A student guide to Crete, Greece – Budget Travel


They say there is no place like Crete on earth and I agree with the thought to a great extent. My scholarship for the exchange program during my MBA in UK gave me the opportunity to visit one of the many islands of Greece.

Crete is the largest of Greek islands surrounded by a cluster of other islands, and is a near perfect blend of sea, sun & sand. And one can enjoy the luxury of all three from the window of their own apartment or hotel. Besides this, the island has a very interesting infrastructure ranging from barren plains to fertile plateaus, rough mountains and hill side villages all around.

The capital of Crete is Heraklion which is also the largest city. Like any other beach town, the city is much relaxed and you can walk around most of the areas. So, to kick start my journey in detail, Crete consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Lasithi. Half way lucky, I had the chance to visit two of them: Heraklion & Lasithi…

Getting There – The city that I stayed in was Agios Nikolaos, which is best known for its partying culture with several pubs and discos available around. I took the cheapest option available considering my student budget and boarded a charter flight from Manchester to Heraklion. The plan was to book a ferry from Piraeus to Agios Nikolaos and reach there by morning. However, taking a bus was more convenient as I reached at night. The bus took around three hours to reach Agios.

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The energetic Night Life

Staying There – Thankfully the hotel was walking distance from the bus stop and I reached safely. The hotel was quite a site and my room opened to a gallery which was sea facing. Most of the accommodations have a similar setting and sea facing rooms are a common site. Getting up with a fresh morning breeze was the most relaxing part of my trip.

Getting Around – I was too hungry by the time we reached and decided to check out the place around. To my surprise the food joints were open till three in the night and it was very safe walking in the middle of the night. Just around the corner were restaurants with alfresco settings and pubs were easily accessible. Euro is acceptable everywhere and cash is preferred. Shopping is fun and requires lots of bargaining. But don’t expect to get original stuff at all shops.

Places To See – I will get straight to my visit the famous spots without boring you all. The first on the list is Lasithi PlateauLasithi is the eastern region of Greece and is about a 2 hours drive from Agios. The famous white sailed wind-mills used for irrigation cannot be missed. The archaeological cave of Zeus is just above the plateau which can be reached on foot or on ponies. The cave is a marvel of nature and is maintained by the archaeological department since years.

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View from Lasithi
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The sprawling Wind Mills

Another fascinating spot is the Spinalonga Island which is located in the Elounda Bay. There are remains of the Venetian Fortress and after the Turks left, it was turned into a leper colony till a cure was found for the terminal disease. But now it is open for tourists. The best way to get here is to board a ferry, enjoy a quick swim before getting there and lunch on your way back.

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The remains at the Spinalonga Island

Last but not the least, is the Minoan Palace in Knossos which is huge and delicately preserved till date. The palace showcases many artistic frescos and remains of the civilization.

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Palace of Knossos
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The long preserved Frescos
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Remains of the Palace of Knossos

Traveler Advice and Suggestions – Apart from the above tourist attractions, beaches are a must visit every single day you are in Greece. And not to forget the delicious Greek food which is also healthy and nutritious at the same time. Needless to say, Greek Salad is quite well known and needs no introduction. Do try Moussaka which is a partly Greek and partly Turkish cuisine. Wine can also be ordered from barrel just like beer and one gets a pitcher of red wine which can be shared by all.

I enjoyed my 3 weeks stay in Agios Nikolaos thoroughly and would love to visit again. On my return I took the same bus to Heraklion Airport and returned to Manchester safe and sound.

ABOUT MANSI KUMAR – A novice traveler who is all set to explore new dimensions in traveling and is eager to experience diverse cultures across the globe. Academically, an MBA in HR & Process Management from UK and professionally working as HR Specialist in a Real Estate Organization in Dubai. Her areas of interest apart from traveling are writing, reading fictional stories especially those relating to our day to day lives, and history. A single female traveler who is soon to have a traveling companion on permanent basis.

When in Greece, don’t miss out on trying the local cocktail – ‘Ouzotini’. Check out the recipe here and make one for yourself at home!