Our First Trip to Greece

After some research online for a destination in Greece, as yes we wanted to travel to Greece, we decided to go to Crete Island. 

It is our first visit to Greece and we heard a lot of things like how beautiful it is, especially the water, but you have to seem them for yourself.

We didn't choose to travel by car, we flew with a charter plane from Cluj, reaching our destination in around two hours.

We rented a car from Heraklion Airport that would allow us to visit several places in Crete. There are various travel agencies that organize trips, in case you don't want to rent a car.

We stayed for 7 days during which we visited many beautiful places.

1. Elafonisi - the beach with red sand

From Heraklion, we went by car following the route: Heraklion-Bali-Rethymno-Chania-Elafonisi Beach, around 200km, 3h. The road is good, with some portions having two lanes. It is a bit more difficult from Chania as the road gets narrower allowing for only lower speeds, but the scenery is worth while.

The beach can be found at around 75km from Chania, in the southwest part of Crete, and as it is quite a remote place it creates a more close to nature sensation.

Elafonisi Beach is the most beautiful beach I have seen so far, with a pinkish tinted sand and crystal clear water.

Why pink sand? Well, the pink sand is made up of red and pink seashells and other organisms mixed with the sand. It seems that the color is influenced also by the season and tides.

2. Spinalonga Island

Spinalonga is an island located in Elounda Bay, Northeast side of Crete, in Lasithi, near Plaka city.

There are several boats leaving Plaka, following a route that takes around 10 minutes to the island.

The island was used as a leper colony and now it is uninhabited. It is used as a popular tourist attraction in Crete, thanks to its ruins, landscape and clear, low depth waters.

Because of its location, the island was fortified in its early years in order to protect the entrance to the Ancient Olous Port.

Spinalonga was featured in the 1977, British series, "Who Pays the Ferryman?" and Werner Herzog's “Last Words” short film.

Near the boarding place towards the island, there are many terraces where you can grab a bite. We had the best sea food at one of the places there called Captain Nicolas Fishtavern Restaurant

3. Heraklion and the Heraklion Port

Heraklion is the capital of Crete and the largest city on the Island. The city's economy developed around its harbor, the largest in Heraklion and the XVI-th Century Fortress. The city also has an international airport.

The Heraklion Harbor has many terraces, shops, coffee shops where you can take a minute and admire the place.

In the city, you will run into narrow streets, aristocratic buildings, shops, churches and many coffee shops

4. Lake Kournas

As it was on our way to Elafonisi Beach, we had a short stop here. It was a 3km detour, but it was well worth it.

Lake Kournas is located near the village Kournas, at 47km from Chania and it is the only freshwater lake in Crete. It has a beautiful scenery, surrounded by hills, the ideal place for a hydro-bike ride or some tanning nearby.

5. Knossos Palace

While in Crete, we chose a day when we visited one of the places with significant historical background, the most famous palace from Crete.

Knossos is an archaeological site located at 5km southeast of Heraklion, containing the ruins of a minoic palace discovered and restored by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans between 1900-1931. He launched several massive excavations, leading to the discovery of the palace. The palace was first discovered in 1878, when the trader Minos Kalokairinos dug up a few sections of the western wing of the building.

The Palace is divided intro several sections. In the western side there were the ceremonial rooms, altars and storage chambers. In the eastern side there were three levels with residential chambers of the elites, workshops, an altar and large stairs.

The most spectacular pieces are the colorful frescoes found on the walls, ceilings, floors and the paintings resembling flowers, princesses and games played in that period.

At the entrance to place there are a few shops where you can buy various souvenirs, some depicting love scenes or figurines of people from the palace, pottery etc.

6. Crete Aquarium

Unul din obiectivele pe care ni le-am propus sa le vizitam a fost acvariul din Creta, fiind si cel mai apropiat obiectiv de unde stateam noi cazati, aproximativ la 3 km.

Cretaquarium este situat în apropierea orasului Gournes in Creta, la 15 km est de orasul Heraklion.

A fost conceput de angajatii Institutului de Biologie Marina din Creta pentru cercetare, educatie, cultura si recreere, a fost deschis in decembrie 2005. Este format din 60 de acvarii de diferite dimensiuni, continand o cantitate totala de 1.700.000 litri de apa de mare, gazduieste 2000 de animale marine, 200 de specii diferite gasite in bazinul Mediteranean si impreuna cu peisajul reprezinta Marea Cretana.

Merita vizitat atat de adulti si in special pentru copii, o sa fie o bucurie mare pentru ei, pestisorii viu colorati si meduzele iti fura ochii, dar si testoasa de mari dimensiuni.

In interior exista si magazine de unde va puteti lua suveniruri dar si un restaurant.

7. Psychro Cave

O alta zi, un alt obiectiv, ne-am hotarat sa plecam putin de la mare si sa urcam, nu la o altitudine foarte mare, la 1025 m catre pestera Psychro. Drumul este bun, putin ingust pe alocuri, dar foarte interesant, am traversat sate traditionale pe dealurile acoperite de maslini, am vazut si capre negre, pe drum te poti opri la tavernele locale pentru a bea ceva.

Pestera Psychro este o pestera sacra minoica veche din platoul Lasithi din estul Cretei, la o distanta de 59 km de Heraklion (1 h 20 min). Satul Psychro este la 1025 metri deasupra nivelului marii.

Pestera este renumita in mitologia greaca ca locul in care Amalthea a crescut copilul Zeus cu lapte de capra.

In apropiere de pestera se afla o parcare si cateva restaurante, din parcare pornesc doua carari catre pestera, cea mai usoara cale este cea din stanga, noi nu am fost prea inspirati, am urcat pe cea din dreapta (aprox 800 m), unde sunt multe pietre alunecoase si  destul de abrupt, dar un peisaj minunat. Exista si posibilitatea pe cararea din partea stanga sa mergeti pe magari pana la intrarea in pestera, dar tinand cont ca drumul este putin in rampa si nici magarii nu sunt cele mai mari animale puteti face putina miscare pana sus.

La intrarea in pestera exista un chiosc de unde se cumpara biletul de intrare dar si locul perfect de unde puteti admira peisajul de la inaltime.

Dupa urcarea usor greoaie, la intrarea in pestera te asteapta cateva scari de coborat, dar nimic imposibil, pestera este frumos luminata, o temperatura numai buna pentru a te rarorii putin.

La coborarea din pestera, chiar langa parcare sunt cateva buticuri de unde ne-am luat suveniruri, au foarte multe produse din masline, o pasta de masline foarte buna, picanta sau nepicanta, ulei de masline, localnicii de acolo se ocupa cu plantatia de maslini. Oamenii sunt foarte calzi, iti spun povestea lor, majoritatea au mici productii de familie si le si vand acolo, am cumparat si un raki cu miere, foarte bun la gust.

8. Melidoni Cave

Pestera este situata la o distanta de 3 km de Melidoni Milipotamou, in Rethymno, la o altitudine de 220 m si la 53 km de Heraklion. Este un loc stiintific, istoric si arheologic si este una dintre cele patru pesteri sacre din Creta.

In drum spre pestera ne-am bucurat de micile sate si de marele peisaj Cretan, in interiorul satelor drumul este foarte ingust.

Satul si pestera au fost numite dupa Antonios Melidonis, unul dintre protagonistii razvratirii impotriva turcilor, originar din sat.

In interiorul pesterii, intrarea duce la camera centrala, care se ramifica in camere mai mici. Camerele sunt decorate cu frumoase formatiuni stancoase. Camera centrala se numeste „Camera eroilor” din cauza unui incident istoric semnificativ care a avut loc in ea.

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