Landing in Chania, on the Greek island of Crete, felt like heaven after the scorching heat of Cairo! After a bus ride, hiking in circles then finally just taking a taxi, I settled into the studio apartment I had rented for 3 nights and walked the 2 blocks to the beach.
The beach offered up cute restaurants, a beautiful sunset, and scenes of children of all ages playing soccer and paddle ball, sunbathing, and swimming. Walking along the beaches and losing myself in the view, I followed the Greek example and relaxed my first day in Crete.
On day two, I found my way to Old Town and fell in love! Chania is a beautiful old city that hugs the Venetian Harbor and serves up an amazing array of restaurants and cafes, churches, museums, and narrow streets full of shops. The harbor itself seems to change as the sun makes its journey west but is always captivating.
I was so charmed by Old Town with its obvious Venetian influence that, after soaking it in for what was supposed to be my last day there, I decided to stay 2 more days…but in the heart of it! I booked a room through Airbnb right next to the Church of the Trimartyri and enjoyed another day of wandering the narrow streets and harbor, conversing with shop owners, dining in unique restaurants, eating gelato, and drinking the local beer and wine.
My final day on the western side of Crete, I took a bus to the White Mountains and hiked the Samaria Gorge! It took me 4 1/2 hours to hike Europe’s longest gorge (11 miles/18 kilometers from Omalos to Agia Roumeli) and it was a workout! It’s almost all downhill…steep at first (not great on my bad knee!) then just plain rocky! I would have to stop to look at my surroundings as watching where I stepped was paramount to not twisting an ankle or worse!
Eventually, I came the ruins of an ancient Samarian village where I, and many others, stopped to enjoy our picnic lunches and to rest among the agrimia goats which are mountain goats only found in Crete. Moving on, I crossed then hiked alongside of a mountain stream before going through a very narrow part of the trail. This section is known as the “Iron Gates” and is the narrowest part of the gorge.
Finally making it through, I departed Samaria National Park and hiked down to the village of Agia Roumeli. I ate, drank, and hid under a beach umbrella while waiting for my ferry to arrive and deliver me to Chora Sfakion (the southernmost part of Europe), where my bus was waiting to return me to Chania. I must say too how amazing the views were from the bus on the way up and back down the mountain!
I found myself painfully (I was so sore from the hike!) hauling my backpack through town to catch a bus to my next destination, Malia. I had honestly never heard of Malia until I was offered a couch there when I did a search for the Heraklion area! Apparently, it’s a party mecca for young British tourists who revel in alcohol and noise! Lucky for me, I arrived about 2 weeks before those shenanigans!
During my time in Malia, I rented a 4-wheeler and randomly drove around, visited the Minoan Palace, walked through the old village, relaxed on the beach (beautiful beaches in Malia!), enjoyed a bar that had swing seats, ate well at a gorgeous family restaurant, and watched a movie with my amazing couchsurfing hosts.
I was on my way to Heraklion, the largest city of the island of Crete, after my 2 nights in Malia. I managed to get a couch for my first night there and my host picked me up from the bus station. After dropping my things at his place, he took me to Knossos Palace before taking himself back to work. Knossos Palace is quite impressive! Being the center of Minoan civilization for over 2000 years doesn’t hurt! After wandering through the ruins for a couple of hours, I ate a late lunch then caught the bus to Heraklion’s city center where I roamed and shopped until my host picked me up.
My final Crete destination was Amoudara Beach, outside of Heraklion’s city center. My couchsurfing host had to leave town so he had convinced one of his clients to give me a 30% discount at the beach hotel, Yannis Apartments. I spent my final day on the amazing island of Crete, dozing on the beach, eating seafood, and reading my book.
I was already in love with Greece and the Greek but Crete’s beauty and my experiences there have sealed that love! If you haven’t been yet, GO!!