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Home > Itineraries > Crete


Crete

Embarkation: ATHENS
Disembarkation: HANIA


Day 1

Athens - Hydra (38 miles)

Day 2

Hydra - Spetses (17 miles)

Day 3

Spetses - Kyparissi - Gerakas (28 miles)

Day 4

Gerakas - Monemvasia (9 miles)

Day 5

Monemvasia - Maleas - Kithira (29 miles)

Day 6

Kithira

Day 7

Kithira - Andikithira (30 miles)

Day 8

Andikithira - Hania (41 miles)


HYDRA: Hydra is perhaps the most beautiful port village in all of Greece. A tiny harbor ringed with cafes, restaurants and gold shops is surrounded by a village of stone houses and villas that rise up the hills like an amphitheatre. But one of the best things about Hydra is that there are no cars. Everything is transferred and moved by donkey, including groceries, building supplies, people and their luggage. Hydra is the former home of composer/singer Leonard Cohen and stomping grounds of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Pink Floyd and many other famous and not-so-famous people.

You can get a coffee or a soda at the cafes and sit there all day long. Nobody will ask you to move like they would if you sat in a diner in the States all day with one cup of coffee. There is a very nice bookshop, which you can find by going up Miaoulis and taking your first right and going past "Zoe's" Silver and Gold Jewelry. There is a foreign press shop on the waterfront where you can get your International Herald Tribune, USA Today, The Athens News and papers from just about any country. The Monastery of the Panagia is right in the port, with its entrance by the clock tower. The monks' cells are now municipal offices but you can go in and admire the church, the marble stones and columns and visit the small museum upstairs.

The most traditional restaurant by far is "Leonidas Taverna" in Kala Pigadia. Take Miaoulis street, the road next to the monastery and keep walking and eventually you will see it on your right...maybe. But your best bet is to call and make reservations before you come because it is small and popular. (0298) 53097

Easier to find is the "Sunset" restaurant which sits on the ramparts overlooking the rocks where everyone swims just beyond the harbor. The food is excellent and the view is too. Hydra is famous for great dinner or lunch and an ouzo and "meze" while you watch the sunsets. Try the "Garides saganaki" which is shrimp cooked with cheese in tomato sauce.

One of the best bars is the "Pirate," right in the port close to the monastery and just before the gold shops. There is also the famous "Disco Heaven" above the town that gets pretty wild in the summertime. As a matter of fact most of the bars get pretty wild in the summertime. Nightlife-wise Hydra is similar to Mykonos, a smaller version of the most famous island. If you want to party you will have fun here, no doubt about it.

SPETSES: Unforgettable scenes of natural beauty are created by the harmonic combination of crystal clear waters and ageing pine trees. Countless picturesque coves, around the island of Spetses offer visitors moments of peace and tranquility. Either by land or sea various forms of transportation make every part of the island fully accessible.

One should not miss visiting the Museum of Spetses, situated at the mansion of Hadziyiannis Mexis (one of the wealthiest leading activist of that era), the main mansion of heroine Laskarina Bouboulina, now a private museum and the historical monastery of St. Nicholas, where on April 3, 1821, the locals took the oath "Freedom Or Death" and joined the revolution.

The most important Spetses Festival of religious and historical meaning is "Armata." Early September with weekly events leading to their peak on the 8th, the locals together with thousands of guests celebrate the anniversary of the great Spetses naval battle, one of the most significant fights of the 1821 revolution On the 8th of September 1822 a fierce naval battle took place and the enemy fleet was defeated to retreat after loosing their flag-ship. Spetses honors every year that courageous victory with a spectacular dramatization, which enables the thousands of viewers to re-live some of those heroic moments.

Spetses has a good reputation for restaurants and food and has a plentiful selection of places to eat. The island is said to have some of the best bakeries in the Saronic Gulf and a local specialty is "amigdalota" - a small almond cake flavored with rosewater. Another local dish is "spetsiota" - a fish and tomato casserole.

Visit "Patrali" near the waterfront in Kounoupitsa for fish dishes. "Exedra Taverna" on the old harbor front is great for fresh fish and Greek specialties. "To Kafenio" near the Flying dolphin office in Dapia is a good place to sample traditional Greek cooking. Spetses offers everything from bars and discos to bouzouki clubs all along the seafront from Dapia to the Old Harbor. Try "Figaro," just ask anyone, for an international flavor were you are bond to dance or "Zorbas," located in Kounoupitsa, which has a more Greek feel.

