You want a holiday in the heart of Crete?  What makes Crete so special?  So why do choose to take a holiday in Crete?

Is it the pristine beaches and the sparkling turquoise water? 

Quiet beach at sunrise - is this a holiday in the heart of Crete?
Perfect lagoon on the south coast

Is it the 5000 years of history? 

Aptera - 5000 years of history from Minoans to the Turkish occupation
Aptera, 5000 years of history

Do you come to get a sense of the Cretan lifestyle? 

Cretan Impressions - tastes of Crete all on one plate - part of a holiday in the heart of Crete
Cretan Impressions from Panokosmos

Or to enjoy the Mediterranean diet?  Are you entranced by the sparkling White Mountains rearing up from the coastal plains? 

White Mountains in winter sunshine
White Mountains in winter morning sunlight

Is it just the better weather – reliable warmth and plenty of sunshine?  Do you mainly come to see the sights, to discover the places and explore, or rather is it mainly about relaxing, recovering from a busy life back home, and gaining new energies?  Otherwise what about that wonderful warm Mediterranean light, bringing painters like Van Gogh and Matisse from the Northern Europe?

Agios Nicolaos church in morning sunshine
Agios Nicholaos church in Kyriakoselia

What are your choices?

The biggest choice you will need to make for your holiday in the heart of Crete is where you will stay. Either its the coast near the beach, or inland in the hinterland, the towns or in the foothills of the mountains?

– in the countryside

 For us there is a very special feel to the countryside of Crete. Firstly Crete is a mix of occident and orient – the hospitality of the Middle East, the emotionality on the one hand; democracy the freedom and equality for women from the West on the other.  Secondly the bold landscape, sometimes brutal – which is peppered with jagged rocks and precipitous drops, sharp peaked mountains and deep narrow gorges. 

Craggy mountains with a long walking trail between them
Zig zag tracks to Agios Pnevma spring

The clear air, the night skies an overwhelming cascade of stars, the sounds of sheepbells and cocks crowing. 

Milky Way from Panokosmos
Milky Way from Panokosmos

All these compose a compelling and magical feel for us.  One which has evolved and changed over the 14 years we’ve known this island, and the 9 years we’ve lived here, but still remains.

In the mountain villages life goes on much as it did before the arrival of holiday makers and all the infrastructure of tourism. 

Fres - a mountain village
The square in Fres

The shepherds still herd their sheep, undertake the back breaking work of milking them, and local dairies still make the yoghurt in earthenware pots. 

Milking sheep in the Cretan countryside
Giorgos milking his sheep

In the evening they gather in the kafenion, with a round of Greek coffees and an occasional raki, and talk of sheep, politics and the price of olive oil.  In the mornings at Panokosmos we sometimes here the calls of the shepherds, gathering their flocks, an archaic sound echoing amongst the mountain faces and in the deep gorges. 

View of the sea from the White Mountains
Mantinades echo in the mountains

No crowds, no traffic, no advertising. 

– in the foothills of the mountains

Its cooler in the foothills of the mountains, there is usually a breeze, and the air is clear and drier than down by the beach.    The locals trap the breeze to cool their rooms by opening strategic windows. 

"Sleep as if you were outside" - open windows to catch the breeze
Mountain air captured by wide open windows

We do the same at Panokosmos which means that we rarely need to use the air conditioning.  Its so much more refreshing and revitalising too.  Not to mention that there are far less mosquitos up in the mountains!

The mountains have a special presence, tall, majestic but also providing a comforting embrace. 

The embrace of the mountains - part of a holiday in the heart of Crete
High in the White Mountains

They are deeply embedded in the soul and heart of Crete. The inhabitants retreated into them when invaded by the Turks, or to escape pirate raids.  Resistance fighters hid in the caves during the German occupation.  And back in the mists of mythology, Zeus hid in a cave whether it be on the slopes of Psiloritis, or above the plains of the Lassithi.

Cave of Zeus on the Lassithi plateau
(One of) the Caves of Zeus

– or near the coast and beaches

The beaches look beautiful in the pictures, pristine, empty and inviting. 

Deserted beach on the Akrotiri - is this part of a holiday in the heart of Crete?
It was in February!

But the reality is all to often crowded, noisy and exploited.  The sunbeds are crowded together, there is ill thought out development behind, and public services are inadequate and overused. 

Ranked mass of sunbeds waiting for the crowds
Massed ranks of sunloungers, waiting for the crowds

There are some less well known places, typically where the locals go. Maybe you go down an easily missed lane, or they are tucked away around a headland.  Here, in the shade of a tamarisk, listening to the gentle lap of waves on the beach, is true heaven. 

A holiday in the heart of Crete - on the beach in the shade of a tamarisk tree
Lazing under a tamarisk tree at a beach near Kalyves

We can see the attraction of being close to the sea, for those who live inland in northern climes.  Maybe we are spoilt, living here all year round, so the coast is always easily accessible or us.

Sparkling blue waters of the Panokosmos pool - truly a holiday in the heart of Crete!
Sparkling blue water at the pool

Is this the happy medium?

Guests at Panokosmos usually spend some time on these beaches to which we give them directions, but come back to chill out in the calm and serenity of the mountains.  Afterwards they laze by the pool and float on our inflatable chairs looking out over the White Mountains. 

Cocktails in the pool
Cocktails in the pool!

Its only a 25 min drive to the coast, and the mix of sightseeing, relaxing at the beach and cooling off and relaxing at our pool works well.

Whatever you decide, have a great holiday in the heart of Crete – its such a versatile island, with something for everyone!