Final Stop In Greece: Crete
I am finally getting around to sharing travel info from our last stop in Greece. I have been kind of dragging my feet on this one because it was my favorite location on our trip, and I wanted to make sure that I did this island justice! After coming back home, I told my family we should buy land or a summer home in Crete because I loved it that much- HEY, a girl can dream, right?!? The island of Crete is just so charming, yet modern, AND I absolutely couldn't get enough of this place! SO here goes nothing, here are ALL THINGS CRETAN...
CRETE- Stayed 4 days, and I wish we had more time!! I didn't realize how HUGE this island is- You definitely could make a whole vacation out of exploring Crete alone.
Where We Stayed: Pepi Boutique Hotel
We stayed at the Pepi Boutique Hotel in Rethymno, Crete. We took another high speed ferry from Santorini to Crete, because again folks, from island to island the ferries are the way to go. We learned our lesson in Santorini, and we had a transportation service waiting for us when we arrived at the Heraklion port in Crete. From there it took about 90 minutes to get to the city of Rethymno, where we were staying, and the transportation costed about 90 Euros. We didn't realize how big this island was, so if we go back again, we would definitely feel comfortable renting a car and driving there. Even though we didn't get to drive around on this trip and see lots of other areas/cities on the island, we were happy with our choice to stay in the Rethymno Old Town area. When we arrived in Heraklion, it was very modern and kind of reminded us of a mini Athens- definitely not the vibe we were looking for on an island- YES, I LOVED Athens, but we were going for a different feel here. So we were very pleased with the Rethymno vibe for the four days that we had! AND, a huge part of our love for this area, was our LOVE for this adorable hotel! We stayed in one of the "Junior Suites", and it was perfect! It had a little kitchenette, and the cutest loft area. Everything was updated perfectly in the hotel, but still kept the rustic feel of the ancient city surrounding it. Breakfast was included, and it was delicious, as I have mentioned before about the breakfasts in all locations. Breakfast at your hotel = CONVENIENCE! We also liked just chilling in the pool area, which was surrounded by ancient old town walls, when we wanted some down time. I would 100% stay at this hotel again!
Top 3 Places to Eat:
- Lemonokipos: This restaurant was literally right around the corner from our hotel, and we absolutely LOVED this place! It was so charming- you enter through an indoor lobby, which leads you to this beautiful outdoor lemon grove where all of the overhead lemon trees are lit up with fairy lights. It was just so enchanting, and the servers and owners were wonderful! Of course once people found out we were Greek and could speak Greek, we became part of the family immediately- that's how Greeks are! ❤️ We loved just relaxing, enjoying a glass of wine, AND the food was seriously DELISH! I ordered the stifado (beef with a greek tomato sauce over rice); my mom ordered the youvesti (which is also a beef dish with a greek tomato sauce, but with big sweet onions over a greek pasta called kritharaki); my sister ordered the Mediterranean sampler platter (which had samples of things like moussaka, yemista, Cretan pies, etc.). Everything was to die for! The neat thing about this restaurant is that they serve traditional Cretan food, and other traditional Greek favorites as well, but the Cretan food is a little different. I thought it was really interesting to try the Cretan spin on certain dishes. We loved this restaurant so much, we ate here two nights!
- Old Port and Restaurants in Old Town Rethymno: If you stay, or stop, in Rethymno you have to check out the pier and old port section of town. There are outdoor restaurants galore! This is also where you will catch some of the fun night life in this quaint little city. We were shocked when we walked from our hotel to this area (which was a pretty quick walk) to see how many people were out and about, drinking, eating, listening to music, and just enjoying the view! It had a really neat, youthful atmosphere- AND, all of the restaurants have their menus out on display, so you can choose whatever you are in the mood for! Definitely worth checking out for the food and the fun!
- Bar BQ Mamalakis: If you get the opportunity to go to Greece, you MUST try the souvlaki (shish kebab)! Whether you try the chicken or pork souvlaki, that's totally up to you- BUT it's definitely a tradition that I suggest you partake in while you are there! SO YUMMY with a little tzatziki sauce!! Sometimes on vacation I feel like you eat, eat, eat, and sometimes you are just sick of eating big meals and making a big hullabaloo out of going out for a meal...so going to one of the local souvlaki stands or tavernas is AWESOME for a super casual, quick, light meal! There are lots of little souvlaki and gyro stands all across Rethymno, but this one is rated as one of the best!
