Elounda is situated on the North-East coast of Crete and is about two hours by bus from Heraklion Airport. Once a simple fishing village, it is now an ideal place to visit if you want to be out of the hustle and bustle, but not overly isolated.
One of the first things I noticed whilst exploring, was the abundance of fresh fruit and brightly coloured flowers, growing around every corner. The colours really popped against the island’s dry, brown landscape.
Although relatively quiet, there is still plenty to do and spending a week here is a perfect amount of time to balance relaxation with adventure. So without further ado, here are six activities I got up to:
Catch a boat over to Spinalonga
Spinalonga is an island with a dark past. Although it has been on the radar throughout history – since the 1500’s in fact, its more recent events are what attracts visitors today. The island was used as a leper colony from 1903 to as late as 1957. Today, the old fortress and building ruins remain, and walking around the island, there is a somewhat eerie feel.
Boats leave regularly from Elounda and take roughly 25 minutes to get to the island.
If you are planning a trip to Spinalonga, The Island by Victoria Hislop is an excellent way to acquaint you with its past, before you go.
Hike along the peninsula
If you’re feeling energetic, head across the causeway to the peninsula. If you continue to follow the dusty, rocky road up over the hill, you’ll find a lovely little sheltered beach on the other side. Commonly as Kolokytha, it’s excellent for swimming. Be sure to wear decent footwear and take plenty of water and snacks, as there are no shops or other amenities available.
Fill your face with delicious, Greek food
Greek food is one cuisine I never tire from. From the salads to the seafood, it is easy to eat healthy, feel-good food. The olive oil in Crete is some of the finest in the world, it’s not surprising that the average Cretan family gets through 60L of it a year (Brits get through just 3L in comparison)! The Cretan diet also caters exceptionally well to vegetarians and I never had any difficulty in getting a good meal.
Browse the beautiful gift shops
I’m not hugely interested in shopping, but the gift shops in Elounda managed to catch my eye on numerous occasions and draw me in. Everywhere I’d turn, sea shells dangled from driftwood and gently jingled in the breeze; buckets were overflowing with pretty natural sponges, gourds had been transformed into intricately painted ornaments; then there was the homemade raki, honey, olives, soaps, pottery, crafts… the list goes on.
Visit Agios Nikolaos
Being so close to Elounda (roughly 10km), it’s worth taking a trip over to neighbouring Agios Nikolaos. It’s a touch livelier, therefore great for food, drinks, shopping and nightlife. You can get there by bus, taxi, or by renting a car. We used the fast, reliable taxi services, which cost €14 per trip and took just over 10 minutes.
Go on safari
This was, by far, the highlight of my week. We headed out of Elounda with Safari Club in a Land Rover crammed with six other guests, to explore the central part of the island. From the get-go, our tour guide, British ex-pat Gary, had us all giggling. He was an absolute fountain of knowledge. Here’s some of the things we got up to over the course of the day:
We visited tiny, authentic towns and villages high in the hills, passed through the biggest forest on the island, climbed over 1000 metres above sea level into the mountains, got chased by mountain goats and even saw some in trees (the rumours are true), looked down over the magnificent Lassithi Plateau, hiked up to a cave, which mythology states to be the birthplace of Zeus and went to see a famous 2,000 year old tree in the village of Krassi.
Have you been to Crete?