Discover the Greek island of Crete - On a family vacation
On a family vacation
We were on the Greek island of Crete last week. This was also our first time in Greece the first time we encountered Greek culture. Not counting the local Greek restaurant in our hometown of course. We already knew a bit about Greek cuisine, now we have to discover the rest.
Family vacations in Crete
Happy as a child we were when it was determined that we were going to Crete on a family vacation. We booked another all-in vacation with Neckermann since a long time. Our family had asked to book a vacation for them and we liked this destination so much that we went with it. An all-in is easy to book and due to time constraints and excellent deals, we chose this option. So this time we did not arrange everything ourselves (although that would have been a lot cheaper). No sooner said than done, we went to Crete!
Our five-star hotel had it all: large pool, well-kept rooms, extensive buffet, stylish decor and located right on the beach. The staff also did their utmost to satisfy all the hotel guests’ requests. Some even spoke French or German or and other language outside their mother tongue to pamper the clientele from different countries. 10 days of wonderful enjoyment was without a doubt the intention. Our family was also enthusiastic. It quickly became clear that we had scored with this dream destination. And the vacation had only just begun.
Our hotel, Rethymnon Palace, as the name suggests, is located in the municipality of Rethymnon between Heraklion and Chania. These towns are the largest and best known on the entire island, but Rethymnon itself is also worth visiting. We walked through the picturesque streets and port of Rethymnon on a blistering hot day and this city really pleasantly surprised us. Stores selling local and handmade products, a fishing port, antique houses and cozy squares color the city. Who doesn’t love that?
After a few days of lying by the pool, we soon get tired of that too and want to go out. This time was no different. Although we did leave out our most adventurous challenges because there were now five of us and not just the two of us. It is not easy to find activities for a diverse group. Not everyone likes everything equally, but our first outing was unanimously a hit with everyone.
Beach-hopping in Crete
Island hopping was too expensive and took too much time so we decided to beach hop. We don’t know if this is an existing word, but we are referring to the activity of visiting several beaches in one day. We booked a tour online and our first stop from Rethymnon was Damnoni Beach. A nice place for a quiet beach day, but nothing more. From there we took the boat to Preveli. This beach between the rocks is beautiful in itself but what makes it really beautiful is the palm grove and the adjacent lagoon.
If there’s anything that reminds us of vacation, it’s palm trees. And so this outing was ideal for igniting that vacation feeling. Endless numbers of (species of) palm trees drew next to the beautiful green-blue lagoon that flowed down to the beach. It is almost unreal to find such a beautiful piece of nature near the beach. This piece of paradise was the most beautiful we have seen in Europe. I think the same is true of our family.
After having fun in the cold but beneficial waters of the lagoon, we took a break on the beach with a nice drink. Amazing! Then the ferry took us back towards Damnoni and from there we continued to Plakias Beach. This is only a ten minute drive from Damnoni. The beach there is still a lot quieter and there are many places to eat. After a distant walk in the palm grove, we were definitely in need of a snack. Tip: Many businesses give you free access to the sunbeds on the beach if you order something to eat or drink from them.
Our last stop on this tour was the Kourtaliotis Gorge, a huge gorge between two rocks through which a river flows. The Greeks sometimes call it the Grand Canyon of Crete. That term is heavily exaggerated, but it’s a nice place to stop for a while. You don’t really rest here since you have to go down 250 stairs if you want to see the falls. The view is at least as beautiful from the top, so save yourself the trouble if you don’t have a good walk. We were dead on when we got back to the top. Those stairs down takes almost no effort, but back up… Hallelujah!
After a day of adventure and exertion, it was time for well-deserved rest. Splash in the pool, then paddle in the bright blue sea. And eating in between. Lots of food. An all-in from time to time is not so bad… Although the audience at an all-in could be a little better. At least in our hotel. A few soured faces colored the hotel atmosphere more gray than yellow, if you know what I mean. Not to mention the rudeness of some hotel guests. Manners clearly did not come with everyone in their upbringing. On the last day, we even had to intervene in a veritable “lounger war”. You hear it right! Two adults were arguing with physical and verbal abuse over a recliner. The hotel manager even had to step in. True story...
Road trip time in Crete
Back to rest. When there was no fighting at the pool, it was an oasis of peace and relaxation. The staff also exuded that calmness and were always polite and friendly, unlike some hotel guests, that is. To escape the war of the sunbeds, we rented a car for the next few days to explore Crete further. After all, it had once again become apparent that booking a tour was not our thing. A rental car is all the more so.
The most beautiful Greek city
On another blood hot summer day, in Crete it was around thirty degrees every day of our trip, we went to visit the beautiful city of Chania. This is considered one of the most beautiful Greek cities and thus definitely worth visiting. We especially enjoyed the delicious Greek cuisine there and the wonderful souvenir stores they had built on boats in the harbor. And as a highlight, we saw a giant turtle swimming in the harbor! Apparently we were lucky because afterwards we heard that residents had not seen them before themselves. Lucky us!
Pious existence on Crete
Chania was beautiful but basically the big version of the town of Rethymnon where we stayed. Both enjoyable so but when you’ve seen one, it’s also okay. Our road trip took us further to the Arkadi Monastery. This monastery played an important role in the war between the Turks and the Greeks in Crete. Besides the fact that it is very beautiful, the monastery and the church are well preserved, you can also learn a lot about Greek culture and history. And admission cost us only 3 euros/person. Highly recommended!
The absolute highlight (literally) came at our last rental car stop: Spilies Beach. Giant cliffs and a tiny beach where mostly locals come. An afternoon of swimming in the natural cave or sunbathing on the (painful) stone beach. Beach shoes or flip flops strongly recommended! Tip: eating at the local, and also only, restaurant is highly recommended. We ate 5 croque monsieurs for 10 euros! Cliff jumping we did not do here because it is a bit too adventurous, and above all uncontrolled and therefore unsafe, at these heights. But the view from the top was breathtaking! For this climb you also need to have a bit of a sense of adventure as there are no stairs to lead you up.
Vacations in Crete
Our family vacation in Crete was successful! We were introduced to Greek culture for the first time and it tastes like more. We now understand why many friends and acquaintances are so enthusiastic about Greece. Breathtaking panoramas, refined food, beautiful traditions, picturesque villages and hospitable inhabitants. Crete had it all! We are starting to think about another vacation on another Greek island… Definitely to be continued!