Exploring Crete

I woke up in my lovely studio on the island of Crete and felt like I’d stepped into some kind of dream. Greece itself has always seemed like some kind of fantasy land to me, but to actually be there, waking up and looking out my window to see the sun shining on the sea, illuminating the mountains and the fields, it was exhilarating.

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I had breakfast on my balcony and sunscreened up before heading downstairs. I had opted to wear shorts, even though I knew this made me clearly stand out as a tourist. It was just too hot and I knew i was going to be outside for much of the day.

I’d opted to spend my morning going to explore the ancient city of Knossos.

It was one of the things that had drawn me to Crete in the first place. When planning my Greece trip I’d googled recommendations of the best places to see, and Crete was featured on quite a few lists, so I knew I had to get there.

So Knossos was a top priority to see as it was supposed to be one of the most important places on the island.

If you’re there in the summer there is a bus directly from Amoudara to Knossos, but in the off season it required a ride into Heraklion and a transfer from there. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

After arriving I headed into the gates. There was quite a line, but I wasn’t deterred. It wasn’t cheap, and as I wasn’t sure I was going to the archaeology museum I didn’t bother to buy a joint ticket (this ended up being a good choice).

The palace ruins stretched out before me. There were guides hovering offering tours for extra money, but I opted to walk around and read signs.

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I soon found out Knossos was not quite as exciting as I’d anticipated.

Much of what there was to see was reconstruction, and it was reconstruction done in an early period when there wasn’t a lot of research done to see how accurate the reproductions might or might not be.

It was also just really crowded. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in full tourist season.

Anyhow, to any planning on going I recommend good walking shoes, plenty of sunscreen, and willingness to use your elbows.

After finishing wandering the various parts of the palace, I headed back out and went to the bus. I took it back to Heraklion where I decided to find some place for lunch.

I ended up at a place right near the harbor. It was obvious I shouldn’t have gone in. The waiter was far too eager to get me through the door, but I didn’t really care. I had a pretty greasy and not very good gyro, but it was at least filling.

After finishing my meal I headed down to the harbor to walk around. I was feeling a little poor after going to Knossos, so I opted to just look at the outside of the Phoenician fort instead of paying to go in. I then walked back up the hill to the walls surrounding the city where I took a nice long walk. It had beautiful views and I really enjoyed myself.

I spent a little longer in the city before boarding a bus back towards my hostel.

I changed into my suit back in my room and headed down to the beach. It was less than a five minute walk down to the sand. I found a free spot to lay my towel, and I sat and looked out at the water.

I did wade a little, but it was too cool to really enjoy swimming.

After lounging for a bit I went back to the pool where I dipped in for a bit, but again was too cold to really last. Besides, I couldn’t shake my old swimming lessons as a child where the first rule was “never swim alone.” Hard to do as a solo traveler.

I went upstairs and showered before throwing on a skirt and top and heading to dinner. I’d seen good trip advisor reviews about a tavern down the road, so I walked down to find this quaint little place with a lovely porch. It was the perfect setting for an evening meal. I had meatballs in a sauce with rice.

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I was given a free dessert again, but I was still slightly hungry walking back, so I picked up an ice cream cone at a shop on the way and took it back to eat on my balcony as I watched the sunset. I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.

I had a roommate that evening, she was from Denmark and we exchanged advice about traveling.

And then I headed to bed, because I had an early morning coming to get to Santorini the next day.

From Thessaloniki to Crete

So I’d decided to stay in Thessaloniki only a day and then fly down to the island of Crete from there. However, the best plane deal I could find was either extremely early in the morning, or in the early evening. I opted to go for the evening and give myself a few more hours to enjoy Thessaloniki before I left.

This turned out to be a pretty good decision with the holiday the day before, as that meant I wasn’t able to see any museums or monuments from the inside.

The morning of my last day I woke up and had some breakfast at my hostel before leavign my bags and heading down the hill into the main part of the city. I decided to start with the Rotunda for my explorations.

One of the things Thessaloniki is famed for is it’s very beautiful early Christian art. Indeed, as I stepped into the rotunda I could understand why.

