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June Trip to Naxos and Crete

My husband and I (late 60s) will be in Greece for two weeks in June and plan to visit Naxos and Crete this time. We've been to Naxos before but have not been to Crete. We like ancient archaeological sites, culture, beaches and snorkeling, and my husband hikes/backpacks. We want to minimize back-tracking. I would appreciate your feedback on our overall plan:

Arrive Athens 12:50 pm, leave by ferry for Naxos
Bus from airport to Rafina (2:10 bus, arriving Rafina around 3)
3:30 pm ferry to Naxos

Naxos for 4+ days (relaxing at the beach, visiting friends, day trip to revisit archaeological site)

Ferry from Naxos to Heraklion (or Iraklion), 2:55-6:40 pm

Heraklion for 3 full days (Knossos, museum, Festos? Gortys?)

Bus from Heraklion to (C)Hania via Rethymno

(C)Hania for 4+ days (Relaxing in town, museum, Samaria Gorge, beach)

Flight from (C)Hania to Athens, 2:25 pm-3:25 pm.
Flight out of Athens at 7:10 pm.

We expect to take public transport and do not plan to rent a car for the entire stay but may rent one for some day trips. Thoughts on this plan?

Specifics:
Does anyone have experience with making the airport to Rafina connection? Are we likely to make it from the airport to the ferry at Rafina as planned?

What about Festos, Gortys, or other less popular Minoan archaeological sites? Can these be visited in a day trip by bus or rental car from Heraklion? Are they worth the extra time if we have visited Knossos?

We would like to spend a few hours in Rethymno, just to look around. Would it work to take a bus from Heraklion to Rethymno, stop for a few hours, then continue on to Chania in one day?

My husband wants to hike through the Samaria Gorge. We are looking at options for me to meet up with him at the beach at Frangokastello at the end of the day. So far, we have this tentative plan: he takes the 6:15 am bus from Chania to the gorge. He hikes (he's pretty fit) and is done around 1-2 pm. Supposedly, there is a ferry from Ayia Roumeli at the end of the gorge hike to Hora Sfakion, so I would drive a rental car and meet him there, then drive to Frangokastello. However, we can't find information on how often the ferry runs and how long it takes. Does anyone know?

Thank you!

Posted by
91 posts

I think the Agia Roumeli afternoon ferry is only at 17:30 to Sfakia - it brings all the hikers at once. You could look into both of you going to Agia Roumeli (ferry at 10:30 from Sfakia I believe), where you could relax on the beach & your husband could walk up Samaria gorge as far as he feels like, then back again.

Can I suggest Imbros gorge instead - you drop him off on the road to Sfakia (just past Imbros village are a couple of tavernas where you can park) & at the bottom he is only a few km from Frangokastello. The tavernas in Komitades will provide a 'taxi' if you want. It's a lovely walk, shorter than Samaria, but far fewer people & almost as beautiful in my opinion. & the added bonus that you don't need as much recovery time, it being only 8kms or so, instead of 18km!

Personally, I would consider reducing your Heraklio time & increasing your Chania time, just because of the beauty of Chania region. I much prefer Gortys & Faistos to Knossos. You will find a day coach trip easily available to both from Heraklio. As you are interested in the ancient sites I am sure you will want to visit the wonderful Archaeological museum too.

Yes, you can get a bus to Rethymno, have a couple of hours there, see the fortress & the little old town, then another bus to Chania.

Whilst in Chania I'd recommend a trip to ancient Aptera to you (best with a hire car). & you can add a drive on little roads to some very old traditional villages in the beautiful Apokoronos region, or to the beaches of Almyrida or Kalyves.

Posted by
1143 posts

I've never gone from the airport to Rafina but believe it's a shorter ride than to Piraeus.

Piraeus may have more options for ferries to Naxos so that might be a consideration for choices.

Since you've been to Naxos you know how beautiful it is and is worth at least the four days but adding a couple more would be better.

