My scholarship for the exchange program during my MBA in UK gave me the opportunity to visit one of the many islands of Greece. Crete is the largest of Greek islands surrounded by a cluster of other islands. Crete consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Lasithi. I was lucky to visit two of them: Heraklion & Lasithi. They say there is no place like Crete on earth and I agree with the thought to a great extent. The place is a near perfect blend of sea, sun & sand. And one can enjoy the luxury of all three from the window of their own apartment or hotel. Besides this, the island has a very interesting infrastructure ranging from barren plains to fertile plateaus, rough mountains and hill side villages all around. The capital of Crete is Heraklion and is the largest city. Like any other beach town, the city is much relaxed and you can walk around most of the areas.
Getting There – The city that I stayed in was Agios Nikolaos which is best known for its partying culture with several pubs and discos available around. I took the cheapest option available considering my student budget and boarded a charter flight from Manchester to Heraklion. The plan was to book a ferry from Piraeus to Agios Nikolaos and reach there by morning. However, taking a bus was more convenient as I reached at night. The bus took around three hours to reach Agios.
Staying there – Thankfully the hotel was walking distance from the bus stop and I reached safely. The hotel was quite a site and my room opened to a gallery which was sea facing. Most of the accommodation has a similar setting and sea facing rooms are a common site. Getting up with fresh morning breeze was very relaxing.
Getting around – I was too hungry by the time we reached and decided to check out the place around. To my surprise the food joints were open till three in the night and it was very safe walking in middle of the night. Just around the corner were restaurants with alfresco settings and pubs were easily accessible. Euro is acceptable everywhere and cash is preferred. Shopping is fund and requires lot of bargaining. But don’t expect to get original stuff at all shops.
Places to see – I will get straight to my visit the famous spots without boring you all. The first on the list is Lasithi Plateau.
- Lasithi is the eastern region of Greece and is about 2 hours drive from Agios. The famous white sailed wind-mills used for irrigation cannot be missed. The archaeological cave of Zeus is just above the plateau which can be reached on foot or on ponies. The cave is a marvel of nature and is maintained by the archaeological department.
- Another fascinating spot is the Spinalonga Island which is located in the Elounda Bay. There are remains of the Venetian Fortress and after the Turks left, it was turned into a leper colony till a cure was found for the terminal disease. But now it is open for tourists. The best way to get here is to board a ferry, enjoy a quick swim before getting there and lunch on your way back.
- Last but not the least is the Minoan Palace in Knossos which is huge and delicately preserved till date. The palace showcases many artistic frescoes and remains of the civilization.
Misc – Apart from the above tourist attractions, beaches are a must visit every single day you are in Greece. And not to forget the delicious Greek food which is also healthy and nutritious at the same time. Needless to say, Greek Salad is quite well known and needs no introduction. Do try Moussaka which is partly Greek and partly Turkish cuisine. Wine can also be ordered from barrel just like beer and one gets a pitcher of red wine which can be shared by all.
I enjoyed my 3 weeks stay in Agios Nikolaos thoroughly and would love to visit again. On my return I took the same bus to Heraklion Airport and returned to Manchester safe and sound.
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