You are maybe about to think of joining our pretty soap making workshop in Crete, and most of you are coming from very far away. Why don't you take advantage of your trip to make it a little longer and go visit other amazing Greek spots like Santorini, Milos, Peloponnese or even the West side of Crete?
Did you know that Santorini (yes, the famous one!) was just 2 hours away from our hotel?
Oh! And did you also know that Greece was one of the safest places in Europe to travel to, even as a woman? Trust me, I know this country more than my own!
We would be delighted to do the arrangements for you according to your desires, time and budget... For Free. Just ask us!
You are going to Greece's biggest island. But what other places are around? Some of the most beautiful Greek islands!
Let me tell you a bit more about Crete first...
If Crete is the cradle of Minoan civilization, it is intimately linked to Santorini, yet located more than 100 kilometers to the North.
It was indeed following the explosion of the Santorini volcano and the tidal wave that followed that the Minoan civilization disappeared on both islands, around 1600 BC.
Today, if the ruins of this disaster are still clearly visible on the sites open to the public and in museums, the discovery of the two islands promises a superb landscape escape between the imposing wooded gorges or the wonderful coastal hikes of Crete and the sites extraordinary Santorini around its famous caldera.
South of the Mediterranean, straddling the 35th parallel, Crete stretches for 255 km from east to west for only 55 km in its greatest width from North to South. It is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and the first in Greece. Famous for its beaches, it is also renowned in the small world of hiking which takes much quieter paths, at the option of three mountain ranges: the Lefka Ori (2,453 m) or White Mountains to the West, Mount Psiloritis (2,456 m) in the Center (with Mount Ida, the highest point of the island) and Mount Dikti (2,148 m) to the East. Cutting deep into the Lekka Ori, the Samaria Gorge is a renowned natural curiosity. Island kneaded by mythology (Zeus spent his youth there), rich in a history that dates back to the first settlements of the Neolithic and continues with the flamboyant Minoan civilization, Crete is decidedly a world apart, endowed with unique traditions, notably musical or culinary.
You will be staying on the East side of the island. So why not going on a short trip towards the East. Rethymnon is about 1 hour and a half West from our hotel.
This waterfront city is a maze of colorful little streets, where modern stores and souvenir shops mingle with more retro boutiques. It is a real pleasure to stroll through these narrow streets which always lead to a lively square or the pretty port of Rethymno.
In the city center, you will discover the Nérantzes Mosque and the Rimondi Fountain, two main tourist attractions that deserve more than a quick look.
A few kilometers from Rethymno, Arkadi Monastery is the monument not to be missed in the area. This monastery founded in the 11th century is very well known in Greece for symbolizing the fight against the Ottoman invasion in the 19th century: it is here that a thousand revolutionaries (including women and children) preferred killing themselves in blowing up the powder keg rather than surrendering to the Turkish army.
Today the place is peaceful and full of flowers and sunshine.
Dominated by the impenetrable White Mountains, western Crete is a magnetic continent to explore. A mesmerizing beach with unreal colors hides on the last tooth of the long Cretan comb, the Gramvoussa peninsula. At the end of a dirt track overlooking the sea, you would be wordless when discovering the lagoon of Balos which suffenly appears when not expected: an exotic landscape made of gray and ocher cliffs, wheat blond sands and infinite shades of blues.
A few kilometers to the East, the ancient capital of the island: Chania. Impossible not to be seduced. Its Venetian lighthouse, its arsenals, its Turkish mosque, its corbelled houses and its small palaces give a variegated color to the city. Stroll with delight on its quays and in its busy pedestrian streets. Refined restaurants, local producer stores and small designer boutiques have multiplied in recent years, proof that the city attracts young Greeks who are creative and full of ideas.
There are many many many other places to visit in Crete that may be less touristic but as beautiful. We will have plenty of time to discuss it around the pool once we're all together ;-)
Although much smaller, the island of Santorini is just as famous if not more. It is probably one of the most photographied spots on earth probably after the Eiffel Tower. So I would guess you would not want to miss it, especially knowing that it is less than 2 hours away from the hotel where we'll be staying.
Marked by the colossal volcanic eruption which destroyed Minoan civilization, it is renowned for the sumptuous sunsets on its caldera, and for the white scarf made by the little towns of Fira and Oia, perched above a thick layer of colored ashes plunging into the sea. It is one of the main tourist places in Greece, to the point that the postcard image of white villages and chapels with blue domes have become one of the emblems of the whole country .
