After spending a few days in Athens, we took an overnight ferry to Crete. We used the Minoan Lines and chose to arrive at Heraklion. For optimal comfort and privacy, we opted for a sleeper cabin with bathroom. It was tiny and basic but suited our needs.
The ship was large and had a couple of restaurant options. I wouldn’t call it glamorous or fancy, but I am also not a huge fan of any sort of large cruising style. I don’t like crowded spaces and I don’t like feeling trapped in one space. This particular journey had a very large school group of teenagers on it with, apparently, not enough chaperones, because the teens were everywhere and loud, including outside our sleeping cabin at 2 a.m. (Shakes old lady fist.) So, we didn’t get the best night’s sleep, but we got to where we needed to go.
Once we arrived on the island, we picked up our rental car, rented through Auto Rentals Crete. We arrived earlier than expected so we had to wait in the arrival station for a little while before it was ready. That gave us time to have breakfast which included some yummy fresh squeezed orange juice, and to enjoy watching the many stray cats and dogs that seemed to make the station there home. We saw many stray animals on the island and it was hard to resist trying to take them all home with us.
From there, once we had our car, we had time to drive to a few spots in Heraklion before checking into our hotel later in the afternoon. Driving on the island was interesting. It was beautiful, especially when you had hilltop views of the sea. It was mid-April, so wildflowers were starting to bloom. They were lovely. Every once in awhile we passed goats on the fields next to the road, and also on the steep mountain slopes. Their climbing abilities are amazing!
We also passed many sites where there had obviously been landslides of mud and rocks down the mountains, sometimes into the roadway. You could tell by the mud and the rocks still in the roadway, and sadly, sometimes by roadside markers clearly honoring lives lost from corresponding accidents. It gave the drive an unexpected level of intensity!
What We Did
We purposely chose Crete for the second half of our Greek vacation because we wanted to leave some days for relaxing downtime. After all the city trips we have taken, and how we tend to make those jam-packed full of activities, I wanted this trip to include some good, old-fashioned, sitting on a beach. So, a lot of our time was spent at the resort hotel, swimming in the pools, getting spa treatments (well, me anyway), attending children’s movie showings, and sitting at the sea, taking in the views and combing the beach for cool shells and rocks and bones.
The beach here was an interesting mix of sand and stone. I loved looking at all the colorful stones, especially those that had been smoothed by the water over time. Sadly, we also saw a good amount of plastic waste that had washed ashore, a very visible reminder of the problem of plastics in our environment.
Though we spent most of our time at the resort, we managed to get away one afternoon to see the nearby town, Rythymna. Or is it Rethymno? Or Rethimno? Depends on what website or sign you are looking at and what language it is in.
We walked around for a bit to see its Venetian Harbor, harbor statue, and its 16th Century Venetian fortress, Fortezza Castle. We opted not to go into the Castle, we just appreciated its views from the outside.
As I mentioned above, we passed through Heraklion on our way to our hotel. We spent a few hours visiting the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. This beautiful museum has a wonderful collection of Cretan and Minoan history. It was very helpful for me to visit in order to put our location into historical context, and to prepare us for our visit to the Palace of Knossos.
The only tough part about visiting this museum was that it was the first thing we did after disembarking the overnight crossing, so we were all pretty tired and grungy feeling. But that’s not the museum’s fault!
The Palace of Knossos
After the museum in Heraklion, we went to the Palace of Knossos ruins, an ancient Minoan palace that dates to 2000-1350 B.C. and is thought by many to be the home of the myth of the Minotaur.
I thought this was a really cool place to see. It takes a bit of imagination to picture what it looked like in its full glory, but that was part of what made it cool. You could definitely tell you were on an ancient site.
Where We Stayed
We stated at Aquila Rithymna Beach, a resort hotel with a variety of options for your stay, including rooms vs. villas, all inclusive vs. not all inclusive, etc. It was exactly what we were looking for on this trip. Nice suite, friendly and attentive staff, good food, good amenities, and beautiful beach!
What We Ate
As I mentioned, we didn’t get out much on this trip. The whole point was to find a nice place to stay and stay put there on the beach! So, we ate all our meals at the resort hotel, except for the breakfast in the station upon arrival in Heraklion, and lunch at the Knossos Bar at the Palace of Knossos ruins. The staff at the Knossos Bar was great, for what it is worth, and I enjoyed a nice Avgolemono soup there similar to one I had in Athens, a Greek specialty, a lemon chicken soup that was light and delicious in both places!
What We Missed
It was still the off-season when we were on Crete. It was our Easter holiday but Greece’s wasn’t until the following week. So, a lot of typical tourist activities like big water parks were still closed for the season. That was okay for us because we didn’t plan to do much, but keep that in mind if you travel in the off-season. The flipside is that our hotel was probably only half-booked, so it was calm and not too crowded.
Even though we didn’t get out and run around too much on this second half of our Greek trip, we did exactly what I wanted. Relaxed, pampered ourselves, and soaked in some enjoyable moments in a Greek paradise on our last “big” trip as residents of Europe. We had at least one more long-weekend of travel ahead of us before our move home, but this was the last “big” vacation and I think we did it just right!