Santorini & Crete, Greece (Part 2 of 2)

Hello! This is a continuation of my previous travel post. If you haven’t already, read Santorini & Crete, Greece (Part 1 of 2). Otherwise, let’s jump right back in!

It’s now Tuesday, May 28, 2019 — day 2 in Crete (but day 5 in our overall trip to Greece).

For our second day in Crete, I really wanted to go to either Balos Beach or Elafonisi. The thing is, the drive was so far and we weren’t really feeling up for it. In the end, we decided to stay locally.

Our first stop was Gouverneto Monastery.

The road to the monastery felt like we were traveling through a desert. But as we slowly drove towards the mountains, the rocky walls began to surround us on either sides. Through many of the mountain passes, we ran into goats. As we slowly approached them, they would scatter off of the road and begin climbing the rocky mountain walls. It was pretty cool to see considering how vertical these mountain walls were.

We eventually arrived at the car park, which was simply a land of dirt speckled with rocks of all sizes. There was a gate that bordered the entrance to the monastery. To enter, there was a small entry fee, but again, nothing outrageous in price.

The walk to the monastery involved a shaded stroll on a small winding cobblestone path, splitting through a curated garden. It was pleasant.

About 10 minutes walk from the entrance, we arrived at the monastery front door. It was quiet… too quiet. We looked around and didn’t see a single other person in sight. When we least expected it, one of the monks found us by surprise! He offered us some vegan cookies. Meanwhile the monastery’s pet dog came wagging his tail over to greet us (not sure if it was for the food, belly rubs, or both!).

After saying our goodbyes to our new friends, we went along our way to begin our true reason for why we had chosen to come here — the hiking trail to the ocean (and a cave along the way). Everything else that we saw was unexpected!

Here I am on the trail. As you can see, the path is no longer cobblestone, but much larger rocky stones. The beautiful curated garden and shade that we had turned into a wilderness and scorching sun. I began to feel like I was wandering the deserts for 40 days and 40 nights, and we were just getting started!

Probably 20 minutes into our hike, we found the cave. This is where the first monk used to live. Walking around and inspecting the area, you could tell that it was quite old.

Further inside is where the cave was. It’s so dark in there. I tried to walk as far as I could inside, into the darkness, but eventually freaked myself out. Ever watch the movie, “The Descent”?

Moving on from the cave, we almost got lost. By now, the path had become “less obvious.” It’s easy to make one wrong turn. Luckily on this trail, it wasn’t too hard to get back on it (like in past multi-day treks that I’ve been on).

Continuing on, we arrived at these old ruins. I have no clue what this is, except that it must have been somewhere that people lives or worshiped. Again, there were more caves and small tunnels that I was too scared to see what was on the other side.

But no worries! There were tons of other less claustrophobic places to explore.

I love these bells that they had everywhere. Reminds me of several different video games, like God of War III, no?

Above this giant stone underpass was a bridge. On this bridge were some small buildings. We went through the buildings where the insides were covered with dusted spiderwebs. At the end of one of the rooms was a doorway… a doorway that dropped right out and over this bridge. Why!?! I almost ran through that door! So dangerous, I would have killed myself on accident.

The rest of this hike got a little sketchy. Before this point, the path was more clearly marked and there were stairs! Pass the point of the ruins, you actually need to climb down a very steep dirt area. Here is where we eventually saw others stop and turn around.

But we kept going.

Through the trees, the branches, and between canyons, we continued our hike.

Not sure if we were going to end up anywhere, we just kept at it and trusted the process. It was all worth it in the end! We made it to this very quiet and secluded swimming hole that leads out to the ocean.

The color of the water here was stunning, I kid you not. The yellow, lime green, turquoise colors are so beautiful. I can’t get over it (maybe because it’s some of my favorite colors).

We didn’t end up swimming though, only dipping our feet in the water. The climb down to the water was fun, much like a rock climbing wall. You need to use your toes and fingers to scale it.

Once we were ready to head out, we simply retraced our steps all the way back to our car. There was another couple who made it out here too, and actually got picked up by a boat! Whoa, I didn’t know that was an option, lol.

Our next stop lead us to Seitan Limania Beach. But before heading down to the beach, we decided that it was probably smart to grab a bite to eat first!

We ate at Seitan Delivery, the little restaurant shack right at the top of the road that leads down towards the beach. I wasn’t expecting much from the $5 greek salad, but boy was a good and fresh, too! The woman who made it was so kind, despite our struggles to understand each other.

Finishing our fill on salad, we cleaned up our dishes and headed back to our car to begin the drive down to the beach parking lot.

The drive felt dangerous, as there were numerous areas where you could easily fall off the mountain. Also, the road was narrow and shared with oncoming traffic. To make matters worse, the road was all loose dirt and rocks on a steep incline. Let it be known that Erick did this drive while eating ice cream, so NBD.

