Crete, the Greek Islands, and Greece in general are always considered a summer destination. Time for a change we think, writes Tim Mitchell who owns a gay guesthouse on the north coast of Crete which is open year-round.
While many of the tourist resorts on Crete are closed from November to mid-March, there is still much to recommend Crete for a winter break. The weather may or may not be warm enough for swimming and sunbathing, and there can be rain, because, of course, this is our wet season, but you will get to see the real Crete!
With a population of around 500,000 permanent residents there are bars and restaurants open somewhere everyday of the week, and Heraklion the capital is as busy as ever, being the main administrative centre for the Island.

Take a trip to Knossos, the main archaeological site, which is open nearly every day, and then visit the museums. Take a drive into the mountains, (if you go high enough you can have a game of snowballs!) and marvel at the greenery, so different from the parched red-brown landscape of summer. Watch the olives being picked on dry sunny days, but forget romantic notions of them being picked by hand, these days it is highly mechanised with electric power tools run by portable generators.

Walk through the villages, where you often find a kafenion open, with tables outside where you can sit in the winter sunshine, enjoy the scent of olive wood smoke in the air (still a common way of heating homes on Crete), and enjoy a coffee in our typically unhurried Greek way.

In the evenings, you can visit the cinemas in the city (English language films with Greek subtitles), or just enjoy a leisurely meal and an early night, although it is not difficult to find a late night venue, but be prepared to follow the Greek way and not go out until 11pm!

‘But what about all the accommodation?’ you ask! Well there are hotels in Heraklion with all the facilities you would expect and prices to match. Outside the city hotels can be a little harder to find, but remember many of these are designed for summer use so few have proper heating for the days when you will need it, and if it does rain you will have to entertain yourselves! Villa Ralfa
Of course, here at Villa Ralfa we are aligned to winter visitors, so we have board games, lots of books, DVD's and CD's and quite oftena big log fire to keep you entertained. It is a home hotel rather than somewhere that caters for the masses.

For travelling around during your stay on the island we recommend that you hire a car, you can do this on arrival at Heraklion airport, or if you are travelling light the local buses still run during the winter with a slightly reduced timetable. Getting here from the UK is simple with easyJet flying direct from London Gatwick and Manchester with prices from £80 each way including taxes.

More about Crete


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