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:
“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 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:
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)!
We’re so appreciative of hotels that blend tradition with style. This one in Koutsounari occupies a tiny village that has been artfully refurbished.
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).
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.
Village life (clockwise from upper left): rugs drying after a good spring cleaning; multi-hued doors; medieval architecture (Ben: “That looks really unsafe.”).
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.
The irrepressibly photogenic Old Venetian Port of Chania (notice the moon rising on the bottom right).
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).
The Old Town of Chania provides endless eye candy.
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. To read about our commitment to candid and balanced reviews, see our disclosures page.