Category: Top Crete posts

In the works: ‘Street views’ of Crete’s trekking trails

This 16-minute videoclip shows several popular hiking routes on Crete being photographed for Google Trekker — a version of the popular Street View feature on Google Maps

 

Crete on foot: Hiking enthusiasts may soon see what Crete’s trekking paths look like without having to take a single step on any of the trails.

The Region of Crete and Google are participating in a project to photograph some of Crete’s major hiking routes for Google Trekker, a version of the company’s popular Street View app that lets people take virtual tours of places from their computers and mobile devices. The Trekker program has an ambitious goal of mapping the world — including out-of-the-way and hard-to-reach places where camera-equipped vehicles can’t travel. Footpaths are filmed by hikers who walk the routes wearing a backpack equipped with Google Trekker photography equipment.

The video above was published on the Region of Crete YouTube page in January, and shows a hiker mapping trails in several areas across the island, including Agia Roumeli, Psiloritis, the Asterousia Mountains, the Lassithi Plateau, and Agios Nikolaos.

 

There were no notes accompanying the video to indicate when the various trails will be available for viewing on Google Maps, but the 16-minute film will be interesting to hikers planning trips to Crete since it shows what the terrain and scenery are like on some of the routes, and gives a good impression of the degree of difficulty on the different trails.

Sifnos, another Greek island that’s popular for trekkers and walkers, already has four of its scenic hiking routes available for viewing on Google Maps, as I reported in my recent post Sifnos: A Walker’s Paradise.

If you’d like to take a virtual trek along some of the Sifnos paths to see what the experience is like, and get an idea of what the Crete Trekker views will be like when they’re available,  click here

 

 

Escape to Crete’s exotic Balos beaches and lagoons

Balos Crete photo 01 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

 Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Cape Tigani and the Balos beaches and lagoons in northwest Crete are seen from two different perspectives in beautiful photos shot in early October 2015 by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography

 

Longing for lagoons: I’ve had an insatiable craving for Vitamin Sea and sunshine recently … symptoms, no doubt, of a severe case of midwinter blues. Deep-freeze temperatures here in Toronto most of last week, followed by two days of snowfalls this week, have only made my condition worse. So I’ve been looking at photos and videos of Balos, what I consider to be one of the most sensational beaches in Greece, to take my mind off the cold and snow.

It’s a self-prescribed treatment I call the “Balos boost.” Even though I haven’t yet been to what is widely regarded as the most iconic and most photographed beach on Crete, it always lifts my spirits to see images of this exotic-looking seaside area.  

 

Balos Crete photo from Flickr photostream of Caroline Martinez

It’s dreamy scenes like this, photographed by Flickr member Caroline Martinez, that make me yearn for an escape to Balos.

 

Balos Crete photo by Giannis Fountoulakis

Here’s another image that instantly makes me daydream about going to Balos. This scene, photographed by Giannis Fountoulakis, is just one of two dozen impressive images, all captured by Giannis, that appear in a Balos photo gallery on the website for the Elizabeth Estate Agency in Crete.

 

Why Balos?

Because it has everything I imagine in the Fantasy Island beach of my dreams: alluring shallow lagoons shimmering with more than a dozen different hues of tempting turquoise water; curving ribbons of white sand (pinkish from crushed seashells in some places); visually-striking natural landscapes with steep rust-coloured hills and cliffs, and rugged rocky seashores; marvellous scenery in every direction; and mesmerizing sunset views. All in a rather out-of-the-way location that can be an adventure to reach. 

It’s my personal notion of a Greek island paradise, a place that has “special,” “incomparable” and “wow” written all over it. From what I’ve seen and read, that’s the general impression Balos has made on many people who have been there and seen it with their own eyes. In fact, Balos was ranked as the #3 beach in Greece, and the #11 beach in Europe, in the recently-announced TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for 2016.

