Monday, May 21, 2012

Athens and Crete, Greece



We recently visited Greece (May 2012). Among all the economic turmoil, Greece still remains a very tourist friendly country with most Greeks very friendly and hospitable. In touristic places, most people speak English and many of the streets are also labeled in English.


Athens city as viewed from the Acropolis

Athens is the capital of Greece, and as such is well connected by flights with rest of the world. In some ways, Athens reminded us of India with motorists in general not following traffic rules - some traffic posts were actually manned by traffic police (something very uncommon in Europe). The public transportation (as in most of Europe) is very good and affordable. We found the cost of food etc. here also to be very reasonable - much less as compared to other major European cities e.g. Paris, Amsterdam.

In other ways, Athens is also similar to Rome with lots of history and architectural monuments. One such must-see place is the Acropolis. The Acropolis is located at a height, and as such offers marvelous views of Athens from there. The long winding road to the Acropolis from the Metro station (Acropolis) is also worth walking with its numerous souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. The Parthenon (temple in Acropolis) is particularly impressive. Unfortunately, most of it has been destroyed however it is still a sight to behold. You will feel like you are in some sci-fi movie where the world has ended with few survivors - check out the pics below.

DSC05207(1) DSC05204(2)
Acropolis, Athens


Crete is the largest island in Greece and the cheapest and fastest way to reach Crete from Athens is to take the flight (50 minutes) and land at the Heraklion International Airport. The airport is close to the city and a taxi ride takes around 10 Euros.


Heraklion port

Heraklion is the capital of Crete. It is the ideal city to spend some quiet time on the Mediterranean seaside - 
  • spend an evening walking along the coast
  • visiting the old fortress
  • relaxing at the many cafes (there are even a couple of Starbucks) around Morosini Fountain
  • there is also a flea market here for the bargain hunters (and I know how much we love this as Indians)

There are many beaches in and around Heraklion, in fact too many to name here. A useful site to choose based on distance and preferred type of activity:


The public transportation esp. the bus network is very comprehensive with AC buses connecting most of Crete. The buses are very punctual and cheap as well (approx. 7 Euros for 65 Kms). The transportation website is unfortunately not very user friendly but you can try this link for some basic timetables:

Note that there are 2 bus terminals in Heraklion, so make sure you are headed to the right one depending on your destination.

Neighboring Villages

Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece Agios Nikolaos Marina, Crete, Greece
Aigos Nikolaos, Crete

In addition to the many beaches, there are also many small fishing villages on the outskirts of Heraklion worth visiting (depending on the amount of time you have in hand). Most of them are reachable via public transport but they are not so frequent and taxis may also be difficult to get, so be sure to check beforehand the timetables.

We visited one such - Aigos Nikolaos. It is a very picturesque village (pics above) with the main square located around a small lake - definitely worth spending an evening there.

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