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One day driving tour from Herakalion

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Nj
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One day driving tour from Herakalion

I am trying to decide what the nicest day trip by car would be from Herakalion. I am interested in covering a lot of ground and seeing as much as possible. One thing in particular that I wish to see is the Libyan sea on the south coast and the mountains. If I leave Herakalion early and need to be back for a 19:30 flight to Santorini what would my options be? Would it be doable time wise to drive to Hora Sfakion and then drive from there to Preveli beach before coming back to Herakalion? Is that even a nice drive through the mountains etc or can I do better?

Thanks!!!

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1. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

If you go to Google Maps, you'll find that driving from Heraklion to Chora Sfakia to Preveli and back to Heraklion would be over 5 hours. And a lot of it would be on the National Road, which isn't the nicest drive on Crete, though it does have some nice sea views along the way.

The mountains from the north to Chora Sfakia are spectacular, as is the drive from Preveli back north.

So if all you want to do is go for a drive, it's very doable, especially if you get an early start and you can just drop the car off at the airport. But I don't know if you could actually fit in Preveli Beach - it's a pretty healthy hike down a lot of steps from the parking area, though I think there's a very rocky road that gets closer. I don't know if it would be any quicker. It's a nice beach, but I wouldn't rate it a must see.

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2. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

It's your call, of course, but I wouldn't dream for one moment of doing that drive, which as Zakrosian says is at least five hours each way, if I had a flight to catch at 7.30. Even omitting Preveli and just racing to Chora Sfakion and back it's four hours each way, not allowing for stops. Even folks on tight schedules (I know from your other post that you're one of them) need to eat something occasionally, and have an occasional pee. And it's rather nice, in a country new to you, to stop and look at the scenery now and then. :0)

How long are you going to be staying in Heraklion, and what else are you planning to do? Given your tight schedule, perhaps you have only the one day? If so, why go away at all? You've got a very interesting city right under your nose, with terrific Venetian remains and one of the best museums in the world. And what about Knossos?!

But if you are in Crete for longer, and really want to do a day trip on your departure day, I'd suggest taking the road south through Agia Varvara and Mires, and visit Crete's most beautifully located and atmospheric Minoan palace remains at Phaistos, taking in Agia Triada and Gortys as well. If the ancient sites don't interest you, take the same road to Mires and keep going to Timbaki and onto the coast at Agia Galini. It's not as exciting a drive as to Chora Sfakion, but it's half the length, so you'll have time to enjoy the trip, and you'll see the Libyan Sea. And you won't be in quite so much danger of missing your flight.

Nj
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3. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

Thanks. I am glad to hear it can work. Would I see any traditional Crete villages along the way?

Also is that a drive you would recommend or if you were doing one drive from Herakalion would you do something else? I may be able to go the day before to Vai beach so I wouldn't want to repeat that of course.

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4. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

I've just re-read your other post and the thread, and I'm inspired to ask you something.

What is your 6-month old baby going to be doing with himself while you're driving across Crete?

Nj
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5. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

@ Alabstron - for some reason when I wrote my reply I didn't see your response yet only zakrosian.

My schedule is that I am landing in Crete on Sunday at noon and initially I was planning on leaving Tues morning for Santorini (I am there till Wed night) but the half hour flight seemed like a better bet then the Tues morning ferry. Due to my tight schedule I don't want to take any chances with the ferry and I hate getting sea sick.

So Sunday I thought I would drive out to Vai beach, it looks really cool in the pics and Monday I figured I have a full day for touring. I know it's a lot of driving and rushing but considering that this is all I have I don't have much of a choice.

I love driving and I am more enchanted by beautiful scenery than ancient ruins. This could be because I spent some time in Rome and will be in Athens at the end of my trip. Changing my flight to Crete isn't an option because I already have a non refundable ticket to Crete on Sunday and from Santorini to Athens on Wednesday night. So I'm trying to maximize the time that I have.

My baby loves car rides, so far she is best behaved when we are in the car. We just took her all the way to Indonesia from NJ for a vacation and she did great so hopefully it won't be an issue.

Going from Herakalion to Chora Sfakion and then to Preveli (maybe we can skip that) and driving up from there to Herakalion round trip to the airport on google maps take 5 hours. It didn't say for each way. Is that not true? I know that often google doesn't get it right so was wondering what you thought.

Alternatively if there is a really cool drive in Eastern Crete maybe I would do that instead together with Vai on my final day. Any thought? Thank you so much for taking out the time to help me work out this mess!!!

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6. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

Yes, it's true, but Google's estimates are often optimistic, and they are estimates of driving times only: they don't allow for stops.

They say 2 hours 13 minutes from Heraklion to Chora Sfakion, but I doubt you could do it in under 3 -3.5 hours, and that's without allowing for stops, or for taking it easy on the switchback descent to Chora Sfakion. Chora Sfakion to Preveli is estimated at 1 hr 16 minutes - again, overly optimistic. For Preveli to Heraklion google estimates 1 hour 42 minutes. That adds up to more than 5 hours already, for a total distance of 312km (add 5km/10 minutes to the airport) some of it on winding, precipitous roads.

Someone who is familiar with Crete and has had some experience of driving on Crete's roads might just be able to race from Heraklion down to Chora Sfakion, over to Preveli, and swing back up to Heraklion in 5-5.5 hours without stopping, but there would be no time at all to stop to look at anything along the way (let alone have a snack or a pee) but I doubt it. To enjoy the trip, I'd double the total driving time estimate.

On a sightseeing journey? With a baby? With a flight to catch at 7.30, for which you'll need to check in at 6.30, having returned the car? I don't think so. Even if it were possible, you wouldn't have time to see anything except the road in front of you. As for seeing some traditional villages - if that means driving through them, yes, you would see a few. But what's the point? You might just manage it if you went straight back to Heraklion from Chora Sfakion, but even then I'd say you're looking at a good 6-7 hours driving alone.

Next time stay in Chania, and go to Sfakia and Preveli then. Preferably on a day when you don't have to catch a plane.

Heraklion to Agia Galini, along the route I suggested, is a round trip of 160 km. Now that's do-able in a day.

Edited: 2:03 am, August 13, 2013
London, United...
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7. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

The drive down through Agia Varvara and Mires to Agia Galini is quite scenic, and avoids the long (approx 2 hour) stretch along the National Road between Heraklion and Vrysses where you turn off for Chora Sfakion.

There are loads of other possibilities. Perhaps someone who knows eastern Crete better than I do will offer you a few more suggestions for an enjoyable, do-able day drive from Heraklion.

Washingon DC area
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8. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

One option would be to drive to Anogia and stop in the Woodcarver's Museum in Axos.

Anogia:

flickr.com/photos/…

Frankly, there are very few drives in Crete that I don't find attractive - except maybe the National Road and some areas in the southeast.

Nj
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9. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

Seems like both Anogia and Agia Galini avoid the national road which is a bit plus I suppose. Thanks for all the input and ideas I appreciate it.

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10. Re: One day driving tour from Herakalion

You're very welcome. Have a good time in Crete, whatever you decide.

Anogia is an excellent idea.

I agree with Zakrosian. The National Road isn't bad, but it's definitely not the most interesting or scenic road in Crete! Parts of the south east are covered in plastic greenhouses, and they're not that attractive either. Otherwise, the incredibly varied Cretan landscape ranges from the gentle, beautiful rural to the spectacularly magnificent. Come again, and stay longer. Two days will give you a taste, but a lifetime isn't long enough.

Edited: 10:55 am, August 13, 2013