 

“A single glance is enough for someone to understand that this is not just a beach but one of nature’s finest masterpieces.” — Elizabeth Estate Agency

 

Balos photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page

According to a post about Balos in the Bulgarian-language travel blog My Trips in Pictures, visitors can observe 12 to 17 different shades of turquoise in the Balos lagoons and surrounding sea. A few of the fascinating hues are seen in this photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page.

 

Balos photo from Crete island, Greece Facebook page

This photo from the Crete island, Greece Facebook page shows people enjoying the shallow waters of the Balos lagoons with nearby Gramvousa island as an impressive scenic backdrop

 

 

Coming up on the next page, as well as in Part 2 of this post, you’ll see some of my favourite Balos videoclips and photographs — just a sample of the thousands of Balos images that have taken my mind off cold and snow dozens of times so far this winter. I’m sharing them here in case you could use a little Balos boost yourself, wherever you might be.  

I also have gathered links to online travel sites and blog posts that provide even more pictures plus detailed information about the beach, including directions on how to get there, in case you’d like to pay Balos a personal visit this summer or sometime in the future. Consider it a mini guide to Balos, if you will. The only information I don’t include is for hotels, studios or rental villas — you’ll have to research that yourself, but you’ll find links to accommodation resources on most of the websites I mention, as well as in source credits appearing under many of the photographs in my post.

To start off my “escape to Balos” feature, here is a video to help those of you who aren’t already familiar with Balos to get acquainted with its matchless location and sublime setting.

I love watching this film by Žiga Zupančič because it instantly makes me feel like I’m at Balos, basking in the sun, appreciating the grandeur of the landscapes and scenery, and chilling out to the laid-back beach vibe. 

 

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Escape to Balos (Part 2)

Most of this video by Carlos Torres was filmed on the beaches and in the lagoons, so it gives you a very good impression of what it’s like to be at Balos. The video also includes views from the drive on the dirt road, as well as from the footpath to the beach. 

 

More of Balos — in photos

 

Part 1 of my Balos “escape” post provided information on ways to get to the beach, and described what you’ll find there. Here, in Part 2, I share some of my favourite pictures and videos of the beaches, lagoons and surrounding coast. Many are from Crete-based travel websites, while others have appeared in blogs and on social media sites like Facebook. 

I have included credit lines to indicate where I obtained each photo. However, since so many images are shared without proper attribution on social media nowadays, it’s possible that some photos may not be correctly credited to the proper photographer or copyright holder. If one of your images appears here with incorrect attribution, please let me know and I will be happy to either amend the credit line or remove the image from this post at your request.

Balos photo by Kolory Krety

Photo shared on Facebook by Kolory Krety

 

Please click on the link below to view several videos and over three dozen more beautiful Balos photos on page 2 of this post.

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Views of Vai and Preveli, Crete’s amazing palm grove beaches

Palmtree forest of Vai beach, by Emmanouil Papadopoulos, will show you what it’s like to gaze out to sea from the shade of a palm tree on the sand 

 

Palm tree paradise: In a recurring daydream, I’m laying on a golden sand beach, looking at a tempting turquoise sea, while the gently swaying fronds of a palm tree shade me from the blazing sun. It’s something I have done on Hawaii and in the Caribbean, but in this particular fantasy I’m on a Greek island vacation.

It’s a dream that could come true for me on Crete, where Vai beach boasts the largest natural palm tree forest in Europe — over 250,000 square meters of Cretan date palms.

Vai is situated near the northeastern tip of Crete, a 30-minute, 24-km drive from the town of Sitia, which I wrote about in my December 23 post, Sitia casts its spell. Once a haven for hippies in the 1970s, Vai is now one of the most popular tourist beaches in eastern Crete.  

 

 

 

It’s not the only scenic beach with a palm tree grove on Crete.  There is a unique palm-tree-lined river lagoon behind Preveli beach on the island’s south-central coast near Plakias (about 43 km south of Rethymno). 

You can find photos and detailed information about Vai beach, including driving directions, on the Explore Crete website.

Photos and helpful information about Preveli beach can be found on the We Love Crete website.

