Over the weekend here on Crete, the islanders went about their normal routines but with a hitch. Now that there are some tourists coming to enjoy the land where the Minoans once ruled, the locals are taking to the south coast, where decades-old tradition sends them to get away from the mob.
Marketing executive Anastasia Chatziioannou took a weekend break at amazing Preveli Beach on the south coast of Crete in Rethymno Prefecture. Famous for its monastery of St. John the Theologian, known as the Monastery of Preveli, the area is also a natural wonder with a huge palm forest, a sparkling river that flows into the Libyan Sea, and Kourtaliótiko gorge (image above). The surrounding area is truly one of Crete’s most picturesque, and the many nearby attractions make it ideal as a basecamp for more extensive exploration.
Anastasia and her friends usually make a day-trip out of such excursions, but travelers may want to stay over at Dionysos Tavern & Rooms, which is not only the closest accommodation but one of the highest-rated in this part of Crete. The simple but elegant rooms go for about €40 euro per night in season. They don’t seem to have a website or Facebook, so you can check Tripadvisor for more. The Instagram I used is from UK based travel, aerial photographer Nomadic Sam.
Spiros Liasites lives in the amazing Ano Asites village underneath Mt. Ida in Heraklion Prefecture. His Crete weekend was about being busy with chores, as the image above of him harvesting veggies from his garden reveals. In Ano Asities, and in most other Cretan villages, working people take Saturday to tend the garden, and use Sundays for all-day coffee and relaxation, or other leisure pursuits. Spiros’ normal job is at the Natural History Museum of Heraklion restoring fossils. He also works in observing and feeding of Crete’s griffon vultures.
Ano Asites is a Cretan village steeped in history and tradition. Populated initially by soldiers of the Byzantine army after the reconquest of Crete, the tiny hamlet was a center of Cretan resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. Spiros and the cultural association of the village are now engaged in an artistic beautification of the village.
Like many of our friends here in Crete, Vera Rousaki is not able to enjoy the gifts of paradise on the weekends. Her job as an RN in the ICU of the cardiac unit at PAGNI Hospital dominates her life, and especially the weekends. But the girl who greeted me when I awoke after a major heart episode makes up for lost time, as she travels pretty far and wide over the island, compared to most of her contemporaries. She’s always on mid-week adventures in contrast to her friends enjoying their Crete weekends.
In the photo above Vera is enjoying a short stay at Kalypso Cretan Village Resort & Spa during the week. She says the beach and the water near the resort are spectacular and that the wildness of this part of Crete is transformative and transports you. Situated on the KARAVOS COAST in the south of Rethymnon Prefecture, Kalypso is 4-star hospitality set in the middle of a natural wonderland. Named for the mythical nymph who seduced and kidnapped great Odysseus, the resort retains that kind epic charm. Accommodations at the resort start from just under €90 euro per night.
My friend Michalis Modinakis is a bit of a local legend for his vibrant smile, good nature, and the fact he is always where the action is. In winter he works at Lokal, the popular hangout in downtown Heraklion, but in Summer he’s one of the biggest reasons for spending the hours at fabulous Almyra Seaside Food and Cocktails on Agia Pelagia Bay. The Instagram photo I used in place of an Almyra one is from Aleksandra Botwina, who’s a Polish model who loves Agia Pelagia.
This picturesque village is on a hidden bay on the Cretan Sea, is one of Crete’s most popular family resort towns. Once a lonely fishing village set on top of the lost city of ancient Apollonia, Agia Pelagia is heaven on Earth for many people who’ve made the place their vacation haunt. Michalis and other bright faces of Crete, make the place that much shinier. Trust me on this one, at least until you visit. Oh, and if you are looking for the perfect stay in the seaside village, SeaScape Luxury Residences is just perfect for a mix of refined luxury in an uncluttered relaxed vibe apartment-type stay. These residences 50 meters from the bay go for about €99 euro per night at the last minute rate, minus a percentage if you join the club for free. The place is a bargain, check and see for yourself.
Our friend VanGos Tsourlakis was at the beach in Matala and in the center of Heraklion this weekend to relax before his first guests arrive to stay at his magnificent villas. One of Airbnb’s highest-rated hosts, Evan is a little bit of an icon here on Crete for his architectural prowess and his entrepreneurial spirit. At La Brasserie special events cafe in Heraklion for an art exhibition, VanGos headed to Matala to kick back before the tourism season starts in earnest for him.
The evening Instagram from VanGos at Matala reveals a bit of the mystic nature of the place. With almost no tourists on the island now, the place must be like a magic transport back in time. VanGos’ Grotto Homes project is a magnificent blend of Cretan tradition and modern luxurious hospitality that has won praises from visitors and media around the world. I’ll be honest with you, no matter what your Crete plan is, stay with VanGos in Rethymno Prefecture and use one of the Grotto houses as your basecamp. Right next door to one of VanGos’ properties, Goules Taverna has the best authentic Cretan food. Tell Kostas I sent you.
Photo Credits: Feature image via our friend Achilleas Mouzourakis.