Taking the car for a ride around South-Eastern Crete is … a very good idea indeed. As with many popular Mediterranean destinations, I have been warned about the signs of mass tourism in Crete, the countless hotels, the shopping streets – exactly a reason not to travel there. However, the East of Crete, the largest among the Greek islands, just under an hour’s flight from Athens, does offer alternatives. There are many “small beaches” left, i.e. lots of short beach sections with only a handful of people, some of them even offering excavations of ancient temples & towns, mostly free to access. Add to this, a feeling of “local siesta” in the nearby towns and villages, and you will get an authentic feel for what Crete is, or can be, all about: When, I muse right then and there, will I be able to come back ..?
If there’s one place not to be missed, it’s “Moni Toplou”, or Toplou Abbey in the very East of Crete, close to the small town of Siteia.
And this brings me all the way to why I have travelled here in the first place: From Thessaloniki to Athens, from Corinth to Kalamata and now to Crete, I have been sent to research, and assist with, the development of sustainable cultural tourism in Greece. A huge task, only possible thanks to a network of excellent friends and colleagues in support. Greece, and Crete of course, is a fascinating tapestry of local area identities, (his)stories, and monuments worthy of your visit – and of being preserved for future generations to come. What an honour, therefore, to be sent here supporting the EU and Greece in researching such prominent places as Toplou Abbey in the East of Crete, among others.
Do not miss the two towns Ierapetra and Mirtos, on the South Coast of Crete, either: Especially Mirtos will have you fall in love.
Stopping at the traffic lights in Ierapetra and what do I see? A sign saying “Mirtos”, 14 kilometres. My eyes light up at the memory of having read my dear friend & fellow travel blogger’s article about it, not too long ago: What a sweet coincidence! I know I must go, and thus having finished all work and meetings for the day, I land myself in Mirtos, in what is perhaps one of the last “untouched” and authentic Cretan villages in the age of mass tourism. There is but one small parking here, no big hotels, an estimated number of a few hundred local people, many of which offer private accommodation, and some local shops, restaurants, as well as a little beach promenade. The beach itself is neither very full, nor empty. Everything feels just about right. It takes only half an hour for me to decide to stay here. Lovely. Check this out.
Last but not least, I would like to share a few more personal travel tips with you …
… all of them hand-picked, or should I say, “hand-lived”? Among them is the tiny little village of Myrsini, located pretty much halfway between Agios Nikolaus and Siteia, in north-eastern Crete. If you are familiar with Crete, you might have heard of it before; to me, however, Myrsini represents some of the essence of a traditional Cretan lifestyle still untouched and unchanged. No wannabes in this 200-people-town, what with nature being centre stage …
Want some more? Here you go … 🙂
See you soon in beautiful Crete!