Below are several videos that have led me to picture myself relaxing on a palm tree beach. The first two show Vai, while most of the bottom video shows the Preveli beach area, followed by some views of Vai.

 

Το Βαϊ από ψηλά – Vai palm grove on high is a 6.5-minute aerial video shot by Heraklion-based filmmaker Nikos Sarantos. If features impressive views of the palm forest, as well as the beach, bay, and surrounding coast.

 

The Miracle of Vai is an artistic time-lapse film showing the palm forest and beach from breathtaking day and night perspectives. Shot by Manos Efchetzis, it was compiled from “more than 6,000 images of night and day long exposure photography, taken over a month of photo shooting and edits.”

 

Lake Preveli & Vai, by YouTube contributor milero1000, shows scenes primarily from Preveli lake and beach in southern Crete, but also includes views of Vai during the final minute of the clip

Sitia casts its spell

Sitia: Discover the authentic Crete is a film released this past summer as part of a promotional campaign for the Municipality of Sitia. It highlights some of the spectacular scenery, charming villages, attractions and activities available in the Sitia region … 

 

while this humorous follow-up video,  Sitia: So hard to say goodbye!, suggests visitors will love Sitia so much, they won’t want to leave.

 

Summer dreams: It’s just two days until Christmas and only the beginning of winter, but this week I have been preoccupied thinking about summer and our next trip to Greece.  We haven’t decided on any destinations yet, but I’ve been scouring websites and watching videos to get inspiration and ideas.

Today’s Internet surfing steered me to websites and videos about Sitia, a fairly modern town in the Lasithi area of eastern Crete.  I’ve heard of it but until today knew next to nothing about it.

My curiosity in the town and its surrounding area was piqued when I learned, on visitsitia.gr, that “Sitia’s hot and dry climate, with 300 days of sunshine annually, mild winters, cool summers and an average temperature of 20,76 C, is the ideal year-round vacation destination.” 

I grew more interested when I read, on the Sitia page from cretetravel.com, that the town is “one of the least ‘touristy’ parts of Crete,” while the Sitia region in general is “uncrowded” and “ideal for exploration.”

And the photos and travel information summaries on the Sitia page of the We Love Crete website made the place look and sound even more appealing, particularly with comments that the town is charming and spotless, has “a wonderful feel,” and offers “lots to see.”

Then I found three videos that really captured my attention and interest.

The two I posted above are promotional films for Sitia, with superb video showing some of the area’s beautiful natural scenery and attractions, as well as vacation activities visitors can enjoy –from shopping and dining to water sports, cycling and rock climbing, to nightlife and more.

The third, which I’ve posted below, is a nearly 9-minute-long film published last month by tripment.net, a travel blog based on short documentaries from destinations around the world. Entitled Ταξίδι στη Σητεία – Κρήτη (Travel to Sitia – Crete), the video shows scores of places visited on a road trip to Sitia and places within short driving distance. The narration accompanying the video is entirely in Greek, but even if you don’t understand a thing the narrator is saying (which was the case for me), you’ll still enjoy the beautiful sights and scenery.

 

Take a short roadtrip to Sitia and it surrounding area in Ταξίδι στη Σητεία – Κρήτη (Travel to Sitia – Crete)

A visual feast of Crete

Here’s a video that will whet your appetite for a trip to Crete! Produced by the checkinCreta travel website, Crete — feel the island is a  nearly 4-minute-long film featuring mouth-watering views of honey, cheese and wine production, a γιαγιά (Greek grandmother) preparing home-made pies, an olive harvest, and tantalizing Cretan beach, coast and landscape scenery. καλή όρεξη!

See why Crete is incredible

This is a 5-minute promotional clip that the travel portal Incredible Crete shared on Vimeo to encourage tourism to Greece’s largest island. The island is so vast and scenic that such a short film can give a mere fleeting glimpse of the myriad amazing sights to see and things do there. But I’m willing to bet this short clip will quickly convince you that Crete is indeed incredible! Click on the white arrow to start the film and commence your video tour of Crete.

