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Crete Can be Crazy

but still worthwhile

sunny 75 °F

Crete, the largest island in Greece, is diverse, unique, and demanding. Lacking some of the characteristic charm of smaller islands, Crete is not your typical Greek experience. With three nights in Crete we stayed in Elounda on the Eastern shores of Crete. This tiny harbor village attracts day tourists from larger neighboring towns and hosts a handful of restaurants and souvenir shops.

On our first day in Elounda I stopped at restaurant and spent a good hour chatting with the owner about Greece and the Crete experience. He suggested I walk up a narrow drive towards the old town of Elounda, away from the tourists, towards a more Greek experience. I took his advice and headed up the steep hill towards a quaint narrow lane where the residents of Elounda make home. Here laundry hung from windowsills and a handful of locals could be seen planting flowers or attending to other housework. This was more like the authentic Greek experience I was seeking.


Later in the evening we returned to Elounda for dinner at Olondi and enjoyed a fabulous menu of Greek specialities. The appetizer for two could have easily fed all five us, and when dinner arrived we managed to get in a few bites before feeling comatose from overindulgence. The Greek dining experience is meant to be a several hour occasion, with dishes shared from the center of the table and wine served by the carafe, not the bottle. Being swept away in this Greek experience makes me wish that back home I took more time to enjoy the subtleties of life. The Greeks truly seem to understand happiness from a level of simplicity and this is something I wish to apply to my own life.


Our resort, the Blue Palace, is as incredible as resorts get. With hands on attention and every detail looked after this beautiful resort is easily the most amazing place I have ever stayed. The resort even comes complete with a private funicular which carries you from your cliff side room to the beach. Each of our rooms has a private pool hanging on the cliff side. Despite how wonderful our resort is, it lacks in Greek culture. Surrounded by the posh luxuries of American style living, I could literally be anywhere.


Across from our resort, situated in the center of the bay is a small island called Spinalonga. Here I mingled with hundreds of other tourists as we set about exploring this previously Turkish occupied island. Most recently until 1957, Spinalonga served as quarantine for those with leprosy. Crumbling buildings, beautiful scenery, and a warm ocean breeze made Spinalonga the highlight of the Crete experience.


On our final full day in Crete we headed into Iraklio, Crete’s capital, where we toured the Palace of Knossos. This amazing archaeological wonder was only recently discovered in the early 1900’s and is the island’s primary attraction. Maneuvering around the cobbled paths with a stroller was quite difficult and it definitely cut our exploration time in half.


After our brief encounter with Knossos we headed into downtown Iraklio where we used our guidebook to do a walking tour of the city. On first glance Iraklio is dirty, loud, and hectic, but our walking tour took us through some amazing parts of the city where churches and harbors surprised us with their beauty. To finish off our tour we explored the Archeological Museum which is supposed to be one of the finest in Greece. Due to a revamping of the museum, only the highlights were on display in a small room.


To finish up our experience in Iraklio we headed out to the Boutari winery just outside of the city center. Boutari is the Mondovi of Greece with a collection of wineries all throughout the Mediterranean. To begin our wine tour we were ushered into a large movie theater where we watched a futuristic film about the history of Crete and winemaking. Our tour ended with a tasting of several of Boutari’s finest wines.


Our last evening in Crete was spent dining along the waterfront in Agios Nicolas, Elounda’s larger neighbor. Agios really picks up at night when toursists from nearby resorts come to this vibrant harbor to wine and dine the evening away. Although Agios offers a collection of shops and restaurants, it probably wouldn’t appeal to the senses of the adventurous traveler, but for a night on the town, Agios is your best bet on the Eastern shores of Crete.


Our stay in Crete was short, but not unfortunately so. Being such a large island, Crete feels more like mainland living without the Greek charm of the smaller islands. Although we could have never covered all that Crete has to offer, I don’t feel like this was a hindrance to our Crete experience. With that, we move on to Santorini, an island of white buildings and cliff side views, where things are looking a lot more Greek already.

Posted by Jennylynn 11:33 Archived in Greece Tagged tourist_sites

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