Did you know that it’s possible to enjoy a bit of sunbathing, hit an amazingly quiet, yet very impressive ruin and take in the scenes of a spectacular valley all in one day?
Well, we moored our boat in Rethymno Marina, rented a car and enjoyed a day of sun, sea, antiquity, mountains and valleys.
Our first stop was Agia Galini on the south coast of Crete
Driving through the town was slightly nerve racking. All the houses and buildings are built along the side of a very steep hill. We twisted and turned our way down to a commercial marina where we found a convenient parking lot.
Looking around, the views were gorgeous
And after a fuller examination, the marina looked open to sailboats too. It was quite a large inlet allowing boats to moor along side the walls. I was surprised to see it almost completely empty. Later in the day I noticed a 55’ foot sailboat enter, but otherwise, there were just a few fishing boats.
The island of Crete just doesn’t have many sailors
But that means there’s always space in the various harbors and marinas. We climbed up a hill near the parking lot and discovered beautiful views in every direction!
It was a cute little area – there was a modern amphitheater, several restaurants and many little shops
The town ended at the sea so it was relatively quiet – there were no large roads passing by and it had a sleepy feel to the area.
My family and I took a nose around and then got in the car to drive to the beach
Getting down to the seaside took a bit of off-roading. We discovered a 1-lane road that seemed to head in the direction of the beach so down the side of the hill we descended.
We parked up in what looked like an abandoned parking lot, grabbed our sea gear, walked through a narrow passage and discovered a boardwalk of restaurants – all with sunbeds and umbrellas.
Simon and Sienna hit the sea while I enjoyed my lemonade and took in the sights
The water was churned up quite a bit and the beach had many shells on it. It was full of pebbles rather than sand. Further, there was quite a bit of seaweed – Not my ideal swimming conditions! But Sim and Sienna had fun.
The last thing I expected to run into was a white owl
But that’s what happened, when I went to the bathroom at the restaurant we were near. As I walked through the beautiful taverna, I noticed something standing on a table. As I drew closer, I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was an owl. Look in the picture above and see if you can find it!
After looking around more, I noticed rabbits, chickens and hamsters running around too
Sienna enjoyed looking at all the animals!
After the beach, we piled up in the car and headed to Gortys – the ancient capital of Crete.
As far as ancient ruins go, Gortys is best if you like to avoid crowds, The contrast between the Palace of Knosos and Gortys couldn’t be more pronounced.
At Knosos you can barely breathe because there are so many people. At Gortys, you’ll be lucky to see more than a handful of people. This guy below didn’t say a word!
And just because Gortys is quiet doesn’t mean that it’s unworthy of a visit
Finding the archeological site was a bit of challenge. We drove past it once. The main sign was missing and since the site is so large, we noticed signs pointing to different parts of the overall ruin.
After passing it, we turned around and found a parking lot. Upon entering the site, we walked around and admired a Basilica which is currently under quite a bit of restoration. There was quite a team working on it while we were there.
Thereafter, we discovered what looked like a theater of some sorts
And behind the theatre was a building holding the Roman Odeion and Code of Laws – dating back to 500 BC. From ceiling to floor you could peek in and see Roman writing. From what the guidebook says, this is Gortys’ most significant archaeological feature.
We then tried to figure out where else to go, but everywhere we walked was a dead end
We asked an attendant and she explained that we could leave the area, cross the road and explore for hours. The city went to the top of the hill and along the plain.
Everything except the Roman Odeion and Code of Laws is free to see
I suppose they’d have a very difficult time trying to create walkways and gate the area in. That being said, bring your sneakers/trainers as you need to climb through loads of stones and dirt to get around.
We walked for ages and when we thought there was nothing left to see, we stumbled upon something else. Amazingly, outside the paid area we were the only people as far as the eye could see.
Here are a few more photo’s of Gortys
While at Gortys we enjoyed some sandwiches and potato chips from the little snack bar
Once we left, they closed the gates so make a note that the area you pay for closes at 3pm.
We then hopped in the car and drove back to Rethymno going through the Amari Valley
The drive was brilliant. We only passed a couple cars. Otherwise, we twisted and turned through the valley enjoying the sights of villages, gorges, panoramic views and amazingly massive mountains.
Before we took the Amari road I thought it might be a 3 hour drive but it wasn’t too long at all
We took our time, enjoyed every turn and had a relaxing drive home… At least, I did! Simon loves to drive, so he seemed to enjoy the journey too.
Read these other posts on Crete: