Crete Island – a guide with tips & tricks for a good time – Part 2
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In the first part of this post I told how you can travel to the island of Crete, I recommended a very nice, both luxurious and casual place to stay, I explained what it was is like to live as a Cretan and I told about the local drink tsikoudia.
I continue with the ideas for a good time on the island, making a disclaimer that I am far from exhausting all possibilities. I tried to make an optimal detour, under 100 km around Rethymno, where we were staying. To see at least 10 of the recommended places on the island, you have to go at least 2 times, because its area is large and it is not so easy to go around it and enjoy its diverse beauty.
How to eat like a local?
It has already become clear that you have to eat a lot and delicious to eat like a local, and for this reason I have made sure to present you as many restaurants, meals and drinks as possible.
If you are staying in Rethymno, you must go to the port to eat at least once. I have presented 4 restaurants there. You can read in details about them in:
Erotokritos – a nice fish restaurant, at the end of the marina in Rethymno
See also a short film, dubbed with typical local folklore.
Cavo d’Oro- a place with Italian cuisine at the marina in Rethymno, Crete
If you don’t feel like reading, watch the movie about Cavo Doro.
Zefyros – the best fish restaurant at the old marina of Rethymno
The short movie about Zefyros will better show you the unique interior design.
In the old town, I highly recommend Taverna Stavros, which offers typical Greek dishes.
Raki Ba Raki in Rethymno- Cretan cuisine from grandmother’s recipes
To Pigadi- stylish and delicious place in the old town of Rethymno, Crete
The moussaka of Crete is characterized by a very light aroma of cinnamon in the minced meat. They add it, just for luxury. I tried it this way for the first time in Stavros Tavern. The same was done with Bolognese pasta in To Pigadi, which won me over a lot.
For a fine dining experience, try Avli‘s restaurant. But book in advance, because everyone wants to go there, and it’s well worth it. There is a tasting menu, but you can choose from the various options. There is even a children’s menu.
See a short video about the hotel and the fine dining restaurant of Avli.
Not everywhere do they necessarily bring you bread from the beginning. They ask you if you want it first. So, feel free, you can keep the figure, you won’t be tempted. But on the other hand, for a week what to keep so much – it is worth eating their bread, dipping it in olive oil with salt or in some other local dip. Typical local dip is the one of finely chopped tomatoes, with a little oregano and olive oil, olives, or a dip of goat cheese. It is very tasty to spread athogalo on your bread.
Staka and Athogalo are made of sheep’s or goat’s milk. It is something between yogurt and butter. The second is spread on bread, and the first, can be used for frying eggs, which become super delicious this way.
Athogalo is served for breakfast in Avli, spread on their traditional breads, and their omelette and scrambled eggs are made with staka. You can also eat scrambled eggs with the local smoked pork fillet – apaki. Very tasty!
On the island are breeded goats and sheep are seen here, so if you are a carnivore, try something cooked kleftiko. The meat is marinated beforehand and then cooked to perfect tenderness, but it’s delicious, a lot!
It is almost a must to try Dakos – something like oatmeal bruschetta, toasted or rusked with the local snack of small tomatoes, which I described above and on it mizithra, similar to ricotta, from sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can see them in the movie about Avli.
If you can, try a Kalitsounia at some bakery. A small patty stuffed with green herbs, crispy fried. It is very tasty! It is included in Avli’s breakfast, as well as the traditional tiganopsomi– fried dough on a pan. They are like the Bulgarian mekitsa. They serve it with natural honey and homemade raspberry jam.
Try aged Graviera cheese from sheep’s milk. It partners well with local wine.
If you decide to go south of Rethymno and visit one of the wild beaches, you can stop in Plakias. There we tried Taverna Sofia.
How to drink wine like a local?
In Geography of Genius, Eric Weiner recounts that in ancient Greece, many people drank wine, and it was part of the unique atmosphere that created geniuses such as Socrates, Aristotle, Plato and Homer. But they drank it diluted. Now, if you tell a modern sommelier that you want ice in an expensive wine or that you will dilute it with water, he will grab your bottle and strike you off his list of acquaintances. Go explain to him that you are a fan of Ancient Greece and Homer.
The ancient inhabitants of Crete, the Minoans and the Mycenaeans made cocktails of wine, beer and mead.
I don’t fantasize, my source is Penn Museum Philadelphia. https://www.penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/GrogGreeks.pdf
It is not clear why they spoiled the three drinks by mixing them. Years later, as historians try to explore our habits, they will wonder why we spoiled gin and vermouth with Negroni or rum and coca-cola with Cuba Libre. One of the assumptions is that the drinks themselves did not have a high alcohol content and thus they compensated this flaw. They even added mandrake or henbane. The first is a hallucinogen, the second a powerful herb that poisons in greater quantities.