Unique, unreal, magical, spectacular, apocalyptic or fascinating ... there are many adjectives to describe the emotions that everyone feels when discovering the island of Santorini (also called Thira or Thira in Greek) and its caldera overlooking the Aegean Sea. The most impressive of all the Greek islands is also one of the busiest vith over 1.5 million visitors per year... and logically the most commercial. Still, it remains a gem that you must have seen once in your life.
The East coast of Santorini offers long and beautiful beaches of black volcanic sands which attract crowds in the Summer and more and more throughout the year.
Akrotiri is the opposite side of the caldera towards the South: vestiges of an inhabited town from Neolithic to the 17th century it got was entirely covered with ashes during the eruption of the volcano, which also means that it is therefore very well preserved.
A few hundred meters away, the red sand beach bordered by colorful cliffs of Kokkini Ammos (litterally Red Sans... oh well, sometimes no fancy names are needed to make an impression!) is one of the most beautiful and spectacular on the island. The coast then alternates black sand beaches and white volcanic sand beaches that sometimes gives a surreal impression of lunar decor.
At the end of the peninsula, the lighthouse at Cape Akrotiri offers a magnificent view over the entire caldera to Oia.
Driving West from Kamari to the village of Pyrgos you cannot miss the Church of Panagia Episkopi considered to be the best example of ecclesiastical architecture on the island and which has a magnificent iconostasis carved in light blue and white marble . Located at the foot of the highest mountain in Santorini, Pyrgos is one of the oldest settlements and one of the nicest villages on the island. It has retained its medieval character with its tangle of houses and small alleys forming concentric circles around one of the Kastro crowned by three churches. Free 360° breathtaking views you won't forget.
One cannot pass to Santorini without making the wine route and discovering Nichetri, Assyrtiko, and especially Vinsanto which are among the best wines in Greece. The most important vineyards of Santorini are scattered around Pyrgos and the South of the island. You can visit magnificent cellars, sometimes centuries old: Art Space gallery in Exo Gonia, old but still active small wine cellar, was converted into an art gallery. The Canava Roussos cellars in Episcopi, among the oldest on the island, produces, among other delicacies, the famous Nykteri. The Santo cellars in Pyrgos which offer very complete wine tasting tours. Closer to the caldera are the Venetsanos cellars in Megalochori for a tasting in a magnificent setting. Finally the Koutsoyannopoulos cellars in Kamari, probably the best known and which house a rather well made wine museum...
Your stay would not be complete without lunching in one of the taverns in the small port of Amoundi at the foot of Oia for delicious fresh fish that you can choose from in the kitchen...
It’s very easy to get to Santorini from Crete. There are several boats per day, it takes about 1h30.
Located in the South of Greece, between Athens and Crete, the Cyclades are made up of 24 inhabited islands. With their white and blue houses, their small narrow and winding alleys, they are the typical representation that any traveler has of a stay in Greece.
Everyone dreams of going out to watch the sunset in Santorini or partying on Mykonos but there are many other Cycladic islands to visit on your trip. Whether you love hiking or sublime beaches, let me tell you about one of my favorite Cycladic islands Milos...
Do you dream of azure sea, warm sand, postcard decor and above all a relaxing retreat? Come and visit Milos, maybe a less known island of the Cyclades but which conceals true treasures and got well preserved from mass tourism.
Between the small colorful fishing villages, the majestic ancient sites and the dozens of beaches to discover (almost 80 beaches! the largest number of the archipelago!), you will have enough to occupy yourself!
As a volcanic island, Milos has a coastline bordered by strange rock formations and large cliffs plunging into the sea.
Take the time to stop in the fishing villages, numerous along the coast, including Mandrakia and Firopotamos. Klima is one of the fishing ports not to be missed during your visit to Milos: this charming little fishing port in itself offers a real postcard decor. Colorful boats, small white houses, good smells of grilled fish, the smile of the locals, without forgetting the sunlight that warms the rock and the fishermen's huts...
Capital of the island, Plaka is a (very romantic) must visit to Milos. Located in the heights of the island, Plaka is a typical Cycladic village, with its beautiful white buildings, its rounded domes and its colorful doors. Do not hesitate to get lost in the streets of the old town: its authentic charm and its colors will immediately seduce you. Everywhere you go, you will find restaurants and bars but also the archaeological museum where you can observe the copy of the famous Venus de Milo (the original of which is on display at the Louvre in Paris, a few kilometers away from my home! ha!).
