Here are some of the highlights of the 2 week road trip around Crete I took in 2016. If you are planning a road trip in Crete, this itinerary might help!
Taking The Ferry From Athens to Crete
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, and the ferry takes about 8 hours to get there from Athens (Piraeus port). Only two companies make the route, and during the summer they offer day and night services. We took the overnight ferry to Heraklion with Minoan Lines going out. On the way back, we used the day ferry with Anek Blue Star Ferries from Chania to Piraeus. The total price for this including the car, two passengers and numbered seating, was about 290 euros.
Photos from a 2 week road trip around Crete
The aim of our 2 week road trip around Crete, was to combine beach time with a little sight-seeing. Crete is too big to ‘do it all’ in 2 weeks, and even if it was possible, I wouldn’t want to. This was a vacation, after all! Instead, we picked a route which took in some of the major places of interest, whilst leaving enough to see next time. Yes Crete, we will be back! Here then, are the highlights of our 2 week road trip around Crete.
Knossos and Archaeological Museum
Knossos is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Greece. I first visited here over 35 years ago as a kid with my parents. Maybe it was those early vacations which gave me the travel bug? There is also an archaeological museum in Heraklion which helps make sense of it all, with some great artefacts on display. You might find this article interesting if you want to find out more about Knossos – Tips for visiting Knossos in Crete.
We stayed in Heraklion for a couple of days. Take a look here for hotels in Heraklion.
Dikteon Cave and Lasithi plateau
I have a thing for caves. There is something very other-worldly and timeless about them. According to the Mrs, I have too many Neanderthal genes! Legend has it that Zeus was born in the Dikteon cave. It certainly seemed a fitting place where he could hide from his cannibalistic father Cronus! The cave can be found on the Lasithi Plateau, which is an interesting area to spend some time.
Spinalonga is another popular sight-seeing destination for people touring the north of Crete. Complete with the remains of a castle, the island has a sad recent history as a leper colony. Even if you don't get a chance to visit, I suggest you read The Island by Victoria Hislop. Very moving.
At the start of our 2 week road trip around Crete, it seemed that we visited more caves than beaches! Milatos cave was very special though. During the Ottoman occupation, it acted as a refuge for the local population which ended in tragedy in 1823. Now, there is a small chapel built inside the cave. You can reach the cave very easily, and explore inside. You will need to bring a torch with you to make the most of it. There is also a slightly eccentric ex-pat who sits outside in the mornings, and hires torches out for a euro a time. We picked him up hitch-hiking on the way back down to the town of Milatos!
Diskos Beach (Near Lentas)
This was our favourite part of Crete, and a place we could have spent much longer. Located in the more isolated south of the island, the beach was just amazing! I am not going to include photos here, because it was a part nudist beach. By the way, no I didn't! I burn easily at the best of times, and that is the LAST place I want to get sunburn! If you are interested in staying in the area, you can free camp on the beach. There are also a couple of hotels on the beach area and in the wider area.
Gortyna and Phaestos
These two archaeological sites can be visited on the same day. My favourite was Gortyna for the scale, but Phaestos had the best views. We used our own car during the 2 week road trip around Crete. If you don't have access to a vehicle of your own, a tour could be booked from your hotel.
Looking for a Yabba-Dabba-Doo time in Crete? The Matala Caves could be just for you! The caves date back thousands of years. Back in the sixties, a collection of hippies seeking the simple life moved in and made them home. The hippies are long gone, but the caves remain an interesting tourist attraction to this day. A small entrance fee must be paid to gain access as it is classed as an archaeological site.
I have to say, I love the south of Crete! There are endless miles of isolated wild beaches, and it is the perfect place to relax. I have included Triopetra beach here, but could have included any of the other countless beaches we visited. If you are planning a road trip around Crete, make sure to check out as many beaches as you can!
We more or less stumbled on this area by accident. It is a quiet bay area, backed by a castle. For us, the attraction was the location, and the great room we had. The room at Maria's Studios was the best we had for the trip, and we liked it so much, we stayed an extra day!
Elafonisi is perhaps the most famous beach in Crete. You will most likely have seen photographs of its pink sands. I'm not exactly sure where they get those photos from though, because it didn't look that pink to me! Also, it was a bit too crowded for my tastes. We had to walk a good 20 minutes to find a quiet spot, which you can find pictured above.
Right next to Elafonisi Beach is Kedrodasos Beach. You have to walk to get here, and directions are at times vague. Once there though, a beautiful beach complete with dunes and cedar trees reveals itself. This is a beach known for free camping and naturists, but not all that well visited. The problem with this beach, is that the free campers have left a lot of rubbish to blow in the wind. Why spoil paradise? I don't get it.
Our 2 week road trip around Crete finished in Chania. This is a very pretty Venetian port town, with an interesting ‘old' section. We spent our time wandering around the streets, and also had a great meal at To Koutourouki. Chania was very busy with tourists when we visited in early September. I would suggest visiting it during the off-season periods to really soak up the ambience.
Planning your road trip around Crete
I hope that gives you enough inspiration to plan your own road trip around Crete. I also have a HUGE resource here about planning a road trip to include the best places to see in Greece. If you have any questions, would like any advice, or would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment below!