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Crete, Greece

It was the third time we booked our holiday through Simply Travel, and every time we seem to get further and further away from the beaten track! Previously we went to Corfu and Corsica.

This time we went to North-East Crete, and unlike the other holidays we had before, we went in high-season because of Tolii’s school holidays.


We made a huge fuss about air-conditioning and finally found a villa to our liking which had it, just to discover that we didn’t actually need it! The northern coast of Crete trurned out to be very, very windy, and our villa Nicoletta, in the mountain village of Prina, was sitting high on the hill catching all of this wind! It seemed like it was about 4-5 degrees cooler in the mountains and with the constant wind the August heat (+30 all the time) did not bother us at all. Besides, the heat and sun is what we came for anyway. Why moan back in the UK about the lousy weather, just to moan again on holiday – bah!

The mountains around Prina are spectacular, and as we discovered as a result of an unplanned 5 hour “discovery” drive around the South and North coast, the surroundings of our Prina seems to be the most spectacular in this part of Crete! We say unplanned because we set off just to have a quick look at the beaches in the south, to see if they were worth visiting for a day trip (they weren’t). Instead of turning back, we continued along the main road which turned north and came out at Sita. Just that bit of the drive was a lot (and not as spectacular as the mountains in the middle of the island, between Anatoli and Males).

Prina is about 15 minutes mountin drive from the northern coastal village of Istron. The town of Istron has a number of small supermarkets, numerous tavernas and three very spectacular beaches: Bronse, Silver and Golden.

The Bronze beach is absolutely empty, has trees right on the water front, but the shore is pebbly (albeit sandy in the water). The Silver beach is sandy, huge, has a lovely playground, and again is almost empty, probably because it is more open to the waves. Apparently it is very shallow and gently sloping but we didn’t have a chance to test that until almost the end of our holiday as the wind whipped up some pretty big waves. The Golden beach is the most spectacular, the most sheltered, has interesting rock formations and small coves, and it is more populated, although there is no way anyone can call it crowded, at least when the wind is “on”, which was almost all the time we were there.

Just above the Golden beach, on the main road through Istron, there is a wonderful place to come if you are parents of a couple of boys who have decided that they are fed up with waves, mountains, gorges, hikes and all that “of the beaten track” nuissance. The place is a pool tavern called “Waterland”. It has magnificent views, nice food and two lovely pools, a deep and a shallow kiddie’s one, with a mushroom fountain and tons of colorful balls to toss about. Entry is free and it also has coin operated computers to connect to the Internet, and free WiFi if you have brought your own laptop (just ask for the access code). The place was almost always emty at the beginning of August — Resession, perhaps?

Prina and this area of Crete hasn’t stopped to amaze. On all our previous holidays we were running out of things to do and places to discover after the first week of our two week holidays. However, on the last day of this holiday in Prina, we could list about five or six places within less than an hour’s drive that we thought might be fun to visit! A good reason to return to Crete for another holiday — perhaps to one of the Simply Travel villas in the south?

Our fondest memories (in somewhat priority order, depending on if you ask us or our kids):

1. Riding donkeys near Anatolii
2. Boat trip to Spinalonga
3. Spectacular mountain views between Anatoli and Males
4. Hiking the Kritsa Gorge
5. Villa Nicoletta’s swimming pool, the breeze, the balcony, the smell of pines, and the song of crickets – oh yes, and the sunrises next to the church on the hill across from the villa
5. Jumping over the waves on the Golden beach
6. Enjoying crystal clear and calm waters on the Silver beach under the tamariscs trees
7. Driving to the far east (skip the Vai beach) and snorkrelling on the Itanos beach next to Vai
(and taking our Christmas card photo)
8. Enjoying Waterland pool cafe above the Golden beach
9. Aquaplus Waterpark (our kids rank this as number one, of course!)
10. Greek dinner with music in the tavern in Prina just underneath our villa
11. High cliff monasteries — everywhere
12. “Two Seas” view point near Prina
13. Sunrise views from the mountain Church in Prina (worth the hike up there in the mornings to see it, and the light hit the villas)
14. Visits by the Holiday Cat (purr, purr)
15. Thriving greenhouse businesses of Ierapetra (not too pleasing to look at but very educational – we appreciate our winter fruits and veggies even more now)
16. Tertsa, a seaside “hippy” village with a crazy sea cliff road leading to it – and the sleepy parrot on the roof of the last taverna on the main road
17. Buying lovely hand made table clothes in Kritsa
18. The confidence our boys gained in swimming in our villa’s swimming pool and in the shallow sea
19. Wandering through the mazes of Meanon archaeological site Gurnia
20. Meeting working donkeys on village roads
21. Boys sleeping outside on the villa’s balcony; watching the moon develop from a quarter to a full (with Mars rising); watching shooting stars and satellites
22. The helpful, friendly people like Simply Travel’s Rue, and the villa’s cleaner Poppy.

There’s more…but that should be enough to convince you to have a holiday there, too!

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