Parking our car in this narrow dirt lot on top of a mountain is uncomfortable. Especially when it feels like you’re trying to squeeze too many objects on a curved surface that just doesn’t have that much surface space. It ended up being okay, although we did have to try accelerating the gas a few times in order to back out of the rocky terrain.

There’s no easy way to get down to this beach. Again, it required some skills in balancing on rocks. I saw some people climbing down on all fours. It’s not a beach for everyone. But it is a beach for this goat!

One of the friendliest goats I’ve met. Anyone who had food with them, the goat would just stroll on over like they were part of the party.

Overall, it was a very nice beach though. It ticks off multiple items for me: slightly dangerous, physical activity, and beautiful.

The water was cold to swim in, but we did it anyways. 10/10 would do it again.

As night time approached, we decided how to spend the rest of the evening. We did visit one more beach, Stavros beach, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. It looked comfortable though, and family friendly.

For dinner we ate at Namaste for Indian food. I can’t believe it, but this was really really good Indian food. I had super low expectations too, considering we were in Greece. Who woulda guessed.

On our last day in Crete (and actually Greece as a whole), we had to make the same drive that we made our first night in Crete. This time however, instead of taking another ferry, we were just taking a flight out of the Heraklion airport.

To help make the drive more enjoyable, I figured that we’d treat it like a road trip and stop at different sights along the way.

The first stop we ended up making was in Rethymno to see the Fortezza Castle. Overall, this sight was mildly interesting. There’s a map that you can take to give yourself a self guided tour around the premises. The magic for me was reading about how the Ottoman Empire came to conquer this fort. Being able to stand there in person at each spot and imagine what it was like in this 16th century citadel really brought history to life.

Outside of the fort, we decided to stay around a little longer. The city was cute and had lots of restaurants to offer. We chose to eat at Makan Grill House for lunch (they had AC). The restaurant looked really fancy from the outside, but I had a look at the menu and it wasn’t bad at all!

I tried the crete salad… not as good as the traditional greek salad. But everything else was delicious, and super huge portions!

Finishing lunch, we hopped in the car and continued on our drive.

We decided to go to Monastery of Arkadi. On this trip, we visited a total of 3 monasteries, this was our 3rd one. To be honest, I would skip this monastery unless this is the only one that you’re visiting. The location of it is out of the way and you need to take windy roads to get to it. I felt that it lacked the charms of the other 2 that we visited.

We didn’t spend that long there. Also, it started to rain so back in the car we went!

Our last and final stop was to see Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site in Crete (aka Europe’s oldest city).

The price to enter this attraction was much more than the rest of Crete. Not worth the price, plus it costs extra if you want a map (and not for eco-friendly reasons).

My favorite part of the archaeological site were peacock sightings, ha!

Honestly, I came to this site because of the photo below. I saw photos of this online and it looked quite spectacular. In person, it was less grand. This is a site that you can’t really do self guided and it’s probably better to have hired a random guide outside of the entrance. It’s okay though, we were pretty tired by this point in the day anyways.

We headed to the airport soon after this, first to return the rental car, next to just wait at the terminal.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I definitely don’t have the same amount of energy I used to for staying out all day long. Sometimes now I’m ok with just taking a break every now and then.

All in all, our trip to Greece was a good one. I’d still like to go back again and visit some of the other islands and mainland. But as far as a 1 week trip to Greece goes, I feel like a got a nice mix of scenery through the lenses of Santorini and Crete.

Personally, I thought Santorini was gorgeous, but it didn’t have much more to offer past the scenic vantage points. It’s also more expensive than other parts of Greece, doesn’t have nice beaches, and is underdeveloped considering how many tourists it receives yearly. We spent 4 days there, which worked out for us. But had I not been working remotely for 2 of the days, it would have been too much. I think if you can have 2 full days in Santorini, that’s perfect.

Crete on the other hand had an awesome variety of activities and offerings. The 3 days that we spent there weren’t enough, but maybe that’s fine. Had we been there longer, we probably would have had a different experience. Having to drive yourself around everyday for long distances takes a toll on you, especially when destinations are far from one another. Plus, you can’t wine and dine!! Crete could easily be a 5-7 day trip. You can do it like we did in 3 days, but there’s no way you’d be able to see all of the island. Only a highlight of 1/3 at best.

Would I go back to either destination again? Probably not in the near future. I wouldn’t seek it out honestly. There are much nicer places to visit that can achieve the same travel goals.

Anyways thanks for reading! That’s all for this post. I’ll write another one hopefully soon after I get back from my 2-week trip to Nepal. We fly out for that tomorrow.

x Sarah

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