Santa Claus is coming to town, but we do have some suggestions to get you out of the town and in to the beauty of Cretan winter countryside. Don’t worry you’ll be back in time for Christmas dinner. We will start our routes from the major Creta cities of Heraklion were all winter commercial flights are arriving. We can easily suggest staying in, since Heraklion is amazing in Christmas, but that will defy the whole purpose of this article, right? Heraklion is the largest and most populous city in Crete, Heraklion is also pretty much in the centre of the Island thus making it the perfect starting point to explore rural Crete.
Our starting point is Motorclub head office right in Heraklion city centre and just opposite of Koules Fort in Heraklion Port.
Get out of Heraklion East
Our first route will be eastwards and into the picturesque Lassithi.
We are heading east following signs to Heraklion-Agios Nikolaos National road. After driving for about 15 minutes we get off the national road, direction Gournes and the CretAquarium for a chance to catch Santa Claus feeding the fish, just before taking off to Lapland. CretAquarium is one of the largest and most modern aquariums in Europe.
Next, we head for the Lassithi Plateau. Chances are that the whole Plateau will be white and caution along the way is advised. The route itself is amazing, ascending from Malia to Lasithi and on the way beautiful villages like mohos, kera are worth your attention. Lasithi is famous mainly for its windmills linies (the linear drainage channels built by venetians) and Dikteon Cave, among others.
After Lassithi, since we are not cool on never taking a road backwards, we head towards Kastelli Village for our way back, where soon the new Heraklion Airport will relocate. Along the way we stop at the village of youth, Avdou and then we visit the newly built dam of Aposelimis. If the water level is low enough you will be able to see the remains of the village Sfendili which is completely submerged in the reservoir.
Get out of Heraklion West
Our Second route will be westwards and in to the magnificent Psiloritis mountain foothills. We head west following signs for Anogeia Village which is our first stop mainly due to the fact that we need “fuel” for the rest of the trip. Visit any local coffee shop and ask for galaktompoureko (custard filled pastry) which is maid from local milk and its always fresh and so delicious and creamy… and you get the picture… Anogeia is not only galaktompoureko though. The village itself has a lot to offer but mainly it is the people. Fearsome, but kind to visitors, generous and giving but also not very happy to work themselves out. Peculiar characters directly derived from ancient Cretans and pure to the bone.
We continue our route to Margarites following the foothill of Psiloritis, passing by Zoniania and Livadia villages. Zoniania is also home to the only wax museum in Crete and holds around 100 wax statues that resemble the history of Crete. Worth visiting since there are not crazy cues here like Madame Tussauds…
Margarites village is the next stop were you can delve into ancient pottery and admire the picturesque village. Margarites village in the summer is flouded with tourists visiting the numerous pottery studios to learn about pottery and buy artifacts. In the winter this is a rare opportunity to visit this village when its not crowded. Another attraction in this village are the amazing traditional tavernas, serving old-school food from local produce.
If you have time you can also visit Ancient Eleutherna which just around the corner of Margarites or the historical Arkadi Monastery.
Get Back in Heraklion
Whether you’ll follow our suggestions or you opt to make your own route on Crete, be prepared to be amazed by this All-year-round Island. Do not forget to spend a couple of days in the city. Heraklion will be all dressed up for Christmas with many events for kids and big kids.