It's great fun shopping locally for typically regional goods such as olives, cheeses, nougat and honey, dried herbs and decorative ceramic pots. Local shops may have fairly restricted opening hours though - particularly around midday when local people take time out for a leisurely Greek lunch or siesta! The tourist shops of course stay open late at night and all day Sunday, and will accept credit cards for most purchases. Whether you're after a set of worry beads or cassettes of traditional bouzouki music, you're bound to find it.

KYPARISSI: Kyparissi, to the north of Monemvassia and south of Sparti, is a charming coastal village, which has recently developed into a resort attracting those who like to "get away from it all." The two villages here are practically on the white-pebbled beaches overlooking the crystal blue waters. Kyparissi has three marvelous stretches of beach lining three successive coves.

GERAKAS: North of Monemvasia is the town of Gerakas, which is a medieval village located by a small port, which is surrounded by steep mountains that drop into the sea. The narrow bay travels a distance into the mainland. Located on the edge of the mountains there is a "limnothalassa" (a consisting sea-water lake), which has such a narrow entrance that it almost looks like a lake. It was the primary source of the gray mullet eggs used at one time for tarama (fish egg salad) but which is now made from carp. It is also the ancestral town of none other then Telly Savalas.

MONEMVASIA: occupies a steep, rocky islet connected to the Laconian coast by a bridge. The inhabitants of Laconia founded the settlement in the 6th century A.D. A second settlement was later founded on a lower level, and gradually developed into a town of significant strategic importance. After a short domination of the Popes, the Venetians captured the area in 1464. In 1540 the Turks occupied it and its decline became more evident. In 1690 it was given over to the Venetians and in 1715 was recaptured by the Turks. It was the first among the fortified towns of the Peloponnese to be liberated by the Greeks in 1821.

Located in the main square of Monemvasia is the largest surviving Byzantine church in southern Greece. It is directly opposite the small, domed church of Agios Petros, which houses a modest museum of archaeological finds from the town. There are only a tiny handful of restaurants in the village, all within a few steps of each other along the main pathway. Wander up and down soaking in the ambience of the place while you browse for the perfect romantic dining spot under the stars. The "Castellano" restaurant, situated in an ancient hospital close to hotel Lazario, is a great place to taste some lamb stew, moussaka or delicious goat cheese along with traditional Greek wine straight from the barrel. Another great choice is "Matula's" taverna, which happens to be the oldest taverna on the Kastro (since the 1960s) with indoor and outdoor tables.

MALEAS: Cape Maleas is famous for its Byzantine churches and monasteries - Cape Maleas is often referred to as the "small Holy Mountain" (Mount Athos being the largest!). On the Cape itself is the chapel of Aghios Georgios, built right into the cliff's face. A few meters away lies the monastery of Aghia Irini perched on a terrace overlooking the sea. Post Byzantine buildings include Aghios Georgios Katzilieris, Aghia Marina, Prophet Ilias, and Aghios Dimitrios. Cape Maleas hosts one of the largest lighthouses in the Mediterranean. (Built since 1860).

KITHIRA: has been known since antiquity as the island of Aphrodite. At the start of the second millennium B.C. it was a Minoan colony and in 424 B.C. and came under the sway of Athens. Over the centuries it knew a succession of conquerors from the Romans to the Byzantines, Venetians and Turks, and it was frequently looted by barbaric pirates. The main town was completely destroyed in 1537 by the notorious Barbarossa. In 1717 in was rebuilt by the Venetians and in 1864 united with the Greek state.

Kithira, or Chora, is the island's capital, built on a hill high above the sea. It is a model of Venetian defensive architecture. Its narrow streets and fortified mansions were intended as protection against pirate raids. The town is dominated by the Venetian castle (1503), which has a spectacular view of the Cretan Sea. The Archaeological Museum contains an important collection of Minoan vases, Mycenaean pottery and finds from the archaic and classical periods.

Taverna "Panaretos" serves traditional Greek cuisine, open for lunch and dinner, and is located in Potamos, Town Square. When in Agia Pelagia enjoy chilled ouzo with 'mezedes' at taverna "Moustakas." For fresh fish and lobster the 'Varkoula' restaurant in Platia Ammos is unique and plays live Greek music. In Karavas, taverna "Amirali" which is situated in the shaded area of maple and walnut trees, offers more than 50 different dishes and fish plates. The wines here are excellent.

ANDIKYTHIRA: This small island lies 28 nautical miles south of Kithira. Antikythira is a barren rock in the middle of the sea. It was called Aigila in antiquity and was chiefly known as a pirate lair throughout the centuries. The celebrated statue of the "Youth of Antikythira" was found offshore. Its capital and port is called Potamos. Spend your days and nights in the embrace of the sea, in company with the sun and the moon and the sea breeze. Maybe one day a modern-day Aphrodite will rise from the sea on to one of Antikythira's beautiful shores.

