The place of our next journey to Greece was predetermined long time before the trip. It was Crete, the large mountainous island, the southern edge of Europe, the native land of Minoan civilization and some famous Greeks, such as: the artist Domínikos Theotokópoulos (also known as El Greco), the writer Níkos Kazantzákis ("The Last Temptation of Christ", "Zorba the Greek").

The trip was planned for 3 weeks from 16 September till 7 October, 2007. The thorough preparation preceded it, which was being consisted in the drawing up of car routes on the island. In order to avoid distant passages by the car, we have decided to stay in three places at the different ends of Crete: in the West, South and East.

I have communicated by e-mail with Katerina Bereti (Katrea Rethimno Crete), familiar to us by the last journey. We have selected 2 apartments in the West and in the South from her site proposals, a place in the East we have found ourselves by Internet. Katya has connected with all of them and has reserved rooms at the outlined dates. Also we have rented a car, Fiat Seicento, at all 3 weeks, which we must obtain on the arrival in the airport of Iraklion, and leave it there before the departure.

I have to say that the tour agency, which collaborates with Katya in Moscow, let us down this time, changing at the last moment one airline-carrier to another, noted for its delays. There is even a joke in regard to this (which has a plenty portion of truth) - this is the only airline, to flight of which there is no way to be late. As a result we have had delays: there - 7 hours, and back - 5.



Thus the aircraft with the large delay finally have departed and headed for Iraklion - the largest city of Crete. Along the way the clouds, tightly covered the earth, began to thin, and above Greece they have disappeared entirely, opening the remarkable view of the Aegean sea with the islands scattered on it, among which were recognized Paros, Naxos and Santorini, familiar to us by the last journey.

The aircraft began to descend, and after flying above a tightly built-on coast of Crete island, have safely landed.

Click the images to enlarge them.

Having picked up our luggage, we have gone outside, where were met by a representative of the car rental company "Greenways" and went, together with one French couple which arrived earlier, to the parking located not far away. Having arranged with the French and after sending them in rented car, the agent has proceeded to us. He has explained the plan of departure and entrance to this parking, here we had to leave the car after 3 weeks, after giving its keys into a kiosk located hereabout. And the amount of gasoline must remain not less than at the moment of obtaining the car. Also he has left the telephone and the address of their main office and the telephone, which we can call at night. I have signed the agreement, and we have left.

Our small two-door vehicle Fiat Seicento is suitable perfectly well for journeys for two through the island. Firstly, it is economical, concerning price for hire and fuel rate. Secondly, small sizes ensure remarkable maneuverability on the narrow roads of Crete settlements, where two cars can hardly pass one another. Furthermore, the vehicle possesses good enough speed qualities and smoothness of motion on highway.

True, there are the deficiencies. It is better not to drive along bad broken-stone roads. However, if to go slowly and there is no choice, then it is possible. In this case the entire car, and especially the rear glass, is rapidly covered with dust. Once we had to wash it. Furthermore, twice we had to change the punctured wheel by the spare. Meanwhile, it is completely impossible to unscrew the nuts by the spanner, which is applied in the set with the spare wheel without using additional attachments. We had to ask for help on a road.

Pair of advices apropos of planning routes on Crete up to the great distances at this season, i.e. in autumn. During September - October it grows dark sufficiently early, and therefore try to leave earlier so that you had not to return in darkness, indeed the ride on the unknown locality at night - not too great a pleasure. And also, it is desirable to have with yourself the special glasses for the ride towards the sun, I had not, and sometimes, during the ride westwards before the sunset, the visibility on a road dropped to zero. Or select the base hotels so that they would be located east from the basic sights, i.e., so that you have to go in the morning to the west, and in the evening to the east, but not vice versa.

Crete is the island in the Mediterranean, oblong on the form, was lengthened from the west to the east up to the distance of 260 km, whereas in the direction the north - the south in widest part has only 56 km. Administratively the island is divided into the 4 regions (nomes). From the west to the east: Chania, Rethymno, Iraklion and Lassithi. In the first three nomes the capitals are the cities of the same name (and only one in nome). In Lassithi the capital is Agios Nikolaos, also there are the two additional small cities Ierapetra and Sitia.

The further narration consists of 3 parts: West, South, East according to my arbitrary separation of the island. The description of a hotel and a region of our stay in the respective part of the island is given initially inside of each part. Further there are descriptions of our trips along the routes, which are sorted according to the geographical principle, from west to east.

