Thursday, August 16, 2012

Weekend in Crete

During a free weekend two of my roommates and myself decided to go to Crete, Greece. After looking into traveling to a few different countries, it was ultimately a cheap flight that led us to Crete. I have always wanted to go to Greece, so I was really excited for our weekend. We booked our flight through EasyJet, which was in fact very easy. There were no hidden fees which we had heard rumors of. However, if you use EasyJet make sure you only bring one carry on bag because bringing a second bag can cost almost as much as their discounted tickets.
            Our flight left Rome at 7am on Thursday and we were on the beach by noon.  We stayed in a town called Rethymno, which is on the north cast of Crete. The town was over an hour west of the Heraklion airport, but it was definitely worth the drive. To anyone considering trip to Crete, I would suggest going as far west as possible. Rethymno is made up of “old town” and “new town”. New town is not as charming, as it has been built up with hotels, minimalls, and tourist restaurants. However, old town was a picturesque Cretan destination. We stayed at the Rethymno Youth Hostel. This was my first time staying at a hostel. It was great and definitely surpassed my expectations. The positive reviews we read online were exactly true. The hostel owner was very kind and helpful with suggestions for restaurants, shopping, and beaches. His favorite restaurant in town, called Lemon Tree Garden, was exactly what we were looking for. They served us amazing authentic Greek cuisine and gave us free wine and dessert, as well as a discount for coming from the youth hostel. The restaurant owner and managers even sat with us just to meet us and make sure we were enjoying our trip. The hospitality was so amazing that we came back to eat their our second night.

Greek lamb with potatoes
Amazing (and free!) dessert
            During our first two days in Crete my roommates and myself explored the town. We went to an outdoor market where we bought delicious fresh fruit and cheese at a very low cost, and shopped at small local stores. We tried to stay away from the tourist traps, however there was one that we could not resist. There was a fish spa right down the street from our hostel. For fifteen euros we spent fifteen minutes with our feet in a tank of tiny fish that eat dead skin cells, followed by a pedicure. It sounds and looks weird, but it was actually very cool.
Yes, it does tickle!
On Thursday and Friday we went to the beaches of Rethymno that were just a few minutes from our hostel. These beaches were quite crowded because of the time of year but they were still relaxing. For our last day in Crete we wanted to find a beach that was more secluded. We researched the most beautiful beaches on the island and then found a tour group to guide us. The tour was great because we were provided with confortable transportation to and from Elafonisi as well as some helpful information. Towns and beaches in Crete are pretty spread out, so while there is public transportation, a tour bus better fit our needs for the three-hour drive. Elafonisi is a tiny island located just off of the southwest coast of Crete. The bus dropped us off right on the coast of mainland Crete, and then we were able to walk a few hundred feet across the warm shallow water to reach the island. The island is a protected nature reserve so there is nothing there except sand, rocks, and plants. We spent the day simply laying in the sun and cooling off in the crystal-clear water. It was the perfect place for our last day in Crete.

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