Even I have the feeling that it has been ages since Covid struck, Ernest couldn’t come to this trip because of it. He was really sick and he had to stay home. However, we tried to make the most out of the trip and manage everything Johnny, Bet and I.
Johnny and Bet had never been Greece and I just stayed a couple of days a few years ago, and in Athens, so it was all new for us. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect, because even we did some research to where to ride, it’s sometimes different what you see from the real vibe. However, as everywhere we go, always with a great mood and attitude to learn about the Cretan culture and enjoy our stay there.
AGIOS NIKOLAOS – ANCIENT NAXOS
We flew from Barcelona to Athens and then to Heraklion, the capital of Crete, yet we stayed the first days in Agios Nikolaos, a coastal town about 50min drive from the capital and very characteristic by a small lake ( Voulismeni lake ) inside the town. We had a wonderful first dinner and we were all amazed by the flavours of the food.
We thought we were on a really good restaurant but, as the trip went by, we realise everywhere was the same. We not only didn’t had any bad meal but all the food was super tasty and the flavours of the vegetables and cheese were as if every restaurant had their own vegetable garden.
The next day we started with an easy ride from the city, headed to Oxa, a small peak 7km away from Agios Nikolaos. After leaving the tarmac we rode through a very steep track, some parts with moving rocks and it was tricky even to pedal. After one hour of pushing we saw it was worth the effort, the views from the 400m peak were hard to believe. From there you could see not only the city but also the other side of the coastline and the Kalydon island. Also the whole Mirabello bay and the small islands of Agii Pantes and Mikronisi. After some time enjoying the views we headed down to Agios Nikolaos to have lunch and get ready for the afternoons ride.
We followed some parts of the route B2 which you can find in Agios Nikolaos tourism website: https://www.agiosnikolaoscrete.com/experiences/activities/cycling-trekking/
KAVOUSI – IERAPETRA
After a break, we got back on the bikes and started the second ride of the day. We had a mission in mind: to look for a great place to see the sunset, we saw it the first day and the colours left us astonished. So, we wanted a high point to have great views of the Mirabello bay. We took the car and parked in Kavousi, from there we started riding. After a couple of turns the track was crazy steep and I think I was on my first gear all the time, we had grip though, so we kept going. It was so steep in a few minutes you could already see the sea and the views were really nice.
At some points it was impossible to pedal, even with trials skills, so we had to push the bikes on an off.
The last part, we were about 800m above the sea level and you could see a tiny Kavousi from above.
By the time we reached the top, almost at +850m everything was painted in warm colours and the sun was already touching the big mountains in the horizon. Until that point we didn’t realise the big mountains Crete has. From there we could see the Dikti mountains and Spathi, the highest peak, which is at 2148m.
We enjoyed the sunset at the top and rode down to the car to go back to Agios Nikolaos to have dinner.
The second day we started the ride direction Kalo Chorio a small town surrounded by olive groves and mediterranean shrubs. We kept pedalling and the more we went up, the better the views we had of Mirabello bay.
The track was rocky and we found some fun lines besides the track where Johnny and I decided to try. It was a bit tricky but it was rideable, plus with the light and the dust the pictures were amazing!
We kept going and after Kroustas the track was all downhill to the starting point riding through Kritsa, and finishing in the hotel and went for a walk to find a place to eat for lunch. We ended up in a restaurant in the Lake Voulismeni where we had an amazing lunch, as every meal in the whole trip.
In every adventure we want to try everything from the place we go, and this time we couldn’t be more happy because Cretan people take food very seriously and they always have high quality products. We loved all the salads, Dakos, tzaziki ( yoghurt with garlic, cucumber and mint) to dip the bread, grilled octopus, moussaka, feta and all types of cheese saganaki, dolmades ( stuffed grape leaves ), both vegetarian and with meat and dozens of food we tried during the trip.
We followed some parts of the route B1 which you can find in Agios Nikolaos tourism website: https://www.agiosnikolaoscrete.com/experiences/activities/cycling-trekking/
The third night we slept in Heraklion so in our way to the capital we stopped at the Lasithi Plateau for an afternoon ride in a completely different landscape from what we had seen before. The plateau its a flat area in the middle of Crete at around 850m above the sea level and its guarded by the imposing Dikti Mountains. In the winter the snow covers the plateau creating a magic landscape.
