Plakias - Crete - Greece
The Beach at Plakias
We flew out of the UK from Birmingham airport at 14:30 on the 15th August 2014 and after a smooth flight landed at Heraklion airport in Crete (Greece’s biggest island) at 21:20. Heraklion airport is on the northern coast of Crete on the Aegean Sea and Plakias is on the southern coast approximately 140 kilometres distance on the Libyan sea. We grabbed a taxi for the journey to Plakias; the cab drove west towards Rethinmon along the only motorway which exists on Crete. At Rethinmon we headed inland driving down to the south coast. To reach the south coast the road passes through the White Mountains via a 2 mile long gorge which towers over the road some 150 metres high. The Gorge is called the Kourtaliotiko Canyon. We arrived at our destination; the Stella Apartments at 23:30 to be met by Manolis the owner. The temperature at this time was a mild 26 degrees centigrade and the skies were clear and filled with thousands of twinkling lights. Although tired after our journey we managed to unpack before we went to sleep.
First Iced Coffee of the Holiday
One End of Plakias Beach
Ten Toes and a Mythos
The next morning we awoke to a bright sunny, hot and windy day. First port of call was the supermarket to buy provisions for breakfast. Such as milk, honey, fruit and toasted bread slices. We had brought our own tea preference and sugar substitutes in our luggage. After breakfast on the veranda we read a little and then headed towards the 1.5 kilometres of sandy beach which is part of Plakias Bay after first buying a couple of ‘koulouraki’ (round crispy bread like a thin bagel) from the baker. We found a suitable place to stay, paid 5 Euros for the use of a sunbed and sun umbrella and sunbathed, read and did crosswords until 1pm when we decided to have our first iced coffee's (frappes) of the day together with a toasted sandwich of cheese and ham. We later swam in the warm sea which due to the wind was bringing in surfers rollers and if you were not careful as the waves broke they ripped of your swimming shorts. We retired back to our apartment after first buying some cans of Mythos (means ‘secret’ in Greek) beer and as is our custom drinking a can each on the veranda as the sun went down. After showering and dressing we went out to eat at Kri Kri (means the mountain goat that is indigenous and only found in the highest of the mountains in Crete) one of the many tavernas in Plakias. Our meal was Greek traditional salad as a starter, main meal, a carafe of Retsina wine, Greek bread and a carafe of water. All was delicious. Then a walk back to the apartment under a starlite sky with a warm breeze rustling the olive tree branches.
Sunday to Friday
Sunday: This day followed much the same pattern as Saturday except that we ate at a different taverna in the evening trying a Cretan salad which is similar to a Greek salad except the cheese is soft sour cream cheese (not feta) which is a speciality of Crete and rusks (hard toasted brown bread roughly broken) and a caper sauce.
Monday: Once again the weather was hot (38 centigrade) and we decided to sunbathe at the same beach as we had done the previous two days before trying a new beach further round the bay. That evening we tried a different taverna where we had another superb meal which like the other meals cost around £17 each.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday:
Over the next four days we decided to move to another beach which was great for snorkeling and the water was much calmer than the previous beaches. We spent the four days sunbathing and snorkeling as well as eating evening meals in our favourite restaurants in Plakias. On Saturday we decided to hire a car for 3 days and go to visit the cave of Zeus which was in the middle of the mountains, visit Chania and its Venetian port and also to go to an area which was renowned for attracting hippies during the late sixties and early seventies. The name of this place was Matala.
On Saturday we set off and headed for the plain of Lissithi which is where the Cave of Zeus was located. It was a long drive taking us about three and a half hours along the northern coast via the Kotsifou Gorge and then up the Selena mountains where the plain of Lissithi was situated. Near the plain we came across a fantastic cafe which had white windmills in its forecourt and offered an excellent view of the valley below. We also visited a village called Krasi (wine) which was famous for its two and half thousand year old plane tree which had a circumference of 34 people holding hands in a circle. In the past there were tables and chairs and a small café in its trunk. The village was also the home of Kazantzakis a renowned Greek author and the writer of Zorba the Greek. The plain of Lissithi is 1,500 metres above sea level and is in the middle of the eastern Cretan mountain range. Mythology says that the mother of Zeus fearing her son would be taken from her hid him in a cave in the mountains. The climb to this cave from the Lissithi plain is steep and donkeys are available for those unable to manage the climb. Finally we reached the mouth of the cave after several stops to get my breath back. To reach the floor of the cave we had to climb down 256 steps. Not too bad going down but coming up was another matter. The cave was full of magnificent stalagmites and stalactites, but no Zeus. When we finally climbed down the steep trail from the cave we drank a large orange juice and had a toasted sandwich. Then a drive of four hours saw us back in Plakias in time for dinner.
