Crete - the large (gravel) gem of the Mediterranean

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by GiorgioXT, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    A very epic-opposite report of a short holiday in Crete, Greece , 9 days renting a KLX250 and riding along this large (fourth after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus) island .

    Crete has a very long history - just now they have found humanoid fossile footsteps something like >4 millions years old that could change paleontology theories ... but what it matters to us is that is full of nice beaches and large enough to find places less or not crowded - that in August its not a simple task.

    We arrive at Chania airport
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    With a very cheap Ryanair flight (bothered along the flight by incessant and tedious loud offers worse than in an turk souk) Airport is clean and well organized.

    We wait sometime for the rental guy - we were landed early, so no fault to him
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    Then , arrive, we pay, sign the contract and start load the KLX 250 . The bike has 14.000 kms and seems like new, tires are >75% . Its a good bike, i rented the same model in Rhodos last year - fuel up and go find the first lodging - an "apartment" near Stavros. We collect also two helmets (we avoided checking the baggage , and helmets take lot of place) that have the down points of being Jet type but with no visor or front flap .

    Little Bay "apartment" is more realistically a rather small room with a table for two and a basin-kitchen combo
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    But the position is very nice, on the extremity of Stavros Cove beach - the so called "Zorba Beach" since the turning here of "Zorba the Greek" film

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    And the water in front is crystal-clear !
    We will stay here 3 nights, to relax and explore the western Crete.

    After we ride to Chania , second biggest city of Crete with a strong Venetian heritage (Crete was Venetian ruled for more than three centuries)

    Chania is *REALLY* crowded , and using a bike solve us many problems -
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    Houses are narrow and high, very interesting

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    Squares are taken by cafe tables under the shadow of centenary trees.

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    A Gyros Pita for 2,50€ solve our hunger problem - we ate anything from the morning, good, tasty and cheap

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    sated for the moment we continue the exploration : the former mosque, later church and now exposition hall in the waterfront

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    Orthodox churches that have saved the arab minaret ..
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    Narrow streets like Venice's calli with similar-bent houses

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    As always in the mediterrean , layers of history one over the other

    Will follow soon - if is still interesting w/o epic or adventure...
    #1
  2. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    We spend the second day morning relaxing on the nearby beach , after a good coffee - Greek have definitely adopted the Italian espresso - at the point the even the coffee brands are the same..
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    With Kataifi a sort of sweet pastry made of "wires" or small spaghetti. - good, more with some ice-cream since is very sweet

    Zorba's beach is nice
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    Strong meltemi wind keep us fresh, moves the sea but the bay is protected.

    Having relaxed, we ride away to see other places - even riding to Chania from Stavros is a very scenic road
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    Chania has a rather heavy traffic, but arrive on the "National Road" and its easy - we reach Kolymvari , on the first Peninsula of Rodopi, and reach Afrata beach

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    Scenery is breathtaking - But wind is very strong 50 to 60 knots , one need to be experienced and adapt the ride.

    Afrata beach is nice
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    But wind and sea are too strong for swimming

    So we relax with a beer in the beach tavern
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    So, through very narrow and curvy small roads
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    lined by flowers in towns and hamlets - we pass on the west coast of peninsula where we hope to find shelter from meltemi

    here , after dozens of turns and switchbacks, paved this time we find Ravdoucha - a small cove with a nice beach , so small that sunbeds and umbrella are offered for free by the local community.
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    Total quiet : people around 5 (five)
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    Some small homes and bike parked very near

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    So its hard to suppress a smile !

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    #2
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  3. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Looking forward to another one of your adventures! Thanks for taking us along. :thumb

    What does it cost to rent a bike on Crete?
    #3
  4. 805gregg

    805gregg Long timer

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    Nice
    #4
  5. szurszewski

    szurszewski Long timer

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    Subscribed - we spent a week of our honeymoon exploring Crete and loved it. We kept a room in Chania the whole week though and only had a car for a few days, so looking forward to seeing what you have to show of the other parts of the island.

