When starting an excursion from our hotels, these are the 10 must-see sites nearby.
Elounda, Plaka and Spinalonga
Elounda is a collection of three villages, Ano (upper) and Kato (lower) Elounda sitting above the port, Skisma, nestled at the head of the bay of Elounda with a view of the beautiful Venetian castle on the island of Kalydon, the famous “Spinalonga”. Since ancient times, this island was site to a fortress that protected the port of Olous from marauding pirates, while in the 20th century it was used for the exile of patients suffering from Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Nowadays, it is a remarkable site where little boats will take you to throughout the season. Opposite the island is Plaka, a fishing village with traditional seaside homes and openings that play stage every summer to the “Plakiana” traditional music festival, and whose tavernas serve the freshest fish throughout the year.
Upper Mirabello and the Areti Monastery
Passing Plaka and Spinalonga, the road heads up the mountain towards the most unspoilt region of Eastern Crete, the “Upper Mirabello”. Pass through the traditional village of Vrouhas with the amazing view of the entire Mirabello bay and of Spinalonga, and then walk to the cape of St.John with the beautiful stone-built lighthouse, a miracle of traditional architecture.
After Vrouhas comes the small settlement of Selles, to the north of which starts a seaside route through virgin landscapes that ends at a small taverna. Before lunch, we suggest you take a short walk to the hidden beach of Vlihadia, for a dip into the azure waters.
On your return, drive up to the village of Skinias and the gorgeous Aretiou monastery before continuing through the mountainous landscape towards Ano Elounda and, finally, the port of Elounda, called “Skisma”.
Virgin waters and beaches
This corner of the Mirabello bay, with the Spinalonga peninsula and its myriad anchorages is a true yachting paradise. Within a few minutes from our hotels, one of our sailing or motor yachts will travel you to secluded seascapes and hidden coasts. From the beach on nearby “Glaronisi” (seagull-island) to the fishing village of Mohlos with the ancient Minoan ruins on its little islet, the cruises are magical. Starting any time of the day or night you require, with all the meals that you wish for, and even with spa treatments on board, this will be an unforgettable cruise.
For adventure lovers, we suggest a unique experience of life in the sea, a scuba dive down a steep incline, known as “wall diving”, where one descends through crystal clear waters down to a depth of 30 meters through the deep Mediterranean blue onto the sandy sea bed. At night, you should experience the dark beauty with a night dive with torches, where the colours will mesmerise you and the sleeping fish will idly float in front of your mask to be observed in total serenity.
The city of Aghios Nikolaos (St.Nicholas)
The local capital is host to thousands of visitors every year. At its heart is the lake “Vouliagmeni” (sunken lake), a volcanic submersion where according to Greek myths the goddesses Athena and Artemis washed their hair. All explorations into it, including Jacque Cousteau’s, have ended in a winding system of underwater caves without end. Red rocks and trees on its western slopes add peculiar magic to the scenery. Strolling through the many shops of the city and the many buzzing cafes and eateries will fill the day very pleasantly.
Ancient Lato and the Kritsa canyon
Just after Aghios Nikolaos is the turn towards the traditional village of Kritsa and the Byzantine church of Panagia Kera with its intricate wall paintings dating to the 13th century. Continuing around Kritsa, one passes its small but beautiful canyon, whose ascent requires about an hour of walking through virgin nature.
From the end of the canyon you can return easily by taking a path on its upper lip that ends at ancient Lato, a Minoan acropolis dating to the 5th century B.C. on an amazing panoramic position.The road after Lato continues through the olive groves to Lakonia, where you should stop for a snack at traditional café in Panagia village. Recently, a museum of antique cars and motorcycles was inaugurated on the square.
Few can believe how easy it is to rise from the seaside paradise of Elounda to a height of 2000 meters and enjoy the mountains. Just after Kritsa, you follow the sign to “Katharo” plateau, through gorges and forests of ancient Cretan pine (Quercus Coccifera). Arriving at the plateau is equally spectacular, as you see before you the traditional “metohia” (cultivations). At its entrance, the café of Mr.Siganos is the last contact with civilization. Don’t neglect to see the bones of ancient pygmy elephants and hippos dating from 14 thousand years ago! Crossing the plateau will lead you to the dense forest of Selakano, where another beautiful mountain route will take you to the village of Kroustas.
Lassithi Plateau and the Dikteon Andron cave
There are places in Crete so well hidden that even the mythical gods could not find. The cave of Zeus, Dikteon Andron, is one of them. Starting from the old provincial capital, Neapoli, follow the signs to the village of Vryses and the Lassithi plateau where, depending on the time of year, the colours change radically with a backdrop of 2000-meter peaks.
On the opposite side of the plateau, behind the village of Psyhro, lies the mythical cave where, Zeus, the father of the Olympian gods, was born. Archaeologists have brought to light artifacts dating from the 7th century B.C., while its natural beauty explains why it has been a holy place through the millennia. For those who don’t fear the dirt roads, there is also an amazing mountain route from Mesa Lassithi, next to the Havgas canyon, to the Katharo plateau.
The CretAquarium, near Heraklion, occupies an area of approximately 5000 sq.mtrs. and is part of “THALASSOCOSMOS”, which hosts a research centre, technology, education and recreation facilities. Both as a result of its in size and its exceptional design it is the largest site of its kind in the Mediterranean. When you arrive, you will be impressed by the contemporary building, whose architectural design evokes a ship with its bow pointing towards the western horizon of the sea. The tour is estimated to last about one hour, if the visitor wishes to examine all the organisms and exhibits.
The Crete Golf Club, Hersonissos
For golf lovers who can appreciate the sport’s need for concentration, who enjoy the competition and can find the harmony that golf provides, there is a truly unique 18-hole "Desert Style" golf course, in the area of Hersonissos, about 35 minutes’ drive from Elounda, which combines modern infrastructure, international golf standards and a majestic landscape as an idyllic setting to take in the great pleasures of the sport.