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Crete: Suggestions for bus trips out of Heraklium & Hania

My wife and I will travel Crete for three weeks this May. Will spend 3 nights Heraklium, a week in Hania. We will not rent a car, but want to make day trips by bus to archeological sites, monasteries, churches, villages, walks. Would appreciate suggestions! This is our first time in Crete, we are both artists and look forward to the landscape, music, arts and crafts, etc.

Posted by
714 posts

Ktel offers regular bus service on Crete and has a good website with all its schedules and routes. Just be aware that on some routes the bus runs infrequently (once or twice a day).

Posted by
91 posts

Here are some Chania based ideas:

As stated above, Ktel is the bus company. Here is a link to the current ie winter timetable from Chania. http://www.e-ktel.com/images/pdfs/CHANIA_FROM_08-01-2018.pdf
You'll need to check just before you travel as in May it will be changing to the summer timetable with a much enlarged service.

There are also lots of little tourist agencies in the cities who run coach day-trips to some of the main popular touristic sites.

When in Chania, I recommend you visit ancient Aptera - it's a pre-roman site, also has an old Fort, a monastery & a fabulous amplitheatre which was recently renovated, It is around 15 mins out of Chania, heading East, above the village of Megala Horafia (also sometimes called Aptera), which has an excellent taverna, the Ta Aptera. There is not a public bus here, you would need a taxi, or a hire car is better as you could then see some of the local tiny traditional villages & pretty countryside, also plenty of great walks in this area. Nearby, close to Vamos village (which has many pretty, renovated old stone homes) is Karydi, a small monastery with a unique 12 arch olive press ruin & close by, in a very peaceful position, a little Byzantine church. There are many of this type of place, but they are more difficult to reach without a car. You could, for instance, get a bus to Vamos then walk or taxi. Or perhaps hire a taxi for a day, with a driver, to get to these & some of the 'real' Crete! As artists I feel you would enjoy the ancient hamlets on the foothills of the White Mountains, where life hasn't changed much for centuries. Somewhere like Fres, which has a walk to 2 really charming little churches - 1 balanced across 2 rocks with ancient frescoes, the other new but perched up high with an unrivalled view. But it may be hard to navigate the bus service for this type of place, there is often just 1 bus each way a day, for workers so often not at tourist-friendly times!

There are buses, in season, to Hora Sfakia, which makes for a great day out, perhaps with the short boat ride to Loutro. Or get off the bus at Imbros & walk down Imbros gorge (you can get an unofficial taxi at Koumitades at the end of the walk down to Sfakia for lunch next to the water, then bus back). There are also buses to the wonderful Botanical Gardens, on the way up to the Omalos plateau.

On Akrotiri you might enjoy the 3 monasteries of Agia Triada (very photogenic with a museum & excellent olive oil!), next is Gouverneto, then it's a stunning walk (around 45 mins each way) down to the ruin of Katholiko. You might find a day-trip from Chania here.

Hope those help you with your planning!

Posted by
21 posts

These are very helpful suggestions, thank you Lesley, & Jwugg! This is a great start. Imbros Gorge sounds like best "gorge" alternative. Any villages worthy to visit for crafts, or music traditional to Crete?

Posted by
2864 posts

IMBROS gorge is indeed a good choice! Half as long as Samaria.... you can do it in 4 hours even stopping midway for picnic lunch on the trail. When I did it in early May, we only saw a dozen or so people on the trail... in late may there will be more, but nothing like the hundreds (thousands) in Samaria that make you think you're in line at a supermarket. The gorge is full y as narrow at the bottom end as Samaria, too. When we walked down, I suddenly had a craving for roast lamb ... and realized that the pathway was lined with bushes of wild Thyme!! Without a car, you take a bus to Imbros, it's bout 1/4 mile to gorge entry. At the bottom you walk along a road about half a mile to a taverna where there are taxis (and pick-up trucks) for hire. You can go back UP, on the rim road, bu there may not be a bus returning to Chania at a handy time; check ahead. If not, then taxi in to Hora Sfakion, stay the night, and get bus back to Chania next AM.

