An alternative winter destination

Discussion in 'Continental Touring' started by Don Madge, Jul 2, 2010.

  1. Don Madge

    Don Madge Funster

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    Warning this a long winded post.

    After trawling around the motorhome forums it appears few people are looking for an alternative winter destination to the Iberian Peninsula.

    We spent six weeks in Crete earlier this year (21 March - 30 April) and in our opinion would make an ideal winter destination especially for the loners/isolationists. The south of Crete is ideally suited for people whole like to get away from it all. There are a few all year campsites but the are on the expensive side.

    It is not a cheap option, if you are on a limited budget it's not for you. Prices have risen sharply in Greece recently. Diesel went up €0.32 per litre while we were there from early Jan to late April.

    The cost of the ferries can be kept down by using the short sea crossing from Bari/Brindisi to Igoumenitsa and the Minoan Lines day sailings from Piraeus to Heraklion on Crete.

    Officially "camping on board" runs from April 1st until Oct 31st but Ventouris Ferries, Agoudimos Lines and Endeavor Lines will allow you to sleep in your vans on the night sailings on the short sea crossings. Don't contact the head office of these ferry companies's because they won't admit it.

    Ventouris Lines Bari to Igoumenitsa.

    Agoudimos Lines Brindisi to Igoumenitsa

    Endeavor Lines Brindisi to Igoumenitsa/Patras

    Full details of these ferries can be found at http://www.ferries.gr/

    For details of the Minoan Lines day sailings see http://www2.minoan.gr/index.asp?a_id=608

    Superfast Ferries also run a day sailing but only one way from Piraeus to Heraklion you have to use a night sailing on the inward leg.

    For those wishing to drive overland to Greece it is a fairly straight forward drive without leaving the EU. One has to consider the weather when driving overland in the winter.

    This is the write up of our tour of Crete earlier this year.

    THE CRETAN CRAWL

    21ST MARCH TO 30 APRIL 2010

    In our crawl around Crete we clocked 1097 miles in 41 days. We circled the island in a clockwise direction starting at Heraklion. The places are listed as we found them; we either stayed overnight, lunch stopped or checked their suitability for night stops or longer stays. As we are loners/isolationists some of the places are remote mountain stops or secluded beaches.

    We only used two campsites (Camping Greta and Camping No Problem) both were found adequate but a bit pricy for the facilities they offered. We paid €120 site fees for seven nights and free camped for 33 nights with no problems at all except for one night when we were parked on a high cliff and the wind became troublesome!!!!! We relocated in a valley by a river still windy but much safer.

    We have not listed all the ancient sites as these are readily available in guides like the lonely planet. The ones we have listed are suitable for over night stops. We have also listed watering holes that have space for a motorhome to fill up safely, large supermarkets and service stations selling LPG.

    The ferries for Crete depart from the port of Piraeus (Athens) which is a huge place, for Crete sailings you enter by Gate E3 (N37.94514 E23.63495) Wifi is available on the port complex.

    HERAKLION PORT
    N35.34167 E25.14551 We spent the first and last night on the port area parked next to the port police building. There is wifi available at the café in the passenger terminal, we parked in the vicinity of the port police building and got a good signal in the van.

    GOUVES.
    N35.3329 E25.29182 Camping Greta we spent three nights at the site (€16.00 per night) as we found the 1170 mile journey from Turkey rather tiring.

    PLAKA. N35.30231 E25.72644.
    A small fishing village 10 miles north of Agios Nikolaos. There is a large car park at the far end (north) of the village with sea views. There are fish tavernas with a water front setting.

    AGIOS NIKOLAOS.
    Lidl. N35.18008 E25.69293

    ISTRON.
    Small village with supermarket and tavernas.
    Water N35.13115 E25.71582
    Karavostasi beach signed on west of village long beach with plenty of parking space.

