According to extensive research we did in the summer of 1995,
very few motorcyclists stay in hotels. This can partly be explained
by the fact that at the places they usually go there are no
hotels to stay in the first place! But it is also a question
of the travelling spirit that characterises motorcyclists as
a group, since they have very little in common with the tourists
that go for travel packages and with the tourist industry that
“processes” them massively and impersonally.
Of course, every rule has its exceptions. You will frequently
see cosy little hotels with “character” in quiet
out-of-the-way places, which offer a clean and hospitable environment
you can enjoy. Whenever we found such a hotel we included it
in the pages of this guide. There are also occasions when staying
in a hotel seems to be the most convenient thing to do. Suppose
that you’re visiting a large town, for instance, or that
you plan to use it as your base for day trips in the area. A
hotel would certainly make such trips easier, because you wouldn’t
have to load and unload everything on your bike each morning.
This is why on the city maps included in this guide you will
also find a list of those hotels that satisfy our requirements.
Hotels that are presentable, quiet and inexpensive and - most
importantly - have parking facilities for your bike.
Depending on the kinds of facilities and services they offer,
hotels are officially rated as Luxury, A, B, C, D, or E. Most
of those we recommend in this guide are in the C category, and
they will charge anywhere between six and twelve thousand drachmas
for one night in a two-bed room. For larger towns we have also
listed a few hotels in the A or B category in case you’ve
had enough with mountains and camping and feel you need a change.
Boarding house or hotel, if you travel in the low season (April,
May, September, October) you can get very significant discounts
on the price of the room, sometimes even 50%. However, make
sure you ask about the discount before taking the room.
Rooms to rent
Rented rooms are probably the most popular and inexpensive accommodations
(besides camping of course). If you travel in Crete in the low
tourist season, people of all ages, and especially old men and
women, will stop you in the middle of the street or approach
you at the cafeteria and ask: “Rooms?” Their first
reaction if they see you’re interested is to tell you
“come with me.” In this way they hope that they
will get you to see how nice the room is, and then of course
you’ll rent it for the price they ask, or perhaps with
a slight discount. But the low season is a period of huge offer
and very little demand, so you can certainly benefit from the
fact and rent for a very low price. Refuse firmly to follow
them unless they tell you how much they want. A good price would
be 4000 drachmas for a single room, 5000 for one with two beds
and 6000 for one with three.
Starting with the tourist season of 1995 every rented room
must have the EOT sign somewhere where it’s easy to see
(the initials stand for the Greek National Tourist Organisation.
. If you don’t see the sign, it obviously means that the
rooms in question do not meet the requirements set by EOT, and
it might be best to avoid them, so you don’t have any
1. The price of the room for the high and the low tourist season
as well as the exact dates marking the beginning and end of
each season must be clearly written on a sign validated by EOT
or the police and hanging behind the door of the room. The prices
written on this sign are the highest the owner is allowed to
charge and are fixed for the entire tourist season.
2. Prices are final and include all taxes and charges. If a
room is rented for only one night the owner is allowed to raise
the rent by 10%.
3. Each person is entitled to a bar of soap and a towel. Hot
running water, heating and extra blankets must be free of charge.
4. Your room must be cleaned every day and bed sheets and towels
must be changed twice a week (for rooms in the A category) or
once a week (for those in the B or C category).
5. The price paid for one night entitles you to stay in the
room until 12 o’ clock the following day.
Needless to say, the above rules and regulations apply only
to tourist areas. If you find yourself in some quiet, out-of-the-way
village, do not look for the EOT sign and for the price list
behind the door. Conveniences will most likely be minimal, but
so will be the price; you can expect something like 3000 to
4000 drachmas for a double room. In such a place you will be
treated more as a guest than as a client, so forget about the
typical side of this and enjoy what’s really essential:
the family ambience, the landlords’ company, and maybe
some delicious home-made food.
There are approximately 15 organised camping grounds in Crete,
and they are described in some detail at the chapters telling
you “Where to Stay” in each area. The truth is,
they are not of top-notch quality, but they certainly satisfy
the basic requirements for comfort and cleanness.
Camping on your own
Officially, we have to inform you that free camping is forbidden
throughout Greece. Unofficially, though, you can pitch camp
anywhere you choose - or almost! Where camping is really forbidden,
you will see a sign to that effect, and even then you can go
ahead and ignore it if ten other campers have already done so.
But if there is no sign, you should be aware of some “unwritten
laws.” Discreetness is a primary principle of free camping,
so avoid setting up your tent beside an organised camping ground,
in crowded beaches and touristy areas, or in the middle of an
It will be generally quieter if the place you choose is somehow
sheltered and away from indiscreet eyes. Pitch camp at the far
end of a beach rather than in the middle of it, inside the woods
rather than at the clearing just beside the main road, at the
slope of a hill rather than at its top, between the bushes rather
than in the middle of a flat field, or at some suitable spot
at the end of a meadow rather than on the path used by flocks
If the beach of your dreams is crowded but you have still set
your heart on spending your holiday there, the only way to secure
some peace and quiet and avoid bothering others is to set up
your tent late in the evening, when the crowds are gone, and
to take it down early in the morning before the invasion starts.
Needless to say, discreetness must be coupled with respect
for the environment. Most people love camping on their own precisely
because it allows such close contact with nature. And it is
this love for nature that causes them to sleep in the middle
of the woods or an empty beach, not their desire for a free
stay. If the issue was indeed the money, they could probably
spend less by opting for one of those travel packages that promise
ten days in a hotel, full board, and plane tickets, all for
90,000 drachmas! But love for nature must also go along with
respect. It will only be possible to enjoy pure, unspoiled nature,
if each camper makes a point of leaving the area as clean as
he found it and without a mark of human presence.
