Discovering Southwest Crete

Crete is the last island I visited during my Greek island tour. It’s by far the largest but also one of the Greek islands that never really appealed to me, mainly because of it’s party reputation. I needed to prove myself wrong and discover the best that Crete has to offer.

Getting there:

I was planning to take the boat from Santorini which takes about 2,5 hours but my boyfriend thought it would be a better plan to fly over there with a small propeller plane. History was repeating itself because last year a swore i would never step into a propellor plane again…Yes, I cried. Again.
The good thing is that it only takes about 20 minutes to fly and it cost about the same, if not cheaper, than the boat would. The boat from Santorini only leaves in the evening which means you lose a whole day in Crete. I had no time to lose as I only had 4,5 days left.

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Pointing at my destination with Heraklion all the way in the top right.

Once arrived, we rented a car. Needless to say, this is a must in crete if you want to visit the best parts. From the airport (Heraklion) we drove past the coast towards Rethimno and continued our way towards the southwest. One of the main reasons that I wanted to see this part of Crete, is because of it’s amazing scenery, a lack of tourist and lot’s to tell you guys about! When you drive towards the southwest, you will be surprised about how green Crete can be!

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Crete is very green indeed!

I always get hungry when I travel so after about 2 hours, we stopped along the coast and found a taverna next to a very nice and quiet beach.
When I looked at the menu, I immediately notiched that the food on there was very authentic. Everything was home cooked like; Briam, Moussaka or fresh Calamaris. 

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The perfect stop when you’re roadtripping.

» Chora Sfakion

After this nice stop, we kept on driving until we descended all the way across crete towards the south coast. Passing a lot of small villages and even a huge clove, we arrived in Chora Sfakion. This town was perfect for what I was looking for. I had no accommodation booked, so we looked around and after only 10 minutes I made a deal for a suite (including a shared swimming pool) for 40 euro’s per night for 2 people. Wow, this was a huge difference compared to Mykonos, Santorini and even FolegandrosWith this thought, I walked down to the village where you will find 2 small beaches, a harbour and a street full of lovely restaurants. Greece has a thing for bakery’s and Chora Sfakion had the cutest I had seen so far. Definitely buy your bread here. A Must try in Chora Sfakion » Sfakion Cheese & Honey Pie. It’s a speciality that every restaurant in town serves. I had mine for breakfast and the nice thing is, that they use local honey that taste so goooood.

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Traditional Sfakion Cheese & Honey Pie at restaurant Lefka Ori. Yummie!

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My favourite restaurant in Hora Sfakion: Lefka Ori

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The cutest bakery with so many things to choose from! Markos & Niki

Around Chora Sfakion:

» Fragokastello

15 km east of Chora Sfakion lays a 14th-century Venetian fortress, but there’s also a wide, white-sand beach beneath the fortress that gradually into shallow warm water, making it ideal for kids. Development has been kept to a minimum with most accommodation set back from the shore, leaving the natural beauty largely untouched. In summer, occasional concerts and folk dance performances are held. I was lucky to get an invitation from a local (we keep encouraging this kind of contact!) and enjoyed a traditional Cretan dance performance inside the castle.

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A traditional Cretan dance at the castle of Fragokastello

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The shallow waters with the fortress in the back

» Loutro

On the western side of Sfakion lays the cute bay village Loutro. The only way to get here, is by boat or by foot. You have a few options; taxi boat, a small ferry, rent a small boat or hike the 7km trail. I chose the small ferry which departs daily from Sfakion’s small harbour. A return ticket cost about 10 euro’s per person and takes 15 min. The absence of cars and bikes on Loutro makes it quiet and peaceful. You will find taverna’s and a few shops. You can rent boats, waterbikes or opt for a canoe like I did. This way you can explore nearby beaches like sweetwater beach and enjoy the turquoise sea.
Tip » Bring some sunscreen and a plastic bag to put your belongings in.

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Rent a canoe in Loutro and jump of the cliffs!