    THOLOS. N35.15239 E25.86093
    Small bay with taverna, fair amount of parking area. The turn off the main road at Kavousi is at an acute angle and is best approached from the west.

    MOHLOS. N35.15240 E25.86093
    Small ex fishing village, many fish tavernas. Only parking available in field car park, not suitable for motorhomes over 6 metres due to narrow streets and tight turns.
    Water available at church at the junction of the E75 and turn off for Mochlos. N35.15771 E25.89439

    SITIA.
    Lidl N35.20208 E26.08597

    MONI TOPLOU MONASTRY.
    N35.22096 E26.2157 Large car park ideal for overnight stop.

    AS FAR NORTH AS YOU CAN GO IN CRETE.
    N35.28792 E26.29032 Over night stop on a narrow strip of land between two bays. This is one of the most isolated spots that we have stayed at.

    ITANOS RUINS.
    N35.26406 E26.26184 Secluded sandy/shingle beach plenty of parking but not right on the beach.

    VAI PALM BEACH.
    N35.25292 E26.26472 Quite a nice sandy beach with palms, plenty of parking behind beach out of season. Obviously marketed as a tourist attraction and would be very crowded at times. Defiantly not our scene.

    KOUREMENOS BEACH.
    N35.21485 E26.26751 Long beach good for windsurfing. Small harbour at one end, OK for overnight stop at harbour.

    HIONA BEACH.
    N35.19760 E26.27650 Small bay with fish tavernas on beach OK for over night stop.

    ZAKROS
    N35.09697 E26.23525 Water tap is situated by the footpath at the start of the Zakros gorge walk. There is a water tap on edge of village but there is a parking problem as the road is narrow.

    KATO ZAKROS.
    N35.09598 E26.26318 Shingle beach with fish tavernas. Parking is quite limited.

    XEROKOMBOS
    N35.04049 E26.23273 Ambelos (north) beach small remote beach with limited parking.
    N35.03648 E26.72042 Mazidas (south) large remote beach limited parking good for wind surfing.

    MONI KAPSA MONASTRY
    N35.01978 E26.05136 Water at the end of the Perivolakia Gorge below the monastery.
    There are several spots that are convenient for a night stop between Moni Kapsa and Goudouras.

    IERAPETRA.
    N35.01539 E25.74434 Lidl. N35.01166 E25.74980 APIADNH (ARIADNE) Supermarket Parking for motorhomes is limited at these stores.

    Water at War Memorial on E97 about 13 miles west of Mirtos N35.03904 E25.44295
    Water on road between Ano Vianos and Keratokambas at N35.01492 E25.41388 and N.35.00304 E25.39094
    There are two or three water taps in Keratokambos/Kastri.
    Night stop in Keratokambos/Kastri behind church N34.99663 E25.36946.

    TSOUTOUROS.
    N34.98550 E25.28665 Small fishing village with fish tavernas, small harbour with water available good for overnight stop.

    MATALLA.
    N34.99384 E24.75081 Very touristy, reasonable parking out of season. It is an attractive bay with caves in the cliffs and a good beach, but its fame is more due to the occupation of the caves by the Hippies of the 1970’s.

    KOMMOS BEACH.
    N35.01240 E24.76039 Good over night stop but limited parking.

    KAMILARI.
    N35.03192 E24.79078 Water tap situated in the square.

    KALAMAKI VILLAGE.
    N35.02946 E24.75866 Limited parking at beach, several fish tavernas.

    AGIA GALINI.
    N35.09548 E24.68844 parking at harbour, water available.
    Camping No Problem N35.10460 E24.69528 we paid €18 per night Inc elec & wifi. Excellent taverna on site with very reasonably priced menus.

    AGIOS PAVLOS.
    N35.10331 E24.56367 secluded beach with bar but very narrow roads in the villages to get there. Suitable for over night stop.

    SPILI.
    N35.21818 E24.53515 Large mostly sloping car park with water and toilets suitable for over night stop.
    Water N35.20461 E24.54331 1 mile south of Spili on right.