Besides being a charming village, Plaka is an ideal place to watch a sunset. At the top of the kastro - the ruins of an ancient castle - you will have an incredible panorama of the Gulf of Minos and can have a fresh orange juice or a glass of chilled wine watching the silent boat cruise around the island.
If there is one landscape that makes Milos famous, it is its heavenly beaches. Located north of Milos, Sarakiniko Beach is arguably the most Instagrammable place on the island. His particuliarity ? Its huge lunar white rocks!
For a little spot in paradise, go to Firiplaka beach in the early morning to discover a long stretch of fine sand and a turquoise sea bordered by red and white cliffs.
Take a little boat to Kimolos, an unexplored island about 10 minutes from Milos. Sandy beaches and turquoise waters but most of all a charming authentic little town that kept a rich local heritage as well as its Cycladic soul. It’s a pleasure to stroll through its narrow streets, before finding yourself in its central squares.
Unlike the other typical villages of these islands, Kimolos does not have a single main square but several. The houses in Chorio are very pretty and typical covered with beautiful domed roofs. The doors of the houses are always colored in a pretty bright blue. You can take very nice photos with the contrast of white and blue, typical of the Greek islands.
If the village of Chorio does not seem large, it counts no less than eighty small churches. Most date from the 16th century and are dedicated to a specific Saint. The largest is the Church of Panagia Odigitria. It is in the center of the village and reveals a beautiful collection of icons.
Oh and by the way, in case you're hesitating, Milos lays only 1h40 from Santorini, so you can even think visiting both!
If you feel like discovering places very few people go to, here are a few breath taking places you can easily reach from Crete to make your trip complete:
Halfway between Rhodes and Crete, Karpathos stays away from the ferry route that links Piraeus to Rhodes and the island has long been protected from tourism. But taking advantage of expatriate investments (here we speak Greek American everywhere), the island has rapidly developed in its Southern part. Second largest island in the Dodecanese, it is a multifaceted island with preserved living traditions, breathtaking wilderness, some authentic villages and sublime beaches which are among the most beautiful in Greece...
The island has over 50 beaches, most of them with exceptionally clear turquoise water and unspoiled natural surroundings. The most famous and photographed are those that line the east coast of Karpathos between Pigadia and Spoa. Long, difficult access is made easy on small tarmac roads but taxi-boat connections are also offered in season from Pigadia. If you have a car - which I highly recommend - the coastal road that winds through the pine forest on the mountainside is an experience not to be missed.
For being kept very traditional, the island also has a very strong gastronomic identity. The main gastronomic specialties of Karpathos are Makarounes (fresh pasta served with onions and cheese), Ofto (lamb baked in a traditional oven for at least 8 hours), Kolokythopoulia (stuffed zucchini flowers), Fakorizo (a dish of rice and lentils) or but also sweet specialties such as Sisamomeli (sweets made with sesame and honey generally served at weddings). Finally, the bread that almost every family still prepares in their oven is, of course, delicious.
Let's go to the other side and explore a best guarded secret place in the Peloponnese: Mani
Arid landscapes, deserted roads, abandoned stone villages, mythological legends, wild beaches: Mani, the Southern Peloponnese peninsula, is like nothing else in Greece. Really.
Mani does not really look like postcards of the idyllic Cyclades islands. No small white houses with blue domes overlooking a deep blue sea like in Santorini, no luxury hotels or clubs where to dance all night like in Mykonos but stone villages with the look of fortresses, arid landscapes and wild, free herds, authentic old-style taverns and roads in the middle of nothing.
Whether a thunderstorm hits the region - or the mist rises - the decor will evoke Scotland or Ireland more than the usual Mediterranean landscapes, which can be found in other regions of the Peloponnese.
Its coves and ancient villages make the south of the Peloponnese an ideal part of the world for artists looking for inspiration. This is a completely different Greece.
Behind a succession of ridged valleys, the sea only appears intermittently: in Limeni, an enchanted break, the water is jade in color. Then, as the kilometers spread out, the coasts take shape, hemmed in white, and seem to reach out to Africa, with its pieces of land stretching in length.
Kardamyli, a legendary place, is in this area: with its flowered balconies, villas and cobbled streets, this village is a paradise for Instagrammers. Loads of writers have lived there. Patrick Leigh Fermor, Henry Miller and, more recently, the best-selling author Victoria Hislop, the same who wrote "The Island" taking place a few kilometers away from our hotel, spent meditative time in Kardamyli.
