3 Days in Crete, Greece Itinerary
Island hopping Greece? I gotcha, but with the off beaten path and the NO BS VERSION of course!
Crete, Greece wasn't exactly on my travel bucket list, but I'm glad I colored outside the lines and made a stop in Crete anyway! Crete is not as popular as some of the other islands in Greece like Mykonos and Santorini, but it is definitely worth a few days on your Greece itinerary so let's get into my no "bullsh*t recommendations and reviews on Crete, Greece!
The Real Details: Greece was not apart of the plan, but once the weather in Ukraine started to force me into snug sweaters and sweat pants a spontaneous trip to Greece didn't sound too bad. I mean, Greece is one of the sunniest places in the world! I wasted no time in trying to prematurely book my accommodations, flights, and transportation for a Greek Island hopping adventure. It wasn't long into my research that I found out Greek in early September is expensive! $200+ per night for average accommodation, $60+ ferry transports, and $100+ excursions was NOT apart of the plan so we're going to do Greece, but ... on a budget. First stop, Crete!
Duration: 3 days
Time Period: September
Type of Accommodation: Hostel
Normally I'm not a hostel kind of traveler, but because my trip was spontaneous and I was aiming for a budget trip I went with hostel living. I lived in two different hostels in Heraklion. Initially I booked a hostel in Chania, but after a night of too much raki, a traditional Greek alcohol, I opted out of the 3 hour bus ride from Heraklion to Chania.
Price: $24 USD per night
My Rating: 7.1 Location: 9 Cleanliness: 8 Vibe: 8 Noise: 5 Facilities: 8 Staff: 7 Wifi: 5
Review: Intra Muros did the job! My favorite things about this hostel? It's perfectly located in a quiet area, but only about a five minute walk from the city center with easy access to Lions Square, Heraklion port, Heraklion bus station, Knossos Palace, Heraklion Archeological Museum, and tons of restaurant, cafe, and bar options. Personally a clean bathroom and bed area is at the top of my non negotiable list. I found the hostel to be clean and frequently saw someone cleaning the bathrooms and the common areas. Don't we just love a clean hostel?! It was also equipped with pretty much everything you'd need during your stay; kitchen, work space, towels, safe locks, a rooftop, and some extra goodies! Speaking of the rooftop reminds me of the vibe of the place. One of the perks of staying at a hostel is meeting cool people, nice conversations over drinks, laughs, and maybe even some long term friends from all over the world. Yep, Intra Muros attracted these kind of peeps. Drunk UNO, finding a Crete bestie in Lio from Paris and adventuring through Crete as if we'd traveled there together, kicking ass in chess, listening to music and singing on the rooftop, having dinner with Ewelina from Poland, and the list goes on. And as you can imagine, with that kind of vibe, comes some noise. You couldn't have thought that with all of that activity meant a quiet night for you to get a noise free sleep. Nope, it's pretty noisy through the night as people enjoy their stop in Heraklion!
Price: $23 USD per night
My Rating: 8.5 Location: 10 Cleanliness: 9 Vibe: 8 Noise: 9 Facilities: 9 Staff: 8 Wifi: 7
Review: Modern decor, beautiful touches of detail, centrally located, fast wifi, and mellow vibes! I booked So Young on the whim after missing my ferry to Santorini. Long story about the missed ferry, but short story about So Young. Loved it. It was exactly what I needed after a crazy morning; quiet, multiple work areas, a super cute rooftop with a bar, and a pretty posh crowd. Oh, and yes, the bathrooms were SUPER clean, whew!
Based on the things that I did in Crete, here's what I can recommend for you .. or not!
Quad Adventure Review
I had already planned to rent a scooter and drive around the island for a real solo adventure, but forget the scooter, the quad was much more of a thrill. After meeting a new friend at Intra Muros who was down to split the cost of the quad and cruise through the city the scooter became a faint memory. I had a blast discovering Crete on a off beaten path! Here's what you need to know about quad life!
You've got options! Shop around for the best rental company. There are multiple agencies for you to rent your new whip for the day. We jumped at the first company we found, Motor Club since our trip was not quit planned and ended up paying 90 euro for a not so great quad bike! You can secure the quad for a much lower price and better quality if you do some homework!
Check it out! Seriously, make sure you do a thorough check on the condition of the quad before vrooming off. Breaks, tires, helmets, buttons, and all of that other good stuff. It makes a difference. Our breaks weren't the most secure and this is no joke when driving hours through Crete. Your helmet should also fit securely just in case. If you've checked out my Guide to Driving A Motorbike then you already know how I feel about helmets!
The road ain't easy! You should have experience driving a quad bike before deciding on renting one. Especially through the twisting Greece mountain roads. I opted out of taking the front seat because I'd never driven a quad. The roads are quit the adventure and sometimes narrow with no railing. Just something to think about!
Cover up! I mean, at least until you get to a beach and then you can take it all off! Depending on when you're planning to explore Crete on a quad, you might want to brace yourself for the wind. Grab a jacket and some shades to cover your body and your eyes. The goal is to have your hair blowing in the wind, not your eyes and arms. Not a good look! Haha.
