Category: Top Crete posts (page 1 of 4)

A winter daytrip to Paleochora in southwest Crete

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This 9-minute film by  fitness and travel buff William Taudien shows Paleochora, Crete from ground level, in the air, and even under water.

 

Just a few weeks back, I wrote about a new promotional video that tourism authorities on Crete had produced to encourage more travellers to visit the island in winter.

Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on social media to watch for current photo and video posts, to get a better feel for what the island is like at this time of year. The latest we have ever been to Crete ourselves was in late October and early November 2017, when the tourist season was wrapping up and most hotels and restaurants were either already closed or shutting down. Despite a few days of inclement weather, we had a great time, but we often wondered how visiting in winter would compare. It seems other people are curious, too — in online travel forums, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people asking whether winter travel to Crete and other places in Greece would be worthwhile.

This week I got some answers when adventure traveller, fitness buff and vlogger William Taudien published the video I posted above.

 

William has been living near the Crete city of Chania for the past three months. In late December, he took a daytrip to Paleochora, a small town on the island’s southwest coast which happened to be the last stop on our late autumn holiday two years ago.

After a bumpy 90-minute bus ride through gorgeous mountain scenery, William arrived at Paleochora to sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the low 20s Celsius — weather similar to what we had experienced. Conditions were ideal for William to film ground-level video while wandering the streets, the seafront on the east side of town, and beautiful big Pachia Ammos beach to the west, which he had all to himself. With his drone, he captured amazing aerial views of the colourful town, the beach, and the spectacular mountain and Libyan Sea surroundings. He even shot some underwater scenes while swimming and snorkeling.

Everything looked pretty much as it had when we spent three days in Paleochora, with one major difference — as William explains in the video, restaurant options are extremely limited in winter, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to have lunch.  

Although he had an enjoyable trip to Paleochora on that particular day, William told me in an email that “It seems like the weather is a bit unstable in the winter.” In fact, right after his daytrip, the weather changed rapidly when a massive storm system that meteorologists named Zenobia swept across Greece, lashing the country with gale-force winds, heavy rains, and snowfalls in some regions. Zenobia pounded Greece for the final four days of 2019, and weather conditions remained unsettled into the first week of the new year.

But conditions improved, and sunshine and mild temperatures returned. In his email, William told me he took another daytrip a few days ago, this time to explore the village of Hora Sfakion on Crete’s southern coast. And, once again, he went swimming. “It was really sunny and nice,” he said.

Now, as I look out my window at gloomy grey skies and the temperature below the freezing mark here in Toronto, I keep daydreaming about paying a winter visit to Chania, and taking daytrips to places like Paleochora and Hora Sfakion if the weather is decent. Definitely something to keep in mind for next winter!

Tourism video invites travellers to discover themselves — in the city of Heraklion on Crete

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A new tourism video aims to show travellers that whether they prefer to spend their holidays taking a leisurely look at local history, culture,  food and wine, or keeping a faster pace with outdoor sports activities, beach fun and lively nightlife — or maybe a mix of both — there’s an extensive range of exciting activities and fascinating attractions awaiting them in Heraklion

 

A newly-released tourism video is inviting visitors to “discover the other part of yourself” in Heraklion (often spelled Irakleio), the biggest city on Crete, in 2020.

Notes posted on the video’s YouTube page say the nearly 3-minute-long film “presents a vivid city with unique images in every corner, in every step. With flavors, sounds and aromas you’ll never forget!”

“Stroll around Heraklion, in its market and beaches, visit its archaeological sites, its monuments and its museums. Enjoy the authentic Cretan lifestyle and gastronomy. Feel how living like a true local here in Heraklion, really is! Discover all 5+1 civilizations that make Heraklion truly unique, so full of experiences that you will wholeheartedly enjoy all year round,” say the release notes.

Produced by the Heraklion Municipality Tourism Department, the film was published on January 7.

“We are waiting for you, here in the heart of the most important island in the Mediterranean, ‘where Crete begins’!” the video release notes say, quoting the city’s official tourism slogan.

 

 

Should you be interested in finding yourself in Heraklion this year, I’ve collected website links to a fistful of recent Greek magazines that spotlight things to see and do in Heraklion and its surrounding area. The articles are packed with superb photos and useful information about major monuments and attractions, events, and alluring places to enjoy  either traditional or contemporary Cretan food and drink.

