We present to you three magical routes tha take in delightful villages, breathtaking beaches and enchanting landscapes on this big hospitable island of Crete.
On the road to Phaistos, make the first stop at the Idaia Gi women’s association in Gergeri, where you’ll find you can pick up flavorful rusks, biscuits and jams. Continue towards Nyvritos village, home to Dimitris Tsakalakis’ coffee shop which also serves herbal teas. Next stop is Zaros with the beautiful lake. Here you’ll find the Vengera taverna as well as the Hotel Eleonas’ restaurant.
Head back to Gergeri, then continue on to the ruins of Ancient Gortyn, near the village of Agioi Denka, then on to Vori, probably the most beautifu village of the area, with some lovely old houses and the Cretan Ethnology Museum (http://www.cretanethnologymuseum.gr). Afterwards head for the Minoan Palace of Phaistos one of the era’s most important palaces.
Further on you’ll find the village of Listaros and the excellent Ksa Sou traverna, which serves local dishes and its very own “cretamisu” dessert made with sweet Cretan myzithra cheese. Next comes Kousses village, where Botano sells endemic herbs and spices. Close by is the famous Matala Beach, whose ancient manmade caves poved something of a magnet for hippies in the 60s. Next to Matala is the amazing Kommos Beach, ideal for the sunset. The most gorgeous beach in the Area is Agiofarago.
Heading west, near Kalyviani is the start of a dirt track that leads to the Gramvousa Peninsula and the Beach of Balos, a stunning seascape of white sand and turquoise water. On the way back make a stop at Falasarna beach. Then make a detour for Milia a picturesque village where the traditional Cretan way of life remains. After the village of Vathi you’ll come towards the impressive Monastery of Panagia Chryssoskalitissa. Nearby the islet of Elafonissi had fine beaches, which you can wade to through very shallow waters. Back on the shore, walk to Kedrodasos, an enchanting place full od juniper trees and sand dunes. On the way back, at Sklavopoula village, stop for a rest at Giannis Sarikakis’s 80-year old cafe. Continue to Kandanos village where most of the sweets at the Kontekakis pastry shop ae made with rosewater.
Next stop is the serene seaside of Palaiochora, where you can enjoy an evening drink. In the morning head to Finikas, where they roasts and grinds their own coffe, before going for a swim at Pachia Ammos beach, Grammeno or the splendid Yaliskari, where the canteen Sandy Beach serves cocktails and offers massage services on the beach. For dinner go to nearby Anidri, where you’ll find theScolio restaurant. If you’re in the mood for exploring, either take the E4 trail or a boat to one of the country’s most impressive landscapes. Agios Kyrikosnay has tyrquise waters, Sougia beach is popular with fans of free-camping, while the remote Domata is the best unknown beach Greece. Exotic Agios Pavlos has a church of the same name built on the beach itself and dating to the 13th-14th century, At Marmara you’ll find Chrysostomo’s Taverna which was voted one of the 10 best beach cafes in Europe by readers of the Guardian last year.
Loutro is a coastal settlement with Cycladitic like architecture, accessible only by sea. Next to it is Finikas – the former in miniature. Don’t miss Glyka Nera, an amazing beach with a few tamarisks and a canteen that serves fresh fish among others! There are Taxi boats operating and serving along this coast from the port of Sphakia.
First stop at Toplou, a monastery set in a magical landscape. Continue towards the beautiful village of Ano Zakros. In the Southeast visit the village of Ziros with its pretty Byzantine churches. Enjoy the view from the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Kapsa and the village of Pefki, where the award winning Piperia taverna is located. Other good food options in the area include Kalliotzina, in Makris Gialos, which serves great homemade dishes. and Akrogiali in KAto Zakros for fresh fish.
For swimming, head to the Vai palm forest, which abuts a stunning beach and nearby Kouremenos with its great sandy strech. Agia Fotia is one of the best beaches in the area. Alternatively go towards Agios Nikolaos and Elounda. Be sure to visit Spinalonga famous from Victoria Hislop’s best seller “the island”, with its grand Venetian castle.
the large hotels in the area have outstanding gourmet restaurants. Try the Elounda Mare’s Old Mill, the Elounda Beach’s Dionysos, the Elounda Beach’s Dionysos, the Elounda Peninslula’s Calypso, the Elounda Gulf Villas’ Argo, the Elounda Bay Palace’s Thalassa and the Blue Palace’s Blue Door.