    MONI PREVELI MONASTRY.
    N35.15712 E24.45770 Large car park suitable for over night stop
    N35.15656 E24.46453 War memorial car park suitable for over night stop, 1 mile from the monastery.

    PLAKIAS.
    N35.18608 E24.39955. Long beach suitable for overnight stop.

    FRANGOKASTELLE.
    N35.18253 E24.23475 Castle car park suitable for over night stop.

    KOUTELOS BEACH.
    N35.20014 E24.18992 Secluded beach suitable for over night stop.

    HORA SFAKION.
    N35.19893 E24.13894 Excellent night stop on commercial quay. Water available on quay. Tavernas around village harbour.

    FILLIPOS.
    N35.36481 E24.19882 Water at church/cemetery.

    SOUDA BAY.
    N35.50028 E24.05988 British war cemetery, well worth a visit, parking limited.

    STAVROS.
    N35.59209 E24.09175 Good over night stop on beach.

    N35.52620 E24.07245 Spar supermarket with large car park on Stavros – Hania road.

    AGIA.
    N3547348 E23.93343 Water in front of church, wooded parking beside church.

    LAKKI.
    N35.39687 E23.94133 Water tap in village square.

    SAMARIA GORGE.
    N35.30828 E23.91801 We spent the night in the large car park at the entrance to the Samaria Gorge at an altitude of 2250 metres.

    DERES/NTERES
    N35.41970 E23.84729 Water tap. Also two other water points in village.

    KOLIMBARI.
    N35.54097 E23.78689 Ideal for over night stops
    N35.54629 E23.77817 Harbour area excellent stop over, water available.

    TOPOLIANO GORGE.
    N35.41852 E23.68697 Gorge viewing area suitable for a night stop.

    PALEOHORA.
    Night stop in harbour area and general vicinity. Fair size town with supermarkets. There’s a 2 ton weight limit in the town centre. There’s a bye pass (of sorts) as you approach the from the north the bye pass goes off to the right. When we were there the sign had been obliterated by gun fire. Follow the Camping Grameno signs and the turn left when you get to the sea.

    KOUNTOURA.
    N35.23447 E23.63818 Grameno beach, good for night stops or longer.

    KAVALARIANA
    N35.32845 E23.75249 Water; this is a spring not a tap.

    SOUGIA.
    N35.24775 E23.80855 Excellent place for night stops or longer. There’s a long beach with a harbour to the west and to the east plenty of parking on the beach. There’s water at the harbour and at the east beach as well. There are tavernas and a supermarket in the village centre. This is an ideal spot to have some R&R. The local tavernas are good value and some have wifi as well.

    VATHI
    N35.35869 E23.59347 Water tap in village square.

    ELAFONISI
    N35.27522 E23.54432 Beautiful sandy beach with ample parking space but the last 400 metres is a very rough track making it unsuitable for vans with a long rear overhang or vans with low ground clearance. Some of the available parking is difficult to access. The easy parking area is part of a nature reserve where over night stays are forbidden. Excellent beach for windsurfing.

    PAPADIANA.
    N35.36239 E23.58997 Water tap.

    KERAMOTI.
    N35.37013 E23.56233 Water tap.

    KAMPOS.
    N35.39082 E23.57386 Water tap in village square.

    SFINARI
    N35.41566 E23.56150 Shingle beach, about three fish tavernas. Limited parking.

    PLATANOS.
    N35.46404 E23.59910 Water tap in village.

    KISSAMOS.
    N35.49762 E23.64785 Carrfour Supermarket. Parking not suitable for large motorhomes.

    FALASARNA.
    N35.47588 E23.56473 Long sandy/rocky beach, several coves, plenty of parking and suitable for long stays.

    GEORGIOUPOLI.
    N35.36379 E24.26123 A fair sized village, a bit touristy. Parking in sea view car park. There is also additional parking around the harbour area.