Must-see sights in and around Rethymno on Crete

Guest post by the Cretico blog

Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete and one of the most beautiful in Greece. Byzantine churches and monasteries, renaissance monuments, caves, countless beaches and enchanting villages throughout the province, await the visitor to wander and admire them.

The Old City

Rethymno in Crete

The oriental influence of the Turkish occupation, combined with the Venetian architecture of the Renaissance, compose the beautiful picture of the old town of Rethymno. Taking a walk through the narrow streets of the historic center, you can see many Venetian and Turkish monuments. From the Venetian harbor and the famous lighthouse, you can reach the Venetian Fortezza castle. The arches of the Venetian Loggia will definitely impress you. After a while, you will have the chance to rest and drink fresh water from the Rimondi fountain with three spouts in the shape of a lion, built in 1626 by rector Rimondi.

A stop at the Historical – Folk Museum of Rethymnonn with its historical exhibits, is definitely not a waste of time. Continuing your tour in the old town, you will admire the church of San Francesco, you will pass through the Great Gate and will reach the main square where you will admire the various public buildings. The old city is the living history of Rethymno, it turns you back in time and invites you to visit it.

 

The Fortezza Castle

Fortezza Castle

Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent highlights of Rethymno is the unique Venetian castle Fortezza. This is the Venetian castle that dominates the hill of Paleokastro, in the heart of the city and is famous as the largest Venetian castle ever built.

In the same place, in ancient times, was built the citadel of ancient Rirthymna and the Temple of Artemis, which have not survived. After the city was looted by the Algerian pirate Ouloutz Ali in 1571, was created the need for a good fortification. That’s why in 1573 was built the majestic pentagonal fort, according to all the modern methods of fortification and was designed so that it could shelter the entire population of the city.

Its premises, many of which are preserved in good condition until today, included barracks, a church, hospital, warehouse, the residence of the Directors, the residence of the Rector and a luxurious and stately building in the central square of the fortress. In the fortress of Fortezza takes place, in the summer, the Renaissance Festival of Rethymno, which attracts many visitors to Rethymno.

 

The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

In front of the main gate of Fortezza is the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, since 1887. It is housed in a pentagonal Ottoman building that was built for the protection of the entrance of the east gate of Fortezza.

Here are displayed findings of the Early Minoan, Middle Minoan and Late Minoan times, such as various pots, tools, weapons, pottery, jewelry, signets, and clay figurines, such as this of a female figure known as the “goddess with upraised hands”. The visitor can also admire various objects and artwork of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman period, such as gold jewelry, glass vases and collections of sculptures from various regions.

Among others, the Museum displays an interesting collection of coins from different historical periods of time.

 

The Monastery of Arkadi

Monastery of Arkadi

One of the highlights of Rethymno which deserves a visit is the Monastery of Arkadi, one of the most important monasteries in Crete, situated 23 km from Rethymno, in a strategic location on the northwest side of the mountain Idi.

The name of the monastery comes from the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius and its foundation dates back to the 5th century. The Monastery of Arkadi became known worldwide as it was strongly involved in the liberation struggles against the Turkish conquest. On November 8, 1866, the defenders of Crete who were sheltered in the monastery, blew alive in order not to surrender to the Turks. This event is known in history as the “Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery” and for this reason, this place has been characterized by UNESCO as a European Freedom Monument.

After the destruction, the monastery was completely rebuilt and restored to its original form, although the burned-out temple, and a cannon ball, wedged in a cypress, witness its history. Visitors can admire the two-aisled church in the center of the monastery dedicated to Saint Constantine and the Transfiguration of the Savior, which was built in the 16th century, the chapel of St. Arkadius, the monastery’s museum hosting exhibits dating from its inception and the powder magazine where the tragedy of 1866 took place.