The Greece Is | Crete 2019 special issue includes an insightful article about Knossos Palace (at page 72), a map highlighting top attractions to check out in the region beyond Heraklion city limits (pages 144-5), and recommendations for things to see and do during a 2-day city break in Heraklion (page 146). 

 

Screenshot of an article about Knossos from the 2019 Greece Is special Crete issue

In Knossos Uncovered, writer John Leonard recounts a visit to the Palace of Knossos, which he notes is “Greece’s most popular, best-known archaeological destination after the Athens Acropolis.”

 

Screenshot of a Heraklion feature article in the Greece Is 2019 special issue on Crete

A highlights map indicates “at a glance” places to explore in the municipal region beyond the city of Heraklion/Irakleio

 

Screenshot of an article about Heraklion in the Greece Is 2019 special issue on Crete

Heraklion is an ideal city break destination, and the Greece Is feature 48 hours in Irakleio is an excellent guide to help plan a short visit. 

 

 

♦  The just-published White Issue of Fly, the on-board magazine of Sky Express airline, includes a 7-page spread spotlighting key attractions, events and places near Heraklion, including the Natural History Museum, CretAquarium, Knossos Palace, the Messara Plain and Archanes village. The quick-read article is iIlustrated with beautiful photos by Perikles Merakos.

Screenshot of an article about Heraklion in Sky Express Fly magazine Issue 06

This photo feature from Sky Express airline’s Fly magazine highlights several noteworthy attractions in and near Heraklion

 

Issue 77 of Blue Magazine, the on-board publication of Aegean Airlines, includes a 13-page “guide to the good life in one of Greece’s most vibrant cities.” It spotlights two of Heraklion’s micro-breweries, various coffee shops where visitors can experience traditional Cretan cafe culture, restaurants offering either authentic island food or contemporary “creative” Cretan cuisine, as well as cocktail bars and lounges. The guide also describes the new Heraklion Cultural and Conference Center and an emerging “hot spot” district of the city that’s rapidly gaining popularity for its food and beverage offerings.

 

Screenshot of Aegean Blue Magazine Issue 77 guide to Heraklion Crete

A Blue magazine guide lists places to visit for coffee, cocktails, locally-brewed beer, traditional Cretan food and modern creative cuisine

 

♦ Heraklion gets feature coverage in two articles in the Summer 2019/Spring 2020 issue of Minoan Wave, the on-board magazine for the Minoan Lines ferry company.  In one, writer Olga Charami joins local resident Spiros Staridas, who has published a cultural map of Heraklion, for a fascinating tour of historically significant city sights most visitors would overlook (including segments of ancient city walls preserved inside two fashion clothing shops). The other is a short 3-page piece suggesting specific places visitors should consider dropping by for pastries, coffee, raki or cocktails, and either traditional Cretan cooking or contemporary Mediterranean cuisine.

Screenshot of Heraklion feature article in Minoan Wave magazine Summer 2019 edition

The article Heraklion: Hidden Charm takes readers on “an alternative walk” through the city’s historic center to discover “often-overlooked gems.”

 

Screenshot of a Heraklion dining feature article in Minoan Wave magazine

The short but sweet article Heraklion: Unfailingly Flavorful tells visitors where to taste delicious pastries and desserts; raki, cocktails and other beverages; and their choice of either traditional or modern Cretan cuisine.

 

Travel video promotes Crete as a winter holiday destination

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This 2-minute promotional video by Incredible Crete features enticing views of Cretan food and wine, and wonderful winter scenery

 

If you think Crete is a place worth visiting only in summer to experience its exquisite beaches, historic archaeological sites, outdoor activities, food, wine and culture, the island’s regional tourism authority wants you to think again — and to consider paying Crete a winter visit.

Incredible Crete, the island’s official tourism agency, recently released a promotional video entitled Crete: Sense the authentic winter! in a bid to boost off-season travel to Greece’s largest island.