    Have some raki for us!
    :)
    #5
  6. rtwpaul

    rtwpaul out riding...

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    we spent 3 months there last winter (zero crowds), hope you got way up in the mountains on all the dirt roads, loads of good stuff to see
    #6
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  7. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    Thanks for appreciation .
    Bike rates varies from 25 to 40€ day , with insurance and unlimited kms. Better to get a complete quote , since many offers in internet ads are rather "optimistic"
    We paid 252€ for 9 days , with airport delivery on arrival.
    #7
  8. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    We really needed a relax moment , since both me and Carla my woman had an hard 2017 .
    So I planned (Carla refused even to think about the trip so exhausted from work + her mom health problems) to avoid adventures at all , but weren't able to stick to "standard tourist pattern" :choppa

    The third day we left Stavros at morning , had a very good (and unusually cheap coffee) along the road before taking the National Road - the backbone of cretan transport also called E65

    Its interesting too - basically a two-lane road with overpasses (but not everywhere , there are still lot of level crossings) and wide shoulders

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    So people usually run on the shoulder to left speedier vehicles overtake . Strange but it works.
    We zipped at the poor KLX max speed - 118 kmh (with the help of a robust downhill) and arrived in Kissamos , this is a small town port with not
    so much appeal , but its the start of the road to famous Balos Beach .

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    This is Balos lagoon and beach , with Gramvoussa island at right.

    Its simply breathtaking. Due to the protected zone is still not-developed , apart some sunbeams and umbrella and a single canteen that sell ice creams and beverages.
    Helps a lot that there are >10 kms of dirt gravel road - someplaces even wider than National Road , but anyway a problem for tourists rent-car that are terrorized by the "undercarriage damages NOT covered by insurance" stickers on every car.

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    With an dual sport bike, seems to run circles around the slow - very slow cars...

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    Very nice Agia Irini chapel

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    Light and colors are so intense like only in Aegean under Meltemi (see the wave crests )

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    Gravel road ends in a parking , rather full but as always its not a problem for bike.

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    It takes a good half an hour to go down to the beach, and more backing up. It's more than worth it , but remember good shoes , flip-flops here will make (literally) your feet bleed.

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    Wind is still strong , and sometimes sandblast you.
    #8
  9. luckychucky

    luckychucky Long timer

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    Bravo


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    #9
  10. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    After Balos , we go to Falassarna beach, but choose a small taverna - Kapetan Nicolas at the small port where we have a late lunch
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    Directly on the beach ... we got a fabulous meal, grilled tuna and swordfish

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    As always in Crete , ended with watermelon, grapes and iced raki (the local grappa ) gently offered.

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    One needs to take seriously the fuel issue : the pumps around are not so many, the KLX has a minimal tank - 8 liters - fortunately it also does 30 Km/L average (even two up loaded)

    This will be the last night in Stavros/Chania , tomorrow we transfer on the south coast of Crete , a 180 kms stretch that we will split in two parts
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    Stopping for beach and lunch in Agia Galini.

    A note : I made a mistake regarding the bike , I should have taken an XT600 instead; KLX is not bad and absolutely adapt for the job - apart for the seat , thats hard and narrow like a racing enduro one and definitely a pain in the ass.
    Crete is large and roads are twisty - the average speed rarely surpass the 40 kmh , and that means lot of time on the seat .
    #10
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  11. taranaki

    taranaki ponderous

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    Enjoying this relaxed report of a relaxed holiday. I hope to spend some weeks or months on Crete this winter. Maybe moto rental rates are lower then?

    Keep it coming - I need the fantasy distraction!

    ..
    #11
  12. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    Thanks . Some rentals have different rates for high-medium-low season , surely in winter is probably much easier to get bargains. Crete in Winter should be perfect , nobody around and still possible to swim .
    We leave not-so-early in the morning , take the National Road - called also VOAK - in direction Rethimno , trip is going easy around 100 kph , when suddenly we see cars in queue.
    We overpass the queue, that is at least a km long , and we find that they are making a sort of local festival, including tables, food and market stalls in this place - people in tents along the road , police directing the traffic , Popes in long black dress...