» Samaria Gorge

Europe’s longest clove (16km) is very near to Chora Sfakion and if you’re a enthusiastic hiker, you must have heard of it. More than 170,000 hikers, walk the Gorge each year and it’s one of the most populair things to do in Crete. At wander-lust we always try to discover the area’s that are a little less crowded so I hiked her little brother, the Imbros GorgeThis one is only 11km long and after about 5km you will reach its most narrow part at only 1.60 meters wide. Most people leave their car at the top and walk down, but I did it the other way round. Once you reach the top, you can walk down again or you can take a taxi or bus. It’s an easy walk but it’s always best to wear trainers and bring plenty of water. 

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Standing in between the narrowest part of the Imbros Gorge, Crete

 » Chania (old town)

Driving up north west, you will find Chania. Ok, it’s not next door to Sfakion (about 1 hour), but it’s a great place to visit when you make your way back up the mountain and that’s exactly what we did. The old town lays next to the old harbour and looks amazing. Don’t be tricked by the seaside restaurants as they overcharge you but walk inside the walls and you will be able to find cute coffeehouses, restaurants and shops.

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Chania is a great place to spent a few hours!

Off the Beaten Track

Crete is so big, that it’s impossible to see everything. I wish I could have visited a lot more places such as a very special island called: Gavdos.
This island is about a 1,5 hours boat trip from Chora Sfakion and it has been said that it’s a true hippie experience. If you liked the book or the movie The Beach, you will love Gavdos. People walk around naked, have campfires, sing songs and stay there for weeks. But I guess I have to wait a little longer before I can cross that one of my bucketlist. Until then I hope you find these tips useful and experience the best of Crete. Just like I did.

My Island hopping tour has finished and in total, I visited 5 islands and I did it in 14 days and I spent 1200 euro’s.
To find out which islands I visited and what I did, read all the articles below.

Love,

Elke

Colombia: many faces, one country!

My sister inspired me to travel to Colombia. A country with so many faces. For the world mostly known for the Farc (a guerrilla army) and drug trafficking by the cartel of Pablo Escobar (in the eighties responsible for 80{8b669be72a7f340f9ef2d6d852585cd40ddf0e79ccf763f3ea93c1234c3d888b} of the drug traffic to the US). But there is so much more to this country: a stunning countryside, a passion for salsa, amazing beaches and an artistic heart.

Bogato
Let’s start at the beginning. When I landed in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, I was really surprised about the brightness of the city. Everywhere you look you see art, especially street art. A guide (from a free walking tour that you can book here) explained that this form of expression is important in Colombia, by this way local people express how they feel about the government, corruption and freedom. I was moved by the way these paintings show an urge for peace, freedom and happiness. The city is developing into a beautiful cultural capital with a voice, a strong voice, against corruption and suppression.

Colombia Street Art
Streetart

Central Colombia
I met some great people to travel with and we went up to Villa de Leyva, the Zorro town. You literally feel you are in a Zorro movie. Who doesn’t want that? Definitely worth visiting. Tip: Stay at Colombian Highlands, a hotel on top of the hill with a stunning view. From Villa de Leyva I took a night bus to Salento: a long ride of 8 hours. There it was time to see the tallest palm trees in the world. The place was full of locals and no tourist to be seen. But there it was: Salento, a little town surrounded by thin high palm trees. I stayed at a great place on top of the mountain in an eco-farm La Serrana Eco Farm. The food is great and they offer a variation of tours (also a great coffee tour). This area ‘’Eje Cafetero’’ is also known for one of the best coffee productions in the world. The next day we started hiking in Valle de Cocora. Suddenly you are surrounded by impressive palm trees and hummingbirds.

Vila_de_levya
Villa de Leyva aka Zorro Town

North from Salento, you have the second biggest city of Colombia: Medellin. Medellin is the party city of Colombia and believe me: that’s true. A lot of clubs and bars but also the place for good healthy food. It’s a very trendy city but mainly the city of Pablo Escobar. There are a lot of tours, who will tell you everything about the ‘’Medellin cartel’’. My highlight was something totally different: Guatape. An amazing view close to Medellin that I will never forget. I think the picture will speak for itself, just stunning!

