Greece has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently: debt, protests and desperate refugees. These are not normally the things I look for in a holiday, but it was where my now husband and I had already chosen to honeymoon – and with absolutely no regrets!
Our original choice was Asia – but due to time and cost limitations, we stuck with Europe in the end. I’ve been to a couple of Greek islands before – Kefalonia and Paxos – and have always come away wanting more. This time we went with Crete, sticking to the West side of the island to avoid the party areas. Being on a larger island definitely had a different vibe – busier and more built up, yet still not crowded or over-commercialised. Being near a larger city, Chania, certainly gives advantages in terms of activities and sight-seeing, but we enjoyed the best of both worlds by picking a hotel on the outskirts just an easy bus ride away (we were so happy with our hotel… more on that another time).
Chania is a city of two halves – modern and old. Speaking with limited authority (as we spent minimal time there), the former seemed to have little to offer, certainly in comparison with the beautiful and interesting old city. Here, we spent several days just exploring by foot the visually stunning and Pinterest-ready winding old streets, packed randomly with gift shops of handmade goods, and saturated with gorgeous tavernas. The harbour is the perfect centre point – packed with seaside restaurants and other interests such as horse drawn carriages, street artists, masseuses, boat trips and museums. It’s the perfect place to end the day with a view of the sunset, which is well enjoyed in the comparative peacefulness offered by a walk around to the lighthouse.
We enjoyed several meals at Soul Kitchen, which is a little away from the harbour but one of the best restaurants in the city. We also took a horse-drawn carriage around the city, a lovely way to spend half an hour and with a charming driver (albeit with limited English skills!). I am always wary of the welfare of animals in those settings, but the horses appeared healthy from what I could see. The drivers were all friendly amongst themselves, and waited patiently in a queue to provide rides, meaning the horses gained plenty of rest.
Unlike the horse and cart drivers, the boat trip vendors are very much up against each other, vying for your custom. One or two appear to be large, commercialised operations, with big boats and higher prices. We tried a smaller, glass-bottomed boat – but to some disappointment. We circled Kri Kri island, and managed to spot one of the wild goats, but the sailors had some trouble locating the airplane wreck they had promised, which we never got sight of. The snorkelling time was limited – especially for us n00bs who spent half the time trying to get the hang of it (with no teaching offered), and the equipment provided was limited (no fins left in my size!). All in all probably best to go with a more established boat.
We bought our souvenirs in a shop opposite our hotel with a lovely friendly owner and slightly cheaper prices. I even bought my own plane-ready baby olive tree, which the owner insisted I named (‘Manolis’, if you’re wondering, after our taxi driver). However, similar gifts are available in the city – chopping boards, spoons and bowls made from olive wood, olive oil soap, and coloured plates are common. The Agora marketplace is also a good place to stop by, and where I was happy to snap up some great pom-pom slippers, as well as enjoy a baklava.
Other activities in the city include bus tours (although with poor quality sound – some nice views but not worth the price), Segway tours, and a botanical park. However, some of our best memories are simply from exploring, window shopping, and devouring copious amounts of crepes, gelato, moussaka and coffee.