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Balos

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To visit the Crete picture gallery 2001 - click HERE

To visit the Crete picture gallery 2007 - click HERE

To visit the Crete picture gallery 2008 - click HERE

Introduction.

We visited in October 2008.

This was our third visit to Crete. Notes from our visit in 2001 can be found HERE and 2007 HERE.

Arrival

Chania is one of the better Greek airports. With the recent demise of XL Airways, there were far fewer flights; our passage through the airport was quick and painless. The transfer west to Kamisiana took about 45 minutes.

Crete in October

We would normally visit Greece in September but this year circumstances meant we had to delay our trip until October. We had been to Crete in 2007 but chose to go back again as the weather was more likely to still be warm and sunny in Crete than other places in Greece. It was a good decision as temperatures hit 30 degrees in the first week and tapered off to about 25 degrees towards the middle of the month. Evenings were not as warm as say in September but were never that cold. The only really noticeable difference by travelling later in the year was that daylight hours were much shorter. The sun was rising about 07:15 and by 7 in the evening it was getting dark. There was a distinct drop in temperature from about 6pm.

Although there were far fewer people on holiday some of the bigger resorts were still surprisingly busy.

This is a very good time of the year for those keen on walking as the intense heat of the summer months has past. Whilst the scenery was just as dramatic as we remembered there was far less colour in the landscape as the oleander plants were no longer in flower and the hillsides had that end of summer parched look.

Katsikoulakis Apartments

We stayed at the family owned and run Katsikoulakis Apartments in Kamisiana. The family members are all very friendly and helpful. Some pictures of the apartments can be seen HERE.

On arrival we found there was a jug of Raki and some sweets in our room. The sweets are still there but the Raki ….gone.

The 7 apartments are in a small block set back inland from the pool and bar area. The family live in another block and also have other rooms for private rental. There is a good sized pool, plenty of sunbeds, a snack bar and a shaded area at the front of the property looking out to the sea. The beach is about 3kms in length from Kolymbari to Tavronitis. It is made up of grey pebbles and shelves quite steeply into the sea. When the wind blows from the north the sea can become lively with big waves crashing onto the beach. The Katsikoulakis complex is located at the eastern end of the beach. The rooms overlooked farmland.

There are a few low key developments along the coast but the overriding impression is of a natural and rural environment.

It is a 5 minute walk up hill from the apartments to the village of Kamisiana.

Sunrise from Kamisiana - Click to enlargeKamisiana

Kamisiana is a traditional Cretan village set in rural surroundings; quiet, relaxing and not for anyone looking for lively nights out.

The village has 3 tavernas, all along the main road.

Tzitzikas;
Vicenzos Cornaros;
Kriti, this seemed to be the most popular probably because of the adjoining Kafenion.

Kamisiana - Click to enlargeBetween the main road and the sea is the Michaelis Taverna. We went here a couple of times – the food is good and the owner very friendly and knowledgeable.

In Kamisiana there is a kiosk (cigarettes/drinks etc), a small Supermarket, Petrol Station and a Car hire shop (will also change traveller’s cheques). The village also boasts an Agricultural shop – specialising in cultivators, a Furniture shop and Cement works. Something for everyone !!


A 10 min walk along the main road to the east is the village of Tavronitis and to the west Rapaniana.

The walk along the tree lined beach road towards Tavronitis is particularly pleasant. There is a beach cantina and a couple more tavernas – although these shut down at the end of September for winter.

Tavronitis

Tavronitis - Click to enlargeThis is a busy village where there always seemed to be something going on. It is also an access point to join the National Highway – so just sitting in a Café watching traffic negotiate the main T-Junction was interesting. The ongoing roadwork’s just added to the chaos. The beach is just under a kilometre from the village centre. The quiet tree lined road eventually runs parallel to the beach and is a very pretty spot.

This village has an excellent taverna that stays open all year round which, unfortunately, we did not discover until the last 2 nights of our holiday when the village of Kamisiana ‘closed’.

The area around Tavronitis was at the centre of the battle for Crete in 1941.

Please note that there are what appears to be 2 chemists in the village, however, as we found out one of them is the Vet. The Vet does not sell Ibuprofen Gel! The Vet was very understanding!

Kolymbari

Kolymbari is a large village at the foot of the Rodopou peninsular.

From Kamisiana it takes about 30 minutes to walk to Kolymbari via the main road or around 45 minutes along the pebble beach.

Kolymbari is the main village in the area (it has a Bank) and is touted for its fish tavernas that overlook the sea.

Maleme / Tavronitis / Kamisiana / Rapaniana

Kamisiana - Click to enlargeFrom Maleme all the way to Kolymbari, the coastal villages and resorts are significantly quieter and less commercialised than the area of Agia Marina to Platanias.

Kamisiana is a very quiet area when compared to the resorts further along the coast towards Chania.

Even in October, most tavernas were still open although by the middle of the month quite a few had closed or were about to close.

Platanias

This is the largest resort in Western Crete. It is a big and bustling resort with an abundance of places to eat, drink and be merry. This is definitely not a place for anyone looking for a quiet holiday.

We drove through several times and it was always busy.

There is an old town area to escape the hustle and bustle and it is a short drive into Chania.

Amygdalokefali - Click to enlargeDays out

We hired a car for 10 days at a cost of 360€ via the tour rep. We did get a free upgrade to a Ford Focus but I am sure I could of paid much less (for a smaller car) by using the car hire company in Kamisiana.

Kissamos

This is a large town at the western end of the National Highway. Also known as Kasteli or even Kissamos-Kastelli.

Guide books refer to Kissamos as quiet but on the several occasions that we drove through it was anything but quiet - the main road was very busy and quite chaotic.