“This country is definitely one of my favorites. Viva Colombia”

gautape Colombia
Stunning views over Gautape

North West Colombia
This country kept on amazing me. So many different faces. For example: Cartegena, so different than all other places I had seen in Colombia. A town full of flowers with a big passion for salsa. You can feel the salsa, the passion for dancing everywhere. A good place to relax. A bit touristy but lovely. After Cartegena we went to Santa Marta. I had my favorite Colombian snack here! Grilled bread with warm Guacamole: yum! This town is not really special but a perfect base for a hike to the Lost City. First it was time to visit the most famous National Park of Colombia: Tayrona National Park.

The photo you see on the cover of the Lonely Planet, the photo of Colombia, is a photo of the most famous beach in Colombia: Tayrona beach. You need to see it! When you enter the park you have to walk 2 hours in the heat to get to the beach. There is no car access, only a walking route. There is one restaurant, some camp sites and hammocks. Really cool to stay a night and sleep in a hammock. I chose to skip it, because I wanted to do the Lost City track and I didn’t have enough time. I would definitely recommend it though!

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Part of Tyrona National Park

Tyrona beach Colombia
Panoramic view of Tyrona Beach

On top of the lost city Colombia
On top of the lost city

The Lost City
Sleeping in the open air in the middle of the park underneath the stars. Let the beauty of the world surround you.

For me no amazing night underneath the stars, but time for some real exercise: a hike to Ciudad Perdida  the “Lost City” in Spanish. The Lost City is an archaeological site and a unique place to see. There are still people living there without electricity, far away from the world we live in. Some people say it’s more beautiful than the Machu Picchu. This area is still untouched and not really touristy. The way to get there is though, really though. It was one of the hardest tracks I had ever done. I already heard that this track was hard work: 3 days of hiking, through the mountains, in the heat. The track is not the problem, but the heat! You might feel as if your body isn’t going to make it, so bring plenty of water. This was a journey I will never forget. I felt like I was in a movie, in a jungle full of magic. I don’t really have words to describe it. It was just magical. How the light shines through the jungle, the stairs partly covered by nature, the little waterfalls, the old rituals and ruins of the city, the lost city.

Hike to the palmtrees Colombia
Made it to the top! 

This country is definitely one of my favorites. Viva Colombia!

Love,

Jolien

*Jolien is one of our guest bloggers living in the Netherlands. She has traveled all over the world and seen countries like India, China, Sri Lanka, Australië and Colombia. You can read about her adventures and tips every 2nd Monday of the month!

Why you should visit Switzerland this summer

In my previous blogpost about summer in Switzerland, I visited the city of Bern and its surroundings. It was time to continue my roadtrip through this stunning country. It was time to find my inner Heidi and walk through the hills. We decided to continue our way up to Emmental and Lucerne.

Emmental

This region is made up out of small 42 villages situated between the green (or snowy) hills of Switzerland. Emmental got it’s name from the Emme river that flows through the area but Emmental is most famous for the cheese with all the holes in it. I started my tour through Emmental after a meeting with the pr manager of Emmental Tourism. She took me on a hike through the hills and although it rained a little when I arrived but that didn’t stop us from walking to a great viewing point. Fun Fact! In Emmental it’s very common to see a small house right next to a larger house. This is when the children take over the farm and the parents move into a smaller house right next door!

Wanderweg sign Switzerland
Wanderweg. I didn’t make this up 

Where did I sleep?

My accommodation was pretty cool. I stayed in a bed & breakfast in an old farmhouse owned by a dairy farmer and his wife, Evelyn & Ernst. I love B&B’s because it’s so much more personal than a large hotel for example. My room was large and on the top floor. The whole floor was pretty much mine to use which also featured a nice bathroom, TV room and children’s bedroom. We were asked to join dinner downstairs and because I am a vegetarian, they especially prepared some wonderful salads. Book your stay at the farm here.

