Driving the dizzy roads of Crete is a marvelous adventure all its own. A road trip to the far west of the island a few years back, it’s a recurring daydream for me. Falasarna, one of Europe’s most famous beaches, is a unique and fascinating spectacle tucked away in a primitive countryside. This is the story of “getting there” with wheels supplied by Sixt Rent-A-Car.
I was always the driver, don’t you know? Being the one designated to steer, it’s offered me special privileges over the years, but nowhere more so than on Crete. For Americans possessed with a “ride around” spirit, the circuitous, often perilous seaside roads of this Greek isle are exhilarating. So it was, that after a few days fearing for our lives my companions and I began venturing farther and farther into the relative wilds of that fantastic island.
First, it was me, my little boy Paul and my old high school chum Mike barreling down one lane mountain goat paths toward… Well, toward “who knew what” at the beginning of our holiday on Crete. This is the way of idiotic Americans you know? Drive until directions won’t help – that’s always been my motto. This driver’s oath was galvanized for eternity on the road to Balos Lagoon, with Kissamos Bay threatening 900 feet below our Peugeot tires. If only he rental car man had known where we ventured in his car. But like he told my wife, “Maadam, this is the finest car on Crete!” Oh my, how right he was. But I digress.
The first day we ventured to Balos, the most famous beach in Europe, and a car destination only for God fearing adventurers. If you can imagine the least well-maintained road you ever saw, literally cemented to the side of a mountain, meant for one car (or goat) traffic, with people going and coming! I’ll never forget the wild eyed, mouth agape look of two young ladies going down the mountain in their European puddle jumper. Stunned and abject fear was in those eyes I tell you. In mine too I suspect, but Mike and Paul showed great confidence in my skills somehow. Like climbing that oak tree as a child, the hard part was not climbing up, stopping a Peugeot in a controlled landslide is no easy task, let me tell you. Day one thrill seeking was memorable, the zombie eyeballs and all.
Next day, we assaulted the White Mountains, traversing some unmapped donkey path across and toward Sougia Beach, and then Palaiochora. Without complaint, our Peugeot ascended those mountains, carrying the brave threesome past clinging mountain goats, farmers who passed in a single lane 1000 feet from death, and across not-so-small rivers toward lesser known Crete treasures. Oh, it was in at the river bed we lost Paul’s shoes, when we tested for depth and current to preserve our reputation with Sixt car rentals. No words can describe the relief, then horror of discovering two ways out of a predicament. Backward up a one land mountain road along the cliffs, or across a fast flowing stream-slash-torrent. On our return, my darling wife Mihaela was less interested in our adventure, than my having left Paul’s Adidas tennis shoes (above) on that rock. Indiana Jones never felt such pain, let me tell you. After the tremulous mountain pass, Sougia the village was charming and remote. My best memory there was a young girl appearing from nowhere to offer us a beer in March! Talkative, she revealed how she came to Crete years back from Poland, and just never went home. So you know, this is a common theme on the island.
Darkness caught us on day two, falling far short of our goal of seeing Elafanisi, the beach our hosts at Metochi Villas told us was the most magnificent for them. Driving back though, we were amazed at the wonderful landscape of western Crete. Tiny villages dot the landscape up in the mountains, some clinging to the side of the road like the mountain goats that we so frequently saw. Then we topped a ride a few kilometers from our villa stay to catch the last rays of the sun bouncing off a flawless Cretan Sea – I was hooked for certain once I arriving at the reality of this magical island. One is never more than a few minutes from the sea, no matter how high up in the hills you are. Sitting high up in some hidden valley at a village tavern, the first time traveler here is always awestruck being at once marooned in the middle of nowhere, and at the same time connected to anyplace on Earth. The sensation is indescribable actually
Anyway, for the best touristic beach on Crete I can only recommend Falasarna. As for the absolute best beaches for romance or adventure, even sheer awesomeness, you’ll have to wait for future first-hand experiences.