Crete for the anti-tourist

Not in the mood for crowds, museums, or packed historic towns that are on everyones rader? Me neither.

After spending the last four months living in Albania and having the pleasure of traveling to places that many toursits have never even heard of I realized on a recent trip to the island of Crete that I really am not happy just seeing the standard tourist attractions, and by not happy I mean a depressed monster. I crave remote villages, hikes with questionable safetly, restaurant owners that drag you into their kitchens to see what good things are cooking and drinking home brewed beverages out of bottles without labels. You too?

Things you shouldn’t miss while on Crete:

The mountain village of Zaros and the Rouvas gorge hike. If you only make it one place on Crete make it Zaros.

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Set in the hills of crete, time feels like it paused a long time ago here.

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View from the patio at Elonas cottages outside of Zaros. A truly magical place.

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A walk around town.

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What’s better than meeting new friends while hiking?

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About to enter the gorge, wish this could have been a 360 degree photo!

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Lunch break complete with honey raki in the albanian flask – represent!

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Tour bus tourists need not enter.

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No crowds and stunning scenery make me one happy girl.

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The final destination on the other side of the gorge. The church of Agios Ioannis.

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Olive trees everywhere!

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Drink a bottle of champagne by the lake in an after hike celebration? Don’t mind if I do.

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Ok so there are labels on these and they were pretty good, but nothing compared to the one poured into a water bottle for me by a local restaurant owner from his homebrew stash.

Ancient Gortyna. According to the researchers who have been studying Gortyna it has been inhabited since Neolithic times (that is 3000 BC!). The city itself grew in the Archaic and Classical periods, then served as the capital under the Roman occupation, became prominent as a Christian center, and was ultimately destroyed by Saracen attackers in the 9th century.

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The building contains the longest ancient inscription in the Greek world – the 6th century Law Code of Gortyn. For those more interested in something scandalous there is something for you here too. Behind this area is the unusual evergreen plane tree said to be the spot where Zeus and Europa mated.

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Remains of the 6th century basically on the site.

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Candles have been lit here since the 6th century and things are still going strong!

Elefonisi Beach. Want a beach to yourself? Gorgeous and remote, but a bit tricky to get to and completely and totally worth it. I really regret not making enough time for this gorgous location and cannot wait to go back.

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The back streets of Heraklion. At this point you may be thinking that I hate cities. Actually the opposite, born and raised in Seattle, I love city life. Heraklion suprised me. I was orginally just going to spend a few hours there but ended up adding more time at the end of my trip because I just could not get enough of wandering it’s maze like back streets, strolling along the picteresque working harbor and great pedestrian areas, just taking in all of the scenes from everyday life on Crete.

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I am a total sucker for cute little greek fishing boats.

Get lost. You really never know what you might find. Winerys, hidden beach towns and random churches set in remote locations are all available. Just keep you eyes open and don’t be afraid to pull over.

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This was literally in a little town not even on the GPS map.

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All this table needs is some friends, some fresh fish and some local house wine and I think a perfect afternoon is in the works.

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Church complete with a sheep guardian.

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I randomly stopped in at one of the local wineries, always a good decision.

What to avoid: 

Everyone will tell you to go to Chania. It is a seaside town west of Heraklion and complete with all of the usual tourist traps such as having the thai fish eat the dead skin off of your feet.

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It is a cute town with a nice lighthouse? Absolutely.

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However it is a cute town that makes its money mainly off of the tourist industry which means prepare yourself for the sales pitches, abundance of medi-core food, tourist kitch with most of the locals completely immune to you except as a way to make a living. Overall just a big YUCK in my book. I am sure at one point it was an incredible discovery, now I think your time is better spent elsewhere. Was it all bad? No. But you can do better.

However, If you find yourself here definitely do go for a scuba dive. The caverns in the area are very cool diverse sea life and some are with some filled with ancient pottery. For a history nerd this really got me excited and beats a museum anytime.

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Caves are cool, but make sure you know what you are doing and go with a pro the first time.

I couldn’t leave you on a totally negative note now could I? 🙂