Words by: Stephanie Benson | Photos by: JCrew and HandstandSteph
PhotoPhiles is a recurring feature spotlighting some of our favorite photos taken on and off the road. In this fourth edition, we welcome you to the mystical Greek island of Crete, home to Zeus, the Minoans, and yes, even Zach Galifianakis. Greece’s biggest island encapsulates a dichotomy of unspoiled beauty and rugged living. This is the island for beach-bumming (and bum-sunning—lots of nudist beaches for those so inclined). Our favorite beach areas were in and near the small Southern town of Matala, where the secluded Red Beach requires a good 30-minute rocky hike, and where Kommos Beach offers a long stretch of sand and some incredible views for watching the sun melt into the Libyan Sea. For a real adventure, take the long, narrow, switchback-filled road from Kissamos or Chania to the spectacular Elafonisi Beach, where you’ll be transported to French Polynesia with its crystal-clear aquamarine waters lapping serenely against soft, white (sometimes even pinkish) sand. Note: This is a hot tourist spot, so the swarms of people can take away from the postcard-worthy splendor.
Beyond the beaches, are more terrifyingly twisty roads that snake through tiny villages, olive groves, and fascinating archaeological sites. Meanwhile, Crete’s biggest cities—Heraklion, Rethymno, and Chania—offer more urban adventuring. Stay tuned for more words on Crete in an upcoming post. For now, just take in the virtual view…
Matala Beach, dotted with necessary sunshades, sits below the famed caves
The Tree of Life—hippie style—greeting you to the lovely beach town of Matala
Matala Beach, in perfect symmetry
In love with Matala Beach’s half-heart-shaped curves
JCrew climbing great heights among the caves in Matala
A cacti-eye view from Phaistos, one of the most important centers of Minoan civilization. It was inhabited from the Neolithic period to the 15th century B.C.
JCrew exploring the ruins of Phaistos. Unlike the more popular Knossos, this is a mostly untouched site that has not been restored.
Athena, aka Handstand Steph, setting down fort at Phaistos.
Cretan culinary delights: feta + olives, dakos salad, and fresh dolmas.
At Kommos Beach, watching the great big solar bulb dissolve into the Libyan Sea.
The drive-thru, Cretan style. Get your raki, wine and olive oil for just one euro while passing through in Mires.
Handstand Steph walking on water on the jaw-dropping Elafonisi Beach, a slice of a tropical paradise with every hue of blue represented.
Handstand Steph windswept at Falassarna Beach
JCrew enjoying the best gyro ever in a tiny eatery in the middle of Rethymno
The regal splendor of Chania
Steph at the Turkish Mosque Yiali Tzami at the Venetian Harbour in Chania.
Chania’s chapel of Agios Nikolaos, aka St. Niklaus Church, was once a mosque.
Steph enjoying the sun and downtown views from the balcony at the stylish Galaxy Hotel in Iraklio.
The Vrontisiou Monastery on the south slope of the Psiloritis Mountain, which sits a little to the northwest of the town of Zaros.
Why did the sheep cross the road?