Hotel in Amoudara, Heraklion
We stayed approximately 5km from Heraklion in Amaroudra in a family run hotel called Hotel Georgia.
The hotel’s motto is “come as tourist and leave as a friend” and this was spot on. From organising the trip by email with Dimitris (the son of Georgia who the hotel is named after) to the end of the stay, the staff were very friendly and helpful.
We opted for the double bedroom with a balcony and poolside view which was around £25 pp per night with breakfast. Particularly given the level of service, this was good value. The rooms had everything you needed in with plenty of storage for clothes and were cleaned daily.
The main attraction to this hotel was the beautiful outside area we saw in the pictures online and we were not disappointed. Lovely pool with enough sunloungers (don’t you hate fighting people from them!) and other comfy chairs with tables and chairs in the shade if the sun becomes too much. Mixed in with a large bar area, football table, ping pong and a library of books, there is enough here to keep you entertained.
The hotel is also conveniently located two minutes from the beach (to the right) and a supermarket and bus stop a couple of minutes away (to the left). Catch the number 1 or 6 bus into Heraklion centre (depending on traffic it can take around 10-15 minutes) and buy you ticket from the supermarket first ($1.20). Between June and August, you can also catch a number 2 bus directly to Knossos.
I also loved eating my breakfast outside every day! I had the museli with greek yogurt honey, seeds and strawberries which was so tasty and filling, as well as some cheeses (including feta) and ham. There was also other fruits offer, fresh breads and cooked food – more than enough choice.
I really enjoyed my stay at Hotel Georgia and felt completely at home – Stella and Elena were so lovely and helpful (going out their way to do things for us) and we were waved goodbye with large hugs, which was so nice.
THINGS TO DO IN HERAKLION
One aspect about Crete that really stood out to me was the friendliness of the locals – they really were helpful, smiley and welcoming.
We only had four days in Heraklion and did not want to completely jam pack our holiday but to give you an idea, we visited the following:
Heraklion City Centre
We went on a 2 hour free walking tour of the city centre through http://1618freetour.com/ which is offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays at 4pm and we managed to visit:
➜ The Venetian port
➜ Part of the Venetian walls
➜ Liberty Square
➜ Central Market
➜ St. Menas Cathedral
➜ Morosini Fountain
➜ St. Marks Basilica
➜ Archiepiscopal Church of St. Titos –
The meeting point is at Natur Elia opposite the Venetian Port where the dolphin statute is on the roundabout. We had a lovely guide who showed us around the city, showing us some of the highlights above.
Just tip what you like at the end of the tour!
Spinalonga, Kalydon and Agios Nikolas
We looked at booking a day trip online for around £55 in advance but decided to wait until we had visited the travel agents in Heraklion. Lucky we did as we managed to get the entire tour for only €46!
This was split €26 euros upfront to the travel agent which was for the coach journey, €8 for the entrance fee to Spinalonga (which is used for renovating the island) and €12 for the boat ride and the bbq lunch.
We were offered a hotel pick up (real advantage) at 7.25am and then travelled to other towns to pick the rest of the tour up. At around 9.30am we arrived in Elounda, a small fishing village, where we made our way on to the boat to Spinalonga.
We were given around one hour and 15 minutes in Spinalonga (also known as Kalydon) which did not seem enough time to begin with until you realise how small the island is. Our tour guide took us around for the first 35-40 minutes giving us an insight into the history of Spinalonga.
Originally, Spinalonga was part of the island of Crete but during Venetian occupation the island was carved out of the coast for defence purposes and a fort was built there. In 1903-1957 the island was a leper colony and the last inhabitant, a monk, left in 1962. Since then it has been used as a tourist destination.
We then made our own way around the rest of the island and then back on to the boat, where we travelled to the neighbouring island which was split in an earthquake.
We were given almost 2 hours at this island for free time to either swim, lay on the beach or wander around and climb to the top for some beautiful views. The sea was so clear and inviting but seeing as I am not a strong swimmer, I decided to climb instead. You cannot make your way around the entire island in the time period but we visited a small church and saw some really stunning views.
Back on the boat for lunch at 1.30 which had been freshly barbecued on the island, we had pork steak, Greek salad, wine and fruit and sailed back to Elounda to get back on the coach to Agios Nikolas, where we had 1.5 hours free time.
Agios Nikolas was a quaint little town (historically a fishing village) with a number of shops, restaurants by the harbour and a lake, which was historically considered bottomless but is actually 63-67m. We climbed up the stairs by the lake to the top for the lovely views. We also had a lovely cocktail and juice at a cafe bar called Asteria in the sun by the port.
The Minoan Palace of Knossos (situated about 5km from Heraklion) was built for the King in 1900 BC. It was only in 1878 when a local called businessman, Minos Kalokairinos, started excavating it after uncovering part of the West Wing of the Palace.
Despite what some books and websites say, the entrance price has increased from €6 to €15 but there is a trick if you want to visit Knossos and the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion (I sadly did not have time) you only pay €16 and the ticket is valid for one day in Knossos and up to three days in the Museum so you don’t have to visit the museum on the same day.
I look forward to returning to Crete another time to visit Chania, Rethromoe and the Samaria Gorge.
East London Girl Travel Blog