If you make it over the White Mountains of Crete, down winding roads and through more desolate stretches of land, Chora Sfakia welcomes you. The journey to Chora Sfakia is scenic and unforgettable in its own right, but once you’re here, it’s time to take in all that makes this village special. A small fishing village, Chora Skafia is less popular with the tourists, though the Sfakians are known to be quite friendly. The town is steeped in a rich history. Tour some of the ancient ruins of the old fortress, explore the Cave of Daskaloyiannis, and bask in the sun on Sweetwater Beach. We also recommend sampling a Sfakian pie made with fresh cheese and honey.
Located on Mount Psiloritis, Anogia is near the Ideon Cave where Greek mythology dictates that Zeus spent his youth. Once ravaged by war, Anogia now offers stunning landscapes and plenty of outdoor cafes in Agios Georgios Square with spots to sit under the shade of trees as old as the town itself. Be sure to have some roasted lamb if you’re in Anogia because this region is known for its stockbreeding. Most meals you’ll find around here are prepared with local ingredients according to authentic recipes. In addition to the ancient Idean Cave and the Nida Plateau, there are some great museums in Anogia that showcase Cretan folk art.
On your way to the better-known Rethymno, we recommend stopping – if even just for a coffee – at one of the village’s many cafes as an excuse to explore the picturesque town of Spili. The streets are paved with cobblestones, and livestock roams the fields. There is a beautiful monastery in Spili as well as plenty of quaint little shops selling dried herbs and other treasures. The town is lush and green thanks to the natural flow of water down the mountain into the town. This fact also makes the climate in Spili quite temperate in comparison to other parts of the island during the summer months.
Located to the east of Rethymno, Platanes holds the promise of beaches and easy access to the neighboring city. Here you can experience some of those iconic oceanic views that are so closely linked to the island and its culture of tourism. Consider staying here during your visit to Rethymnon as there are some gorgeous hotels. Platanes is also famous for its sea turtles. In the summer they emerge from the water to build their nests and lay eggs on the shore. Platanes also has a wide selection of bars, pubs, taverns, cafes and restaurants serving a variety of Cretan delicacies.
Sissi is a Cretan town located to the right on the sea. The lifeblood of the village is at the small, though idyllic natural port. You can take in this imagery without the convolution of crowds and tourists. The port has a maritime past where it played a significant role in the Cretan Revolution. Today, the waters are largely used for fishing. You can see men and women pulling in the haul and cleaning the fish that is to be served in the tavernas that evening. Therefore, this brings in some of the freshest, most flavorful fish and seafood from the Mediterranean.
Located on the southwestern coast of the island, Paleochora is one of Crete’s larger towns with a population of about 2000 locals. The coastline here yields to a marvelously blue seascape that makes it ideal for anyone looking to spend a few days on the beach. Its pedestrian-friendly streets lined with whitewashed buildings make for excellent grounds to wander and explore all that the town has to offer. Here you can uncover a multitude of bars, artisan shops, and restaurants. Plus, it is relatively easy to find accommodation in Paleochora because it is a more popular destination on the island.
Matala‘s shores have mythological significance, as it is said Zeus famously emerged from its waters disguised as a bull. Despite its cultural notability and size, Matala still offers an escape from more touristy areas on the island. Indeed, you’ll still find a sense of authenticity and charm associated with the quiet coastal fishing villages on the island. Matala was also popular with the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, and this legacy has made its mark in the laid-back atmosphere found here. The seaside is lined with spectacular sandstone cliffs along with mysterious caves said to be the sites of ancient tombs.
Loutro is located quite close to Chora Sfakia, so we suggest making it to both if you’re in the region. The town emerged around a natural port that served to ancient Cretan civilizations throughout the ages. Interestingly, the main means of accessing Loutro is still by boat because there are no cars here. Perfect for a day trip, Loutro holds a pristine glimpse into true Cretan life that has yet to be overcome by tourist traps and gimmicks. The natural scenery is also quite remarkable here. Loutro is surrounded with gorges, mountains, and lovely beaches. Not to mention, this perfectly poised landscape receives virtually uninterrupted warm and sunny weather.
Episkopi is a small agricultural village about 20 kilometers from Rethymno. In addition to beaches, Episkopi is settled amid green and fertile lands along the Mousselas River valley. The main product produced here is olive oil, which is reason enough to take a detour here. The name Episkopi means ‘diocese’ in Greek, which is apt considering all of the old churches scattered around the town. It is one of Crete’s older towns, and it is decorated with gorgeous religious buildings with painted frescoes. Many of them are still in operation. There are also plenty of places to stay in Episkopi if you prefer to circumvent the hustle and bustle of Rethymno.
Agia Pelagia is situated on Crete’s northern shore. It is a more developed village than many in Crete, which makes it ideal for a relaxing vacation where you have everything you need in one place. Still there are several different beaches within a short distance from Agia Pelagia that allow you to beat the crowds. The waters here are notoriously clear and calm. There are also many places to enjoy Cretan cuisine while overlooking the ocean. There is also a bus running from Agia Pelagia to nearby Heraklion. It is recommended that you visit during summer, however, because the town nearly shuts down during the winter months.