If you’re looking for a taste of authentic Crete, the peaceful village of Kolymbari is the ideal spot. Relatively untouched by tourism, much of the life here is centred around the traditional fishing port, as well as beautiful beaches, a smattering of cosy tavernas and fine seafood restaurants, all set against some wonderful scenery.
Lying at the foot of the Rodopou peninsula, Kolymbari is sheltered by magnificent cliffs, which provide the town with a stunning backdrop along with some superb hiking trails. There’s plenty of history to explore too. On a hill overlooking the town is the Monastery of Gonia, founded by Zealot monks in the 9th century.
It was here in 1645 that the Turks came ashore to start their invasion of the island, and also where the Greek army landed 250 years later to liberate it. You’ll be able to spot remnants of the German occupation from WWII as well.
Need a little more nightlife on your holiday? The bright lights of Chania, Crete’s second largest city, are just half an hour’s drive along the coast. With its vibrant mix of lively bars, great shops and traditional Greek culture, it can provide a welcome change of pace.
Kolymbari has a genuine Cretan feel, with friendly, welcoming locals and the most laid back of lifestyles. With its annual quota of 300 days of sunshine, it makes a great choice for a getaway at any time of year.
Wearing its history proudly, Chania has all the appearances of a little Venice. The harbour with its famous lighthouse, the port, and the narrow cobbled streets of the old town are all beautifully preserved reminders of the Venetian Conquest. Inside the imposing city walls, you’ll also find ancient Minoan ruins alongside mosques from the Ottoman Empire. A lively, charming city, there’s a thriving café culture and buzzing nightlife to enjoy as well as great shopping and some of the best food in Greece.
Not many places mix the old and the new as seamlessly as Crete’s alluring capital city. Home to some of Europe’s most important archaeological sites as well as all the trappings of a contemporary metropolis, Heraklion has something to offer just about everyone.
The city’s turbulent past is evident with the fusion of architectural treasures—Turkish fountains stand in the shade of Byzantine churches, all watched over by the Venetian harbour fortress of Koules. The modern city is an energetic, sophisticated scene with fine restaurants and a vibrant party atmosphere.
One of Heraklion’s little secrets, the laid-back beach resort of Kokkini Hani is where many of the capital’s residents retreat to when they want a low-key getaway. The two main beaches are ideal for families and offer a great range of water sports to try out. The rocky coastline forms numerous hidden coves and natural inlets where you can find your own secluded sunbathing spot. There’s a tempting range of bars and tavernas to try out too—the perfect place to enjoy a quiet drink and watch the sun go down.
A short walk along the tree-lined road out of town lies the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Our Lady of Gonia, sitting on the hillside overlooking the Gulf of Chania. With roots dating back to the 9th century, the original monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. It first came under attack by pirates, then the invading Turks of the Ottoman Empire and lastly by the German army during WWII when Crete rebels took refuge here. Perhaps that’s why the current building bears a striking resemblance to a fortress. Inside you’ll find a host of rare religious artefacts from the Byzantine period and ancient inscriptions on the walls.
Friday mornings in Kolymbari see farmers from all over the region setting up stalls and selling their mouth-watering specialities - most notably the delicious local honey and world famous olive oil. Wandering through the market is a treat for all the senses, with a bewildering array of colours, sights and smells. You can pick up some beautiful soft textiles and embroidered tablecloths here too, for a bargain price—and some good-natured haggling is most certainly encouraged!
The dive centre in Kolymbari is open all year round, taking advantage of the endless glorious weather and crystalline Mediterranean waters around the island. They offer a range of fascinating underwater tours suitable for newly qualified novices through to more advanced divers. One of the most popular sights lies submerged in just a few metres—a commercial fishing boat that sank just off the coast and is now home to a wide range of sea creatures. An easy dive, it can be reached in just a few minutes from the beach.
If you could pick the perfect environment to grow the most delicious, healthy ingredients for any dish, it would be Crete. The soil is packed with nutrients and the climate is sublime. The people on this sun-drenched island eat the highest amount of fruit and vegetables in the world and use more than 500 different types of greens and herbs in their regional dishes. Cretan cooking is beautifully simple and chock full of flavour.
The warmest welcome, a gorgeous view and an exquisite meal—what more could you want from your gastronomic experience in Kolymbari? The eateries in this charming little hamlet are cosy and unhurried, inviting you to linger over your food and savour every mouthful. We recommend the local Daxos, Crete’s take on bruschetta, with succulent tomatoes, herbs and fresh cheese on a Paximadi, or rusk. And of course, all drenched in the finest olive oil in the world. Incredible!
If it’s time to completely relax and unwind, a holiday in Kolymbari is just the thing. This easy-going, friendly slice of traditional Crete has everything you could want—fine food, fascinating sights and a tranquil atmosphere.
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