Our Travels: Western Crete, Greece

As you read this, we guarantee that at least some members of the World Words team are travelling. Whether it’s a city break, a beach holiday, a mountain excursion or a rainforest trek, you can’t keep our writers off the road. This wanderlust, coupled with a talent for putting it down in words, is why we specialise in high quality travel content.

We’ve shared many travel tales in this series of blogs, which we call Our Travels. From Joe’s jaunts in Estonia to Allison’s adventures in Bangkok, you’ll find the team’s many dispatches from all over the world in the OT archive.

This month, it’s the turn of our regular staff content writer, Nathanael. Having recently married (congratulations!), Nathanael and his wife Natalie needed to pick a suitable spot for their honeymoon. In the end, they decided to visit Western Crete, a land of monasteries, mountains and mezedes. Scroll down to read his account of the trip…

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Nathanael and his new wife Natalie standing in Imbros Gorge, near Chora Sfakia.

Why I went to Western Crete
Deciding where to go on honeymoon is tricky, particularly for a travel writer – there are simply too many choices. We wanted a variety of things from our first holiday as a married couple, particularly somewhere equally enticing for both lazy days and busy days. Western Crete met all of our criteria, offering historical sightseeing and gorge hiking for the times we wanted to explore, and also beaches and tavernas for the days we preferred to just relax.

My highlight of the trip
Most people who visit Western Crete recommend Samaria Gorge, a vast chasm that runs from the mountains to the sea. Ever the traveller to do things slightly differently, I decided that we should choose an alternative walking route. We picked Imbros Gorge, which was closer, shorter and, we were delighted to discover, truly spectacular.

The walking route winds down from the mountains on a dried-up riverbed, becoming more impressive as the limestone canyon walls begin to tower higher on either side. Without any tour groups traipsing down this lesser-known trail, it felt truly remote and atmospheric. The hum of insects and the hot Cretan sun only added to the marvellous Mediterranean experience.

What else I love about Western Crete
Perhaps the things we’ll both remember most from our honeymoon are the hospitality and the food; two things that are utterly inseparable from one another in Crete. Every day on the island came with an unforgettable meal, from the impromptu dinner in an olive grove accompanied by bouzouki music, to the lunch that we prepared ourselves in a Cretan cooking class, while surrounded by the atmospheric ruins of an old olive press.

So much of the cuisine is about plentiful portions and generosity from the hosts. Everything’s slathered in locally-made olive oil and followed by seemingly-unlimited free shots of raki, the Cretan distilled grape drink that’s both sweet and fiery. One sip ensures it’s not just the friendliness of the locals that will leave you with a warm glow.

A view of the harbour in Chania, the second largest city on the island.

A view of the Old Venetian Harbour in Chania, the second largest city on the island.

Why you should go
In just one trip, we packed in strolls around historic villages, days by the beach, sightseeing in the enchanting city centre of Chania and some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten. We barely scratched the surface, either, as this region of the island also offers hidden monasteries, family-run wineries and incredible hiking routes through the soaring Lefka Ori (White Mountains). Plus, if you somehow manage to exhaust the western side of the island, it’s merely a matter of a few hours to reach legendary sights such as the ruins of Knossos.

How you can visit
There are two airports in Crete, Heraklion in the centre and Chania in the west. We flew into Chania, which left us right in the thick of the action – it’s a quieter airport than Heraklion, but you can still fly here directly from the UK in the summer or via Athens and Thessaloniki throughout the year. You can get around by bus or hire your own car.

At World Words, we have written a whole host of travel content on Greece (including Crete), from blog posts to destination guides. Take a look here. Want to keep up with all our latest work? Then follow us on Twitter.

– Article and photography by Nathanael Smith.

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