All photographs of our journey in overall size can be found here.

Our routes in Google Earth are here ("kmz" file, 528 KB)


West Crete

West Crete
Click at the route on the map to jump to its description.

Thus, our way run to the west of the island (more accurate to the "middle west", the nome and the district of Rethymno) on the E75, the main road of Crete, which was lengthened from the west to the east of island along its north, most populated coast. The road is good, generally straight, but sometimes dodges, rising or getting down from the mountain. After one of these descents the road was evened and went along the sea, began the long and almost uninterrupted row of settlements and beaches, which was lengthened to Rethymno city. Not far from the beginning of this row is situated Stavromenos, one of such settlements, and we have turned there seaward in search of our hotel.

"Alkionis apartments", is the best apartments from those, where we stayed in Crete. We've got an apartment on the first, the upper, floor. The spacious drawing room had three sofas, a table, a kitchen corner and an exit to the balcony. The bedroom had a double bed, a wardrobe, a television set and an exit to the same balcony. The bathroom had a bath. And, of course, the long balcony, which surrounds our rooms from two sides and which looked both on the sea with the pool, on the yard of the hotel where we parked our car and on the main road with the houses of settlement behind it. The road, although was located not far (100 m), practically did not make noise. Or rather, the roar of the surf drowned everything. The sea was located at 40 metres of us, we had only to pass past the pool, to go down by the small stairs and to cross the narrow coastal strip of sand and small pebbles of reddish-brown color.

Apparently, we have chosen unsuccessful time for the visit of this place. The sea stormed all 9 days, at one moment being strengthened, at another a little ceasing. The bathing in this sea is an extremal entertainment. If it does not immediately bring down by the wave, which is an water mixture of sand with stones and algae, then it is possible to pass further from the coast and to swing there on waves, looking at the struggle against the elements at the coast of other bathers (if they there are), at the same time watching in order that it would not take away oneself in the sea. Furthermore, the sea surf created plenty noise, so that we had to shut the balcony door for the night.

But then in the evenings we could observe amazing sunsets, one of which was memorized especially, when the red glow after sunset remained spilled above the horizon for a long time, painting the sky in inexpressible colors.

All-round panorama from the balcony of our accommodation in the "Alkionis apartments" hotel

Stavroménos settlement is located on the intersection of the old and new national roads. The old road doesn't differs from others ordinary roads of Crete, from Rethymno it goes along the new one, but after intersection in Stavromenos it turns inland. The hotels alternately with the vacant lands occupy the entire coast of the settlement, since beaches in this place becomes increasingly less, and cliffs increasingly more. The majority of the houses of local residents and the stores are located across the road. It's easy to walk or to drive across the E75, since in parallel to it from both sides go by-streets, which are somewhere descended to level below and connecting among themselves by short tunnels under the main road.

Once, being already in the east of the island, after a puncture of tire and replacement of wheel with the spare, I had to go from there into the main office of the car rental company, which is located in Adelianós Kámbos (Ádele), an another settlement situated at 2 km from Stavromenos, closer to Rethymno city. While they changed the spare wheel in our car, I spent 2 hours in this place. The first hour was spent by the sea. The hotels were larger and were located with a continuous row here. Accordingly, the beaches were sufficiently populous here. 1.5-metre waves and red flags didn't stop anyone, apparently, everybody get accustomed to this, and boldly came to the sea. The second hour I dedicated to shopping, the large quantity of supermarkets was located along both sides of the old national road which is the main street of the settlement.

The little digression. In my story there are practically no mentions of tavernas - these customary places of the evening pastime of normal tourists. And this is not because the tavernas are not there or they are not noteworthy. Just because they did not interest us. An only time we were in this place in the last day of our stay in Crete, but a story about this will be in due time. We preferred to spend evenings on the balcony of our room. This costs of excess shoppings and an hour or one-and-a-half hour for cooking a dinner (and at the same time also a breakfast of the next day, we had lunch occasionally and little). But then: Firstly, in own room we could feel ourselves much freer and relaxedly, and the plain radio receiver, farsightedly purchased in advance, helped to transform the balcony into the Greek taverna with local music. Secondly, this is considerably more economical: for example, 3 liters of retsina in the restaurant would cost 30 euros against 7-8 euros of shop price. By the way, retsina was the only alcoholic beverages, which we took there. Though, once we bought a bottle of red demi-doux, but it seemed too sweet. Ordinary dry wine seems to us too acid in principle, and strong beverages are not assimilated in this climate at all.