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    Pic taken from google - Strange thing is that apparently there is nothing ! - nor there are nearby towns or cities - it will remain a mystery .

    Anyway, we don't lose time and follow the road to Rethimno - Passed Kavros the road is on the coast, with a long empty beach for dozen of kilometers
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    With some beach bars more or less developed - We think in stopping for a bath, but the meltemi is too strong for relax, so we carry on , and at Rethimno
    we abandon the VOAK for road 87 that will lead us to the south of Crete , passing through the mountains and the town of Spili .

    The road is fabulous for riding - near empty of traffic , endless bends and turns connected by short straights.
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    Google pic (were too busy riding ..)
    The panorama change too, becoming much dryer and barren - these hills and mountains remember those of Maroc or even Mexico . rocks and goats places.

    Finally we arrive in Agia Galini - our half-trip stop . we find a nice beach, sunbeds and umbrella for 6 € with the bonus that local taverna brings you the beverages at your sunbed
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    Plus there's the advantage of having the bike very near .
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    Our KLX in full loaded setup.

    After a couple of baths and sun-roasting , we get a good lunch and later we leave for our final destination : Tsontsouros , small fishing village .
    The road pass through several small towns and cities, here the agricolture and olives are king - very little of touristic.
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    We take the road to Tsountsouros - we got to cross the last crest of mountains the separe the ondulated plains of southern crete from the sea
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    Its very scenic and fun to ride
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    But we are tired from the ride and the wind - also there blows from 40 to 50 knots , with direction that change at every bend. Comes out very handy
    a sailing boat past.

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    Finally we arrive , a small and spartan room (but cheap) is awaiting us.
    #12
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  13. no

    no dreaming adventurer Supporter

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    This looks like the dream vacation I want to have.
    #13
  14. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    And its even cheaper or on the par to an organized holiday ...

    Tsoutsouros is still the iconic Greek seaside village
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    We spend the morning in the beach exactly in front of our lodge - water is crystal clear and calm , the small harbor have really no traffic

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    then we go to explore the other beaches nearby - going east the road is paved

    But traffic could be problematic ...
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    Yours truly handling the bike - often you got to find the correct position to wind .

    Beaches are marvelous
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    And empty , particularly when require a short hike to reach them .

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    A good fish dinner - Kalamari and Octopus end the day - the Tavern is literally over the sea.
    #14
  15. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    The following day , we dedicate to the coast west of Tsontsouros .

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    We direct to Maridaki beach , that's barely a kilometer away from Tsoutsouros in bird fly, but more than 16 kms by road ; there is also a nice footpath, but the road , as most roads
    over Asterousis mountains are dirt-gravel . ALL THOSE MARKED IN WHITE ARE NOT PAVED ! :clap:clap

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    The road is glorious ! hard-packed dirt reminds a lot my beloved Dolomites tracks , incline and ramps are never too hard (even if you my fine some 20% stretches)
    seem regularly graded (maybe after the rain?) ar a pleasure to ride with a bike .

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    You won't be bored by the straights !
    these kind of roads are perfect for DS or ADV bikes , roads feasible also with normal 2wd cars , but at price of going real slow or destroying it . so its no surprise that
    locals drive only 4x4 pickups or old beaten 2WD Hilux or Nissan.

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    One is tempted to gas it flat out ...

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    But surprises in form of sheets or goat herds may wait for you after every bend. - Good thing is that are evidently used to traffic, and when reached run as an herd
    on one to other side whiteout scattering everywhere (danger!)

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    The descent to Maridaki is very nice - I would have my friend Kimangao here to take pics... the contrast between the blue sea and ochre terrain is stunning.

