We moved to Crete for good in the Summer of 2017. The reasons for an American and a Romanian to venture far afield from America or our previous home in central Europe are manifold, but a 2014 visit played a major role. The short version for anyone who has not visited on an extended stay here is, “there’s no place on Earth like Crete.” Some of the places you will get a preview of in these videos will clue you to more reasons to love Crete. I am willing to bet a percentage of those reading this and watching these videos will very quickly develop a “fever” to visit Greece’s biggest Island in 2018. Let me know your thoughts.
The amateur video below is shot at world-famous Balos Lagoon, and at magnificent Elafonisi, rated one of the top five beaches in all Europe. The famous lagoon of Balos is about 56km northwest of Chania and 17km northwest of Kissamos along a tenuous stretch of road my friend Mike Parrish, me, and my son traveled in 2014. The lagoon is formed between the Cape Gramvousa and the small Cape Tigani and below the range of Platiskinos. Balos is, naturally, one of the most photographed stretches of sand in the world. As for Elafonisi, this extraordinary beach is about 75km west and south of Chania, down a winding road that leads through some of the most pristine nature you’ll ever find. The magic here of a small islet full of white and pink sandy beach, and aquamarine waters clearer than drinking water is nothing short of stunning. Note on the road to Balos. If you are afraid of heights, opt for the ferry that delivers visitors from Kissamos.
To the far East of the island, the palm beach of Vai is one Crete’s most famous attractions. Located some distance from any large town, the place where Europe’s largest palm forest hugs the golden sand of Vai is unique. Here the Cretan date palms form a kind of natural shady area to take refuge from the sun god in Summer. Once made famous by the same hippies who flocked to Matala in south-central Crete, Vai is not situated in a protected area about 25km east of Sitia. The beach belongs to the Moni Toplou, the touristic center of East Crete, and lies close to Palekastro and the Dionysades islands as well. AS you’ll find out in the video below, it is a “must visit” location for every beachcomber.
When my high school buddy, photographer Jay Thomas told me during our Crete visit in 2014, “Phil, I want to go to the hippie beach at Matala,” I honestly did not know what he meant. When we returned to our home in Germany, I looked up Matala to find out what he was talking about. It turned out Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell’s experiences with the Matala hippies are the stuff of rock legend, and the annual Metala Beach Fest is a continuation on this thematic. When Mihaela, Paul, and I ventured there in early fall 2017, I was amazed at the magnetism of the place. As it turns out, there’s some spiritual draw to the place for sure. Artificial caves in the cliff of the Matala bay were created in the Neolithic Age, and in Minoan times Matala was the port of Phaistos. Later, the town was occupied by the Gortynians, and during the Roman period, Matala became the port of Gortys. The Romans later used the caves as tombs, one being named for the famous Roman General Brutus, who it is said ventured to Matala on many occasions. The amateur video below begins with static images but goes into drone mode a minute in. I will dedicate this to my friends Mike Parrish, Minas Liapakis, and good old Jay Thomas (I was knocking on heaven’s door amigos) — Matala 2018 – Hell Yeah! Waiting on you guys. I hope the rest of you like it too. Check out Matala 2018 on Facebook.
Memories of past Matala legends, visions of family or romantic getaways to Elafonisi or Balos, let’s face it hundreds of thousands will come to Crete to party like there’s no tomorrow this coming Summer. And where is the best place on the island to dive into a beach party? Starbeach at Hersonissos. Just a couple of minutes up the coast from the international airport in Heraklion, Hersonissos and Malia await the party set. For those of you who dare, here’s the Starbeach aftermovie from this past season. And, here’s the official Starbeach Facebook page.
And like a good storyteller, I’ve saved the best for last. Crete, in all her costumes, is by far the most diverse and fascinating place we’ve ever been. They grow bananas here, did you know that? Imagine an island that is a world in and of itself! And on this island live a people who are the family of man, the most welcoming here on this rock we live on. Party this way in Malia, swim that way or cliff dive at Vai, tour Chania and its Venetian wonders all day long – but out in the countryside is where you’ll feel that warmth and magnetism of the ancients. Earlier this year our wonderful friends Rebecca Skevaki and guide John Flaneur at Crete Urban Adventures introduced us to traditional Crete at its best at Aravanes, in the tiny village of Thronos, Amari, in Rethymno province. I’ll tell you, the people at Aravanes are authentic, wonderful human beings who sincerely befriend all who enter their front gates. Watch the video to get a feel for this unique place in the world.
There, I’ve shared five compelling reasons to visit Crete in 2018. I swear there are 10,000 more. This Spring we’ll be helping set up tours, events, and enjoying the most amazing island in the world. Come, see what we are raving about!