Crete has it all: frozen-in-time mountain villages, unspoiled beaches, medieval churches and monasteries, the atmospheric Venetian port cities of Rethymno and Chania, and an abundance of hiking, rock climbing and other outdoor activities. The north coast of the island is also chock-a-block with hideous resorts filled with sun-starved package tourists from Northern Europe.
But it’s easy to avoid the tackiest places and, perhaps best of all, Crete is still very affordable, even in the cusp of the high season in late June. I stayed in four hotels, all priced at less than $100 per night for a family of four and can highly recommend these three establishments as great bargains.
We were staying on the outskirts of town in The Halepa Hotel, which we found to be adequate but overpriced, when we stumbled across this brand new, eight-room, family-run hotel, right smack in the middle of Chania’s unforgettable old town, just a half block from the waterfront. The Duca had just opened a couple weeks before and the large, light-filled rooms were cheaper and far nicer than the Halepa, so we decided to switch hotels and were glad that we did.Most budget and mid-range Greek hotels are pretty light on amenities – scratchy towels, razor thin mattresses and archaic plumbing are often the order of the day, but this place comes as a terrific surprise in the mid-range price category. We paid 75€ for a big, beautiful room (see photo above and video below) with a terrace and small kitchen. The Duca has super comfortable memory foam mattresses, plus very high quality sheets, pillows and towels, all very rare at this price point in Greece.
If you’re looking for a relaxed little beach town, free of big, tacky resorts with a huge, lovely sandy beach, look no further than pretty little Plakias, which is popular with families and naturists, rather than party people. Plakias Resorts offers inexpensive but very high-end, new vacation apartments right across the street from a beautiful clothing-optional beach.
We had a modern, very comfortable one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and three terraces, two with stunning sea views, for just 70€ per night. My kids loved the kids pool and there’s a beachfront taverna around the corner with very good grilled octopus. The only downer about this place is the dour manager who always seems to be in a bad mood. But it’s well worth enduring her moodiness for this terrific bargain.
On a three month trip around Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Greece, this was the cheapest place we stayed at just 40€ per night but I don’t think we received a warmer welcome anywhere. Yiannis picked us up at the bus station, plied us with free wine, a plate of fruit, gifts for our kids and a ride back to a car rental establishment upon departure.
We had a very nice loft with a kitchen that was fully stocked, a washing machine and a shady courtyard terrace. The bed was a bit Greek for my tastes, as in hard and uncomfortable, but at this price, I was complaining. I couldn’t figure out where Yiannis’ profit margin was but loved the bargain.