Bed & Breakfast Emmental
The Bed & Breakfast I stayed at in the mitst of nature

Cow in Emmental Switzerland
Cuddling the cows

Hiking

If you visit Switzerland, be prepared to walk a few miles. Not because you have to but because you want to. There are so many beautiful viewing points and hills to climb, that you should definitely leave your heels at home. So the next day, when the natural alarm clock woke me up (read: Cow’s moo-ing), I was ready for a hike. The weather was beautiful and I walked from the farm through the forest and all the way up to where I can imagine Heidi running around in between te flowers. (I couldn’t help myself of doing the same, check the after movie!) Passing by little piglets, running (happy) cows and stunning views, we walked all the way up to a hotel/restaurant called Moosegg where we had an amazing lunch. At Moosegg you enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the Emmental and Langnau hills plus on a clear day you can see the Swiss Alps in the background. The restaurant’s chef took the time to explain that they’ve just finished a new renovation of the hotel, which has 22 rooms. Chef Daniel is a highly acclaimed chef which earned the restaurant it’s 16 awarded Gault Millau points.

Hotel Moosegg
Moosegg hotel/restaurant on the hills of Emmental

Restaurant Moosegg Switzerland
Danke Restaurant Moosegg!

Restaurant Moosegg Switzerland
Lunch with a view..

Lucerne | Vitznau

From Emmental you can drive in several directions but we decided to drive towards Lutzern. (Lucerne) We avoided the highway again and drove through the cutest villages and green hills. The weather was sunny and this makes Switzerland even better. When you arrive in Vitznau you will drive pass Lake Lucerne which is surrounded by mountains and is really impressive to see. Apon arrival, we parked our car and took the Rigi rails up Mount Rigi. This is a steep rail that runs through the area and pretty much the only way to get up the mountain. 

The Rigi Railways are the highest standard gauge railway in Europe.

Rigi Railways, Switzerland
Rigi Railways

Mount Rigi is popular with people, old and young, get up early for a fresh hike.

Around Rigi

After 5 stops we arrived at our accommodation, Hotel Rigi Kaltbad. Rooms are simple but the views are stunning. From green hills to snowy mountains within a few hours! Hotel Rigi Kaltbad has a spa which hotel guest can use and I couldn’t pass on this option of course! Enjoy an in and outside area with a view of the snowy mountains. This area is a lot more expensive than Emmental so don’t be shocked when you order lunch or dinner around here. (a cup of tea will cost you around €4,50) We took the Rigi Train all the way up the top and as stupid as I was, I didn’t bring any hiking boots. God, I really needed them because there was still a lot of snow at the top of the mountain. Tip: Have lunch place in the middle of Rigi Mount called Chalet Schild. Just opened, they serve homemade salads, soup, Swiss specialties and freshly baked pastries.

Travel blogger or not, when you stand here at 1700 meters above sea level, you’re gonna have yourself a cry-moment or two.

Hotel Rigi Kaltbad, Switzerland
Just chillin’ (OMG this view!)

Lunch at Chalet Schild, Mount Rigi, Switzerland
Lunch at Chalet Schild

From there the snow disappeared underneath our feet and we could walk on a straight path overlooking the lake of Lucerne. I had a moment of extreme gratitude and joy when I saw the view from here. It was so beautiful that I almost cried. This is the world’s true beauty. Everybody that comes here, is here to enjoy the nature of Switzerland and nothing more. 

Cry-moment #1
Cry-moment #1

Cry-moment #2
Cry-moment #2

After our 2 hour hike, we got back to the hotel to pick up our stuff and take the Rigi Train back down the mountain. We still had a few hours to kill so we decided to take a boat tour over the lake. Boat tickets are available from the ticket desks at the boat docks along the lake. You get a discount or even free travel if you own a rail pass. A ticket will cost you around €20,- and takes you from Vitznau to Lucerne and back. Our car was parked back in Vitznau so we needed to go back but otherwise it’s nice to spend a few hours in high end city Lucerne.

Boat trip over Lake Lucerne
The boat trip is well worth it

The last few days in Switzerland really took my breath away and just imagine it in a few months when everything is even greener! I can highly recommend to grab your car or train and visit Switzerland this summer!

Check our video about Switzerland!

Love,

Elke