One of the best ways of exploring the huge island of Crete is by car: in your own time, at
your own speed and in your own style.
Without the stress and cost of embarking on guided tours.
Head into any of Crete's major cities such as
Hania, Rethymno or Iraklion and you'll be bombarded by rent-a-vehicle establishments, all
of which are fiercely trying to under-cut each other on price and service quality.
Hence, shop around and compare quotes before choosing your vehicle.
Jimny Jeeps are a popular choice, and though the rental company will stress that they mustn't
under any circumstances be taken 'off-road,' the temptation is too difficult to resist.
They are great for zooming up and down dirt tracks that head into the hills, but you didn't hear that from me!
Touch wood, in the past couple of years of driving Jimny's around on holiday, not one
puncture or incidence of suspension damage has come our way.
They really are incredibly versatile vehicles.
Still, rental vehicles are meant for the open road, and the freedom of the self-drive system
means that you aren't relying on public transport or any aforementioned guided tours to get you to places of desire. Armed with your own vehicle you can literally go where you want, when you want. So off you go.
Up until the 1970's, much of Crete was served solely by dirt tracks and there were very few decent roads in place to support the island's infrastructure. Many of the paved roads have been laid in the past thirty years in order to primarily serve the cosmic boom in tourism. Indeed, tourism is one of the chief ways that Crete makes money, and every summer the island is engulfed by holiday-makers.
What many people might not realise is that Crete is also a very popular holiday destination in winter too, when snow often blesses the highest reaches of the massive chain of White Mountains that effectively dominate the interior of the island. The North side of the island is far more developed than the South, with the North coast being served by a major highway that means travel between the major cities is a cinch. Au contraire, some of the South Coast villages are immensely remote and isolated, and in some instances they can only be reached by ferry from more accessible settlements either further West or further East down the coast.
One of the major attractions on Crete for tourists is the world famous Samaria Gorge. A week into our holiday we braved the beast, which is allegedly the longest gorge in Europe. I say 'allegedly' because various Italian people are claiming that Italy does in fact lay claim to having the longest gorge on the continent. The problem is that these gorges are very difficult to actually measure in terms of their length, but even if Samaria Gorge isn't the longest in Europe (it can't be far off, being in the region of 13km long), it is still a genuine contender for another wonder of the world given the scale of the gorge and the spectacular presence of towering mountains that surround the gorge.
Thus, because of the gorge's uber-popularity, there is very little chance of peace and quiet whilst walking along its length. Hundreds of people visit the gorge on a daily basis at the height of the summer season, but you sure as hell can't blame them, and it's certainly one of my favourite places in the world, given the awe-inspiring beauty of the area. Most walkers stride in a north to south direction. At its southernmost extreme the land gives way to the calm waters of the sky-blue Libyan Sea, that logically spans the gap between Crete and the African continent at large.
It's easy enough to get to the top of the gorge via coach or car, but it's much more difficult to
get away from the southern end once you've reached - and dipped your swollen feet in - the sea.
There is a small village called Agia Roumeli there, but - due to the harsh terrain of
the area - there isn't actually any road to or from the tourism-obsessed settlement
of souvenir shops, cafes, bars and the odd set of apartments.
Lucky then that there is a reliable ferry service from the village to various other villages
either further West or East down the coast, from which you can get public transport to wherever you might need to be.
Places to Visit - Eight Feet and Two Weeks On Crete Part One by Steve Rudd
While I might be a massive fan of Michael Palin's epic travels, and while I do aspire to
follow him in many of his footsteps, up until now I've only ever been abroad three times.
The first time was in 2000, when I was lucky enough to accompany a work colleague for a month in Nepal.
The second time was for a holiday with some friends, last year, to the gorgeous
Places to Visit - Greetings From Amsterdam Part One By Steve Rudd
As the blazing red sunset slowly but surely cast Hull into shadow, the P&O ferry was ready,
and so were the passengers.
