Who has not thought of a dreamlike holiday in Greece? And with the cradle of western civilization in focus, Crete island is where it all began. Ironically, a place where the Minoans created the world’s first thalassocracy 5,000 years ago, is also one of the wildest places in the world. It’s a place where privacy, adventure, magic sunsets, and legend life and thrive. The land the ancient Egyptians called Keftiu is is a land of seclusion like no other. If you seek a vacation hideaway and quiet seclusion, there are few places on Earth better.
For those unfamiliar, Greece’s biggest island is considered the cradle of western civilization because of the Bronze Age civilization that thrived on the island and across the region. Named “Minoan” by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans at the turn of the last century, today Crete is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The island’s 1,046 km of coastline and its area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi) is densely packed with history, natural treasures, and numerous landscapes like no other place on Earth. Most tourists visit to enjoy her Blue Flag beach gifts, but the island is about so much more than sea and sun. We have filled volumes, thousands of news stories and blog posts, and hundreds of thousands of social media shares describing the place and its people. So, the five remote places mentioned below are only really a teaser. There are so many more we will show you later. For now, I hope you enjoy these suggestions.
One of Crete’s authentic seaside villages, Lentas is isolated, tranquil, and picturesque to the extreme. This is one of the least commercialized villages on the island, situated on the south coast on a beautiful pebbly beach where a roaming hippie can easily be spotted among village fishermen on any given day. This is not the Crete the tour companies advertise to partiers and the all-inclusive resort enthusiasts.
Lentas is a place where a reclusive billionaire would retire to, or where a naturist couple would come to camp, and stay forever. The image above gives you daydreams, I know.
Almost 30 kilometers from more modern anywhere, Lentas sounds like the lapping of waves on the shore. It smells like a gentle breeze carrying flowers from North Africa. And the few houses mixed in with scant tavernas, near a very few family-owned hotels, tell you time travel is possible. There’s no hint that once, this tiny speck of a village was an important port of ancient Gortys (Levin).
Legend has it, that the giant lion-shaped rock in the west of the village was the consort of Queen Cleopatra, looking southward, waiting for her return. Yes, this is a place of peace, mystery, and amazing beauty. I tried to find an Instagram share that is emblematic of what this tiny remote village is all about, the one below comes close.
Villa Nostalgia is one suggestion as a stay if you are looking to open your door onto the Libyan Sea. You might also like Panorama Lentas if you want to go back to family traditional Greek vacationing. You will want to be sure to visit the sanctuary of Asklepios (Greek Ασκληπειός) at Lentas, where wealthy Romans once sought cures for their ailments.
Even today, science shows that the spring in the east of the village is good in helping diseases of the stomach, blood and bleeding tendency. Of course, there are many natural and historic attractions not too far from this quaint and peaceful vacation spot. Our partners at Cretan Beaches have a lot more information and images too.
Virtually untouched by tourism, Tsoutsouras is a place dear to us for many reasons. Another remote village on the Libyan Sea, was once the ancient port city of Inatos. This famous region is where you will find the amazing Cave of Eileithyia, where in Minoan times the goddess of childbirth was worshiped. The whole remote region surrounding this picturesque village is a place of myth and legend I have described many times here on Argophilia.
Located 63km south of Heraklion, at the exit of the imposing Gorge of Mindris, Toustsouras is at once epic and humble. The road to the seaside village is imposing, magnificent, and scary for some. But once you arrive in the village a sense of calm and wellbeing overcomes you. Or, in short, the magic of the place embraces you in its raw simplicity. And once you go for a swim in the healing waters fed by a sacred underground river, the high high concentration of salt and iodine, will work to heal your orthopedic problems as they have visitors for eons of time. At least, I hope they will.
While most outside visitors to Tsoutsouras will be awestruck by the quiet vibe of the place, for me the myths and legends here taunt the mind with dreams of ethereal magic. West of Tsoutsouras, you can see two parallel mountains, which locals call Zeus and Hera, because they remind of two lying bodies. According to mythology, king Asterion brought up in these mountains the sons of Zeus, namely Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. They later reigned at Knossos, Phaistos, and Malia Palaces.
I could go on and on about nearby ruins, holy shrines, or even nature trails and paths that lead to hidden treasures, but the point is that this is an ideal place to become incognito, away, out of the madness and the blinding light of the busy now. The Hotel Triton right on the beach in Tsoutsouras is one of the best on the island, but up the beach a ways Elouthia Residence is a magnificent house with otherworldly views of the area.
