlotte, the "research triangle" and the "triad" (where my son lives). Go browse the travel shelves, and look at ROUGH GUIDE to Crete, LP Guide to Crete and yes, the BLUE GUIDE. RG is candid about plusses/minuses of various areas, and has very good sections on language, food, etc. Blue Guide is tops in background,history, explanation of major landmarks & sites -- and don't worry about 2010; nothing changes about historic stuff & you don't use it for hotels & restaurants, internet best for that.

I'd suggest 2 days in Chania area (great hike oppties) , then get car & drive South thru Spili, maybe a stop at Phaestos, then a night (or 2? depends on how much time you have) -- at Matala; a swim (brrr if early May, otherwise fine), and climb to its clilff caves?. Then drive N. Easterly on same Red Road (see map I gave), maybe stop in Crete's vineyard area (designated driver), end up in Heraklion area. You can bypass the city to go direct to Knossos -- if it's a weekday try to time it after 2pm because cruise-ship crowds will be leaving by then. The amazing Heraklion museum I think is open until 8 pm by May; check to be sure. Our strategy in past has been to book at Hotel Kronos, right on seafront, handy to everything, moderate rates. Then drive from Knossos into Heraklion (a headache! traffic & 1-wy streets), find parking along seafront, near hotel. Next day u can leave car at airport before flight out. Lots to suggest about what to see/where to eat etc, but as always, settle Logistics FIRST, only then the details.