Alexandros Roniotis, the founder of Cretan Beaches, has achieved something miraculous with the most extensive guide available to Greece’s biggest island. Today, via a handshake agreement between us, I want to share some of his most epic Instagram imagery with readers. Alex goes everywhere on Crete, and I doubt anyone knows more about the island’s secret places.
This first Instagram moment is from Sarakina Gorge. When I first saw it, I thought, “What couple has not had such dream nature escape?”
Considered the best hiking gorge of Crete, Sarakina was created when the giant Sarantapihos, son of Zeus, slashed the canyon into a mountain with his long beard. Well, that’s the myth, anyhow. Today, people visit the gorge close to the traditional village of Mythi, which is not far from the seaside village of Myrtos. The 1.5km gorge exits into the Libyan Sea, where the Kryos River flows into the blue aquamarine. The narrow gorge, only 10 meters wide at its widest point, has many waterfalls, ponds, and wonderful swimming spots almost year-round.
This next share is from the amazing Lassithi Plateau, where legend has it the god Zeus was born and hidden in a cave from his father, Cronos. The photo by Alexandros is stunning for several reasons. It perfectly represents how the cup of the plateaus wraps you up as you drive the circular route through the various villages. Few places exude the kind of fertility and mystic wonder Lassithi does. Just 25km south of Malia and 70km west of Heraklion, this peaceful place is surrounded by the various peaks of Ditki. The high plateau, with elevations up to 850 meters, was graced by almost 20,000 windmills in the not-too-distant past. Today, water for the numerous crops grown here is pumped by more modern means. To find out a lot more, visit the link to Cretan Beaches.
Most visitors to Crete do not realize the true nature of Crete. At the most visited beaches, the island seems like a desert landscape more than it does an Eden-like, lush paradise. The share below gives us a hint at the true treasure of Crete, its crystal pure above and underground rivers and springs. This fountain in the Rethymno village of Spili tells the tale better than I can. Just 30km south of Rethymno town, Spili sits at an altitude of 430 meters in the shadow of Mt. Vorizis. The beautiful village is a famous touristic attraction because of its location and the 25 fountains that culminate in the lion’s heads you see here. Some 330 cubic meters of crystal spring water flow from these every hour. Rich in minerals, the cool waters have a constant temperature of 13 °C.
This next Instagram from Roniotis is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. The view out over magnificent Elounda tells us why so many luxury villas and hotels dot the landscape down by the sea. It’s one of Crete’s most beautiful and interesting places. The main reason I like this photo is because of the lone tree, which seems to be a theme I’ve found everywhere some ancient Keftiu (Minoan) treasure was located. In this case, Ancient Naxos at Oxa is thought to be the authentic site of the city of ancient times. Like so many places on Crete, legends surround Naxos. One legend has it the town was named for the son of Apollo and the daughter of King Minos, Akakkalida. Seriously, if you were a prince of Keftiu, where would you build a temple, palace, or city? As I said, the long tree theme points the way.
Elafonisi Beach is an other-worldly place. The first time I visited was in the early Spring of 2014, and I’ll never forget the ethereal appeal of this majestic seascape. The beach is, arguably, the most beautiful in Europe. The beach is one of the most remote on the island that is accessible by car. It’s only 75 kilometers south and west of Chania, but the trip there takes visitors through some of the island’s most rugged landscapes. Just the drive is a wondrous adventure. Famous for its clear aquamarine waters and pink sands, the beach is now a Natura 2000 protected area. The island you see below has wonderful sand dunes covered in sea daffodils and junipers. In addition, the endangered loggerhead sea turtle and several rare animals and plants find shelter on the island. Be advised it is strictly forbidden to remove any plants, animals, shells, and sand from the area.
The secret places this is what I love about Crete the most. A huge island that most visitors totally underestimate, it is an adventure around every turn. Here you see Petrigiari Cove (Sometimes Skiadaki Beach), near the Achendrias village, in the Asterousia Mountains of Southern Crete. This beach is one of the most isolated on the island, so you have to hike it to get there or take a Rib boat. Blessed with beautiful pebbles and surrounded by steep rocks, the spot is about as private and secluded as it gets. The cove is about 10km South of Achendrias, which sits on a high escarpment overlooking the Libyan Sea. As I said, the best way to get to the cove is by boat. I suggest asking someone in nearby Tsoutsouras about running you the 4 miles up the coast to the hideaway.
Perhaps my favorite place on Crete is the speck of a village called Fodele. Surrounded by lush citrus groves and cut in two by a wonderful Pantomantris River that empties into the Cretan Sea, the place has magic you have to experience to understand. In this share, Alexandros has captured a moment in time few people outside Crete could ever envision on this Mediterranean island. Is this the Crete of your TUI travel brochure? I think not. Fodele, which is the birthplace of the famous artist El Greco, is cradled in a natural landscape that is nothing short of stunning. For those who want it all, five-star luxury and the great quiet like that in the Biblical garden, a week or ten days at our friend Stelios’ Fodele Beach & Water Park Holiday Resort will make you never want to leave the island. Also, visit Traditional Tavern Giasemi for the best lambchops in the world. Really. Tell Eleni Phil Butler sent you and see the most beautiful smile.
When I studied Minoan Civilization in college, I could not have imagined the place those people called home. All we had was the enthusiasm of our archaeologist professor and some photos in books. Look at this Instagram and try to imagine a boy and a girl of Keftiu, or a princess, maybe, wrapped up in majestic beauty like this. What effect would it have on a person, on a society? The is the 115-meter Agia Paraskevi waterfall near Paranimfi, in the Asterousia Mountains of the southern part of Heraklion Prefecture.
A dear friend, Anna Karfaki, owner of Taverna Mitato in Amoudara, told me once, “We are all small gods on Crete.” Alas, she was correct. And so, as you can see from this final share from Crete’s most knowledgeable expert, wherever you stand on this amazing island, you can claim the special divinity and blessing of simply being here. And to live in Crete? We walk with Odysseus beside us, Poseidon luring us into the sea, and Agamemnon up ahead in a mountain village with avocados.
A special “thank you” to my friend Alexandros, whose love for Crete brightens the edges of our dreams whenever we share his adventures.