I wasn't sure where I wanted to solo-travel to after my visit to Positano, but I knew I wanted to be on the water. So, how did I end up settling on Crete? Easy... I saw a picture of Balos Beach Bay (see below) and I was SOLD!
I spent 4.5 days traveling around Chania, the west side of Crete, and each day was full of adventure and great food. Surprisingly, Crete is pretty inexpensive - even my nicest dinner was not more than $70 and I FEASTED for that meal - so much so that it was a struggle to walk home.
Luckily, there was a direct flight from Naples to Chania, and was a quick flight! Prior to take off, I booked a taxi on Booking.com to pick me up at the Chania airport and take me to my hotel. I ended up staying at Malmo Historic Hotel, which is located in the historic center of town (AKA the Old Town). Its location was very close to the Old Venetian Port are where most of the hustle and bustle happens. I opted in for the package that included breakfast, although I only had breakfast here one day.
Since I was tired from a day of traveling, I made a last minute reservation to Ginger Concept, which happened to be 100 yards from my hotel. I started off with empanadas for my appetizer and a mushroom risotto as my entrée - my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I opted out of dessert, but my waiter brought me complimentary truffles and a glass of Tsikoudia. I had never had Tsikoudia before, so I was intrigued. It is a Cretan digistif that can have an alcohol content anywhere from 40-65% ABV, so watch out as you drink it!
I had a rental car reserved through Pancar Rental for the remainder of my trip. They sent someone to bring me to their storefront where I had to show my International Driver's license and pay cash for my rental. Since I had never rented a car on my own before, I didn't know what the options were (also I am NOT a car person at all). I also did not know that most of the cars were stick shift - never have I ever drove a stick shift car. Luckily, they were able to swap out my car. Shortly after, I was on my way to Elafonisi Beach, AKA the pink sand beach, which is about a 1.5 hour drive from Chania.
I never knew that water like this existed in the Mediterranean - it truly felt like I was in the Caribbean with how clear this water was. A lot of people online said the sand really isn't pink - but I can tell you that it really is pink (see image below)! Here, you can rent loungers, but I opted to just lay my towel in the sand and read my book. They have a station set up where you can get drinks and snack - I got a water, a beer, and a sandwich. Fair warning: I went in September and that is typically the windy season in Crete, so be prepared!
Once I got back to my hotel I got ready for dinner at Salis, which is located in the port. Before dinner I had a drink looking over the lighthouse.
For dinner at Salis, I continued my Octopus phase and started with that as my appetizer. Next up was the carbonara - this was different than others I have had before, it was not as creamy. None the less, it was still a fantastic meal!
This day was probably my favorite day in Crete. I drove 1.5 hours to Hora Sfakion to hike over to Loutro (you can only get here via a hike or boat). I walked around for an hour to figure out where this train started, as many travel blogs did not say where on the road it started. I ended up just buying a ferry ticket over to Loutro, which I am very glad I did because I only had my Adidas sneakers and this hike scaled the cliffside.
When I say I want my ashes spread across Loutro - I mean it! This is a little slice of pure heaven. I ended up walking up the hill and renting a lounge chair (for 7 euros!!) and having a few beers and some snacks until I decided to head back. I was truly in awe over the water and landscape here, and I cannot wait until I get to go back here.
Okay okay... so even though I booked this trip because of Balos Beach, I was not going to go since the car I rented would not make it to Balos - you need a 4-wheel drive car. I realized the night before that I needed to go, so I booked a last minute group tour for the following day.. granted the boat was essentially a mini cruise ship (VERY crowded).
Before stopping at Balos, we stopped at Gramousa Island, where we were able to hike up to walk around the 16th century fortress. The views from here were incredible - I cannot say enough about the color of the water throughout Crete.
Once we got back on the ferry, we headed over to Balos Beach (finally)! I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it was not so windy. There was no where I could sit without sand being whipped into my fave, so I spent more time walking around than lounging. With that being said, the pictures I took look exactly what I found online AND there was pink sand here too - so I was not disappointed!
I was CRAVING a gyro after the adventurous day. So, I walked around the corner from my hotel to grab a euro and a pitcher of wine at Delish (it was not even $10 total).
For my last day in Chania, I walked around the Old Town. I started early in the morning so I could wander the streets before people started to get out. I absolutely love the architecture here - different color buildings and flowers and greenery all over. I ended up coming across this art shop - and other than ornaments for my Christmas tree, I like to get a piece of local art. I think I spent a full hour in this store, and it is smaller than my apartment bedroom.
One lunch rolled around, I needed to get another gyro. I read on another travel blog that this was the best place to get a gyro, so naturally I needed to track it down. I thought it was going to be a small sit-down restaurant, but to my surprise it was just a window in the wall and the gyro was 2 euros (must pay in cash)!! I can truly say it was the best gyro I have had - my mouth is watering just writing this!
For my last dinner, I wanted to treat myself to a nicer dinner. I got a reservation at Pallas - on their rooftop of course! I got seated right as the sun was setting and it was STUNNING! Once again, I FEASTED here and I don't think I paid more than $65 for half a bottle of wine, two appetizers, and my scallop and shrimp entree.
I still dream about the tuna roll....
Things to Know Before Going to Chania:
It is fairly inexpensive
RENT A CAR!! You can explore so much more by renting a car - just know which car you are getting before you get there ;)
Traveling across Chania you will see many different landscapes - one morning I got stuck behind someone herding his sheep from one side of the road to the other
If you want to do the hike to Loutro - BRING ACTUAL HIKING GEAR! People doing it were wearing hiking books and had a walking stick
You will do a lot of walking since most streets cars cannot fit down
I barely scraped the surface of Chania (let alone all of Crete) with 4.5 days