I've been to Chania and found it to be lovely and stayed just off Theotokopolou St. in a nice budget-friendly accommodation. The western part of the island was much more interesting for me but it was a good distance to Knossos.

I used the bus to go to various places but should have rented a car. Crete is a large island and buses don't go everywhere so a rental would be your best option if you really want to see Crete and the out-of-the-way villages, mountains, archeological sites and more.

Have you checked out any of the Crete Websites:
http://www.explorecrete.com/
http://www.arrivalguides.com/en/Travelguides/Europe/Greece/Crete
https://www.incrediblecrete.gr/

Posted by
1317 posts

Personally I think it would be a good idea to rent a car for one day when you want to visit Festos and Gortys. There are several different spellings for these two sites but we are talking about the same places.
Festos is an excavated site but with no reconstruction like Knossos. Its an interesting contrast between the two.

The highlight of the trip though would be Gortyz. While the gated site is good once you finish there grab a couple of water bottles and set off on foot. The main road runs through olive trees. If you turn left on the road and walk a couple hundred meters and cross the road and walk into the olive grove you will begin to find abandoned columns lying on the ground. Keep going there is the governors Pratoreum, baths an partially excavated amphitheater and even a headless statue. It is like you just found a new archeological site and have it all to yourselves.
Crete Archeological sites https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645085297380/

When you take the bus to Rethymnon there is a left luggage place at the bus depot so you can store your bags for a few hours before catching the later bus to Chania.
Rethymnon https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157654700502270

Posted by
33 posts

Thank you for the great ideas, comments, and links! I will review these all with my husband, Richard, and make some decisions in the next few days.

Posted by
33 posts

Thank you again for all the responses and suggestions! We have adjusted our plans based on your responses and those of others we've talked to about their experiences. We are going to reduce our time in Heraklion and increase the time in Hania. We plan to use public transport to Knossos and rent a car to visit Festos, Gortys, and possibly one a, plus a little rambling around the city. Hania sounds lovely, and we've booked the Cretan House at Pension Nora, based on many recommendations for that street AND that specific hotel.

We are considering ways for Richard to hike the Samaria Gorge or Imbros Gorge and me meeting him at a beach after. We may well do a couple of days using those two options.

I appreciate all your help! We leave this week and are really looking forward to it!

Posted by
10876 posts

Flight from (C)Hania to Athens, 2:25 pm-3:25 pm.
Flight out of Athens at 7:10 pm

If something goes sideways with the flight into ATH , you may be in major doo-doo...... the next flight arrives in ATH at 715PM

Posted by
1317 posts

If you have a couple of days to use for the Samaria Gorge then you might consider taking the KTEL bust to Paleochora or even better Sougia and spend two nights there.

There is a 5:30 am bus from Paleochora which stops in Sougia and then proceeds to the top of the Gorge. Your husband can take that bus and do the Gorge. You can take the morning ferry 8am Paleochora or 9am Sougai (same ferry) and go to Agia Romeuli where the Gorge hike terminates. He will be there probably around 3 so that gives you a couple of hours on the beach. ( Free sunbeds as long as you are buying drinks.)
Then take the ferry back to Sougia. You can spend the second night there or take the bus back to Chania that night. I suggest Sougia because both the bus and ferry depart a bit later than Paleochora. On the return the ferry gets to Sougia sooner and the bus to Chania is at least an hour sooner than Paleochora.

Ferry trip Libyan Sea https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157653434073393

Sougia https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157653311291723

An alternative would be for both of you to take that morning ferry to Agia Romeuli and walk up the gorge from the bottom. We did that and had a totally peaceful walk with no crowds. We passed the iron gates and got as far as Christos where we met the first hikers coming down from the top. After a rest at Christos we hiked back to Ag Romeuli and spent a good 4 hours on the beach. Christos is 5km from the beach at Romeuli so we did a 10km hike which was quite manageable for both of us. Mid sixties.
Samaria Gorge hike the easy way. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157670610409530