HANIA: is the second largest town in Crete and unquestionably the one, which has preserved more of its old character than any other. Around Kasteli and the harbor, many buildings and even entire neighborhoods from the Venetian and Turkish periods have been preserved in good condition. The new part has been built according to a modern plan with wide streets, parks and fine buildings. Eleftherios Venizelos (early 20th century statesman) is particularly honored here; he was born in the village of Mournies near Hania and is buried outside the town, at Akrotiri. The Public Market is an impressive building, in the town center, built at the beginning of the present century (1911) and houses grocery stores, butchers' shops, a fish market and vegetable shops. The Public Gardens next to the market are ideal for those in search of shade and tranquillity.

One of the most significant buildings is the large Venetian church of Aghios Frankiskos, which today houses the Archaeological Museum of Hania. At the entrance of the harbor, at its northernmost point, is the renovated fort "Firkas" which was built in 1629. The Firkas fort houses the Maritime Museum of Hania as well as a summer theatre, where drama performances are presented. Opposite the Firkas fort, is the magnificent Venetian lighthouse, built in the 16th century and restored by the Egyptians.

The islet of Elafonissi, which is ideal for swimming and sunbathing, is situated 77 km southwest of Hania, opposite the monastery of Chrissoskalitissa. Stavros is a village north of Akrotiri. The sandy cove had its moment of fame when the beach scenes of Alexis Zorbas were filmed here, yet still a lovely place. At the tip of the Gramvoussa peninsula one will find a lagoon with colourful shallow waters, which usually has few people. Sounds like paradise and it is, only accessible by boat. Falassarna beach, is a well known quiet and long beach, but does not get crowded. A 1999 European Union water survey found it to be the second cleanest waters in Greece! Domata on the southern side is almost inaccessible by foot and is ideal for one who is looking for a secluded hideout.

There are many coffee shops in Hania. "Musses," and "Remezzo," are some options. "Pili tis Ammou" (Gate of sand) is built on a Venetian rampart called "Porta Sabioyera." The "Synagogue" is situated in a Venetian mansion, which was bombed during WW II and used as a...synagogue. "To Avgo Tou Kokkora" (egg of the rooster) is trendy and conveniently situated. For the early birds, those just disembarked or the dedicated night clubbers, having a "bougatsa" (cream pie) at "Iordanis" is considered a must.

Presuming you can resist the insisting greeters you can taste good and fresh fish at "Apostolis" and "Mathios," the town's oldest fish tavernas, located by the Neoria. "Faka" is a popular spot for both locals and tourists where one can dine listening to live bouzouki music. Inside the Market are some tiny spots serving healthy Cretan dishes such as "stifado" (stew with onions) or "briam" and a large array of fried fish and vegetables. The favourite all-time classic "Nixterida" at the Korakies suburb, has a wonderful view of the Souda bay, the genuinely classy service under the surveillance of owner Babis and the amazing staka (soft fresh cheese), bourekakia (small crispy cheese pies), and other Cretan delicacies. There are bars and clubs. "Metropolis," "Blue Note" and "Klik" are just some. "Mylos" is an old windmill transformed to a high-power club. "Prime Vision" or "Ariadne" are conveniently located at the centre of the harbour, very popular in all seasons. "Fagotto" is a laid-back jazz bar, often with live performers.

"Stivanadika" means Stivania St., where "stivania" are the very special Cretan boots, made only on demand. Here one can find very good quality leather items. All the knife makers in town are to be found in the "Mahairadika" ("Knife St.") see for yourself the wonderful collection. Genuine Cretan embroidery and carpets are to be found at "Top Hanas."

RETHYMNO: became a city during the Venetian occupation. The Venetians needed an intermediary port for their operations and ships travelling from Irakleion to Hania. They also needed an administrative center, so Rethymno became the third biggest city in Crete and an important cultural center. Rethymno was destroyed in 1567 when Algerian pirates conquered, robbed and burned it. The Turks took over Rethymno in 1646.

In 1886, because of the (Cretan) Holocaust, Arkadi has become one of the most famous monasteries of Crete. It lies on a plateau, 23 km from the town of Rethymno. It was built during the last Venetian period and consists of sets of fortress-like buildings. Bali is a beautiful bay, which consists of three coves. The first has a pebble beach with few tavernas. The main town is located at the second cove. The third cove is known as the "beach of paradise" and is the best for swimming and relaxing.

