Aside from photography, travelling is most definitely my largest passion. I love hopping on a plane and experiencing different parts of the world and it's cultures. I also find that travelling is a great way to kick start your inspiration and helps you come up with fresh ideas, something which is extremely important for any artist. In July I visited the island of Crete in Greece for the first time and had a great time exploring different parts of the island. Naturally I took lots of photos as I love having memories to look back on.
My trip began in a small, quaint city called Rethymno which is just over an hours drive West from the capital Heraklion. This city was definitely my favourite during the trip, wish I had planned to stay for more than a day.
It has a lovely harbour and small beach area which I was able to look down on from the Faros Beach Hotel where I stayed, it was the perfect location for exploring the city centre. Rethymno is full of small shops, with more appearing after every corner you turn. It's not a large commercial centre like Heraklion is and most of it's shops appear family run. It also has a great selection of restaurants serving authentic Greek food. My favourite meal of the holiday was at the Alana Restaurant which I stumbled upon while wandering around a side street. They served gorgeous, fresh Greek food which immediately reminded me why I love the Mediterranean cuisine.
I loved sitting at Rethymno harbour in the evening while enjoying my evening meal. Living in Scotland it's often not warm enough to sit outside so this was definitely a treat.
I used the local bus service to travel around Crete and, while the service and organisation at the bus stations can be described as nothing short of crazy, it was a great, affordable way to see more of the island. My next destination was Crete's second largest city, Chania, and I spent most of the journey staring out of the window at the turquoise sea wishing I could go for a swim.
Chania felt much more like your typical city with large commercial stores and a lot more people. It was definitely less picturesque compared to Rethymno which is why I didn't enjoyed it so much. I'm glad I can say I visited but again I only stayed for a day and this time I was glad. Not to say that it was horrible, far from it, but having just travelled from Rethymno it couldn't compete. In the evening I wandering into the harbour area and had a really nice meal in a rustic restaurant (which can be seen above) and spent the meal listening to two gentlemen playing Greek music on their guitars.
The next stop on my trip was Platanias, a small village to the West of Chania which is very tourist orientated. I stayed here for a week at the Porto Platanias Beach Resort and Spa and it was the perfect place to unwind and relax. If you are looking for an authentic taste of Greece you won't find it in Platanias but, as I'd already visited Rethymno, I was more than happy here. The sea outside the hotel was often calm and was great to go for a swim to cool down.
The hotel offered different excursions at extremely reasonable costs through local travel companies. Before visiting Crete I had researched into the best beaches and Tripadvisor stated that Elafonissi beach in Crete was the 10th best beach in the world so I was more than considering the trip even though it would involve another 1.5 hour journey. This trip just happened to be one of the excursions on the list so I decided that I couldn't miss it, and I'm extremely glad that I didn't.
At 9am the bus picked me up at my hotel to take me to Elafonissi. We drove through the gorge of Topolia and half way into the journey the bus stopped at the Agia Sofia cave which allowed me to experience even more of the island. Although the walk up to the cave was rather difficult in 30 degree heat it was definitely worth it. The cave had massive stalactites and stalagmites, some up to 6 metres tall and even featured a small church. I only spent around 20 minutes here but it was definitely worth visiting as a quick stop on the way to Elafonissi.
Elafonissi was nothing short of paradise. There isn't much here apart from a couple of cafes and some deck chairs but it was actually nice that it was this way and not overpopulated. The area is a nature reserve and it's forbidden to take anything home which is why it has remained such a gorgeous place. This was the first time I'd ever visited a sea which was both clear and turquoise blue so I was in my element, it's definitely worlds apart from the beaches in Scotland!
Apart from the gorgeous sea, the other reason I wanted to visit was to witness it's famous pink sand - I mean who doesn't want to see pink sand?! This just added to the beauty of the place and made the trip even more worthwhile. My tour guide explained that the sand appears pink due to small red shells within the sand and this is the main reason why you can't take any home. I decided that Elafonissi would be the perfect place to try snorkelling for the first time and I was definitely right. I spent most of my 4 hours there chasing fish around in the sea, safe to say I'm now obsessed. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to explore under the sea again.
Overall, I had a fantastic time in Crete and would definitely recommend visiting. As I mentioned, my two favourite places were definitely Rethymno and Elafonissi so I would more than consider adding them to your list if you are planning on going!