What of Crete in Winter?

I am an evangelist of all that is "Cretan," especially in the off season. This is largely true because I often visit there after or before the humongous crowds arrive. This majestic, friendly, and ultimately charming Greek island under the sun, it's so much better to take in beyond the noise. At least this is my view.


Let's face it, as social as we may be as creatures under the sun, living wondrously often means living in peace, harmony, and with the ability to drink in life. Such is the case on Crete November thru May, when winter offers us the chance to explore and uncrowded Crete landscape, and to enjoy the wonderful people there in unfettered "oneness" with them.

Snowfall on the highest peaks, the clean, crisp chill of wind from the sea, I cannot imagine a more thrilling place to be around the Christmas holidays. As for what's to see and do? Well, here's a little bucket list of upcoming value on Crete.



Crete has so many treasures that unfold before travelers. Not the least of these, an abundance of natural beauty and lifestyles are two of two dozen variables that make the place special in winter. The snow on the White Mountains, deserted country roads, and a geography no other place on Earth possesses, I'd suggest you rent a car and drive all around this massive island, as you have the time to. 

From the rocky coastline near Stavros (image above via my friend photographer Jay Thomas), just above Chania, to the completely deserted beaches of the south of Crete, there's a wonderland of outdoor exploration waiting you here. You can visit the real beach where Zorba the Greek's famous "teach me to dance" scene was shot, or you can have lunch with a villager family in the mountains as easily. 


Cityscapes and Sightseeing

As you can see from the image above of Chania's port, life on Crete does not stand still because it gets chilly. This photo was taken in March on a blustery day. My fellows and I stopped to sip coffee and make a day of "people watching" at this notoriously picturesque attraction. But Chania is not the only photo op you'll fall in love with in the off season, to the east, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos (as below) offer a multitude of sites, sounds and smells to burn into memory. 

The majesty of the Palace at Knossos is mirrored in hundreds of other historic places and sites on Crete. What's all the more fun-tastic in the off season though, is getting what I call the "special treatment" as veritable Cretans in love with such places out of the crowds of summer. It may interest the reader to know, I've been officially adopted as full blooded Minoan by most of my Cretan friends now. Trust me, you'll feel this way too if you follow my ongoing advice to LIVE like Zorba. 



The Cretan diet, it's taken on mythical proportions in this age of unhealthy choices gastronomically. And justifiably, for the Cretans are some of the healthiest and most robust people on our world. Despite what you may think though, a healthy diet is not about becoming a vegetarian, nor about any extreme really. Cretans love their meats, as I myself learned, even more than the wonderful fruits and vegetables that abound locally. We went to taverns and seaside eateries, the thought of which today makes my mouth water. Imagine the best restaurant you ever dined at, half full of people. Now that is a fantastic reality anyone should love Crete and Greece for. 

Don't be concerned with being bored culinary wise though, I assure your Crete is overflowing with creative and artful chefs and cooks, from the classiest restaurants to the most charming local taverns. Our great friends at the various restaurants there, they enthralled us with the finest in Cretan food wonders, even transforming this southern boy meat and potatoes man, into a healthier and more reasonable consumer of food. The image above, from Brillant Restaurant at Lato Boutique Hotel, reminds me to this day of our friends their, and the pride they take in creating magnificent gourmet offerings, that don't only suit millionaires.


For the seafood lover out there, you cannot imagine just how good grilled octopus can be - even if you HATE squiggly sea creatures on your plate. What I'm trying to say is, be prepared to be amazed by Cretan foods. The salmon dish you see above was created for me just on a bet no one could top a dish I'd eaten at a Michelin restaurant some years back. Guess what. Brillant is opening in November, and I'm considering flying to Heraklion just to eat this salmon. Melt in your mouth, really, really good, I mean.

Oh, and can I also plug the local Greek beers for you! Mythos being my favorite beer anywhere now, there are dozens of others Brillant and other restaurants and bars feature. The image above shows the great people of Crete in sweater weather, taking lunch outdoors. 


The People

Crete's most coveted treasure, I'll always tell my readers, are the people descended from the Minoans, the locals. Whether you want to talk fishing stories with a genuine expert (as above), or if you just see yourself striking up a conversation with a local grocer, everyone on this island is friendly, talkative, and open minded beyond what you can possible imagine. And this is particularly so in the off season when the pressure of tourism business is not so heavy. Below a wonderful man of Agios Nikolaos captured by my lifelong friend Jay Thomas (whom I love plugging endlessly) 


The image below, taken at Taverna Goules in the mountains south of Rethymno, captures a bit of the chilly weather atmosphere of Crete. Owned by our friend Kostas Hamogiorgakis, the food here and the people amazed me. Imagine a place literally deserted at one moment, than half full of cheerful locals enjoying what has to be the best home-style traditional cuisine in Greece. We've eaten until we literally were ready to burst here, many times. But I can name 20 more gems tucked away in villages all across the island. And that says nothing for the Michelin-worthy places like Brillant above. 

In case I've been vague at all here, let me be more direct. Crete is best served up a bit chilly, that is if you want to live like you've always belonged there. For me, my family and our friends, we know we can call this place home. Come to think of it, let me check the Aegean flights out of Frankfurt now. Care to join us? I make a cracker jack tour guide. 


Image credits: Thanks to Jay Thomas and Jayfoto for many of these wonderful Crete images. 

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