 

The Monastery of Preveli

The-Monastery-of-Preveli

The Monastery of Preveli is located about 40 km south of Rethymno and is one of the most famous and respected monasteries of Crete. We don’t know exactly when it was built, but the evidence shows that the first part of the monastery was built in the late 10th to early 11th century, at a time when there was a great development of monastic life in the southern region of Crete.

It consists of two building complexes, the Monastery of Prodromos, in which you will see paintings of the painter Mercurius, and the Monastery of Theologos. It is worth visiting the museum located inside the monastery, which hosts about 100 pictures of priceless religious and historical value. Important exhibits such as a Gospel of 1807, a gilt chalice of 1847, a collection of embroidered vestments, a collection of various ecclesiastical vessels etc., complete the rich collection of the museum. The library of the monastery contains about a thousand volumes of books and other church documents. The Monastery of Preveli is located in a unique natural environment which is almost tropical.

 

Anogia Village

Anogia-Village Crete

The village of Anogia, in Mylopotamos, is approximately 50 km away from Rethymno at an altitude of nearly 800 m. Built on the slope of the hill Armi, with about 2500 inhabitants, Anogia have achieved a tremendous contribution to the national liberation struggle against the Turkish conquest, particularly in the Battle of Crete.

Anogia is also an epicenter of contemporary Cretan civilization. If you visit Anogia, you will be surprised by the traditional textile industry of the place, the reputed embroidery of the village and the use of the loom, which continues even until today.

The Anogians love their heritage and respect the customs and traditions of the place, keep the traditional clothing and language idioms. What remains intense in memory of every visitor of Anogia is the characteristic hospitality of the locals and the excellent care to foreigners.

 

The Caves of Rethymno

Ideon-Antron-Cave

Another highlight of Rethymno is the 800 caves that exist in the mountains of  the region, which present archaeological and folklore interest. At an altitude of 1538 meters in Nida Plateau in Psiloritis, is the Ideon Andron, a large cave, where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised by Amalthea. Ideon Andron was a cult center during the Minoan years. The excavations have brought to light various findings such as gold jewelry, ceramics and various metal objects.

In the Cave of Melidoni, which was Mercury’s place of worship, the visitors can see the bones of the inhabitants of Melidoni, who died there from suffocation, as they were besieged by the Turks. Also, the cave Sfentoni in Zoniana village, with 14 halls, impresses the visitor with its stalactites and stalagmites. Accessible is also the cave of St. Anthony in Patso, with the beautiful church – dedicated to St. Anthony – located in the cave.

 

The Renaissance Festival of Rethymno

Rethymno Renaissance Festival

Every summer, in Rethymno, is organized the Renaissance Festival, an institution that has been established since 1987, on the occasion of the great development that the city experienced experienced during the Venetian conquest, in arts, literature and architecture.

The aim of the Renaissance Festival is the preservation and dissemination of the cultural heritage of the city, and the promotion of important Venetian monuments, like the old town of Rethymnon and Fortezza. So far, the Renaissance Festival has presented a variety of important plays of Cretan theater, and other important artists of the Renaissance, such as Shakespeare, Goldoni, Moliere, etc.

The music concerts, involving orchestras and musicians from all over Europe, the opening and closing ceremonies with artistic events, and events organized in various places of the city.

 

Beaches in Rethymno

Bali beach Crete

Both in the north coast, and the south, there are many sandy beaches in Rethymno which attract visitors to walk along them, enjoy the sun and swim in the beautiful waters of the Cretan and the Libyan Sea. The beach of Rethymno is a huge, 12 km long sandy beach, which starts from the city of Rethymno and ends in the region of Scarleta.

Near the Monastery of Preveli, there is the homonymous beach, an exotic place with palm trees, crossed by the river Koutalioti and considered by many as the most beautiful beach of Crete. For those who are looking for peace and mental calm, there is the secluded beach of Triopetra in approximately 50 km. south of Rethymno. Within walking distance, you will find the quiet beach of St. Paul, offered for nudism.