On Sunday we drove through the Kotsifou Gorge/Canyon once again which is 2 mile long and the only way by road out of Plakias. This time we headed east towards the famous beach resort of Matala a journey of about two hours through the mountain range of Kethios. On the way to Matala we stopped off at a Monastery built in 400AD. It was a magnificent building built high on the mountains overlooking the sea. The Monks grew all their own food and kept animals for their meat. The monastery even had its own bank in the grounds. We eventually reached Matala, a resort which was made famous in the 60’s and early 70’s when the it was a hippie haven. The resort has kept its funky style and there are several cars and vans whose owners have kept up their paintwork in the psychedelic colours of the time. The many bars are retro and have kept the psychedelic colour schemes as have many shops in terms of the retro tourist goods they sell. The local authorities have also kept the many caves that are built into the distinctive cliffs which hem the resort, as they were when the hippie communities lived there. After a wonderful day with many photo opportunities we took the two hour journey back to Plakias and dinner.
Chania's Venetian Port AreaClick thumbnail to view full-size
On Monday we again headed out of Plakias through the Kotsifou Gorge/Canyon towards the northern coast where we turned west for the journey to the city of Chania which is the second largest city in Crete. Chania is well known for its old Venetian town and port. The old town has many Venetian churches and other buildings as well as being surrounded by the walls of the castle that once stood there. The narrow streets are full of street traders and colourful stalls and shops. A tourist paradise. The port area is magnificent with its once Venetian warehouses and buildings now turned into museums, offices and eating places without losing their Venetian look. One particular museum had a live replica of a Minoan sailing ship which was built using the tools the Greeks used nearly 5,000 years ago and also using the exact same raw materials for the ship and sails that were used to build the original ships. Great photo opportunities all round. On the way back we noticed hundreds of people walking along the main motorway that follows the northern coast of Crete and then many cars just simply parked along a several kilometre stretch of the highway on the inside lane. A traffic nightmare. We wondered why and stopped ourselves. We discovered that on that particular day was the feast of Saint Fanouris with a church named after him located at the side of the motorway. Hence all the people and the cars parked up. Saint Fanouris is the patron saint of protection for the Orthodox faith so I guess walking on a motorway to visit his church was considered safe. Tradition has it that the women of the families bake bread and take it to the church to be blessed and then it is cut up and offered to the other worshippers that come and go throughout the day and night. Basically they are recycling bread. The feast is also known for the lighting of human sized candles which are bought, lit and placed in the church. After an hours diversion at the church we helped ourselves to some bread (which was very tasty) and continued our journey back to Plakias and another fabulous meal in a local taverna.
Minoan ShipClick thumbnail to view full-size
PrevelliClick thumbnail to view full-size
We handed the hire car back and decided to visit Prevelli which has a beautiful beach and river walk but is only accessible by boat. The journey took half an hour from Plakias to Prevelli beach. There we explored the river and walked a couple of kilometres sometimes along its banks sometimes in its ice cold waters. The river ran between high cliffs and a palm forest making the walk quite dramatic. After spending the whole day there we caught the boat back to Plakias in the late afternoon and had our usual early evening Mythos beer on our veranda.
View of Pevelli Beach and River
My Impression of David Attenborough at Prevelli Palm Forrest
Final Three Days
Wednesday and Thursday:
We spent a relaxing two days sunbathing, swimming and exploring the one and a half mile long beach of Plakias. As well as trying out new coffee bars for our lunchtime iced coffee and toasted sandwich.
Back to the airport and the four hour flight home to Birmingham.