Spring in Crete: a photo tour

I bought a postcard during a high school exchange trip to Greece, an image of dusty hills rolling into a cove of water so blue it seemed completely oversaturated. Except it wasn’t. It looked like what we saw in Crete just a couple of weeks ago:


Water and sea photos of Crete


“Later it might seem hard to believe, but this is the exact shade of the water,” I remember telling myself. Years after I pulled the postcard out of its drawer, and if it hadn’t been for that sentence I would have been doubtful. Some things never change, because once again it’s hard to believe:


Crete Zorba the Greek movie set

One of the settings for the movie Zorba the Greek


Crete was the last stop on our Goodbye Europe Grand Tour, but we’re making it the first stop in our chronicles (and will work backwards for the rest of the trip, too). We were lured by the island’s geographical diversity and storied history … and an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s where he raved about the wild greens served at nearly every meal. (Actually, that last bit enticed me, but not Ben.) Although we tried our best, we couldn’t see the entire island in nine days.

The Greek islands can be breezy and cool in spring, so tourist season doesn’t usually begin until the Holy Week of Greek Orthodox Easter. We were there just beforehand, and lucked into beautiful warm weather at the end together with few crowds, green hills, snow-capped mountains, and an avalanche of pretty wildflowers (there were a few minuses to the timing, which we’ll describe in a future post). Take a look for yourself:


Sarakina Gorge in Lassithi


Ben stands at the mouth of the narrow Sarakina Gorge in Crete’s Eastern Lassithi province. Even in this rugged isolation, we stumbled across a love lock (left)!


Koutsounari Traditional Cottages

Photo credit for images 1 and 3, clockwise from left: nakoutradition.gr for Koutsounari Traditional Cottages


We’re so appreciative of hotels that blend tradition with style. This one in Koutsounari occupies a tiny village that has been artfully refurbished.


Collage of Rethimno sites


Rethymno, on the northern Aegean seaside, has (clockwise from upper left) nightlife; a hodgepodge of Ottoman, Venetian, and Orthodox architecture; an Egyptian lighthouse with hieroglyph designs, a huge fortress that juts into the sea, and a 7.5 mile-long beach (here, with sun setting over the fortress).


Phyllo boureki and more in Crete


Bread is art in Crete. The gentleman on the lower left is making phyllo dough, which will be used to create pastries like the cheese boureki on the lower right.


Villages on the Rethymno plateau Roustika


Village life (clockwise from upper left): rugs drying after a good spring cleaning; multi-hued doors; medieval architecture (Ben: “That looks really unsafe.”).


Crete countryside in spring


Again, from upper left: Crete’s mountains stay capped with snow throughout April; A cat cools off near Argiroupoli’s waterfalls in the Rethymnon province; churches nestle into cliffsides; make way for crossing goats on country roads; spring flowers paint the hills yellow.


Collage of photos of the Old Venetian Port of Chania Crete


The irrepressibly photogenic Old Venetian Port of Chania (notice the moon rising on the bottom right).


olives vegetables raki frappe crete

Flavors of Crete: olives; raki – a chilled liquor which is always offered after dinner; artichokes in the market; a frappe – a frothy iced coffee drink which might just be the most-consumed drink in Greece (with good reason).


Chania crete old town


The Old Town of Chania provides endless eye candy.


Sunset at Thalassino Ageri in Chania Crete


The perfect end to the week: saying goodbye to the day from a seaside taverna (Thalassino Ageri).


*Special thanks to the Crete Tourism Board for invaluable assistance with planning this trip, as well as Koutsounari Traditional Cottages and Atlantis Beach Hotel for their sponsorship in Koutsounari and Rethymno.Β To read about our commitment to candid and balanced reviews, see our disclosures page.




  1. You took such exquisite photos and they highlight so many aspects of your amazing trip. I could easily fall in love with the rural settings and great food. I’m so glad you went when it was still quiet and filled with local residents, before the crush of tourists.

  2. Appears you can’t hardly go wrong visiting most any place in the Med. So fortunate you had great weather — and a full moon. How romantic! (Reminds me of our last night in Oia with a bright full moon over the Aegean.)

  3. Very nice pictures indeed and a great article.

  4. Amazing photos highlighting the best of these magical cities in Greece! I fell in love all over again looking through them. There is no doubt that I need to return soon. The ideas for a transformational change in my life occurred last time I was in Greece, so it’s clear that I need to return regularly to keep the good ideas flowing! πŸ™‚

  5. Kristen – me, too!

  6. Wendy – It’s funny, because before I lived here I assumed everybody loved the Mediterranean. Americans tend to. Throughout my time here, though, I’ve met people that avoid it entirely. Go figure.

  7. Thanks, Andrew πŸ™‚

  8. Annika, given your model of successful model of transformation, I think maybe everyone should go to Greece!

  9. I have to get to Crete. Greece, in general, has been on my must see list since I was in grade school and I still haven’t made it there. These pictures, the rich colors (which I have no doubt are genuine) and your reference to the wild greens described by Anthony Bourdain (love him!) could be the clincher πŸ™‚
    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  10. Hi Gayla, we just published a new article highlighting those wild greens! I easily could have written about that and nothing else, but figured I should round out the post with some other Crete superfoods, too. After all, some people can’t get quite as excited about greens as I do. πŸ˜‰

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