Have a cup of Greek coffee before you set off for an evening out in Rethymno. You need all the energy you can get. Do the same as soon as you wake up in the morning. The best place to have coffee is by the seaside, a favourite promenade for tourists and locals alike. You can pick and choose from the following names of coffee shops: "Venetsianiko," "Galero" (at Platanos) and "En Plo."

One of the places you will never forget is taverna "Kastro" at Plakias village. The panoramic view of the Libyan Sea, the friendly and cozy environment, and the excellent service will amaze you! The "rabbit with lemon", that Mrs. Athanasia cooks, is their specialty and we recommend it to you! It's a special place for romantic people, nature lovers and families. "Avli" restaurant is also an excellent choice. It was established 14 years ago and is famous for its delicious Cretan and Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant is housed in a 13th century building and features an impressive garden. In addition, the gourmets from around the world will be surprised by the restaurant's selection of excellent wines. The restaurant also functions as a wine-and-cheese bar after midnight hours.

At the picturesque pavements of Rethymno, on 16 Radamanthios St., stands the piano-restaurant "Oneirokritis." In the special outdoor area of the restaurant, where the foliage of the trees cool down the sensations, you may taste the "plat du jour" like pork filets with wine and sun dried tomatoes sauce and a great variety of 18 different dishes cooked with fantasy and talent.

If you are on holiday, you have plenty of time to enjoy yourselves until early morning hours. Take this opportunity to enjoy the nightlife of Rethymno, which is quite vibrant and varied. Your first call should be at "Roloi" (Watch), a trendy bar/club favourite with the young at heart, particularly on weekends. The "Fortezza" club is a large establishment offering traditional entertainment and cuisine. The "Metropolis" is an "all American classic bar." Other good bars/clubs located in Rethymno are the "B52," "Nafpigeio," "Karma," and "Opera." IRAKLEIO: is the capital of Crete and the largest city. Irakleio in ancient times served as the port of Knossos, but it was only in the 9th century AD that it appeared as a town, founded by the Saracens, at that time occupiers of Crete. It soon became the slave trade center in the Mediterranean, to be soon after taken over by the Venetians who built immense fortification walls, that stand intact even today, called it Kandax which was later paraphrased to become Candia.

During the four centuries of the Venetian occupation of Crete many buildings were erected, these are excellent examples of Venetian Architecture of that time, and many of them exist today. The Basilica di San Marco and the Loggia are two such specimens, while the Morozini fountain with its four lions has even given its name in the central spot of the town.

Knossos is the most famous archaeological site on Crete. It contains the ruins of the largest and most luxurious Minoan palace, built in the middle of a large town. The first palace was built around 2000 B.C. and destroyed around 1700 B.C. The second one was built immediately afterwards, more magnificent than the first. This was also destroyed, around 1500 B.C., most likely by the terrible eruption of the volcano on Santorini.

The visitor to Irakleio should definitely visit the archaeological site at Knossos and the Archeological Museum of Irakleio that houses most of the Minoan findings in Crete. Special attention should also be paid to the Historical Museum of Irakleio that houses findings from the early Christian era to today and the Museum of Natural History. West of the city and less than 5 km away towards Ammoudara, there are beaches where you can swim. The beautiful beaches, though, are located east of the city and start from Kartero (8 km) and end up at Malia (34 km).

"Kalathakis" restaurant, located near Knossos, situated in a garden with lush green trees, offers a vast variety of local appetizers. One must try the snail dishes and the fillet of pork along with Cretan home made wines. In Arxanes visit the one and only taverna surrounded by hanging grapevines in their cool garden. Just ask for the "philosopher" and you will find itů the menu is in ancient Greek so you will need a translator...but it is well worth a try.

Also at Arxanes, housed in a renovated house one will find the taverna "Likastos." There are excellent items on the menu such as superb "gardoubakia with zuchini" as well as "krasokeftedes" and excellent "dolmadakia." The white wine by the pitcher is more than honorable.

"Semeli" is a brand new restaurant with high aspirations. Try the eggplant roll, the spinach crepe or the seafood risotto. For your main course try the filet of pork with a delicious wine sauce. "Semeli" is located in Irakleio. Also in Irakleio is the taverna "Thalassina." This is acclaimed to be the best place for fish and seafood. A simple restaurant, whose main strength is the choice of absolutely fresh and good quality fish. They are cooked simply but correctly. Other local dishes are served such as octopus, cuttle-fish, sea-urchin salad, raw clams and a variety of green salads. "Steiakakis" is a tiny yet traditional restaurant in the central square of the village Aklani. This family run restaurant will offer you a great selection of Cretan specialties. Taste the escargot (in season), the excellent wild-green salads and probably the best of all, the "stew with maratho."

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