The advantage of enjoying a Greek holiday in Crete is the narrow length and size of the island, with complete accessibility to every location in a short amount of time. An island filled with early Minoan history and fantastic scenery, each town and village offers their own bits of knowledge through archaeological sites, museums or monuments. Or you can take leisurely walks or hiking in the rocky gorges and mountains in Crete’s wonderland of scenic beauty. For a convenient central location to do all of this on the southern coast, one of the favorite resort areas to stay at is Plakias, an area which is remarkably calm and peaceful due to the lack of tourist congestion most of the season. The world of Crete can be yours in a very short time with exciting places to visit with full relaxation in between the excursions.
Traveling a hairpin dirt road will take you from the southern part of Crete to the northern coast, as long as it does not rain! A little over an hour and 30 minutes traveling north-northwest from Plakias will bring you to the ancient city of Aptera, directly above the Souda harbor. History says that the name Aptera originated from Apteron, the King of Crete, who lived during the days of Moses. It is considered one of the most extensive ancient sites in western Crete with the city walls still remaining, along with those of a Roman theatre, a Demeter temple built in the 1st Century, and the Roman vaulted cisterns they used for grain storage. Ancient digs around 1862-64 have unearthed inscriptions proving Aptera was the site of Paleokastro-Megala Chorafia. Many engravings, coins, inscriptions and drinking vessels were found dating back to the Hellenic, Greek and Roman periods, as Aptera was one of the few cities of the period which had a significant trading network. If art is something you admire, then the area’s ancient finger paintings of many colors will fascinate you. They are said to represent Apollo and Artemis, drawn with extreme delicacy and beauty.
Families with young children can find many things on Crete to amuse during their Greek holiday, with most areas providing donkey or horseback riding. If you are in the Hersonissos neighborhood, you can visit Aquaworld, Crete’s first Aquarium that opened in 1995. Located a little over two hours from Plakias, near Gouves on the northwestern coast of the island, this is a favorite among families. Aquaworld is an aquarium and has become a rescue center for fish and reptiles, and anything in between. Open daily from 10 in the morning to 6 pm, the local fish and reptile departments have greatly spread to non reptiles. This is due to the fact they take in unwanted pets that may or may not be reptiles. However, one favorite reptiles is Sobek—the Nile crocodile—which came from a local pet shop. The little Axolotl fish, Pinky and Perky, will also stay here after they lose their gills and transform into an adult salamander so they will not become someone’s dinner! The kids will be sure to love Mr. Prickles, the ruling green iguana of the reptile garden who does not understand what no means and rules the roost.
There is so much to offer guests and visitors on the island of Crete that it is impossible to see it all in one short trip. The best thing to do is stay for a week or so, or come back for another visit. This is an island that is known for its peaceful ways and warm receptions by the Crete residents, with a history of its early Minoan civilization attracting people from all walks of life – elderly and middle aged visitors, families with children of all ages, young couples and single people. One of Greek’s largest islands and the most popular, staying at places like Plakias can get you anywhere on the island within a short time yet provides you with many things to do in the local area. The next time you need to get away for a Greek holiday, choose Crete.