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Traveling to Greece

This is my first time in Greece and I will be in Crete starting 7/4 through 7/22, because I don't drive is it easy to get around Crete without a car and to any nearby islands?
Is there an alternative, in expensive option to tour Crete and any closer islands without a car? If so, what are the best sites for arranging and buying necessary tickets or car / taxi service ?

I will be with friends the first week I'm there and then I will be travelling alone. Since I will be departing from Heraklion CR, Greece on 7/22, I will use Crete as a base.

Are there any nearby islands close to Crete that are easy to get to either as a day trip or maybe spend overnight?

Posted by
754 posts

I stayed in Chania and relied on the bus to get me to various parts of the islands. The service is good but if there is any possible way to rent a car do so.

If you really want to see Crete, especially the more out of the way and more traditional areas then you'll need a car.

There are various tours available but they can be pricey . . . so can using a taxi.

Since my trip to Chania I now rent a car where ever I go in Greece.

If you can't drive or rent a car then you can check out this website. I don't know anything about it but it offers tours:

https://www.getyourguide.com/chania-l1807/day-trips-tc172/

Posted by
746 posts

Good link from tommyk. Indeed the KTEL bus service is extensive in Crete. While a car gives you flexibility you will not regret using the bus. You can visit any travel agent in Chania, Rethymnon or Heraklion. they all sell guided tours. I would suggest from Heraklion you find one that takes you to Phastos, Gortyz and Matala.

Knossos, Phastos and Gortyz https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645085297380/

From Chania you can do the long day hike to the Sameria Gorge. The excursion will include a bus trip to the top of the gorge, the 16km hike down the gorge, ferry along the coast and the bus back to Chania.

Also from Chania is the excursion to Balos and Gramovossa. You get two great beaches plus a pirate fortress. There is also a day trip by KTEL to the pink sand beach at Elafonissi.
Gramovossa, Balos Elafonissi https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157698932695812

Our September trip was done exclusively by KTEL bus.
This September we found a brand new tour company in Chania. It is out of the KTEL bus station. It is called Smart Tours. It has a maximum of under 20 people and they do several different very personal tours all at an incredible price as I recall 25 euros per person.
Here is an excerpt from my trip report.

They offer several different half day tours including a wine and oil tour, Akrotiri including Agia Triada Monestary, and Theriso Gorge. This day they were running the Wine and Oil tour. It promises to be” off the beaten path to places the locals love.” This turned out to be the best tour we have ever taken. The bus only holds 12 so the group was small. We visited an old bridge and witnessed the results of the flooding in the spring. The next stop was the German War Cemetery. It was sobering, particularly when we read the ages of most of the soldiers who were just teenagers.
Next stop was a the Odigitria Monestary in Kissamos, then into the mountains to visit the olive grove at Vouves where one of the oldest olive trees in the world still produces olives. This is the tree where a twig is taken to be awarded to the winner of the Olympic marathon.

Our next stop was at the village of Anoskeli where we visited a modern olive oil operation and winery. Included was an olive oil tasting with small snacks plus a wine tasting of 5 different wines. This was the most generous pour we have ever seen in a wine tasting.
We thought the tour was over, however our final stop was at a small village at a taverna where a table was already set for us. We were served a variety of small pies, bread and olive oil and lots of Raki. By this time we were a pretty loose happy group. A mother and daughter from Sweden sang us a drinking song and shot a glass of raki to finish. They did such a good job that we all asked them to do it again so we could video it and of course chug more raki. Not to outdone the Spanish lady from Sweden sang us a drinking song and shot a glass of raki to finish. While the cost of this stop was not included in the tour we each paid only 6 euro for the refreshments, which is a pittance considering how much we ate and drank.
Here is my trip report for September if you would like to read more.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/greece/our-celebration-of-life-trip-crete

Posted by
754 posts

stanbr: Nice website for Smart Tours. They offer several at very reasonable prices. Maybe the OP can get away with not needing a car and still experience some traditional areas and local businesses most would not normally know about.

I took the bus to Reythmno with no problems, very inexpensive and had a nice day trip there.

Also took a Jeep Safari into the White Mountains which were spectacular, went through the Therisos gorge and stopped at a mountain taverna for a wonder lamb souvlaki meal with a Cretan Salad, desserts and lots of Raki!

Lucked out one night with a Raki-Making Festival along Chania's Waterfront. What a blow-out of a party with live music, local dances dressed in traditional costumes, roasted potatoes, cheese, roasted peanuts and all the Raki you could drink . . . Wow!

Lots to do in Crete and since it's Greece's largest islands you could spend weeks if not months discovering what it offers.

I'm thinking Crete again for 2021. I know it's still 2019 and I'm going to the Peloponnese for Oct. 2020 but one of the most enjoyable things about planning a Greek trip is the research and discovering from travelers like you what's out there.

Very tempting advice from RS members and others.

Loved your trip report on Crete and obviously one doesn't always need a car but it may be OK for a few days to get to those areas the bus doesn't.

Posted by
16782 posts

Bus service can vary with the seasons, but since you'll be there mid-summer, you'll have maximum selection.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for all the helpful and wonderful suggestions for sites to see on Crete. I will be there from 7/4 through 7/22. My excursions on Crete has already been arranged.

I was wondering if there were any nearby islands to easily and inexpensively travel to either on a day trip or stay 1 - 2 nights and back to Crete?

Posted by
17012 posts

Crete is an isolated island, so your options will be limited if there are any at all. You can do this to check options for visiting other nearby islands:

Take a look at Google Maps and jot down the names of nearby islands (there are not many). Then go to Rome2Rio.com, enter the name of your Cretan base city as the origin and the name of one of the nearby islands as the destination. The website will show you options, including public transportation (if any).

Alas, you can't trust the details shown on the Rome2Rio website. The travel times, frequencies and fares are utterly unreliable. What you need to do is keep drilling down until you find the name of the bus/ferry company, then go to its website for schedules and fares. Be careful about the time of year.

I tried this for Karpathos and found Rome2Rio gives a one-way travel-time estimate of over 6 hours from Heraklion. Even allowing for Rome2Rio's highly questionable accuracy, that doesn't seem like a viable day-trip to me.

Antikythera is closer to western Crete; perhaps it will work.

The other thing you can look at is flights. Use Skyscanner for that. I wouldn't day-trip from one island to another by plane, but perhaps you're willing to do that.