Go up to Areopoli and discover settings that could easily be the decors of an old movie. I was amazed with this central grocery store that looked like it hadn't changed since the 19th century!!!
The secret of Mani lays in its villages (ok, its turquoise translucid waters help a bit too), and there are loads of them hidden in the mountain.
Eye candy just for you:
Let me know if you too fell in love with Mani...
Another Greek jewel is Rhodes. Sure, it is almost as famous as Athens, and it is extremely touristic in the Summer times. But still, Rhodes despite its crowds in its narrow streets, has a very special aura. Wait until evening, when things calm down, for day trippers to leave, to discover all the magic of the city. And then you also have Lindos. And Symi. Ahhhhhhh Symi...
If the main attraction of Rhodes is the incredible medieval old town built by the knights of the order of Saint John who settled there for the crusades between 1309 to 1522, the island, that lays only 18km away from the coast of Turkey, Italian until 1949, has many assets that make one of the busiest destinations in Greece.
Rhodes is a magnificent medieval city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. Surrounded by a splendid medieval enclosure pierced by seven majestic doors, it shelters the most important medieval center still inhabited in Europe. The old town counts hundred of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. But allow yourself to go off the beaten tracks and get lost in its maze of charming cobbled streets and you will be surprised of how irresistible Rhodes really is.
Do not miss the visit of the Palace of the Grand Masters. It is an imposing fortress decorated with frescoes and mosaics that immerses you in the medieval atmosphere of the Hospitaller Knights.
About 55km South, Lindos and its ancient acropolis overlooking a bay with turquoise (oh well yes, it's quite common in Greece! But this one looks like a swimming pool) waters is undoubtedly the pearl of Rhodes. Situated on a promontory it is a classic Greek village of white houses. As in the city town of Rhodes, or in Santorini, Mykonos or all the famous spots, tourism has a considerable impact in high season mainly, that can make visiting theses places a little difficult to really appreciate their beauty. But Lindos is an exceptional place, without cars, and if you get up early in the morning you can soak up the special atmosphere of this timeless village . Quite a magical experience.
Once you're there, please don't omit taking a boat for (at least) a day trip to the tiny island of Symi!
The arrival at the port of Symi from Rhodes (less than an hour crossing) is breathtakingly beautiful and an unforgettable memory. The small harbor, surrounded by steep walls and bordered by neoclassical houses in pastel colors reminiscent of the rich past of the island, is certainly one of the most beautiful and spectacular of the Greek islands. Symi was (thanks to the construction of boats and sponge fishing) one of the richest islands of the Dodecanese until the beginning of the 20th century. And this is something you can feel right away: large nicely rehabilitated master houses, a long marble staircase climbing to the village, and this very special atmosphere of neo-classicism and cosmopolitan chic mixed together.
Built as an amphitheater on the hillside, the friendly city consists of a lower part - Gialos (the port) - and an upper part - Chorio (the old village) - connected by the Kalistrata ("the right way", in Greek) a wide alley of marble staircases (375 steps) which crisscross between the old mansions of ocher, terracota, blue or pastel mauve colors and small churches built on the hillside (another staircase climbs up West of the port). This small town with 19th century Italian neoclassical architecture is one of the only islands in Greece where architecture is controlled and protected by the authorities.
In the morning, Gialos' small streets get full from excursionists coming from Rhodes for a few hours but in the evening when the crossover of ferries has stopped, Gialos rediscovers its calm and its nonchalant and chic atmosphere in cafes and restaurants.
Overlooking the port, Horio, the old village, always stays away from the tourist bustle and offers a very beautiful view of Gialos. Go walk up there, you won't regret it, it is beautiful. On the hill you can also find the remains of 20 windmills and an ancient monument tomb believed to have been erected by the Spartes.
No spectacular long white beaches in Symi: the magnificent coast offers numerous secluded magical secret pebble beaches accessible by water taxi
Symi was the first place I ever went to when I went to Greece in the early 90's. At this time, just one hotel and people living peacefully, mainly fishermen.
After 2 days I climbed at one of the only cafés that overlooked the deep blue sea, and I wrote to my parents:
"Dear Parents, I think I have found Paradise on earth and I am writing you to let you know that I will never come back. Ever. I am staying here. Love you."
I did go back home for some reason. But I went back to Symi many many times. It has changed since then, and there are many more hotels and places to stay, but Symi still is one of the most beautiful islands of Greece to me.