Crete is one of the most popular islands in Greece, but many people mistakenly believe it’s a summertime destination “open” only from April to October. While it’s true that winter isn’t suitable for beach fun like swimming, sunbathing and water sports, and the Samaria Gorge (one of the island’s top outdoor tourist attractions) is closed to hikers for weather and safety reasons, that doesn’t mean Crete completely shuts down for the season.

On the contrary, Crete is a veritable winter wonderland.

Lakkoi village in Crete seen in a winter photo from mapio.net

This winter photo of Lakkoi village, in the Chania prefecture, is from the Lakkoi page on mapio.net 

 

Chania and Heraklion are superb city-break destinations year-round, while many of the island’s museums, historic and archaeological sites remain open, albeit on reduced hours of operation. Plenty of tavernas and restaurants continue serving renowned Cretan cuisine and wine, while outdoor activities are available, including scenic walks and trekking, and adventure snow sports in some areas. And of course there’s one thing that doesn’t disappear just because it’s winter: Crete’s gorgeous natural scenery — from mountains and valleys to coastlines and beaches — is beautiful to behold 365 days a year.

 

Venetian Harbour at Heraklion Crete seen in a photo by the municipality of Heraklion

The Koules Fortress and the Venetian Harbour at Heraklion are seen in a photo from the municipality of Heraklion website. Below is a picture we shot at Chania’s harbourfront during a late October trip to Crete.

The historic harbour at Chania Crete

 

 

As the Sense the authentic winter video demonstrates, Crete can overwhelm your senses even in winter, and that’s why tourism officials are hoping to encourage more travellers to give the island a look during the off-season.

Should you be interested in exploring Crete during the winter, you’ll find information about activities, accommodations and attractions in these online resources:

Incredible Crete, the island’s official tourism website, is packed with an extensive array of information and photos to help travellers plan island visits;

♦ The Creti.co blog article suggests its Top 10 reasons for spending your winter holidays in Crete, while …

♦ the Cretan Beaches website suggests its own 11 Reasons to visit Crete in winter;

♦ The Crete in Winter page of CreteTravel.com describes places to visit, and includes links to accommodations;

♦ The official website for the city of Heraklion is loaded with information about the city, including news and event listings, maps, photos and videos, and offers a  special Visitor section with details about museums and attractions.

♦ the official tourism website for Chania also features extensive information for visitors, while

♦ the Fabulous Crete blog post Winter in Crete from a different side of view has descriptions and photos showing what the island is like in the off-season.

Additionally, a simple web search for “winter travel to Crete,” or similar topics will yield scores of additional sites and articles, including websites for specific accommodations that are open year-round on the island.

 

Below are more winter photos of Crete, followed by a video of breathtaking mountain and valley scenery in the Lasithi region in early winter of 2019.

Winter view of Heraklion Crete harbourfront in a photo from the Festivalaki page on Facebook

The snowy Psiloritis mountains provide an impressive winter backdrop to this photo of the Heraklion harbourfront. The image is from the Facebook page Festivalaki: Cretan festival of Arts & Culture.

 

Rethymno Crete harbourfront photo from the Facebook page for Festivalaki Cretan festival of arts and culture

The harbourfront of Rethymno is captured in a winter photo by Theofilis Papadopoulos.  The image was shared on the Festivalaki page on Facebook.

 

Festivalaki Facepage page photo of Chania Crete harbour

Another photo from the Festivalaki Facebook page, this time showing Chania’s historic harbourfront with a snow-capped mountain backdrop

 

Winter hiking photo from Incredible Crete page on Facebook

From the Incredible Crete site, a photo of winter trekkers visiting old mountaintop windmills

 

Incredible Crete photo of climbers on Spathi peak of Dikti Mountains in Lasithi region of the island

Also from Incredible Crete, an image of adventure climbers on the Spathi peak of the Dikti Mountains

 

Stunning winter views of the Lasithi region are shown in this clip of photos and videos by Renos Drone Works

 

Zameer Pactyan published this video of Mount Psiloritis and the White Mountains on January 4 2020. Breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains can be seen starting from the 45 second mark in the film.

Crete clinches 4th place ranking on TripAdvisor list of the world’s top destinations for 2019

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Greece, Greek islands, Crete,Crete island, Crete Greece, Chania, Chania Crete, harbour, port, lighthouse, Chania lighthouse,

Views of the historic Venetian harbourfront and the iconic lighthouse at Chania, a perenially popular travel destination in northwestern Crete

 

Crete shines: Millions of travellers around the world have spoken, and their positive reviews, ratings and comments have landed Crete island in 4th place on the prestigious TripAdvisor listing of the Top 25 destinations in the world this year.

