Having visited the Greek islands of Kos and Kefalonia before and coming away with a real fondness, I was looking forward to venturing to the nearby island of Crete.
We (my boyfriend and I) went at the beginning of October and stayed inland up in the hills in the most idyllic villa – the perfect place for some well needed R&R. We were surrounded by rustic farm life – no busy streets, beeping horns or ‘rush hour’ – bliss indeed (if you’d like the details of the villa, just shout!)
While the weather was largely fine, if you are heading to Crete in October I’d recommend taking layers for those cooler spells. The temperatures ranged from 19 degrees to 29 degrees during the week. It was quite amusing seeing some of the locals in long sleeves and one or two in coats while we were there in short sleeves!
The following are some recommendations of things to see, do and eat while on the island – with gut health in mind, as always!
Crete for a week
Hire a car
Hiring a car is a great way to explore the island and see sights you wouldn’t otherwise. In fact, unless on an organised trip you might find you’d struggle without one. We were staying up in the hills and with cycling definitely not on the agenda (have you seen how steep?!), our trusty rental was perfect. The joy of having your own transport is that you can be completely flexible – isn’t that what a holiday is all about?!
A warning about driving in Crete – the driving style is more…relaxed, shall we say, and the roads come a little more rough and ready – watch out for the potholes! It’s all part of the adventure 😉
Eat like a local
Oh, the Greek cuisine – so fresh and delicious. There’s a whole range of tasty foods to sample, many of which suit a sensitive gut like mine!
- Olive oil – enjoy it on just about anything! The Greeks don’t tend to cook their oil, but rather eat it fresh. For example, drizzled over…
- Greek salad – ‘a Greek salad a day…’ – isn’t that how it goes?! Authentic Greek salads prove that you don’t need lots of fancy ingredients to make a decent salad. Just good quality, fresh ones. The tomatoes are unlike anything you get at home (unless you’re able to home grow) – the juiciest! And the feta is seriously good too. In fact, it all is. And it’s FODMAP-friendly if you remove the onion. I literally had one every day, whether made by moi, or when eating out, as a main/to share as a side
- BBQ – if you’re staying in self-accommodation, why not pick up some local produce and cook yourself a Greek feast? We did this a couple of times enjoying kebabs, halloumi and roasted veggies
- Dolmades – these are vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs and generally come tinned. They’re delicious (takes me back to my days of working in a deli). The ones I found did contain a small amount of cooked onion so may not sit well with all. I tend to avoid raw onion but had no issues with these
- Kalitsounia – these are traditional cheese pies with honey. I was wary to try as I tend to avoid pastry but was fine with a small portion
- Fresh fish – nothing beats it with a healthy squeeze of lime juice
- Moussaka – a traditional Greek dish with aubergine, mince and a potato topping. I dare say there likely was some garlic in there but I was willing to risk it and fortunately had no problems!
- Kebabs/skewers – well seasoned and simply cooked – perfect
Did you spot the odd one out?!
Yep – FODY bars*! Okay, so not local food but I’m a big fan of these low FODMAP bars, ideal for packing in your suitcase. They came in very handy (*Just a heads up that this is an affiliate link – I only endorse products I genuinely like and use!)
Explore a main city
Our closest main city was Chania which is a bustling city on the northwest coast with a range of things to see and do:
- Walk along the Old Venetian Harbour up to the Old Venetian Lighthouse and enjoy fresh seafood on the front
- Visit the Greek National Football Museum – even as a non-football fan, I have to say it was a lovely little museum with a range of original shirts worn in various games
- Browse the Municipal Market of Chania ‘Agora’, but also save yourself for the souvenir shops around the city – lots of opportunities to pick up little gifts along the way
Visit ancient ruins
Greece is known for its Roman history. Near to us was Ancient Aptera, an archaeological site with ruins of an ancient city, which included an impressive Roman bath house, amphitheatre and monastery. A peaceful place where you can take in the atmosphere. You also get stunning views overlooking Souda Bay.
Head to a quaint fishing village
There is no doubt many pretty fishing villages in Crete, but one I can recommend is Hora Sfakion on the south coast. It’s very small with less than 300 inhabitants and the drive to it is spectacular via the winding mountainous roads. It’s an idyllic place to walk around and if you get hungry there’s a range of eateries with a spectacular sea view where you can watch the world go by (a very chilled world, that is).
Hike along a gorge
There’s a number of gorges in Crete and en route to Hora Sfakion we stopped off at Imbros Gorge to have a nosey. We ventured down a little way with the hope of sighting the gorge, but unfortunately, we weren’t suitably equipped for the hike so had to turn back – maybe another time!
Head inland and explore a traditional farming village
We stayed just outside Provarma and were fortunate to be in close proximity to a number of farming villages including Stylos, Neo Chorio and Armenoi – a very different feel to the tourist spots and well worth venturing out to for a wander and to grab a bite from one of the local tavernas.
Head to the beach and get sand everywhere
With a number of beaches in Crete, you’re spoilt for choice. Nearest to us was Armenoi Beach and Kalyves Beach – both lovely spots and fairly quiet (although this was October so would imagine peak months might be a different picture). Can’t beat that feeling of the salty sea water cleansing your skin, the sun shining on your face and the sand getting…well, everywhere.
Go off the beaten track for authentic food at a very reasonable cost
A couple of recommendations if you happen to be near any of the following villages:
- Chrisoula in Neo Chorio – this was the first place we went to and our favourite of the whole trip. Not at all touristy, I definitely recommend for simple, tasty and traditional grub, not to mention it’s ridiculously good value. The owner is a lovely lady and it was a true pleasure eating there. Just watch out as she tries to ply you with Raki and/or Whisky before you leave 😉
- Piperia in Kalyves – if you’re after wholesome, nutritious food then you’ll like Piperia. It grows it’s own veg and makes a point of it being free from chemicals and fertilisers. As they state in their menu “We cook with authentic recipes in the fireside, just like our grandmothers did. Since our goal is quality and not speed, we do not use a microwave…”
- O Pissas in Stylos – a traditional tavern serving tasty authentic food. I sampled the local red wine too which gets the thumbs up from me!
- Whiskers in Stylos – again, serving traditional Greek dishes and ridiculously good value.
Admire the many beautiful religious buildings
Watch out for the goats!
The Cretan goats abide by their own rules and provided us much amusement during our trip. They sit on the road and precariously hang from trees on cliff edges – it’s as if you can hear them thinking ‘oh crap, got myself into a mess here’. If you like animals with character, you’ll enjoy observing their antics. Like these three below on the right: one casually sat on the road staring at us as if to say ‘what you looking at?’, meanwhile, the two behind participate in an x-rated activity. Goat life.
You’re on holiday, after all. Time to escape the busyness of life and unwind. (If yoga is your thing, I recommend following Brett Larkin’s and Adriene’s tutorials on YouTube. Even better when done outside with the sun shining down on you!)
My only complaint? The week went too fast! Guess that’s the sign of a good holiday. If you’ve been to Crete and have any recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments box below.