We started our ride in Tzermiado and the first part of the ride went through the towns of Marmaketo and mesa Lasithi. After, the climb started through an easy but steep track. The cool thing is that we had an awesome views of the Lasithi plateau behind. We kept going since we were going back through the same track, so we decided to stop and take some pictures on our way back. We followed the track, small ups and downs until we saw the Koreli ( 1.386m ) and the Halasmeni Korfi ( 1.390m ) peaks in front of us, we crossed the canyon and went back.
On our way back we got to see the whole plateau from above, with the sun rays going through the clouds and lighting some fields and some towns. We went back to the car and drove to Heraklion. It was a 1:30h drive through a winding road first, to go down the mountains with amazing views of the coastline, to enter the highway next to the coast later. We saw some windmills which is a trademark of the area because they were used centuries ago to irrigate the plateau.
First night at Heraklion and went walking through the medieval city center, where we saw the Saint Mark’s basilica in Lions Square, the Morosini fountain and the Loggia city hall, a building from the Venetian rule restored into the city hall of Heraklion. We found a cozy restaurant to have dinner and went back to the hotel to rest for the next day.
We woke up in Heraklion, had a wonderful and strong breakfast with feta cheese and jam, bread, some pastries and coffee because we had a long day. The plan was to ride around Heraklion and in the afternoon go to the highest peak of the island. Started riding in Heraklion city going west. We planed a short ride next to the coast. As soon as we left Heraklion, we started climbing from the sea level to almost 300m. The road goes though some fields and villas, its a pleasant road. You can even see the sea at some points.
We stopped at the top, in the small town of Rodia for a quick snack. All the climb was through asphalt so you could ride it with any kind of bike. We kept going until we turn right and took a gravel road and made it to Mades. There we wanted to see some cliffs and we went through a neighbourhood full of big and fancy houses and some resorts. We found a spot and we shoot some pictures there. It was beautiful, on the right you could see Heraklion city and on the left Agia Pelagia seaside village, Mononaftis beach and the irregular coastline.
We went back to Heraklion thought the road next to the coast, took the van and drove to Mygero refuge.
PSILORITIS UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK
Our plan was to go to see the highest peak of Crete, Mountain Ida ( 2.456m ) inside the Psiloritis Geopark. The geopark is a 1.200km2 area and it has a superb geodiversity with volcanic, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks forming folds, faults, caves and deep gorges creating a perfect place for a rich biodiversity. We loaded the bikes and drove to the Mygero refuge, it was a 1:30h drive so we stopped in the middle of the ride for a lunch. It was a very small village called Drosia and we found a Tavern, restaurants that serve Cretan cuisine.
The owner told us they produced the cheese they serve with their own goats. It was tasty needless to say. We kept going and drove through a winding road through the small towns until we reach Livadia, from there a very steep road full of goats, all kinds of goats, and goats everywhere and we made it to the furthest point you can get by car: the Mygero refuge.
At that point we took the bikes and went for a ride, there was a trail to the top of Mount ida and even it was more for hikers, you could pedal some parts. Even it was sunny it was colder than expected, and we decided to go down, we were really tired from the long day.
HERAKLION CITY RIDE
The last day at Crete we went for a city ride in the capital of Heraklion. We started early in the morning and rode straight to the Heraklion Lighthouse, where you can see the fishing harbour but also the modern port and the planes landing or taking off very very close. From the furthest point you get to see several mountain lines and you get an idea of how big and how hilly Crete is.
Going back to the harbour, we stopped at the Rocca al Mare fortress ( now known by its Turkish name Koules ), built by the Venetians. Heraklion is surrounded by an impressive medieval wall. Back in the days it had a great reputation as a well-fortified state in the Mediterranean, and you can see it every now and then while walking or riding in the city.
We rode from the harbour to the downtown through the 25th of August street, only for pedestrians and with a mix of modern and old buildings. The 25th of August street is named after a massacre where the Turks killed a lot of Cretans in 1898. We made it to Lion Square where you can see the Morosini Fountain and we had some snack and then rode around and stopped at some stores with local products.
We went back to the hotel and packed all the bikes and bags since the next day we were leaving super early. Then we walked to the downtown again, and while looking for a place to dinner we entered some stores and bought some presents for our families. We had a last wonderful dinner in a cozy restaurant and went to sleep early.
It was a short trip but it was enough to let us see the beauty of Crete island and enjoy the tasty food and the typical dishes of the Cretan and Greek culture. The rugged terrain of the island makes perfect landscapes to enjoy while riding and the big mountain ridges with the beaches creates a wonderful contrast that will impress everyone. Still, we saw just a small part of the island and we already fell in love with it, we know we will come back very very soon.
You can check all the rides here, however if you have doubts or questions, feel free to reach me anytime! 😀