Coasting along the coast in Crete.

June 5, 2014 3:37 pm

Enjoy tranquility, beauty spots, culture and adventure – all on offer in a friendly part of Crete. Our holiday base, Kalyves, is situated just 10 miles from Chania Airport. We booked our trip with the usual criteria in mind: sea, sun, idyllic beaches, fresh food and opportunities to speak pigeon Greek in some local tavernas. As we hauled our white bodies from our fire exit seats (at a gangly 6 foot 3, this was a result!), our experience began with an efficient car hire service. The smartly-dressed representative was awaiting our arrival, and we were zipping down the A90 quicker than you can slap your factor 30 on.

map of vamos, Apokoronas and Crete

To compensate for our non-existent sense of direction, our nous told us that we’d better borrow some technology.  “We’ve used it all over the place,” my In-Laws reassured us, as this ‘Europe-friendly’ Sat Nav swapped hands. Obviously not in Greece, I thought, whilst sailing in a random direction down the pitch black highway. With midnight vastly approaching our conversation was about to get very vocal. With just a bog standard and a cartoon-style map of Crete to hand we thought our first holiday hiccup was going to be a major one.

But no sooner had the argument had time to gain momentum we were delighted to see that magic sign: Kalyves, 2 kilometres. For sheer convenience it was already a winning destination in my books. Porto Kalyves Seaside Apartments, organised through at a price of 201 Euros for 7 nights, were supremely easy to find. The Atsalakis family, our friendly and accommodating hosts, were most welcoming. We were greeted (bearing in mind, this is 1am local time) with smiles, snacks, much needed bottled water and a snazzy apartment to match. Presented immaculately and ranked 4th out of 19 on TripAdvisor the apartments were completed in 2011. We had full use of the WiFi connection for no extra charge. Incredible sea views, as we found out in the morning, were also thrown in for good measure.

Kalyves (population 1419) is a charming coastal village in the peaceful Apokoronas region of western Crete. Although it caters for pasty holidaymakers such as myself  it’s predominantly inhabited with a working population. Friendly locals (who speak in English, at your beck and call – of course) are aplenty. Local services will keep you in check: shops, banks, beach restaurants, tavernas and – for all you husbands out there – the obligatory hairdressers. It’s a quiet place, yet atmospheric and attractive. The water is warm and clean beaches are plentiful. And as we found out, it is easy to stumble (completely accidentally) upon a range of beach bars that sell ice-cold beer and delicious lunchtime dishes. Perfect for the mid-day heat. Use of a sunbed, with a charming hand-woven shade canopy, is available for your use at no cost.

Enjoy drinks and a three course Cretan feast, including the local delicacy of rabbit, with change from 35 Euros. Live entertainment can be found on many nights of the week. The Akrogiali Tavern presents live bouzouki dancing on Wednesdays and on Thursdays the Ηλiac & Δnμntρnc Bλaμακnc duo (you know them well, no doubt?) secure themselves as musical talents.

Every time I sat in the scalding hot seats of our hired car, waiting impatiently for the air conditioning to kick in, I felt sorely disappointed. What I had originally wanted was a powerful motorbike to, in my words, own these roads. But my wife wouldn’t allow it on the basis that people drive rather fast out here. Not a good reason in my book. Anyway, I was soon distracted from my daily tantrums by our highly interesting and varied surroundings.

Traditional village in West Crete

Traditional village in West Crete

Chania, our first stop, is the second largest city in Crete. It is a delightful place that is packed full of culture and this includes the unmissable Venetian harbour. It is well worth a visit. Feeling energetic we also took a drive to Elafonisi to see those magical ‘pink’ beaches and the classic ‘blue vitriol’ coloured sea. By travelling along the pleasant E65, a boiling hot car – or a supremely superior motorbike (if you are allowed) – will take you to Kissamos. Here you can catch a daily cruise to the island of Gramvousa (Venetian fort, ancient chapel) and the idyllic lagoon of Balos. If you’re still bubbling with energy a 20 minute drive down the E75 east will bring you to Georgioupoli, the Cretan hub of water sports. Banana boat rides, windsurfing, paragliding, scuba-diving, sailing and fishing are on offer – without so much as a sniff of a wetsuit.

Crete is a fantastic place to visit. It fits in snugly with all budgets. From Chania airport, you’re in the magical village of Kalyves in under half an hour’s drive or alternatively a 15 Euro taxi ride. The Atsalakis family will happily organise transport for you. Kalyves has the best of both worlds. If you choose a hire car (but I’d personally recommend a big bike), then the whole of western Crete is at your mercy but if it’s just relaxation and self-preservation you’re after then this friendly Cretan village will come into its element.

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