Starting to dream of summer in Europe? Consider a multi-stop tour of Greece's largest island, Crete. We planned an off-season, multi-generational trip for a London-based family at the end of last year and received rave reviews. Read on for their three-stop itinerary, the hotels they loved, and the coastal town not to miss.
Stop 1: Heraklion, capital of Crete on the island’s north coast
Sleep "We stayed at the GDM Megaron Hotel, which is a bit of a jewel in an otherwise gritty town (excluding the beautiful port and amazing archeological museum). The rooms are very spacious, breakfast and lunch delicious, and the rooftop pool, although small, a little oasis overlooking the port. It wasn’t heated but our son, Noam, jumped right in anyway. We needed a room with space for three people, which meant a city view, but I’d recommend booking a port-facing room."
Do "We did fantastic tours of the Bronze-age archeological site Knossos and the Heraklion Archeological Museum. Our guide, Efi, was so knowledgeable, great with kids and very flexible and accommodating. She saw that the kids were tired after two hours at Knossos and suggested that we take a break for lunch at our hotel (and a quick dip in the pool) before heading to the museum. We also decided to do a cooking class along with wine tasting at Scalani Hills Boutari Winery right outside of Heraklion, which was a fantastic experience! We learned some great recipes from their chef Maria, and the food was divine."
Stop 2: Rethymnon, a harbor town on the Mediterranean
Sleep "We stayed at Rimondi Boutique Hotel, a lovely small boutique hotel on a beautiful street. It's composed of two parts across the street from each other, and we were in the more "upscale" part. Our three rooms covered the spectrum from the very spacious Spa Suite with an outdoor hot tub; the kids’ large room with a small balcony and jacuzzi in the bathroom; and our small room with lots of windows and nice street views. We had breakfast each morning in the cozy courtyard with a beautiful pool, and the staff couldn't have been more helpful! The food is excellent, but, as in the other hotels, there wasn't as much variety."
Do "The town of Rethymnon is very quaint and charming, and we enjoyed just strolling around, exploring the fortress, eating (a lot!) and shopping."
Stop 3: Chania, a beautiful Venetian harbor on the northwest coast
"First, I want to say that I am just in love with this city! It is absolutely stunning and with so much history."
Sleep "Casa Delfino Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel converted from mansion belonging to the Delfino family. The Presidential Suite, and more specifically the terrace and the views, is jaw-dropping. The suite is very spacious, with two storys; there's a large separate bedroom and living room on the first floor and another living room upstairs that opens up onto a large terrace. All of us fit comfortably, and one of the kids had their own private nook upstairs with stunning views. The only downside is that we had one bathroom for all of us, but it was worth it for the views. Breakfast was a delicious feast, and the staff was incredibly friendly, which is a running theme in Crete. I also had a facial in the spa, and while I am far from being an expert, it was one of the best spa experiences I've ever had. Summer guests should note that the hotel doesn't have a pool."
Do "We organized a walking tour of Chania with a fantastic guide, Olga. She taught us so much about the history, culture and architecture of the city, and was great with kids. We stumbled upon two things worth mentioning: a sculptor named Manousos Chalkiadakis who does pottery classes in his home not far from Rethymnon and Chania. He is something of a local art celebrity. He gave us a tour of his beautiful home and we made pottery together which he shipped to us a few weeks later. It was a unique and special experience. We also loved our tour with Chania Wine Tours, which was recommended by our hotel. The owners, Anna Maria and Vasilis, adapted the itinerary since we'd already done one wine tour and took us to an olive oil farm to see an olive oil museum and a 3,000-year-old olive tree. They are a lovely Greek/American couple, with kids, who moved to Crete to start this business. Anna Maria is a sommelier and also does private events in Crete. They speak English and Greek fluently, which is a huge plus. It was a fantastic trip and we're already planning a return visit when it's warmer and we can take advantage of the beautiful beaches."