Like Tsoutsouras, I’ve written about this tiny seaside village many times. My best friend and I found the remote village while getting lost in the White Mountains of Chania Prefecture back in 2014. The term “sleepy” really applies to this welcoming town at the exit of the beautiful Gorge of Agia Irini.
Another of the famous “hippie hangouts” from 70s Crete, Sougia hosts a few wonderful music events nowadays but is otherwise reserved for locals mostly. If someone is looking for you and finds you here, they are dedicated.
Sougia, which means “place of the hogs” was named for the pigs that were fed here in ancient times with acorns from the amazing trees in the gorges. Today, visitors can visit the ruins of the Doric town of Elyros; for which ancient Sougia was its seaport. You’ll also find many nice tavernas, some wonderful traditional accommodations, and plenty of small grocery and gift shops to supply your needs.
Sougia serves as a perfect basecamp for adventurers who want to take the ferries run daily from Sougia to other remote Crete destinations along the south coast including Chora Sfakion, Paleochora, Agia Roumeli, Gavdos island, and Loutro.
Oh, also visit the ancient city of Lissos, which lies in the gorge of the same name just outside town. For Odyssey fans, the legendary cave of Polyphemus is also nearby.
Accommodation suggestions include Santa Irene, or the he Lotus Seaside Hotel for those who want traditional places right on the beach. Oh, and you’ll want to visit the Sougia Aqueduct, the Raki Bar, and the Monastery Estate Retreat is another wonderful place to disappear for a while too if a little more luxury suits you.
If you ask 10,000 tour guides where the most picturesque, idyllic Cretan village is, not one will mention Kritsa. This is both a curse and a blessing. If more people know of this wonderful Lassithi Prefecture spot, I guess its unspoiled beauty might not be so unspoiled. I remember the first time I heard of the place in the hills overlooking Agios Nikolaos, I was searching for a house to buy when we first arrived on the island. I’ll never forget a real estate lady who lives there telling me, “All the nearby villages are beautiful, but none more so than Kritsa.” As you can see from the Instagram shares above and below, she was not wrong.
Surrounded by olive groves, and sitting facing the sea at an altitude of 375 meters, Kritsa is one of Crete’s oldest villages. Just north of the village, lie the ruins of the ancient Greek city Lato, one of the most powerful Dorian towns in Crete. And to the south, the village named Kastellos, dates back to the 12–13th century BC (Late Minoan IIIC). Today, the village is famous for weaving, and for nearby Kritsa Gorge. Up a mountain road from this extraordinary town, the Katharo Plateau is a place very few tourists have ever ventured to see.
Most who visit Kritsa are attracted to the narrow alleys and streets line with pure Cretan architecture, quaint shops, and traditional tavernas, but few realize they should park their cars at the bottom of the town. Kritsa was not laid out with automobiles in mind, and the steep village is a hefty walk if you are not prepared before visiting. Think of this, if you are a Sicilian mafia guy expecting heavyset linguini-loving hitmen soon, they will probably never get to you here.
If you are like me, sometimes you just want to find a place to yourself. You long for an atmosphere, a scenery, an experience that lets you mind get swept away. Well, at the east end of Crete there are many such places. Xerokampos, one of the least visited regions of the island, is a perfect example of peace and quite in a spellbinding environment. When you watch the sunrise here, you hear God stretching as he awakens. You see why the ancients worshipped the almighty and symbolized their faith with sun symbols.
Located about located 103km southeast of Agios Nikolaos, 47km south of Sitia, and 69km east of Ierapetra, Xerokampos has several good accommodations as well as mini markets, and tavernas. In nearby Zakros you’ll also find a pharmacy, butcher and a petrol station. The Minoan Palace of Zakros is also a must-see. Other places you have to visit include the Gorge of Lamnoni, and not far from the settlement there’s the picturesque church of Saint Nicholas with its blue dome and the remains of the Hellenistic city of Ambelos. Also, the Beach at Argilos is famous for the clay there that has therapeutic uses, so you might want to think about a mud bath if you visit.
Xerokampos is a world apart in more ways than one. The quiet vacation Primarily a farming community, it’s isolated in the extreme, your cell phone may not even work here. The otherworldly landscape, the sweeping cave-filled mountainsides, and the endless coves and bays along the far easter coast of Crete make this the perfect destination if you truly want to getaway. Suggested places to stay include Notos Apartments, Villa Petrinos, Akti Rooms, and Villa Riviera on Airbnb.
Photo credit: Drone view of Agia Fotia Beach – Courtesy Evangelos Mpikakis