How can you do that? Just be careful with a few basic things.
Collect all garbage in a plastic bag and throw it in the first
trash can you will find. Also avoid wrapping wires tightly around
trees or cutting off twigs, and do not throw chemical pollutants
into the rivers or give your bike an oil change right in the
middle of a field.
As for your bathroom needs, try to find a suitable spot away
from where people walk or lie, for instance at the far end of
a beach behind the bushes or where the waves break. In any case,
avoid soiling the small caves found at the rocks next to the
water; they are beautiful natural shelters and can protect you
from the sweltering heat of noon or from a chilly summer night.
Finally, remember that the remnants of a fire also spoil the
environment. Instead of lighting a fire at a different spot
every time, find one that suits you well, fence it with large
rocks to prevent the coal and ashes from being swept away with
the wind, and make it a practice to light your fire there. More
on the issue can be found on page 89.
It is a long-standing tradition of the Orthodox to put up travellers
who have come to worship God. Also, monasteries are generally
built in the most wonderful places, sometimes on steep mountain
rocks overlooking breathtaking gorges, sometimes in beautiful
woods with springs and rivers close by, and some times on empty
sandy beaches. If you consider all this, you just might be tempted
to retire in one yourself!
Of course, monasteries are no hotels or tourist attractions.
As a rule, monks and nuns do not like the fact that most travellers
today are not devout Christians but curious tourists, and do
not appreciate the “see-and-photograph-everything attitude.”
They expect some regard for the sanctity of the place.
Needless to say, they will not let you enter in shorts or sleeveless
shirts, because they feel it is inconsistent with that sanctity.
Most monasteries provide their own solution to this problem
as they have a stock of wide pants and skirts for men and women
who visit the monastery.
Keep in mind that people living in monasteries usually go
to bed very early, because they also have an early start in
the morning. Monasteries close their door after sunset, so if
you arrive late it is best to leave them alone.
While most monasteries will put up mixed company in the same
or separate rooms, the feasibility of this depends on the rules
set by each one; in some instances nunneries may not put up
men and the opposite. The room where they will put you to sleep,
whether large or small, is likely to have several beds in it
(as many as it can take), so you will most probably sleep with
others. The beds are exactly like their own, and with their
rough pillows and heavy blankets they may not quite tie in with
your idea of ultimate comfort, so a sleeping bag might prove
handy. As for the food, you will be invited to eat what they
eat, and no special fuss will be made over you. A simple but
tasty meal, usually accompanied with good wine of their own
production - or some local villager’s production - is
what you can typically expect. Also keep in mind that all monks
and nuns are vegetarians. They usually eat casserole dishes
cooked with oil, bean or chick pea soup, lentils, lots of greens
- often handpicked - and pies, so if you insist on having meat
you’d better open the can when you are alone in the guest
Besides food and sleep, monasteries also offer a wonderful
opportunity to come in contact with an age-old religious tradition
that goes back to the Byzantine times, and even earlier, to
the first centuries after Christ. Wake up with the early morning
bell, and go hear the liturgy leaving your camera behind (taking
pictures in the church, especially during the liturgy, is forbidden
anyway). Near the entrance of the church you will see a counter
with candles. Throw a one hundred drachma coin on it and light
a candle. Many monasteries have come to rely on candle money
as their basic means of support, and on your part this is a
symbolic gesture. Sit somewhere where you can see and hear well,
and let your spirit take you far away. You may not understand
a word of what you hear, but the chanting in the church, the
smell of incense, the soft candlelight, the warmth exuded by
the figures of the saints, every little thing that has remained
unchanged for centuries of worship will take you back to the
time of the first Christians. Regardless of your religious beliefs,
the morning and evening service in a monastery is a unique experience
and a fascinating trip in time, provided of course you open
your mind and heart to it.
While monasteries can be counted on to offer travellers a shelter
for the night, they are not the only places you can seek refuge
when you are in need. High up on mountain tops, at the far ends
of mountain paths or meadows, in peaceful places near woods
and springs or in the middle of a high plateau, there are hundreds
of little chapels built by local villagers in memory of loved
ones or as a token of their warm faith and deep gratitude for
God’s help at a difficult moment in their lives. Most
of these chapels are made of stone and were built some time
in the last century, but some of them are two or three or four
hundred years old (or even earlier) and have wonderful samples
of hagiography, fine wooden icon screens, old Bibles and priceless
icons. Until about 1970 they were generally kept unlocked, but
with the great spread of tourism and the first deplorable incidents
of theft and vandalism the locals who kept them up put locks
on their doors (or at least did so for the older chapels).
Chapels, especially those in the wilderness of the mountain,
are an excellent refuge in case of need, as they generally have
trees in front of their yard or a covered area in front of their
door where you can lie down and sleep. If it is freezing or
raining cats and dogs you could also sleep inside the chapel.
Keep in mind, though, that you are in a sacred place and must
do nothing that will offend the religious feelings of any locals
who happen to pass by. Do not cook inside the chapel, do not
move around the pews, the candelabra or the benches, do not
smoke, and of course do not soil the place. It would be a good
idea to wake up early in the morning, around 7:00 perhaps, so
that you don’t have any unpleasant encounter with any
quick-tempered local who might misinterpret your intentions.
Should you happen to run into an angry fellow or the local policeman
or field guard, a very convincing excuse that will take care
of the matter is that your motorcycle broke down on you and
you were forced to spend the night.
|Source of the
information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”,
Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of
Greece, click here.