Crete 2016.2 Blog 1 Hersonissos, Rhezenia , Festos, Elounda,

Greece's flag
Europe » Greece » Crete » Hersonissos
October 5th 2016
Published: October 6th 2016
Edit Blog Post

Koutoulafari to Festos via RheziniaKoutoulafari to Festos via RheziniaKoutoulafari to Festos via Rhezinia

Rhezenia is shown on the map as Prinias; the nearest village. Festos is shown as Phaistos. One of the difficulties finding one's way around here is the different spellings used on signposts, Google maps and Garmin
Note: if you double click on any of the photos you will get an enlarged image and you will be transferred to the photo gallery where you can scroll through all the photos. You can return to the text anytime by going to the control bar at the top of the page where it shows: Travel Blog » Europe » Greece » Crete » Hersonissos » Blogs» Crete 2016.2 then click on Crete 2016.2.

Sunday October 2nd to Wednesday 5th October: our second trip to Crete within 6 months (see previous Crete 2016 blogs) because our previous visit to Western Crete had been so enjoyable and scenic we want to see if the eastern end of the island is as good, and the people there as nice as they are in the west.

We had to have had the fastest start ever to a journey overseas. Having stayed overnight at the Novotel Hotel Birmingham Airport (across the road from the Departures Hall), because our early morning flight to Heraklion was scheduled to depart at 07.25, we got up at 04.30, left the Hotel at 05.40, and had cleared Check-in by 05.45: that’s 5 minutes in total from walking out of
Path to Church at RhezeniaPath to Church at RhezeniaPath to Church at Rhezenia

Resident archaeologist looking for pottery shards
the Hotel to walking away from the Check-in desk. Our arrival at the Thomson Airways Check-in coincided with their opening extra desks so the short queue that we’d joined simply carried on moving forward and each passenger was directed to an available desk. This allowed us time to have a leisurely breakfast at the excellent Giraffe Café in the Departures lounge. The flight departed on schedule and arrived at Heraklion also on schedule at 1.20pm local time. Even picking up the hire car at Heraklion went smoothly as did the 24 km drive to our hotel in Hersonissos, courtesy of our Garmin satnav. For once Murphy’s Law didn’t apply to any of our movements that day and we settled into our quite spacious apartment: large, comfortable bedroom, lounge/kitchen and large private balcony with partial seaview; halfway up a hill overlooking the sea and in one of the old hill villages called Koutouloufari). A quick trip to a supermarket a 10 minute walk away at the bottom of the hill where we stocked up on the basics and returned to our apartment and we were sorted. It could not have been easier. The only downside was that Hersonissos looked pretty seedy
Church at Rhezenia overlooking the valley leading north to HeraklionChurch at Rhezenia overlooking the valley leading north to HeraklionChurch at Rhezenia overlooking the valley leading north to Heraklion

There are hundreds of these tiny churches in the mountains in Crete often in seemingly inaccessible sites: all immaculately maintained inside and out. We were told that there would be just one service at the church each year, on the day that the saint whom the church is named after is celebrated
when we drove through and this impression was reinforced when we walked through the town the following day.

A leisurely start to the holiday, on the Monday, basically doing nothing except sitting on our balcony catching up on our reading and enjoying the warm dry weather. In the afternoon we walked through downtown Hersonissos to the Vodafone shop where I wanted to top-up my Greek SIM card in order to get internet access. Unfortunately the shop close at 2.30pm on Mondays and as we'd arrived at 4pm we had to return empty handed. To avoid the crowds and hubbub along the main street we returned via the seafront district. Bad move as this area was even uglier than the main street. Where any beach existed it was shingle and never more than 10 meters wide and backed by wall-to-wall cafes and restaurants. Very depressing but we hadn’t come here to sample the delights of Hersinossos; it’s just a conveniently located base to explore the central and eastern parts of Crete; and our apartment is well aware from the noise of the beach and bar area.

Tuesday 4th October: we went on our first expedition south across the island to the Minoan site of Festos, but first via the Vodafone shop in Hersonissos and another ancient site called Rhezenia halfway across the island. Apart from when we got into the mountains the drive was not very interesting and quite unlike the beautiful scenery that we’d encountered in Western Crete (see Blog Crete 2016). Also, the locals in this part of the island don’t seem to be nearly as friendly and charming as in the West. We stopped for a coffee in a village near to Rhezenia only to be told in the first taverna that we entered that she didn’t do coffee, and the one that we were directed to served coffee that was really undrinkable and which was left undrunk – to the complete indifference of the lady manager. Rhezenia was an improvement: a very large site on a hill dominating the valley below. The path around the site was littered with lots of ancient earthen pottery shards and, as Jane (resident archaeological expert) speculated, it’s possibly where the Greek tradition of smashing the plates after dinner began.

After Rhezenia we continued though the mountains and down to the plain on the south side of the island.
Minoan Palace at Festos Minoan Palace at Festos Minoan Palace at Festos

Actually the rather nice cafe at the entrance to the archaeological site. And a nice place to have lunch and a coffee.
Not at all attractive with scruffy fields, olive groves, villages and towns; quite unlike Western Crete.

Festos was an improvement. Magnificently sited on top of a steep hill in the middle of a fertile valley with views towards the sacred mountains to the west and the sea to the south west. Also the site was not too big: uncrowded and with a decent café and facilities at the entrance – although the staff were not as welcoming and pleasant as we would have expected. Although, to be fair, it’s no doubt been a long, hot and tiring tourist season for them. After looking around and being suitably impressed we headed back to our hotel taking just over an hour for the journey.

Wednesday 5th October: east this time to Elounda a seaside town at the head of an almost land-locked bay and the village of Plaka which is opposite an island called Spinalonga at the mouth of the bay. Spinalonga was originally a Venetian fort which held out for 50 years after the rest of Crete had been taken over by the Ottomans and later became a leper colony. Plaka didn’t turn out to be as attractive as

looking across the site with the cafe and reception area set in the trees on the hill. Nice place.
our guide book had indicated so we retraced our journey to Elounda, which so far is the nicest place we’ve visited on this trip. After a leisurely lunch overlooking the beach we went returned to our apartment via a nearby resort that we’d considered staying at but discarded on account of its distance from Heraklion. Good decision too as it’s not close to anywhere and it’s beach was virtually not existent – shingle and only one row of sun loungers wide. An easy drive back to our apartment and then out to dinner in one of the many restaurants in the old villages which overlook Hersonissos which are within easy walking distance of our hotel and which are quite pleasant: and vastly better than downtown Hersonissos below.

Reminder: there are more photos below and if you double click on any of them you will get an enlarged image and you can scroll all the photos in the photo gallery

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Minoan pithosMinoan pithos
Minoan pithos

Storage containers in the " magazines" at Festos. Used to store grain or olive oil and could hold up to half a ton of grain.
Spinalonga IslandSpinalonga Island
Spinalonga Island

16th Century Venetian fort then a leper colony
Elounda harbourElounda harbour
Elounda harbour

Mix of tourism and traditional fishing
Elounda BeachElounda Beach
Elounda Beach

You can tell that the tourist season is almost over.
Agia Nikolaos Agia Nikolaos
Agia Nikolaos

up market resort on the way to Elounda

Tot: 0.109s; Tpl: 0.012s; cc: 8; qc: 32; dbt: 0.0633s; 1; m:domysql w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.1mb