Leave em' in the dust! Go off and enjoy! Let your guard down and the dust up as you explore Crete on a quad bike. We didn't exactly know where we were going, but we landed at some pretty cool places. Sometimes the best plans are no plans!
Here's the deal ... you don't really do Heraklion dinner right if you don't try traditional Greek cuisine and drinks at O'Tempelis. Simple. And when you're there see Zacharia, the restaurant manager from heaven. This dude really loves what he does and it reflects through the entire staff, the food, and the vibe of the place! Oh, and be careful if they like your vibe too much, you'll end up hungover on raki or ouzo after they flood you with laughs, smiles, and a whole lot of shots to jumpstart or end your night! I outdid myself and ended up missing my bus to Chania the next morning, but I wouldn't have had it any other way!
Better late than never! I waited two days to be able to secure a table. This place is pretty popular, especially on the weekends. Make a reservation so you don't miss out. My second attempt I sat at the restaurant near by and had a glass of wine until there were seats available. You know what they say, better late than never!
Let the pros do the work! When I say they love what they do I mean it. I come from a customer service background and when I experience good service I scream it to the mountain tops. These guys know what they are doing and what's the best dishes on the menu. Let them recommend the best small bites for you to try. I had a little bit of everything, but here's what was my fav: Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Cretan Risotto, Grilled Mushrooms, and Apaki!
Sharing is caring! Go with a small group and order a few different options so everyone can have a taste of traditional Greek cuisine. You'll have more options to taste, split cost, and good company to taste test with over laughs!
Assuming that if you're island hopping the Greek islands then you plan on having as many beach days as possible. Oh don't worry, Crete has more beaches than any other Greek island. The coastline totals 1046 km and the island has big, lovely sand beaches, isolated natural beaches, romantic lagoons and even the largest palm beach in Europe: Vai on the east coast of Crete. So where do you go? Depends on what you're looking for, how much time you have, and how you plan beachin' around into your trip.
If you ask around most people will highly recommend Balos and Elafonisi beaches. They are absolutely right! From what I hear and can see second hand, those beaches are beautiful. Unfortunately after missing my bus ride to Chania I kind of lost out on the opportunity to fit these beaches into my trip because they are not a skip and a hop away. More like 3+ hours from Heraklion, but hey, the off beaten path right?
I wandered to Paralia Panormos beach on the voyage through Crete on the quad bike. While I cannot say that it was the most beautiful beach that I've seen, it was very relaxed, quiet, and good for a break before continuing on the quad tour. I prefer more remote beaches, but this beach got the job done after a few weeks of no ocean!
Sunset, Cretan beer, mountain view, and 15 minute local bus ride or 55 minute walk from the center of Heraklion? Ammoudara beach is the vibe! Again, not the best beach that I've seen, but I'm never turning down a good sunset. The sun sets right over the mountains, which calls for the perfect picture.
Location matters! Take a scroll along the coastline before settling on a place. I took a left turn and walked towards the mountains and found an open spot that was all clear of the beach chair drama. Clearly, I'm not a fan of crowded beaches, but for sure not beaches stacked with beach chairs and umbrellas by resorts and restaurants. If this isn't your thing either, walk it out until you find a good spot!
Bali, Greece Review
Randomly stumbled across Bali, Greece and I was so excited to check it out! I had no idea that there was a Bali, Greece and I was eager to see if it had any similarities to Bali, Indonesia. I know, I know, I shouldn't compare, but I mean ... Can you help it? Unlike the island of Bali in Indonesia, Bali in Crete is pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable. Bali is a seaside village in the Mylopotamos municipality, Rethymno regional unit, Crete, Greece. It is part of the community Melidoni. Located on the site of ancient Astale, and the harbor of Axus, in more recent times the sleepy fishing village of Bali has been transformed into a popular beach tourism destination. And boyyyyyy was it a tourist destination! It was crowded with people who seemed to be vacationing resort style. There was barely space to lay a towel on the sand as yellow, white, and blue umbrellas stood from their spots in the sand. Bali has several different beach options and as we drove through each one, all crowded with very little room for tranquil beach day, I could only imagine how beautiful these beaches would be untouched by businesses. A girl can ream right?
Veranda All Day Cafe
It was the views that drew me in, but the quality of the food that ran me away. Veranda has the perfect view, as it sits overlooking Lions Square and the fountain. The decor is welcoming, moderate lux style, and makes the perfect place for a "fab lunch" but compared to some of the other restaurant options in Heraklion, the food is subpar and a bit expensive. I had a Greek salad, orange juice, and Moussaka, a traditional Greek dish which wasn't as tasty, fresh, or prices as some of my other dining experiences. I paid 25 euros for the meal mentioned above, whereas at O' Temples, for 5 traditional plates, free raki shot, and free dessert was 30 euros. It was a no for me!
Cocktails might not be a bad idea! Want the view and the experience, but not quit hungry? Cocktails are an option! I had a glass of Prosecco and although I'm no Prosecco connoisseur it wasn't undrinkable!