Falasarna

The beach here is huge and largely unspoilt. Magnificent mountains provide the backdrop. There are areas where it is possible to get a snack and hire sunbeds etc. or find a quiet spot to yourself.

View to Falasarna - Click to enlargeOn the way down to the beach from Platanos there are 2 big tavernas next to each other on the left hand side of the road. Here there are excellent views down to the coast. The landscape here is mainly agricultural and is dominated by hundreds of poly tunnels.

At the southern end of the beach there is a small harbour.

At the far northern end of the beach, the dirt track leads to Ancient Falasarna. We were intrigued by the stone structures but had no idea what they were until a fellow tourist armed with a guide book enlightened us. The site is the remains of a 6th century port. Over time the sea level has dropped and the ruins of the port are now about 400 metres inland.

In spite of the presence of other tourists, the area has that away from it all feel and felt remote and isolated.

Gramvousa Peninsular

Gramvousa Peninsular - Click to enlargeGramvousa is a barren peninsular in the extreme north west of Crete. The reward for making the journey is the spectacular south sea colours of the beach at Balos.

We set out on the dirt track in a car. After about 3 kms we stopped as a couple of the cars in front were having difficulty getting up a steep hill. At this point we decided to park the car and walk the rest of the way. This was not to be one of our better ideas – sorry ‘my’ idea. We had walked a couple of kilometres and felt that we didn’t seem to be getting any nearer to Balos. As we found out later, the walk is actually about 7kms to the car park and then a further 1km down to the beach.

We went back to the car. Having now done quite a bit of walking we decided that it would be a shame just to turnaround and go back so we set off in the car again. We actually got up the hill that was causing the initial problem quite easily. The track is definitely not easy to drive as it can be very rocky and in places is very steep and rutted. However with a little care the drive is possible in an ordinary car although one with a small engine of say less than 1 litre would struggle up some of the slopes.

Balos - Click to enlargeAnyone considering walking the full distance needs to be prepared particularly with regard to shoes, sun protection and water. Apart from one area where there is shade from a few olive trees there is absolutely no respite from the sun. Serious walkers only … probably carrying a very large rucksack!

Once at the car park a further trek is required to get to the beach. In the end we satisfied ourselves with reaching a viewing point where I could take some pictures. Although the beach did indeed look wonderful the thought of what goes down has to come back up again put us off making it to the actual beach.

There is no doubt that the effort to get there is worth it but in hindsight perhaps the better option would of been to use one of the many excursion boats that do the trip. More details can be found HERE.

On the island of Gramvousa is a fortress built by the Venetians which is one of the stopping places for the boat excursions.

Elafonisi - Click to enlargeElafonisi

We had been here before but we were surprised to see how busy it was even in October. So to avoid the crowds it is necessary to get here early or stay late.

Paleochora

This proved to be the highlight of our holiday. Instead of visiting in a single day we decided to stay overnight. The drive south took us through the White Mountains plus a lot of roadworks. Unlike elsewhere the roads are not closed and a diversion suggested, instead you just drive through, dodging diggers, workmen and half made roads. On route we stopped at the small town of Kandanos. The town was destroyed by the Nazis during WW2 – memorials in the town centre explain why. Fournes - Click to enlarge

We arrived in Paleochora mid afternoon and booked into the On The Rocks hotel at €65 for 2 B&B – half the advertised room rate. The hotel was located at the waters edge and although in a peaceful area was just a few minutes walk to the centre of the town.

The town is located on a promontory, with a harbour and pebble beach on the eastern side and a long, wide sweeping sandy beach on the western side.

Paleochora - Click to enlargeThe town sits in the middle and is a maze of streets and alleyways with lots of tavernas, bars and cafés. Even in October it was busy but in a relaxed Greek way. At the southern end a climb up to the remains of a Venetian fort offers good views over the whole town.

There are daily boat connections for Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro Chora Sfakion, Elafonisi etc

We ventured out in the late afternoon and took in a spectacular drive up into the mountains. A highly recommended circular tour taking in the villages of Anydri, Prodromi, Strati, Azogires and Lygia.

Our hotel room faced east but we were able to watch the sun set, the reflections of light on the White Mountains, turning them pink.

Some of the roads are closed to traffic in the evening (of course scooters and motorbikes are exempt), to allow the taverna tables to spill out onto the streets. We chose to eat on the eastern waterfront at the Caravella. We had an excellent meal and the owner and his staff were great company. We met 3 women from the Ukraine and eventually mastered the Ukrainian for ‘cheers’! Caravella website HERE.

In the morning, we watched the sun rise from our balcony and then the first ferry load up for its trip along the coast.

Sougia

On our way back from Paleochora we ventured over to Sougia. A one time hippy haunt it is a small out of the way place that still retains a laid back feel. With a reasonable selection of tavernas, this appeared to be a good place to simply disappear for 2 weeks.

Other places

Here are a couple of random pictures of the Turkish fortress at Aptera and Lake Kournas.

Aptera - Turkish fort - Click to enlarge Lake Kournas - Click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

Taverna Kriti - Kamisiana - Click to enlargeEating out

A simple meal for 2 with a couple of drinks about €40

Add fish and the cost can go up to €50-60

AmstelAmstel Cost of Living Index

Taverna 2.00€

Katsikoulakis Bar – 2.00€

Supermarket – 500ml bottle 0.95€

Raki with honey – no need to gift wrap €6 - a cure for all ills !!

Leaving

The airport was very quiet. – we even took off early!

Conclusion

For a holiday late in the season to Greece, Crete is difficult to beat.

To view the travelogue of the 2001 trip - click HERE

To view the travelogue of the 2007 trip - click HERE

To visit the Crete picture gallery 2001 - click HERE

To visit the Crete picture gallery 2007 - click HERE

To visit the Crete picture gallery 2008 - click HERE

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