    LAKE KOURNAS.
    N35.33273 E24.28049 Limited parking around the lake, many tavernas which are very busy on a weekend if the weather is fine.

    RETHIMNO.
    N35.36231 E24.44526 Lidl Supermarket.

    LASITHI PLATEAU.
    There are several free parking spots on the Plateau, there are many tavernas with parking areas if one uses there services. We stayed on a piece of waste ground at N35.18119 E25.50204 as we were quite late getting to the Plateau. The plateau is about 900 metres altitude.

    KNOSSOS.
    N35.29960 E25.16225 Knossos ancient site. Large car park suitable for over night stop.

    LPG.
    Before we left Athens we topped up our LPG bottle at the BP filling station at GPS co-ords N37.99304 E23.69742 as auto gas is hard to come by in Crete.

    There are only two outlets selling LPG on Crete, one in Heraklion and the other in Galatos near Hania both had the claw gun dispenser. It was a very stressful experience locating them as the GPS co ord’s I got from the www were way out.

    The Galatos outlet is an EKO service station, they had no additional adapters.
    Galatos. EKO N35.49961 E23.96641 LPG is €1.04 per litre.

    Heraklion. Avin N35.30461 E25.11587 LPG was €0.95 per litre
    The Heraklion outlet is an Avin service station were they had additional adapters so might be able to refill other bottles.

    OBSERVATIONS.
    This information applies to the time we were in Crete (21 March to 30 April) during that period Orthodox and non Orthodox Easter (2/4 April) fell on the same weekend. There were not the crowds that we expected in fact it has been fairly quiet all-round.

    ROADS.
    We found the roads to be in a lot better condition than we expected. There’s one big drawback, many of the roads are very narrow going through some towns and villages so if you are not happy with manoeuvring your van in confined spaces and are not happy driving on narrow mountain roads Crete might not be for you. I know some drivers are very reluctant to use first gear on mountain roads but in Crete it is a necessity in places. In many tight spots there are large mirrors situated so you can see if the road around the corner is clear.
    Road signing is a nightmare in many places, usually the direction signs appear first in Greek and then in English. That works out OK except like Corsica the Cretans use the road signs as target practise and often make reading the sign almost impossible. Even with the Sat Nav and a good map we had problems. We used the Marco Polo map of Crete.

    The E75 main northern coast road that runs from Hania to Sitia can be a very dangerous road. It changes from single carriageway to dual carriageway and back again with no warning at all.

    WATER
    At the water sources we have recorded there is sufficient room for an average motorhome to stop.

    FREE CAMPING.
    We found it was not a problem free camping on the island. There were many no camping signs but they just showed a caravan and tent, anyway the Greeks never bother if they want to camp they just do it. I think it would be impossible in June, July and August to free camp in some of the places we used.

    WEATHER.
    It was sunny and warm most of the time, sometimes windy. Average day time temperature was 22C. It rained a couple of times overnight. All in all the weather was very good.

    PRICES.
    Greece is no longer a cheap option for a holiday. On Crete we paid €1.28 for a litre of diesel, about €1 for a loaf of bread. On the mainland diesel was €1.20 per litre. In Athens LPG was €0.69 per litre.

    ATM’s
    There were plenty of ATM’s mainly in the towns and villages that were large enough to support a bank. There were also ATM’s at some of the larger supermarkets.

    CREDIT CARDS.
    We found that most of the larger supermarkets were taking the plastic but many service stations it was cash only. Some tavernas were accepting the plastic.

    We departed Crete as we arrived on the Minoan day sailing; this saves the cost of a cabin on the night sailing. We also had two nights free parking on Heraklion port.

    We arrived at Piraeus at 18.15 and decided to stay the night on the port area before heading north for Albania.

    If I can be of any help regarding Crete please get in touch.

