Greek Guide

Crete Car Hire Guides Greece Transportation Getting Around Crete

Guides to Crete Car Hire Greece Greek Rentals Getting Around Transportation

The best way to enjoy the many delights of Crete is to hire a car for at least part of your holiday here. This is the largest of all the Greek islands and although you can reach all the top visitor attractions via public transport or on tour operator excursions, a rental car will take you off the main tourist trail to lovely villages, lesser known historic sites and uncluttered beaches.

Car and motorbike rental firms are plentiful in the main towns and tourist resorts so scout around for the best value for money deal. Petrol stations are scarce outside the towns so make sure you've got a full tank before you set off for the day. Don't rely on a rent a car to get around Iraklio, Hania and Rethymno because traffic congestion can be a nightmare and Cretan drivers are as manic as their Athenian counterparts.

Most of the northern coastline is well served by a fast national highway but getting around the rest of the island involves taking it slowly along small, winding roads occasionally obstructed by sheep and goats.

With the freedom of a car, you'll be able to cover the length and breadth of the island at leisure taking in the many pleasures afforded by its stunning agricultural plains and plateaus, magnificent mountain scenery and traditional villages where life continues relatively untouched by the ravages of mass tourism.

Spend a day or two exploring the stunningly beautiful Lasithi Plateau, fringed by the Dikti Mountains 900 metres above sea level to the south east of Iraklio. The plateau is awash with windmills and orchards of pear, apple and almond trees along with fields of potatoes and cereals. There are 20 villages peppered around the periphery of the plateau including Psychro where you'll find the area's top tourist attraction the famous Dikteon Cave where the king of the gods, Zeus, was reputedly born.

Head on to the pretty village of Kritsa, at the foot of the Lasithi mountains, where you can shop for locally made Cretan handicrafts including lace and elaborately woven rugs and table cloths.

From here take the road east to join the national highway skirting the lovely Gulf of Mirambelo. If you continue east along the coast you'll pass through some of the island's most magnificent scenery until you come to the ancient town of Sitia with its atmospheric old quarter straddling a hillside overlooking the picturesque tree lined harbour.

At the far eastern tip of the island you can visit the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Zakros, built around 1700 BC and excavated in the 1960s. The site yielded some priceless treasures, now housed in the Archaeological Museum in Iraklio, and a stone lined well in which some perfectly preserved 3,000 year old olives were found.

The Amari Valley, south east of Rethymno, offers another wonderful day trip by car. The area has about 40 unspoilt villages set amid olive, almond and cherry orchards and is mercifully free of holiday hordes even in the height of the season. Take the time to visit the gorgeous mountain town of Spili with its cobbled streets, traditional homes and ornate Venetian fountain gushing water from 19 lion head spouts.