    A ramp carved in mountain side takes us to Maridaki
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    That's Maridaki - two Tavernas , a turrent that has carved a gorge , that flows through the small village and flows into the sea

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    No hotels, no market , no rooms to let , some boat that took you to Tsontsouros (that is not much bigger, no Gasoline nor ATM for which you need to cross the mountains)

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    We chase a goat to reach the beach ... have a good lunch in the taverna on the right - where you may arrange also to be taken to Tsoutsouros by sea
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    bask in the sun and have good swim, Then back up to go visit the Agios Nikitas monastery

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    Nice useful touch - nearly all the beaches have free showers - just laying tubes outside means having hot (sometimes very hot) water.

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    Artsy pic (courtesy of dirt front lent)

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    Monastery is perched on mountain's side

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    With a Cave Chapel where Saint Nikita predicated.
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    After the cultural moment, back on the bike to Tsoutsouros
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    End of the day with a good dinner
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    Goat stew for me - very good!
    #15
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  16. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    After three intense days we leave Tsoutsouros direction west

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    We traverse again the inner plains of Crete - These are agricultural zones, the olive tree is king

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    Towns and villages are tidy and lively
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    Here too we do an half-way stop at Kommos beach, near Matala

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    Very nice, sand and also protected from wind.
    #16
  17. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    We turn left and leave the Rethimno road at Akoumia

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    a nice , twisty road make cross again the mountains (Dozens of dirty tracks all around)
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    We stop for a late lunch in Fillenia
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    In a Taverna just on the side of a natural water source

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    Where in fact the waitress took the water from the source (cool and good)
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    and Carla got one of the biggest Moussaka dishes ever seen .

    We arrive in Triopetra , ride along one of the nicest and emptiest beaches ..
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    We even try different locations of same beach
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    Here more sandy.

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    Exploit the sun a quietness as log as possible , then take the gravel track that will lead us to our lodge : Preveli Rooms

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    The track runs along the coast
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    At sunset is incredible .

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    We arrive at dusk . place is incredible since there are only two building , our lodge/taverna/market and another one and some shepherds huts higher on the hills

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    No pavement around and strong wind that continue to keep us entertained. the morning after the beach in front of lodge await us

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    This was taken around 11 am ...

    A light lunch with a good draft beer - wind dehydrates so better be careful !
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    #17
  18. clintnz

    clintnz Trans-Global Chook Chaser

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    Thanks for the tour of Crete! It's not a place I knew much about but now I'm thinking I need to take a dual sport holiday there some day :thumb

    Cheers
    Clint
    #18
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  19. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    A quarter hour hike east to the lodge takes us to Preveli Beach , called also "Palm Beach" for the palms around the little river
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    the freshwater of the river makes an good habitat for ducks, goose and cygnus

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    Beach is relatively crowded until 5 pm - then as boats and bus makes the last return trip become desert.

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    Back at our place for a nice sunset
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    And a short ride in the dark to reach a Taverna thats directly on the sea.
    #19
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  20. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    Time is to go away

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    Also out from Preveli rooms - (JUST right of Amoudhi bay) only dirt roads until Kato Preveli Monastery
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    Where a XVI century bridge stands out

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    A shorter stretch of road - but fun , first stop at Skinaria beach

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    Where we exploit the "drink service" at beach ...

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    Nice and not crowded.

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    We have a look at Frangokastelo venetian castle

    And find our lodge
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    At end of a long gravel stretch, but nice

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    with a fabulous pool

    Tomorrow its the last full day in Crete

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    Breakfast in a bakery with an incredible inner tree-terrace,

    Then a ride with the already loaded bike to the nearby beach
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    Orti Ammos beach
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    That you need to reach descending a big sand dune
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    One of the nicest tried ! there's nothing, but a water irrigation tube tackles few water thats enough to shower away the salt.

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    Reluctantly we take again the road to get back to Chania, give back the bike

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    At least the road from Chora Sfakion to Crete is REAL FUN !
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    Even on a puny , loaded 250 ...

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    We spend last night in a good hotel (42 € room) in the very centre of Chania

    And get a very good dinner
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    Next morning we go by foot to the bus station, take the bus to airport and back home .
    Couldn't wait to come back - it was an excellent but cheap holiday.

    Thanks to all - If you have questions I'm here.
    #20
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