It is often said that it is the journey, not the destination. For our week in Crete, we decided to let the journey determine our destination. One of the joys of our extended time off is the space and time we have to explore. Before we used to “check list” travel trying to squeeze in the very best of a place during the short time we were there. In the effort to maximize our experience in a place, we often passed up the opportunity for authentic encounters or places off the beaten path.

We arrived in Crete without a plan. We had just spent a month in Central Asia exploring the Pamir Highway, horseback riding in Terksai-Ala mountains, and exploring both the European and Asian side of Istanbul.  We were coming off the high of being super tourists in these exotic far flung adventures, and were now ready for a week of living normally and having some quiet time to catch up on Quan’s course work and our blog.

We chose the island of Crete because we felt it was off the beaten tourist path and far away from the crowds of Santorini and Mykonos. We had read of its rich mosaic of beach side villages, canyon drives, and coastal cities. We also knew that in a week we could easily drive the distance of the island in our car rental.

We arrived to Crete at 11:00 pm on Tuesday night we had a car rental and a room booked for a one night stay in Heraklion, Crete’s capital seaside town with a population of 175,000.

We stayed up till 3 AM playing a game that we called Air Bnb Roulette. 

For those of you who have not used Air Bnb before, we stay  almost exclusively through the site as we find that it connects us with friendly local hosts and have given us some of our most memorable travel experiences.  This link will give you $30 off your first stay with AirBnb!
Here are the rules of the game we played:

  • Price parameter: In Central Asia we were paying $30/night for our accommodations in yurts and home stays and this price included dinners and breakfast. We knew Europe would be more expensive, but did not intend to break the bank. Our price ceiling for room rate per night was $70 or less. On the island of Crete this gave us many options, but we would recommend adjusting up or down your price ceiling based on the cost of living of where you are staying. When we were deciding between two places we often let the one with the lower price win.
  • Top Experiences: In the past we would often choose where we would stay based on which city we wanted to visit. Every city we read about in Crete seemed amazing and we were not tied to any single destination. So instead we drew up a list of experiences we wanted to have while staying in Crete. Since Quan needed time to catch up on her course work, we knew we would spend a lot of time in our rentals so went on a search for the following:
    • The Most Unique & Secluded Living Experience
    • The Coolest Rooftop View
    • Living Like A Local
    • Living in the Heart of The Action
  • A Reasonable Route: While it’s feasible to drive the length of the island in one day, we did not want to spend hours each day in the car. So we spent our first evening over wine browsing AirBnb listings and availability and checking the locations against the map.  Here is how our week played out and the places that our AirBnb rentals took us:
    • An hour drive east to the little village of Apostoli to stay on an Organic Olive Farm, this listing also inadvertently put us in the heart of wine country which was an unexpected added bonus.
    • A two hour drive west to Rethimnon for a listing with the coolest rooftop views, on our way we made a detour to the beach town of Skinaria
    • A 30 minute drive even further west to the town of Chania where we stayed at two separate listings, one where we lived like a local and one in the heart of the Old Town. From there we made a day trip out to Balos Beach which is now one of our favorite beaches in the world!
    • A 3 hour drive back to Heraklion, the port city where we flew in and out of. We spent our first evening there in a loft in the center of the city and our last evening “living like a local” in the basement of a family home with a lovely garden.

This trip remains one of our favorites because of the element of surprise that awaited us with each new stay. It also gave us time in one of the most beautiful places we have been to. This is the land where people are friendly, the food is always fresh, and there is always raki in the fridge. 

Route Around Crete