Arts, Crafts etc -- used to be nonprofit shop that specializes in Cretan woven items and other fine crafts: Chania District Assoc of Handicrafts (Off Halidon Street, below Zambeliou street). The Mosque on harbor also had large Cretan pottery store, back in 2010, my last visit ... ask around. For wood items & knifes Knife Store -29 Sifaka St – A jog to the right from Kanevaro, this street is not touristy. Shops on RH side are up steps. Look for O Armentis. Traditional hand-made Cretan knives. Handles of Olive wood with wood sheaths. About 12-15E each. The blade can have etched saying--- and then it’s a souvenir – or plain use it for cooking & camping. VERY sharp. Not for carry-on! Other nice olive-wood items too!

Traditional Music -- For ages there was a great little dive in old town, Kafe Kriti. Traditional instruments hung on walls. After 11, old mustachio’d guys played & young guys danced in a line to show off. Alas, it closed during hard times in 2011. But I heard there’s another place for Greek Folk Music & rembetikia – Adespoto. It’s between Sifaka and Melhisedek, in Maheradika area of Old Town. Two phone #s: Tel 28210 51582, and 6937151394. If it's still around, Ask your hotelier call to see if it’s a music night, and have him mark it on your Chania map

Posted by
91 posts

Hey Janet, it may be time for another trip to Chania..... What wonderful ideas for the crafts & music. Only 1 thing to add - the large ugly 1970s shanty-town style pottery shop behind the mosque got pulled down around 4 years ago. It was literally bulldozed overnight! The space is a lovely big open square, occasionally used for dances etc & looks amazing, all the buildings there are Venetian now.

Posted by
21 posts

Janet-- thanks for your recommendations, especially Imbros Gorge Walk. And arts and crafts possibilities. Re: traditional music, looks like Adespoto is still up and running, with good reviews. Still searching for traditional Cretan music venues, beyond the rembetika, that is, in or around Hania, even Rethymno or Iraklio.

Posted by
2864 posts

Alas most music "venues" are staged "Greek Nites" for bus groups from "resorts" -- the kind of places where guys in the Evzone "fustanella" skirt-outfit do line dances, and spectators are invited to break dishes (something Greeks seldom if ever did).

Posted by
91 posts

If you want authentic music, rather than 'just for the tourists'; when you are in Chania, look at the posters pasted all around, often stapled onto telegraph poles. They announce the live music events in the next couple of days. May is a bit early for the big late night glendis (parties), but there'll be people playing in local bars, who know whether these may turn into a long dancing session... Ooppa!

Posted by
2864 posts

Jwugg, I agree about looking for posters --- however, they are usually for popular concerts, rock or "Euromusic," not the "traditional" (folk?) music that 2shoes & wife seem to be seeking. 2shoes, alas, what you seek is hard to find, and mainly serendipitous. you want something that's NOT rembetika. Rembetika is the middle-east-type minor-key wailing, klezmer-type of music that came to Greece when 1+ Millions of ethnic Greeks in the 1920s were ejected from Syria, Turkey etc and resettled mainly in Athens, Thessaloniki and a few other large cities. It might be called the "big-city-blues" sort of thing, but not as attuned to US & European ears. Are you looking for a sort of music that uses guitar, bouzouki, lyra, but a softer (more italian?) musical line??? I wish you luck.

That kind of thing is more informal, not advertised as entertainment for Tourists, it just happens. I was in a small cafe in Athens, outside the tourist area with a Greek/Scottish friend one June. Two mustachio'd guys at the next table began strumming guitars and singing. The waiters brought them a new drink; they sang on and on, and people at other tables joined in. Wonderful ballads, so melodic, everyone seemed to know the words. When we left an hour later they were still going strong. I asked my friend what it was all about ... she said, oh, those are songs everyone learns in childhood and sings along. In the US, we might describe them as Campfire or summer-camp songs? Pete Seeger songs? The Great American (Greek) Songbook? The world-famous Nana Mouskouri (whose records hold the world-wide record, more than Sinatra, Presley etc) called upon these ... her famous 1986 concert in Herodios Maximus stadium in Athens had some examples https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilimx4tkK_4 -- even today, you can hear her "la-la-la" song - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MWGJzMyhxQ --played on ferry speakers etc.