We didn’t go on vacation last year, so this year I decided that no matter what happened, I wouldn’t stay home. This was our first real vacation during the COVID epidemic.
We struggled to choose the right destination because we wanted to go somewhere where we could also do astrophotography.
That’s how we got to Crete. We visited this beautiful island 10 years ago, but then we stayed near Heraklion. This time we were interested in the western part. Our holiday home was 20 km from Chania, in a village called Plaka.
Plaka is a small, quiet village near Almyrida, on a hill. Its narrow side roads lead from the main road to brand new, beautiful villas. Our villa had a large pool, various terraces and exceptional views. There is a view of Souda Bay from one side. On the other side was a mountain, the Lefka Ori. The mountains have about thirty peaks that rise above 2,000 meters.
A lot of new houses are being built in the area, this is a still developing and lively vacation site.
The houses are surrounded by lush vegetation. There was a big square with good tavernas in the center of the village and there are also two supermarkets with a really good selection of products.
We tried out all the restaurants in the main square and our favorite was the traditional Harokopos tavern. The first night we ended up in Tavern Elpis, and although the food was very good, we were disappointed because of the waiting time. In all 3 places the portions are huge. Delicious bread tomatoes were served as a starter. At the end there is always a free cake or raki. Raki is similar to grappa but not that strong. You can have 3 different type, our favourite was the one with honey flavour.
Almyrida Beach is at the end of the downhill road. It took about 10 minutes to get there on foot.
There are two beaches with very safe shallow waters. In front of Almyrida beach there is a beautiful island in the sea, Karga. There was some wind and waves in the first two to three days, but the water temperature was very pleasant so we didn’t complain. We always found free sun loungers on the beach at any time of the day.
There are boat trips and water sports agencies in Almyrida, but as there were not many tourists, unfortunately we could not book the trip. Most visitors are English and often the owners of the agencies as well.
There is a wide range of taverns in Almyrida. We visited Psaros and Dimitris where we got a wonderful fish plate.
Of course we did not lie on the beach all week but we did some excursions to Chania, Elafonissi and we did an olive oil tasting tour at the Biolea Astrikas Estate.
Olive oil tasting
There are many olive oil companies in Crete, but we went to Biolea because it is in a breathtaking location in the mountains.
Biolea is a family business that produces organic olive oil. The olive oil (tasting) tour was free and very instructive. We recommend that you book a tour in advance, especially during COVID, as they work for smaller groups.
After the tour, you can visit the Cafe Wine Bar in the summer months. At the bar you can enjoy mouth-watering tomato bread or delicious fig cheesecake in the nature.
2000 year old olive tree
Driving in this area is very relaxing. There is little traffic and only a few tourists and olive trees as far as the eye can see. If you have time, it is worth visiting the amazing and huge olive tree of the Astrikas, which has been standing here for many generations.
Archaeological Site of Aptera
When we were almost back to Plaka guided by a sudden idea we went up to Aptera to visit the archaeological site. Aptera is a beautiful place with ancient ruins. Especially the theater was really worth it, when you stand on the round spot in the middle you can almost whisper and everyone can still hear you. Great acoustics. We liked it here better than Knossos. The highlights from our point of view were: the amphitheater, and the great view. The ruins are largely free to explore. Since it is not so overcrowded, you can take a photo of the scene without people in it. Parking is free and right at the entrance, admission was € 4. Since there is hardly any shade, you should definitely think of sun protection. There is no kiosk or similar on site, so take plenty of drinks with you.
Chania is the second largest city of Crete. It has a long history and was conquered and destroyed by many nations. You can definitely feel the Arab, Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish influence in the old center. The port was built by the Venetians between 1320 and 1356. It is packed with historical buildings like the Venetian Fortress, Turkish Mosque and many buildings and houses from the Venetian and Turkish Ottoman times. If you walk through the center you will find many landmarks worth a look. The lighthouse was built in the 16th century. You can walk to the lighthouse where you have a good view of the city and sea. This charming place also hosts a lot of restaurants, shops and cafes.
Another day trip we made was the one to Elafonissi. One of the most beautiful beaches on Crete, famous for its pink coloured beach. It is an adventurous journey as the roads through the mountains are very narrow and winding, like a roller coaster. Despite this, the landscape you will encounter is wonderful, you are really immersed in nature. You can find kiosks along the way, which sell local products such as raki, honey, olive oil, olives and other typical products. Once you arrive at Elafonisi beach it is not difficult to find parking. The beach is full of umbrellas and sunbeds, but you have to arrive early to get one… The water is crystal clear, it looks like a natural swimming pool and the sand is pink in some places. I absolutely recommend visiting this beautiful beach!
While driving to our Elafonisi we passed the Topolia Gorge. Just behind the village you have to go through a tunnel. That’s where it all begins. However, just before that tunnel you can park off the road for a while to take a look at the gorge.
It is impressive with rich vegetation and many caves. Including the AGIA SOPHIA cave which you can visit for free. You have to climb +/- 200 steps before you get there. Free admission. Right next to the entrance is a chapel of the same name. The place presents a beautiful panorama, and you can also see vultures circling high in the sky. After descent all the stairs back down you can have a drink in the tavern.
But instead of having a meal in the Cave Tavern we stopped by a restaurant in Topolia. Oinohoos is a cozy place with a spacious terrace. View of the Topolia Gorge. We choose typical local starters and we did not regret it.
In Topolia there is also a very interesting furniture shop selling products made from olive trees.
And unfortunately our vacation came to an end. On the last two days we did not go anywhere. We were enjoying the Cretan Sea at Almyrida beach. In the evening we went to Takis to have a good bottle of wine, and a grilled calamari. The day we left we still had time to take a dip in the pool for the last time.
If you are interested booking a villa in the North West of Crete? I would highly recommend Villas Crete Holidays.
What will I miss the most? Our terrace with the most perfect view of the sea and the mountains. A sight you just can’t get tired of.