Plakias-Beach on Crete

The water sports enthusiasts can visit the beach in the village of Plakias, situated 40 kilometers from Rethymno, and also Bali, on the national road Rethymno – Heraklion, which is very popular. The beach in Platanes village is appropriate for a quick dip, and it is 4 km east of Rethymno. The beach of Panormo village, 16 km away, is very organized and offer many facilities to the tourists.

Of course, these are the main highlights of Rethymno, however, when you visit it, you will realize that this place offers numerable places with such beauty and long history, that will make you love this city forever.

 

This article originally appeared on the Cretico Blog published by the Cretico Crete holiday villa website, and is republished with their kind permission.

Two hot days on Crete

beach on Crete

Fodele beach on the north coast of Crete, about 25 km west of Heraklion. It was empty when we were here in 2004, but I’ve seen recent photos showing the beach lined with umbrellas and lounge chairs.

 

Frostbite flashback: We had perfect hypothermia weather in Toronto today. Although it was gloriously sunny, the outdoor temperature was a frosty minus 24 Celsius — minus 40 with wind chill.  My face nearly froze while I was walking outside this afternoon, and for some reason I started remembering our one and only brief visit to Crete back in early June of 2004. Perhaps I was subconsciously trying to warm myself up by thinking about being somewhere hot instead of standing on a city street corner, shivering in the firm grip of a frigid Arctic air mass.

Once back home, I sorted through photos we shot while on Crete. There weren’t many pictures to review, primarily since we had a whirlwind visit of just three nights and two full days. (It didn’t help that a malfunction with my camera’s memory card wiped out dozens of images we did manage to shoot.)

We were in Greece on our first-ever island hopping holiday, a 2-week package tour that took us to Mykonos, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini and Athens. It was a great introduction to Greece, but the Crete segment of our itinerary was way too short and rushed. On an island as vast as Crete, two days gives you time to merely glimpse a few sites and attractions. With a visit so short and hectic, there’s no opportunity to soak up the island’s atmosphere, or to experience the local life and culture. Nevertheless, we felt our fleeting look at the sights and scenery was better than not making it to Crete at all. Next time, we’ll follow the advice of regular Crete visitors who advise spending one, two or more weeks just to explore one specific part of the island.

Click on the link below to continue reading my mini trip report on page 2, where I have posted a few of the photos we shot during our quick stop on Crete.

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A day in Chania, from sunrise to sunset

Chania harbour at sunset

This sunset view from the harbour capped off Irina Golubeva’s visit to the charming town of Chania on Crete

 

Dream come true: Travel writer Irina Golubeva says she had long dreamed of waking up before dawn in Chania, so she could explore the Venetian-era town’s narrow streets and cobblestone lanes in solitude. 

 Her dream came true when she got to spend a day there last summer.

“Chania is a great mix of Venetian, Turkish and Greek cultures. One can find the magnificent Venetian harbor here, old Turkish baths and Mosques, and Greek hospitality,” Irina said in a photo report published on the TripTemptation travel website.

Click here to see Irina’s photos of the town that locals call “the pearl” of northwestern Crete.

A stylish roadtrip on Crete

Agios Nikolaos Crete

Agios Nikolaos is an “arty, leisurely and sleepy town” where visitors “will feel unbelievable charm and calmness,” travel writer Alina Lisina says.

 

Hit the Cretan road: What’s the best way to see Crete, the biggest island in Greece? By car, of course, and preferably in a convertible — so you can “enjoy the taste of the Island and of the fresh sea breeze while driving along the picturesque coastline,” travel writer Alina Lisina advises.

In her view, Crete is not just another Greek island — “it’s more like a small country where you can find anything you want. ” Best of all, it’s “so fascinating and diverse that you can spend weeks here” without getting bored or feeling like you’ve had enough, she notes.

Alina, the founder of TripTemptation.com, took a road trip on Crete last summer and posted a photo report on her website. Click here to view her photos and see why she enjoys the island she describes as a “patchwork of splendid beaches, ancient treasures and landscapes, and unbelievable tasty food combined with the genuine Greek hospitality.”