Venturing out of the major cities and seeing different parts of the country is an important part of my adventures.
Crete has beautiful beaches, but its countryside plays a vital role in the island’s economic and cultural status.
I felt a Land Rover Safari from Heraklion tour would be a perfect way to explore the countryside.
The €80 price tag I felt was a tad much. To me, €60 to €65 is more reasonable for this tour.
Chris, our guide/driver, was very professional and knowledgeable. He answered guests’ questions and provided tidbits about Crete life.
Being an ‘outsider’ to Crete, like his tour guests, Chris made the island seem more personable and attractive.
The adventure began with a morning pickup at the resort. Unlike the disastrous communication that occurred during my Gibraltar trip, I was given the right pickup location, and Chris arrived on time.
This was a small group tour, which is great because it’s easier to manage and there aren’t too many different personalities. My tour mates were nice and simply wanted to enjoy themselves as well.
I was the first pickup, so I sat back and enjoyed the views as Chris drove to the other pickup locations.
Once we had everyone, we made our way to Cafe Massaros in Kritsa for a coffee break before journeying up the mountain.
The quick coffee break done, we crossed the street and explored the Church of Panagia Odigitria.
The church dates back to the 19th century and is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and Agios Charalambos. The church combines elements of Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman architecture.
A very interesting landmark.
The Land Rover got back on the road and journeyed up the mountains. The ride was bumpy, but Chris was very safe and ensured his guests were always safe.
Yes, there were plenty of goats and sheep, but that was expected.
The goats and sheep charging at us as we drove was not expected.
Their charge prompted an unscheduled stop, which turned out to be a delight. We had a few minutes to feed them and just enjoy their company.
Being headbutted in the butt by a goat was a highlight. Good thing the seats in the Land Rover had proper cushioning. Ouch!
The goats gradually scattered, allowing us to continue the journey up the mountain.
What a view!
We traveled along, stopping a few times for some organic honey and Raki. I passed on the Raki, but the honey and fruit were delicious.
There was also a quick history about the “bomb bell” churches.
“Bomb bells” are quite common in churches of the Cretan countryside. Unearthed and defused WWII bombs were converted into church bells to remind all of the misfortunes of war.
Famous as the Zeus’ birthplace, the Cave of Diktaion Andron (Psychro Cave) was supposed to be a highlight of the tour.
Sadly, I didn’t visit Zeus’s Cave. The warning about the steep climb from the parking area, and the 200 steps down into the cave and 200 steps back up, made me reconsider. Much as I would love to photograph the cave, my body wasn’t prepared for strain. I had to settle for a photo of a photo.
GREEK MYTHOLOGY THEMATIC PARK
The Greek Mythology Thematic Park was a nice alternative. Located on a 3000 square mile site in the foothills of Dicteon Andron, the park is extremely detailed and educational.
Actually, some of the full-size recreations were downright scary!
But totally worth the €8.
The free audio guide narrates the tales as you wonder through the ancient Greek myths. The special effects help bring four eras of Greek myths to life.
Krassi was the final stop on the journey. One of the prettiest in Crete, Krassi is covered with all types of vegetation. The highlights here were its natural spring water and the 2,000-year-old tree.
TAVERNA ZEUS GARDEN
The tour fee included lunch. Taverna Zeus Garden served as our eatery. Nice meal, but nothing spectacular.
The restaurant was a nice place, but it is very tourist-centric. Food was hot and edible, even if it was simply chicken and potatoes. Sometimes simple is the best option. The free wi-fi was also nice touch.
The tour was exciting and a nice way to explore the heart and soul of Crete. Viewing the island from atop a mountain was amazing and a memory that will live with me forever.