I pass to the routes.


1 Falassarna - Hrisoskalitissa Monastery - Elafonissi - Saint Sofia Cave

Our way ran to the extreme west of the island. The E75 highway ends in the coastal settlement Kissamos, and, passing into the usual road, through 3 more km it leads to the port. Without turning to the port, we passed further. The road, after turning to the south, began to slowly rise to an uphill. In Plátanos village we have turned right to Falássarna. The descent to the sea began, and the remarkable view of the western coast of island was opened before us.

The broadening of roadside are frequently provided on the mountain roads of the island in places with picturesque views, so that the numerous tourists could stop, admire by view and photograph it. It happens frequently, but not always. Sometimes for the taking of a good picture I had to press the car to the right, to switch on the fault signaling, to stop, rapidly to leave and to make a photograph. This time, however, the parking of roadside restaurant was situated at the desired place. After making our matters, we passed downward to the beach.

The beach was pleased to us: the bright sun, white sand, transparent water, lack of people and beauty of place detained us here longer than the usual. Cool water and a little roughness of the sea did not spoil a general impression. We did not want to leave, but the road called us, we had to pass a long way that day.

After rising back to Platanos, we have turned to Elafonissi, and there began the serpentine of mountain road with descents and ascents, with countless hairpin bends, with maximum speed of 40 km/h on the third gear. In the villages situated along the way, it is necessary to reduce the speed to 20 km/h, since some houses, between which passes the road, are located so closely, that between them can pass only one vehicle. Besides, any pickup which is parked near a house can also considerably reduce the road. There is no possibility for driver to enjoy majestic views from the height, only in the spaces between turnings he can steal a glance, and then again all attention to the road.

At the distance of 6 kilometres before the famous beach rightwards on the cliff , all in white, has appeared the Hrisoskalítissa (golden step) Monastery, named so for the last of 98 steps of the stairway, which leads to the sacred cliff. It was made from gold and sold subsequently together with another property of the monastery for the payment of taxes to sultan. The contemporary structures of monastery is built in the second half of XIX century.

After paying 2 euros for each one at the entrance, we have mounted a ladder. In the niche within the wall, in the environment of candles and a censer, stands the icon of God Mother with the Baby. We have entered into the narrow entrance of the museum, which is the small corridor, at the walls were located a loom, the large bottles of rakí (strong alcoholic drink of grape), on the walls were hung icons, agricultural instruments, dishes. And at the end of the corridor was situated a small pulpit with a table-lectern and an open thick book on it. From under the table it was heard the quiet singing of church chorus, intended to produce (and produced) reverential trembling to visitors. Further, after visiting a church above and after looking around from above the surroundings of monastery, we have gone down to the car and have continued our way.

Elafoníssi (deer island). After leaving the car at the end of the road under the trees, we have gone to the sea. Although it is called island, we have passed to it without having moistened our feet on the broad sandy belt (true, this belt is intersected by a narrow channel, but when we were there it was partially dried up). The island is low, only small sandy or rocky hillocks are found there; and on its perimeter it is surrounded by the small beaches with the absolutely smooth sea, divided by the rocky sections of coast. Somewhere on the coast reddish-brown grits are mixed into the yellowish-white sand, giving to its color the pink tint. The same sand we saw also in Balos bay.

All-round panorama of Elafonissi

Time came to return. On the way back in Kefáli village we have turned to the right and went along a calmer road.

The part of the road passes along Topolia Gorge. Here we have stopped in order to rise into the cave which is found at the left side of the road on a height approximately 50 metres. A steep rocky stairway leads there, on its halfway located a taverna. The bell in a stone frame meets visitors at the entrance into the cave, the small Church of Saint Sofia is located here. The cave is filled with stalagmites, i.e. rock icicles, which grow from bottom to top, so it’s impossible to pass into the depths of the cave, but then the picturesque view of opposite hill is opened.

Further along the road we have stopped at a light signal before the narrow tunnel with the alternating traffic to the different sides. The tunnel is short, but with a sufficiently sharp turn.

At the end of the road we have turn to the right to E75 and have gone home.    Further...

Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.