A Winter Adventure in Crete
The mythical land of the Minoans-the first European civilization-is full of allure and mysticism. Everything about it screams authenticity and faded glory. The island’s history is as complex as it is long; in its 4,000 years of continuous habitation it has seen numerous languages and customs. From the original dwellers of the island, to the last pretenders, Crete is a melting pot of styles and influences. It’s all there to see in the forms of castles, fortresses, piazzas and hamams, not to mention the theaters, settlements and various architectural remnants of times past.
The geography of the island means it is Europe’s most southern point, sitting just off the Libyan archipelago. And that of course means more sunshine.
All the awesome beaches like Balos, Vai and Elafonisi will be practically empty. But that doesn’t mean that the temperatures will be prohibitive. Hovering in the mid-teens, it’s eminently do-able, and the kicker is that you’ll probably be exempt from paying the full fee for a chaise-long. Sweet!
And that will be a recurring theme, you’ll be glad to know. Prices will be cheaper in most establishments all throughout the island. That includes museum and archaeological site tickets, ferrys and food, as well as virtually any place that caters to tourists.
You’ll appreciate the tranquility of the island. No traffic, no drunken louts regurgitating their baked beans and no lines for whatever it is you want to see or do.
The island of Crete is one huge playground. Sports enthusiasts will revel. Crete’s rugged terrain is ideal for hikes and excursions, while the water sports opportunities are even more diverse. In winter, the rivers and gorges swell up, meaning kayaking down Preveli river (the one that ends in a beach) is a ting. Samaria gorge (the steepest in Europe), and the White Mountains are what you should be aiming for if you’re ever to lose those extra moussaka pounds. What’s more, Crete is in fact a skiing destination (!), and enjoys 3 different mountains from which to choose from. For the more adventurous, there is always the challenge of the sea. Surfing and kite surfing (and any type of surf) on the choppy seas of Falassarna provides all the assurance you need that you’ll be drinking out of that one down the pub for quite some time.
Travel further inland and you may be forgiven for thinking you’re in northern Greece. The mountainous areas of Crete are famed for being the home of resistance fighters during WW2. The mountain folk are immensely proud of their heritage, and their pride is only matched by their zest. The traditional stone houses and simplicity of the villages are quintessentially Cretan. You’ll be rewarded with the almost mystical reverence that Greek hospitality reserves for guests.
Who knows, maybe you’ll walk into an impromptu raki distillation joint, replete with mezedes, dancing and singing.