    Safe travelling,

    Don
     
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  2. haganap

    haganap Funster Life Member

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    Phew Thanks Don,,,,

    And to think some said this site and its contributors would not be worth £12,,,,,,

    Excellent post, Nikki and I are not keen on Spain and really thought about Greece as an alternative when the time comes.:thumb:

    Can you nip off and do Turkey for us now and come back with a post like that to tell us all about it.:Rofl1:
     
  3. Jim

    Jim Ringleader

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    Great Post as ever Don. Many thanks:thumb:
     
  4. Brisey

    Brisey Funster Life Member

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    An excellent post (as usual) Don. Thank you very much.

    Paul, Don has written an account of one of his trips to Turkey. I have it saved it on a memory stick for reference. Can send a copy to you if you would like it.

    Brisey.
     
  5. wivvy's dad

    wivvy's dad Read Only Funster

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    Certainly makes me want to go there again.

    Have been before, but many years ago.

    Many thanks for taking the time to create such a resource.
     
  6. Don Madge

    Don Madge Funster

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    Thanks.

    For a write up of our trip to Turkey and more see
    http://www.magbaztravels.com/content/category/8/109/30/

    Safe travelling.

    Don
     
  7. Manouche

    Manouche Read Only Funster

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    Thanks Don

    Don, you're a saint :notworthy:
    Not only are you still out there doing it, but you take the time to record all that info and selflessly pass it on.

    This is what a motorhome forum is all about.

    Thanks
     
  8. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    Excellent informative post,a real gem...Thanks many times over.:thumb:
     
  9. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Hi Don

    with your permission, I would like to transfer the info onto a Google map of Crete, it would be a public map and open for all to view ..

    thanks for the very informative post :thumb:
     
  10. Don Madge

    Don Madge Funster

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    Hi Jim,

    It's OK with me but Crete is definatly not ARV country. Twice we only just made it through a gap and I've got the scratches to prove it.

    This was one of the wider gaps:Wink:

    [​IMG]

    Safe travelling.

    Don
     
  11. Parcverger

    Parcverger Funster - Campsite Owner

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    Greece is OK if you want to go that far (we love the greek islands, having backpacked around them) but I'm not sure about taking Columbus there. For those who are not too bothered about long distances, but want somewhere that is different, we'd welcome you at Parc Verger (www.parcverger.com). Weather permitting we have champagne or bucks fizz on Christmas morning (haven't missed one of these in our five years here) and a BBQ and beer lunch on New Years Day:thumb:.

    There's plenty to see and do in the area, so you do not have to go to far to enjoy a Christmas and New Year that's a bit different to the UK. Our wifi means you can keep in touch with the family in the UK, but they can do their thing while you do yours!:BigGrin::BigGrin:

    Cheers

    Bob and Di
     
  12. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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  13. ChrisF

    ChrisF Read Only Funster

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    Just Brilliant!

    Thanks Don for all your effort in putting this together. I will have to come back to give it a go.

    The idea of Wild Camping appeals to me however my present situation requires me to have a reliable Internet connection at all times as I am an IT support person so need to monitor servers and respond to problems when required.

    I'm not sure that my van is together enough at present to allow me to go off-grid for long periods: I need to invest in solar panels; an LPG tank;SOG and a larger water tank. I've updated all of the lighting to LED but feel that a fridge is essential so need to find a reliable method to run it. A solid and cost-effective Internet connection is also very important as I have to keep working and remain contactable even whilst away from UK on 'holiday'.

    Thanks once again for all your diligence and effort compiling this list and also for plotting them on the Google maps.

    Great job, brilliant!
     
  14. keith

    keith Funster

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    Great Don, good to see you back posting and giving us the benefit of your experience.

    All I have to do now is convince Jean that she would like to go. :Wink:

    Keith & Jean
     
  15. novawight

    novawight Read Only Funster

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    A great post, what a lot of info for folks going to Crete, its brilliant.....Del
     
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