Top 3 Sites to See In Crete:
- Tour to Gramvousa and Balos Beaches: OK, my friends...this literally was one of the most BEAUTIFUL sites I have ever seen in my life! It was almost hard for my eyes and brain to process it all- I kept repeating to myself this must be what heaven looks like....INSANE! If you have been reading my other travel posts, you know that we try to schedule one tour or excursion per location on our vacations, and this one was the winner, winner, chicken dinner! First of all, it was the cheapest excursion of the whole trip, costing only 40 Euros per person or so. We did have to get up and catch a scheduled bus around 8:30 to get to the port, which was about an hour from our hotel, and from there you hop on a ferry to get to these secluded beaches. We got back to our hotel around 6:00, which seems like it would be a long day- BUT, you actually get to just relax for most of the day on the beach, so it was totally worth it! AND, let me tell you, the turquoise water at these beaches is just unbelievable. My sister, who is a travel expert, said she hasn't seen crystal clear turquoise water like this other than when they were in Bora Bora. You can see the bottom of the ocean even in the deepest of spots. AMAZING! These beaches are so remote, and the Cretans are doing their best to try and preserve the natural areas and lagoons, that they don't allow buildings/restaurants to be built there. So you do have to pack your own lunch and water- ask your hotel if they can possibly give you a boxed lunch, extra towels, and water bottles before you leave. That's what we did, and it worked out perfectly! I seriously wish I could have stayed, staring at that water, forever! Another plus for history buffs- on Gramvousa Beach you can hike up to the Gramvousa Fortress, which is a Venetian fortress that was built in the 16th century when the Venetians occupied Crete. Really interesting to see! This whole excursion is a MUST DO!!!
- Fortezza of Rethymno: I really LOVE history (a passion I got from my dad), and the history of my Greek ancestors and family is obviously my favorite. SO, any chance that we got to see a historical site, we jumped on it! Since we stayed in Old Town Rethymno, the Fortezza of Rethymno was within walking distance for us. I was so fascinated to learn all of the history of the Venetians coming into Crete and taking over, and how they built so many fortresses all over the island to try and keep the Ottomans out. These fortresses were just amazing to see in person, and it's just SO crazy to think how these people could build these massive structures without the assistance of modern technology! MIND BLOWING! If you are in the area, I definitely suggest checking this out!
- Old Town Rethymno Shops: Well by now you all know that I am obsessed with shopping, so of course every place we go on vacation I scope out the best places to shop! The little narrow, cobblestone streets in Old Town Rethymno did NOT disappoint! There were TONS of cute little shops in this little district- clothing, jewelry, shoes, you name it, they had it! I especially loved searching for Greek-made items. In every location in Greece, I found something unique that I could only find in Greece to purchase, and in Crete I found the perfect leather sandals. They were made by the family who owned the little shop, and they were just so grateful for my purchase. LOVE- I loved supporting my people! On a total sidenote- since coming home, I found a website that sells all Greek-made products. If you are interested in supporting some local Greek artists, the website is Tolmee. I just bought a leather bracelet from them that I am very excited to wear!
Obviously we only had four days on this island, so we tried to jam pack our days with as much site seeing as possible. If we had more time, we definitely would have tried to see some other cities in Crete, do a tour to Knossos (which is a palace dating back to Minoan times located in Heraklion), and we would have done some more wine tastings and tours. We heard that some of the Cretan wines had been voted as some of the top European wines this year, so we were kind of bummed we couldn't dedicate more of our time to drinking some vino! However, the activities that we did get to do definitely did not disappoint! We were seriously so in love with this island, and with the people, that we all said we would definitely be back again next time! This was our favorite stop on our trip to Greece- it mixed a little bit of the city life of Athens, with a little bit of the island life. The combination made the atmosphere in Crete PERFECT! So there you have it folks, Greece in a very quick nutshell. I hope you have enjoyed reading the last four posts about our trip, and hopefully if you are planning on traveling to Greece anytime soon, you find this info helpful! For now, Στην υγειά σας (stin ygeiá sas), in other words CHEERS! Make it a good one!