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Exploring Crete With A Rental Car

Apr 10, 2008
Crete has long been a favorite holiday destination for summer sun and fun seekers. Offering turquoise seas, silky soft beaches and a fascinating history, it's easy to see why. Luxury hotels, secluded villas and apartment complexes ensure that every whim is catered for. Resorts can only give a superficial impression of a destination however. For a truly authentic travel experience, car hire is hard to beat. The following are some of the must-see day trips on the island of Crete.

1. The Amari Valley Drive

The scenic Amaru Valley can be accessed via Iraklion from the west, Rethymnon in the north and Ayia Galini and Matala in the south. The Amari Valley is characterized by fertile orchards, olive groves and vineyards. On your journey you're guaranteed to pass through the pretty town of Amari, with its charming traditional tavernas and picturesque town square. One of the most spectacular views on the island can be witnessed from The Taverna Aravanes on the edge of the tiny village of Thronos. From here it's possible to see the breath-taking Psiloritis side of the valley in its entirety.

2. Monastery Drive:

Heading west of Heraklion, through the pretty resorts of Agia Pelagia and Georgoupoli, you'll arrive at Kolimbari, where Moni Gonias, the island's most famous monastery is guaranteed to catch your eye. The monastery settlement comprises a church, fountain and visitor centre. The cool environs of the monastery make for a pleasant retreat from the midday sunshine. After a spot of lunch at a cheap, local taverna, you'll be ready to hit the road again. This time your tour of Crete' s monasteries will take you to the Monastery of Arkádi, located 16km to the south of Rethymnon. The monastery here is of national importance and was the backdrop to one of Greece's most violent periods of recent history. During the 1866 revolution, hundreds of Greeks and Turks were killed here in bloody clashes. Admission to the monastery's museum is cheap and costs just €1.45 for adults.

3. East Crete Drive

The eastern coast of the island is home to some of Crete's most picturesque villages and towns. A good starting point for your journey is Thrapsano, which is renowned for its ceramics and earthenware. Why not make a pit stop at the village's Ceramic Lab, where you'll find high quality handcrafted pieces on sale at a low price? From here, continue on to the town of Ano Viannos, where you may wish to visit the local Museum of Folklore. The fishing village of Ierapetra is another option. Here you can sample the cheap and tasty 'just caught' local fish at any of the traditional tavernas along the waterfront. After a satisfying lunch, take a drive north to the charming little village of Kritza, where, if you're lucky, you may stumble across a local market selling handmade goods at discount prices.

4. Phaistos Drive

Phaistos Minoan settlement is situated 61km to the south of Heraklion. Regarded by many to be a more impressive example of Minoan architecture than even Knossos, Phaistos Palace is well worth a visit. Particularly spectacular is the elaborate entranceway and staircase. The palace is open from 8am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday and cheap admission rates are available to large groups.
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