The structure was built in Roman times but was then taken over to become a Christian church. Later it was converted into a mosque and the beautiful mosaics were covered over. Thankfully the plaster wasn’t damaging, and today most of it has been chipped away to reveal the beauty underneath.

It was truly beautiful, not a really time consuming site by any means, but definitely one worth seeing.

After leaving the Rotunda I headed down the hill towards the archaeological museum.

I decided to go ahead and purchase a pass that would get me into multiple other locations in the city, hoping it would be worth my while.

The museum itself had quite a few nice artifacts. I really enjoyed my time there. However, it was not laid out very well and I was scolded my staff once or twice for going in a wrong way. Could use better signage.

After the archaeology museum I headed to the museum of Byzantine culture, also on my pass. The museum was in a lovely modern building that curved around up the levels to allow you to see everything. The only problem was it was completely empty. I know it was lunchtime, but still… there were no other tourists. Which made me feel very self-conscious let me tell you.

Once I’d finished awkwardly perusing I headed over to the White Tower. I had a pass to go up it as well and since I still had plenty of time I opted to do that.

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I took an audioguide, but it ended up taking forever since ALL of the signs were in Greek and the audioguide simply translated. I’m a pretty fast reader so it was a pain to stand there and listen when I could have just skimmed on my own. Regardless the tower was still fun, and it had very nice views of the surrounding areas which I enjoyed seeing.


Down at the bottom I decided to start heading back to my hostel to grab my bags. I was worried about being late for my flight, so I opted to leave early.

I walked back up the hill and had the staff call me a taxi so I could save some time and not have to worry about a foreign bus I didn’t know how to use.

I climbed in and my taxi driver had to navigate the confusing maze of streets on the hill. He nearly got stuck three or four times. Definitely was some swearing in Greek I’m pretty sure. Anyhow, after a little bit of frustration we did get off and head on the way to the airport.

I arrived and went in, deciding I’d just head straight through security to save myself any worries. I soon found this was a poor decision.

The waiting room for all the gates had a small amount of seats, some bathrooms, one tiny coffee shop, and a little convenience store. There was no wifi. And there were no power outlets anywhere to be found. For such a major city I was shocked. But I forget of course that I come from a wealthier country, and this was one time I simply had to accept that things aren’t always the same in other places.

Finally I was on my flight. It was filled with a bunch of noisy teenagers who kept bumping my seat, but thankfully it wasn’t all that long. And there were complimentary beverages which I always appreciate (especially on the cheapy European flights that I’m not as used to).

I arrived in Crete in the early evening. I exited the airport and went to find the bus to get to my hostel. Thankfully I found it and there was even a man there who spoke some English and was able to tell me which bus I needed to take.

I found Crete’s bus system (at least in Heraklion) was pretty good overall. They had ticket machines at a lot of stops, so it was easy to purchase a ticket, and then you just stepped on and handed the driver it and pulled it so it ripped. The buses also usually announced stops, both in Greek and English, though this wasn’t always working. I took a seat and waited the long thirty minute ride out to Amoudara, a beach area in Crete slightly outside of Heraklion.

I’d debated about where to stay in the city. I’d considered just doing an AirBnB but those were much more expensive than a hostel. Unfortunately the only hostel in Heraklion didn’t have stellar reviews, so I opted instead to go to a place outside the city center and risk wasting time on transport. Besides, it had a pool and was close to the beach, so what more could I want?

I arrived at Manos Studios and was greeted by a very friendly man who ran the place. He told me since it was the off season I was going to have a room all to myself (normally reserved for six girls). I was delighted. I also found as it wasn’t a “hostel” persay it had a full kitchen attached. Needless to say I was very pleased.

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I then went off to find dinner. There was a restaurant right across the street and I was told they had decent fare. Sure enough I ordered a plate of a variety of Greek specialties to try. It was huge, but I was very hungry (having not eaten since breakfast) so I wolfed it down while sipping at a fresh squeezed orange juice.

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After enjoying my meal I went over to the little supermarket next door and purchased things for breakfast the next morning and then went back to my room. I lounged by the pool for a bit, but it was too cool to swim. I decided I’d try that the next morning.

I went to bed early and enjoyed not having to deal with noisy roommates. It was a lovely change.