I'd never travelled by ferry across to the Netherlands, and thus was naturally overwhelmed
by the sheer scale of the ferry and the wealth of entertainment on board, what with
two cinemas, a kids play area, a restaurant and casino
Places to Visit - On The Pennine Way Part Two By Steve Rudd
After surviving the nightmare of Kinder Scout's mountainous bulk and getting back on track,
the next 'hill' of worth en-route along the Pennine Way is called Bleaklow.
Just like its predecessor, it could quite potentially be the death of you if
you're not careful in negotiating the peaty wastes as you go up and over and
onwards towards the tiny hamlet of
Places to Visit - On The Pennine Way Part One By Steve Rudd
Why on earth would anyone want to go walking on their week off work? That's the question that most people would routinely ask anybody who would do exactly that, as though walking - and long distance walking in particular - is something simply not to be indulged in.
I always argue that there is very little more
Places to Visit - Down South By Steve Rudd
Brighton has always been one hell of a popular place, but until one freezing cold
day in February of this year I had never before spent anytime whatsoever there
in my twenty-four years in this forever-overwhelming world.
I thought it was high time I paid the place a visit, and seeing as though
I was down in London anyway - and a return National Express coach ticket
Places to Visit - Up North By Steve Rudd
So, you look forward all week - at work - to your one or two days off... right? And what do you do on such days off? Housework, no doubt. Do you ever think you should do something more worthwhile with your sacred time off? Like travel, for instance.
County Durham isn't that far a trip from East Yorkshire, and if
Places to Visit - To Hampstead Heath and Beyond ... By Steve Rudd
So, you live in London and wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the inner city scene.
Where can you turn to? Why, the plethora of beautiful parks of course - and there are few
places nicer than Hampstead Heath, in North London, for some quality peace and quiet.
Places to Visit - On the Moors By Steve Rudd
So much for me confiding to people that I thought we were collectively out of the woods
and that Spring was just around the corner.
Clearly I spoke too soon and paid for such a misdemeanour yesterday
(13th February 2005) when I ventured up onto the
Places to Visit - Dinostar - THIS IS HISTORY By Daniel Laney
In the last two months Hull has welcomed a new addition to its ever growing tourist trade.
Dinostar, which opened on Easter Sunday of this year, should hopefully
be welcomed with open arms by families and budding historians alike and with it
being a quick
Places to Visit - Our Samhain Visit to Avebury by Janie Spencer
Before we start on our journey, let me give you a bit of background on Avebury.
It is a beautiful stone circle, so big that you can in fact fit a village inside it, as you can see from this overhead map!
As well as being a tourist spot, it is both a home and a gathering
Places to Visit - Burton Constable Hall.
Burton Constable Hall has collected several ghosts and stories from its 450 year history, the most frequently seen ghost being that of Nurse Dowdall, a much loved nanny to the children of the household during the 19th century.
Places to Visit - A day by the beach - Bridlington Harbour.
This Sunday I was spoilt for choice - either to visit a Buddhist centre in "Kilham"
or attend a strawberries and cream party. Opted to go and find Zen so duly arrived
with my offspring (Katie and Oliver) at my friend's house (Cilla) punctually (for
a change) at 11.30.
Places to Visit - This is Hull
The East Yorkshire city of Kingston Upon Hull has it's fair share of bad press. That's OK, the people who live here know why so many come and stay!
Visit the City and sample the eclectic mix of entertainment on offer, from the
laid-back coffee shops and cosmopolitan bars of the Avenues
Places to Visit - Pickering Park Rocks
Pickering Park rocks for the youth of Hull.
Sunday afternoon, 6th July 2003 saw the first FREE open air Rock Concerts for the youth of Hull, from noon until 7pm.
Bands featured included the Supatones, Crowroad, DumpValve, Freaks Union, The Favours, The Sonnet,
Zap the Flak, S.P.A.F.F.FRead more...
Places to Visit - Beverley Minster By Mo
Founded in the eighth century by John, Bishop of York - later St. John of Beverley - Beverley Minster has been
described as 'the finest gothic church in Europe'.
The present church, built in the 13th and 14th century, is a perfect blending of three