Crete – Pure Nature!

Elafonisi“Off to Crete in high season?” a lot of people called me crazy… and “what do I actually know about the island?“ I wondered. Stubborn as I am, I went to this Greek island last July and waspleasantly surprised!

I didn’t know, for instance, that this is such abig island: from the southeast part to the northwest is a 4.5 hour drive (on the highway). If you take the scenic route right across the island, then it takes you about 7 hours. Well, did I go wrong with planning my itinerary full of potential Local Hideaways! But no worries, it was a delight to drive across this beautiful island. It’s the best way to see the greatvariety in landscapes: high mountains; green valleys; old olive groves; lush fruit orchards; dry planes; dramatic gorges and the coast with all it’s faces: fromwild to bounty beaches, which you expect in tropical places outside Europe and definitely not there.

Around every corner is a taverna with the mostdelicious local specialties, or, a refreshing Frappé, iced coffee, my favourite drink with the summery temperatures. Don’t think you have to eat only souvlakia, or, Greek Salad with feta cheese all the time. On the contrary, during the 3 weeks I spent there, I ate the most delicious food.Fresh and seasonal, pure dishes. The absolute highlight was lunch and dinner at Milia Mountain Retreat. No wonder that the Greeks themselves drive all the way from Chania to have their meals there.

DSC07106The Cretan people are sincerelyfriendly and hospitable. It’s special to see that they don’t let their heads down despite the financial malaise their country is in and they are really proud. What struck me was the fact that the Cretan people are atone with natureand they grow a lot of their own vegetables and fruits. At several Local Hideaways I have stayed at, you can literally pick your own fruit out of the trees…what a feast! And I have not yet mentioned the homemade jams, honey from their own bees andthe most fruity and smooth olive oilyou can imagine. You can also buy fantastic skincare and cosmetic products there, made with natural ingredients. The 2 Greek top brands, Apivita and Korres, are on sale on Crete only at the pharmacies, but in the rest of Europe they are making a quick (and hip) advance with their own brand stores… recommended!

You don’t have to get bored, because there are plenty of things to do around Crete. No matter if you are a beach lover, or, a fervent hiker, it can all be found on one island. One beach is even more prettier than the other and blends into acrystal clear sea. I have even swum with a large sea turtle. Onegorgeis even more gorgeous and challenging than the other. Fancy a city? Chania, for instance, is alovely citywith a modern part full of shops and an old part where you can wander around small little alleys, or, visit the (touristic) harbour.

Well, and what about the crowds? Yes, it’s busier on the island during high season, especially at the larger (beach)places, but if you stay in one of my Local Hideaways and you turnleft instead of rightthen I can assure you that you will find so many hidden spots without a lot of tourists. Before you know it, you will have a whole beach, gorge or mountain to yourself. The owners of the different Local Hideaways can give you recommendations, but…psst, don’t spread the word!

September 2013.  www.localhideaways.com/crete