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Ideas for Crete for activities and towns to stay

I am traveling September 25-October 10 to Greece. I'm starting in Santorini and meeting a couple of friends. We will be three active women (as in hiking, biking, not partying!) and looking for ideas of what the favorite things to do in Crete are and where to stay. Seems like the west is the place to go for the gorge and other activities, but any tips would be great!

I will then have a week after my friends leave to be on my own. Where should I go after Crete? Thinking of Hydra. Any help is appreciated. It's been hard to plan since one friend is in Iceland, one in Shanghai and I'm in SF!

Posted by
3362 posts

I responded to your previous inquiry on another forum -- where I asked you to give key details to help us advise you better. Believe me, brevity is NOT the goal on these forums; generalities force us to guess at your actual needs/priorities, and sometimes waste OUR time working out scenarios for you, which prove irrelevant because of facts we don't have. Examples of what would help:

(1) How many days do u have for Crete? (so we suggest do-able itineraries)
(2) Do you hope to rent a car? --- It can be very helpful, and not that expensive off-season; you can get a small one for €35 per day + gas (maybe €18 per person) -- A car lets u explore very time-efficiently vs. working with bus schedules, however good. An agency can deliver vehicle to u in Heraklion and, if u wish, u can drop it off at Chania at ferry or airport, no extra fee. HOWEVER u will need an International Drivers Permit (very easy to obtain, just go to any AAA office, show your regular license, takes 15 mins, costs $15-20, less if u supply a passport size photo).

(3) Activities - HIKES -- In west, there are walk-excursions organized out of Rethymnon, about €25 per day, walks between villages, down Mili Gorge etc. stopping for coffee and lunch at a taverna. CYCLING -- opportunities are limited except along a sliver of North coast, due to isle's mountainous terrain. GORGES -- I love how people always say "the Gorge" when there are 24 of them in Crete, but ballyhoo wins out. Besides Samaria, consider Imbros, which is JUST as narrow, has just as lovely scenery, NO tour groups, and takes half as long to traverse.

AFTER CRETE -- After a history-filled scenic adventure like crete, Hydra may seem tame. Mostly popular because it's a 2 hour ferry from Piraeus, and RS always promotes it. Consider instead a jaunt of 4 days or so to NAFPLIO -- considered the most beautiful Old Town in all of Greece ... more lovely than Chania, the runner-up. It's on a peninsula surrounded by water, so it FEELS like an island, and the sunsets from its waterside cafes will "eclipse" those of Santorini I guarantee. You can get there easily for about €13 on an a/c reserved-seat intercity bus in 2.5 hours that takes you along the water, over Corinth Canal, then thru orange Groves to the Bay of Argos. Here's a wonderful (noncommercial) online site that vividly shows the highlight of Nafplio & surrounding areas: Explore town, lovely pebbly town beach, 15 minute bus to nearby sandy beaches (BTW beaches very sparse on Hydra). You can easily get to famous ancient ruins sites like Mycenae & Epidaurus, either by rental car, bus, or local 1-day tour; I've done all 3. This map (click and it gets huuuge) shows its location, at the base of the "Thumb" of the Peloponnese and the interesting route from Athens. Finally, in October, many islands have a "shutting-down" feelling, but Nafplio will be vibrant, because it's a favorite getaway for savvy Athenians. What's more, when visiting there, solo, I've found it easy to socialize with other independent travelers who have diverse interests. At the end of my first trip to Greece I had 3-4 days to spare, and a wise American expat-artist steered me to Nafplio. "You'll thank me" she said ... and I've been thanking her ever since. For some 'eye candy' look at these gorgeous photos of Nafplio and the Argolid area : by my forum friend "Stanbr." After 4-5 days in Nafplio, you'd still hve time for 2 days in Athens, and c'mon girl, Athens has been waiting 3,000+ years for you, you could at least give it 24 hours! Here are stanbr pix to persuade u:

Posted by
3362 posts

PS: Did you act on my suggestion yet about looking at ROUGH GUIDE to GREECE? On Amazon right now, the 2012 edition used is $13 including Prime shipping. The 2008 edition used (which I actually prefer) goes for 1¢ plus $3.99 shipping. You don't look at such guides for today's hotel and restaurant prices -- what you want are the details of destinations, and travel logistics. And you don't have to lug the whole fat volume along -- you can carefully pull out the sections you'd need (Crete, Athens, Peloponnese etc), use duct tape to bind the "spine" and Voila!! little pocket guide-ettes. I've been doing this for 6 greek trips and can testify to value. C'mon Janet, you are spending thousands on this trip, surely you can fork out $4 for this tested guide for pre-planning and on the spot use.

Posted by
16894 posts

Looks like you have enough ideas and now just need to fit them on a calendar. Schedules seem more subject to change in Greece than in other countries, so when relying on buses and ferries, don't schedule yourselves too tightly.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you so much other Janet for the suggestions and tips! I don't know what other forum you posted on. If you did I was not made aware I had a response. I posted at 1am in the morning, so when you wrote a few hours later I of course had no time to get one of your book suggestions, but thanks! I post late at night as that's the only time I have to sit down and work on this trip!

My time in Crete is flexible. We get there September 29th and I'm thinking roughly 6 days. I need to fly out of Athens October 10th in the evening and want to be there the night before to get a full day in for the Acropolis, etc. I had just been looking into Nafplio when you suggested it as well. The reason I posted about Crete is that I've vaguely heard there is a "better side" to the island, yet I couldn't find any actual information out.

Posted by
8 posts

And yes, we are going to rent a car and I know about getting a new international drivers license as mine is way out of date!

Posted by
3362 posts

Am surprised u could not find much regarding the "better side" of Crete. Here are some links full of useful information:
BEST map (click & it gets huuuge):
Maps of Cities too! --
ROAD DIstances in KM --
West Crete "exploring" guide --
-- NOTE: at bottom of list, DO look at "Virtual Tours Around Crete" ... photo-illustrated DIY 1-2 day trips; detailed & GREAT...
Fab Photo Album Chania --
Ditto "Western Crete" --
Good guide by Cretans --
Chania old-town walks --
Walks near/from Chania -- this Trip Advisor thread will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about walks and MORE -- I & many friends contributed. --
Group Daily walks May-Nov (good) --
Ultimate beach -- FALASSARNA ... where to stay!!
Ultimate Gorge-rim drive - Topalian -- Ultimate cliff cave --
Ultimate Sacred Cave (north coast, near Panormos) -
... Knossos, Phaistos -- too many links to mention!!

Posted by
3362 posts

BTW, I guess I did NOT ask you previously to look for a guidebook -- musta been a Joanna --- too many J's! anyway, still good advice. Incidentally, not to gloss over the RS book (I have it myself) -- just that his current book doesn't cover Crete at all...