Hersonissos in Crete is rowdy Malia’s quiet little sister, and has delights of its own for travellers who prefer culture to cocktails and shots every night.
I stayed in the sleepy village of Piskopianio, a traditional Greek village nestled in the foothills of Mount Harakas and surrounded by olive groves, home to just 450 inhabitants. I felt I was friends with half of them by the end of the week!
A stroll through the larger villages of Khoutalafari and Hersonissos will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. Chat to the locals in the Tavernas and avoid the Hersonissos strip. It’s a tamer Malia for Dutch teenagers.
Down by the sea, travellers can enjoy typical Greek food – delicious fresh salads with salty feta, olives and juicy tomatoes, calamares and moussaka. I also sampled Greek Mezes of stuffed vine leaves and Cretan Dakos, a hard crusty bread with tomato and cheese.
If you’re interested in history, you should definitely take a day trip to Spinalonga Island, the last leper colony in Europe.
Take a short bus ride along the coastal hills, then board a ferry to the island in the Gulf of Elounda. The imposing, craggy island soon comes into sight, and there you can take a guided tour and learn about the mini civilisation’s horrifying past.
You might also be interested in: Where to stay in Crete.
The island was originally part of Crete, but was carved off during Venetian occupation and a fort was built there. It then became a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. You will see the old disinfection area for visitors, the bakery, and the church and houses that the ill inhabited. It seems the lepers’ time on the island was bittersweet because although they were given privileges not available on the mainland, they were ultimately isolated, and forced to send children born healthy to the mainland.
This great story is part of the series Tales from Greece, where travelers share their experiences from their holidays to Greece.