The 2019 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice awards were announced this week (on March 26), lauding London as the #1 destination in the world, followed by Paris, Rome, Crete, and Bali in Indonesia. Last year Crete placed fifth, behind Bali. 

TripAdvisor is the globe’s largest travel website, containing listings for more than 156,000 destinations. Each year it presents its Travelers’ Choice awards to top international destinations, honouring the places that are most popular with people who post reviews on the website.

A press release announcing this year’s winners quoted TripAdvisor’s VP of Global Communications, Desiree Fish, as saying: “The Travelers’ Choice awards for Destinations recognize major cities and islands that continue to deliver an outstanding experience and are beloved by our global community of travelers.”

The news release explained that award winners “were determined using an algorithm based on reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and experiences in destinations worldwide over a 12-month period. The methodology takes into account quality and volume of reviews to surface destinations that consistently deliver the best overall experience for travelers.”

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Loutro village in southwestern Crete

 

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Looking along the spectacular southwestern coast of Crete from one of the many beaches near the town of Paleochora

 

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A taverna courtyard in the heart of the historic old town area of Chania

 

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Sweet Water Beach in southwestern Crete, between the villages of Chora Sfakion and Loutro

 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, southwest Crete, Agia Roumeli, village, coast, mountains, Samaria Gorge,

A view of Agia Roumeli village, situated at the foot of the world-famous Samaria Gorge. Extending for 16 kilometers, the gorge is the longest in Europe and is one of Crete’s top tourist attractions.

 

We spent more than two weeks on Crete in late fall of 2017, and could easily see why it has been ranked among the world’s Top 5 travel destinations two years in a row — it truly delivers outstanding travel experiences. Crete has something to suit every traveller’s taste, style and budget: fascinating cities, towns and villages; vibrant resorts; breathtaking landscapes, stunning scenery and gorgeous beaches;  superb food and wine; significant historical sites and attractions; a diverse range of outdoor activities for all ages and lifestyles; myriad hotel and lodging options, and much more. 

Crete also claimed two spots in the list of the world’s Top 25 Beaches: Balos ranked #15, while Elafonissi took 21st place. Though both are situated in western Crete, the region in which we focussed our 2017 holiday travels, we never made it to either beach, so they remain on our bucket list of places to see. The island is blessed with a bounty of beautiful beaches, however, so visitors still have countless strands to choose from if they can’t get to Balos or Elafonissi.  (We saw many impressive beaches along the island’s southwestern coast.)

Greece in general fared well on other top rankings, particularly for hotels, where it won top honours in two categories. It nabbed the number 1 and 2 spots in the Top 25 all-inclusive hotel ranking, and it claimed the number 1 and 3 position on the awards list for the world’s Top 25 Small Hotels. Greece also achieved Top 25 rankings for best hotels, luxury hotels, best service, romantic hotels, family hotels, and bargain hotels.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that Greece received TripAdvisor recognition for the world’s top two all-inclusive hotels because, in TripAdvisor’s own travel forums, regular visitors to Greece routinely advise travellers to avoid all-inclusive properties, urging them to stay at hotel or self-catering accommodations instead. In essence, the forum commentators claim Greece simply doesn’t do all-inclusives very well, and visitors don’t experience Greece if they stay at an AI resort. With this year’s awards, however, it’s quite clear that all-inclusive resort guests disagree! 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, Crete island, beach, Greek beach, Elafonissi beach Crete, Elafonisi beach Crete,

Famous for its brilliant turquoise waters and pink-hued sand, Elafonissi beach is seen in an image from the Best Travel Tips to Crete page of the Tourist Maker website.  Elafonissi ranked #21 on the TripAdvisor list of the Top 25 beaches in the world.

 

Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Lagoons and sandy beach strips at Balos are seen in this photo shot by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography. Balos ranked #15 on this year’s list of the world’s top beaches.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where I have posted photos and rankings for the Greek hotels that placed in the world’s Top 25.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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