Following on from our first successful Airbnb booking in Norfolk, we made another booking to stay at Roupes Villas in Crete.
Although we actually got married in Greece 12 years ago we’ve never actually been back. Not for any particular reason, other destinations just seemed to appeal.
As we took advantage of the unexpected amazing British summer this year we opted to go abroad late in October during the half term break.
I booked Roupes Villas through Airbnb and picked up flights to Heraklion from Manchester from Jet2. The only other thing we needed was a car to get around, I booked this direct with Alamo. All in all, this holiday cost around £1,800 (not including things like travel insurance and spending money).
We arrived pretty late, around 10pm, picked up the car and headed to the Villa. It was a little tricky finding the Villa at night but we managed it using trusty Google Maps. The drive from Heraklion airport to the villa was around an hour.
Upon arrival, Sandra (the owner) met us and showed us the stunning Villa. Three bedrooms (sleeping 6), 2 bathrooms, 3 balconies, private pool and garden, all decorated to an amazing standard. Sandra knew we were arriving late and had provided food which was very welcome. After a quick snack we headed to bed (it was well after midnight by this point).
The next day was the first time we could see the spectacular views from Roupes Villas. From the pool there’s an amazing view of the sea and the small surrounding villages. It’s pretty breathtaking.
Roupes Villas isn’t particularly near to anything, you definitely need a car if you plan on staying there. The closest supermarket is around a 5 minute drive away and only offers a small selection of things, you’ll need to travel a little further if you really want to stock up.
Driving in Crete
Crete itself is an interesting place to drive. I have to admit I found it pretty tough. The roads are quite good but very poorly lit at night and there are a lot of cliffs. I’m really not good with heights so it was always pretty intense whenever we needed to go out.
With it being late October, quite a few hotels were closed and unfortunately for the kids, so were the water parks. This meant that we had to find other things to do and see.
Initially I’d say we struggled a little. The nearby beaches were ok but weren’t the lush turquoise sea and golden sands that you hear about. Eventually we ended up at Rethymnon, the largest town near the villa.
Rethymnon is quite a busy place, the Venetian harbour is really beautiful and is surrounded by bars and restaurants. We generally spent our evenings here picking a different restaurant each evening. If I could recommend one it would be Lemonokipos, a beautiful garden restaurant that is reasonably priced and the service is excellent – I had to go for the Moussaka.
An Amazing Beach – Balos Lagoon
I spent a lot of time looking for things to do and one place kept on cropping up – Balos Lagoon. It was a 2 hour drive from the Villa and the last 20 minutes is on a very sketchy dirt road that quite often doesn’t have a barrier protecting you from a significant drop.
After arriving, you’re then faced with a trek down to the beach, it takes a while but it’s absolutely stunning. It’s easily the best beach I’ve ever been to.
The beach itself is like a protected bay. On one side you have a huge stretch of warm water that doesn’t get deeper than your ankles for hundreds of metres. The other side is again warm but gets a little deeper, generally you’re at waist level until you really venture out. It’s really good for kids, you can allow them a lot of freedom here.
A lot of people have said it gets very busy, I can imagine that is true, but with it being late October for us it wasn’t a problem. The 25°C that we averaged during our stay was pretty much perfect.
Following a day at Balos Lagoon, I’d actually booked a hotel quite close by to avoid the drive back the same day, this was also because we wanted to visit Elafonissi (another stunning beach).
We stayed the night at the Nautilus Bay in Kissamos, the hotel itself was fine but the location wasn’t great, there was quite a bit of construction work going on around it and the surrounding area wasn’t too pretty.
For the evening we tried out Chania, another town like Rethymnon although considerably busier. It was very manic here, street beggers were following us into shops and it didn’t feel like the safest environment. We grabbed some food and headed back to the hotel for an early (ish) night.
Elafonissi, Another Stunning Beach
On to Elafonissi. An hour’s drive south again on some pretty scary roads took us to Elafonissi. It isn’t as impressive as Balos Lagoon as you don’t trek down and see it from high up but it’s very similar in terms of its shallow warm waters and there’s a lot more space.
We all loved it here, probably more so than Balos Lagoon despite it not being quite so instagrammable (is that a word). Something about it was so much easier. It was a great place to spend a day.
My wife and I aren’t huge beach lovers, they always seem to be a hassle but these two beaches changed our opinion. They’re more like swimming pools than beaches.
Between visiting beaches and going out to eat we mixed it up with some time back at the villa. The kids loved having the pool and went in every day, the pool wasn’t heated so it wasn’t always the warmest but that didn’t stop them.
- It takes a long time to get from one place to another in Crete, I’d recommend splitting up your accommodation so you can see all parts of the island.
- If you don’t like driving abroad and want to get about be prepared to book coach trips.
- Late October was probably pushing it in terms of the season. I wouldn’t advise visiting any later than this.