Speaking of cocktails, I recommend 2 bars in the old town:
- Antika Irish Bar– a lot of rock’n’roll place, with craft beer, malt whiskey, different types of rum, homemade iced tea, whatever you think and of course cocktails.
- Je T’Aime– a romantic place, with style, the evening is beautifully lit, with good reggae music, let me tell you it called me and I sat there for a cocktail, and I’m very glad I did.
For a party and nice loud music, you just walk around the restaurants on the promenade and you choose. Everywhere you can hear fast and modern rhythms, it’s great! Thursday is Greek night.
Before parting, you can go for cotton candy from the carts on the street or for nuts.
And for the local wine, but without diluting it, the modern local white varieties are Vilana and Vidiano – slightly fruity and floral aromas, but without being intrusive like Malvasia or Malagouzia, which are significantly more fragrant, and the latter is more characteristic for northern and central Greece. By the way, when ordering wine, specify that you want dry. There are also semi-dry options, as well as dessert, which is worth it.
Of the red varieties, try Kotsifali, especially rose. Again, with a light fruity aroma, transparent, great for summer heat. I didn’t study red wines anymore, it was very hot for them.
In Avli we tried an extremely interesting wine from Silva Daskalaki Winery, orange, with wild fermentation, unfiltered, aged for 5 years in amphorae. I wrote more about it in the review of Avli’s restaurant.
Which beaches to visit on Crete?
It depends on what you prefer – wild beaches or organized. Have everything.
If you have your own car and you risked struggling with long rides, ferries, Covid documents, go to the wild beaches and don’t care. Bring umbrella chairs, drinks in a cooler bag, shoes for coarse sand, a swimming mask and admire the wonderful nature on the Cretan coast. I’m just warning that car access can be a bit extreme, due to the narrow single-lane roads surrounded by rock and a precipice. Otherwise, there are many beaches. Be sure to go to Preveli or Vai where you will see natural palm groves. You have a lot to travel to the pink Elafonissi, if you are not staying in the west and if you do not bring your own beach equipment, you may be badly surprised by the lack of free umbrellas.
I visited Schinaria, on the south side, which overlooks the Libyan coast, where the water is colder and the sea is rough.
If you like organized party beaches with music, thick mattresses, sparkling wine on ice and other pampering, I have some good ideas. But it’s good to know that it costs money. I rank them in the order of my preferences from the best to the most undesirable.
- King Scorpio Beach Bar, near Heraklion – diverse, well organized, interesting coves and rocks.
- Baja Beach Club Rethimno, a few minutes drive from the old town of Rethymno – nice pool, in case you are interested, nice sea nearby, great music, delicious food, comfortable loungers.
- Cabana Mare Beach Club, near Chania, it is not worth much, otherwise the coast is nice there.
If you are staying in Rethymno, the city beach is always an option, but try to go as far to the East as possible to stay away from the port, where the water is not clean. The prices at the beach bars there are very low – a bottle of water of 500 ml is from 30 euro cents to half an euro.
If you also have interesting suggestions for the island of Crete, I will be happy you to share in the comments.
History and culture
People have lived on the island of Crete since the Neolithic era. There are artifacts from ancient times, I’m talking about thousands of years before B.C. You can see more preserved historical remains on Knossos.
There is a Venetian fortress- Fortezza in Rethymno. If you are interested in monasteries, there are plenty of them. Do not go to the Venetian fortress during the day, you will can get sun stroke. Go at sunset and take pictures. And for Knossos, take plenty of water but I recommend to visit it after 5pm.
Try to see local dances and listen to the local traditional music. They are different from the other part of Greece as well as the local dialect which is a mix of all languages spoken throughout hundreds of years here.
Despite the fact that autumn is coming and getting colder in Bulgaria, in Crete it is currently warm. It is even recommended to go at this time of the year – the whole of September will be about 30 degrees.
And another very interesting thing about the island of Crete – there are no mosquitoes or wasps.
It is very nice, I recommend you to go when you have the opportunity.
Don’t forget to read Part 1 of this travelogue.
How to get to all those places on Crete?
Don’t worry about how to get to the above places. Just use the Google map here by clicking on the red pin with which I marked their locations and then select directions:
If you need a car rental, you can book it here, in the box of the largest booking platform, below at the end of the post.
How to book your stay in Crete?
You can book your stay right here. For your convenience, I have added a booking.com box, which refers directly to their site. I guarantee you’re going to use all your genius discounts and privileges they would offer to you. Just enter the dates of your trip, then hit the Search button and voila. In addition, booking.com are doing their best to make sure that your expectations as a customer are fulfilled. I’ve described an example about the latter in my story about our stay in Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.
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Do you ever wonder how some places differ so much from others in service, environment, as an overall experience? This means you are also interested like me in the topic of The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. I constantly add to my collection reviews about those of them, which practice its principles, regardless of intentionally or accidentally. If you are curious to understand which they are, explore category The Experience Economy.
If you need to rent a car, you can book it here in the box of the largest booking platform