Destination Wedding - My Guide To Crete by Francesca Depledge

Throwing a destination wedding is an exciting time for you and everyone involved but be sure to remember that you are asking your guests to make a big commitment. They are sacrificing a chunk of cash and annual leave days to see you tie the knot in a far-flung destination. For some it may be their only holiday of the year.

Providing your guests with a list of things to do and places to visit during downtime throughout the wedding week or if they choose to extend their holiday will prove useful and it’s a nice touch. It will ensure that they have the ultimate experience in your chosen country and they’ll be glad that they boarded the plane.

So, yet another thing to add to your ever-growing wedding planning to-do list. Don’t worry. If you’re heading to Crete then keep reading to find out about my must-see but not so well known, totally instagrammable spots to share with your future wedding guests.

Give me Crete any day! It is the largest of the Greek Islands and is known for its vibrant culture, ancient landscape, yummy food, breath-taking scenery and many time-honoured traditions. This unique island has heaps to do which is why it is my number one place to switch-off, escape the chaos, recharge and be me again (for at least a week).

1. Lake Kournas

The only freshwater lake in Crete is situated at the foot of the famous White Mountains and isn’t to be missed.

Besides taking in the beautiful landscape, you can hang on the beach, rent a paddle boat and feast on Greek food whist overlooking the lake.

My favourite part is scouting the local ceramic shops where you will find handmade crafts and artwork. If you’re in luck, you might spot some turtles too.

Lake Kournas Crete.jpg

2. Octopus Bay

Hello paradise!  

Octopus bay or Ombrosgialos as the locals call it is a beautiful hidden bay on the north coast of the island approximately 25 miles east of Chania.

The crystal-clear waters make it perfect for swimming, diving and bathing. You’ll need to navigate a few hills, slopes and winding roads to get there but it’s well worth it, plus the off-road driving is fun.

3. Argyroupoli Village

Situated on the site of the Ancient City of Lappa, today Argyroupoli is famous for its stunning springs and lush green landscape. If you are looking for a carefree relaxing day then this is it.

You will have the chance to sit back in one of the local tavernas and enjoy Antrikristo, aka. slow cooked meat on the spit, take in the ancient ruins and stroll amongst the old Venetian buildings.

4. Loutro

A 20 minute ferry ride from Chora Sfakion you will find a charming white and blue village only accessible by boat. That’s right…there are no roads! Well, you can actually walk there along a mountain pathway but I wouldn’t recommend it on a hot day and it’s a bit of a trek.

This quaint little village has around 50 houses most of which are guesthouses now, a handful of tavernas and a few craft shops.

I can honestly say it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. It has that Mama Mia vibe and seafood which is out of this world.

Loutro Crete.jpg

5. The Island of Spinalonga

It’s not quite off the Cretan path as this place has been discovered by many, written about, documented and there is even a Greek TV series about it. Yet, despite the growing number of tourists, it is still worth a visit.

Situated in north-eastern Crete and within throwing distance from the village of Plaka sits the Island of Spinalonga. You reach the island by taking a short boat ride which only costs a few euros.  

The Venetian fortress and the surrounding deep blue sea paints a pretty picture but you shouldn’t forget its dark past. Until 1957 the island was used as a leper colony. Upon reaching the island you feel completely shrouded in mystery. Strolling the abandoned village the island is silent and you begin to experience what it must of been like to exist in such a lonely and suffocating place, with very little contact with the outside world.

For decades after its 1957 closure little was known about the island. But since the hit 2005 novel “The Island” by Victoria Hislop and the successful TV series “To Nisi” has changed all that and the untold story of Spinalonga has finally been heard.

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6. Matala

Located on the South coast of Crete lies the once sleepy fishing village of Matala.

In Greek mythology Matala is the place where Zeus swam ashore with abducted Europa on his back before seducing her. In more recent times Matala became legendary thanks to the many hippies that flocked there in the late 1960s in search of peace and to take up rent-free residence in the cliffside caves once used as tombs by the Romans. It was also here that Joni Mitchell immortalised the ideal hippie scene in her 1971 song “Carey.”

Today, Matala remains a small laidback coastal village and while the caves where the hippies once lived are now fenced-off, they can still be visited. Unfortunately overnight stays are not allowed but I’m glad to say there are more guests houses available than there were in the ‘60s.   

The true nomadic hippie culture isn’t quite that of the ‘60s but there are traces of its bohemian past. Its relaxed and carefree vibe continues making this one of my favourite spots in all of Crete.

Matala Crete.jpg

7. Gavdos Island

Fancy being the southernmost person in all of Europe? Then head to Gavdos Island. Here you can literally get away from it all.

There is a very limited number of rooms to rent, a couple of tavernas and the boat journey to and from the island runs 2-3 times per week. Its endless beaches and rugged coastline make it the perfect place to shut down and recharge.

8. Melidoni Cave near Rethymno

On a really hot day this is the perfect place to cool down and where geology, history and mythology meet. It’s an enjoyable drive as you weave amongst the rugged mountains reaching an altitude of 220m.

Approaching the cave entrance you may feel somewhat underwhelmed but as soon as you step inside you immediately feel in awe. The lighting is the best.  

Excavations of the cave reveal that it was home to prehistoric people and home to Talos, the protector of Crete. During the early 19th Century the cave hosted one of the most tragic and heroic events of the Cretan resistance against the Ottoman Empire.  

I will leave you to find out the rest.

Meledoni Cave Crete.jpg

9. Koutalas Beach

Located in Kokkino Chorio at the tip of cape Drapanos is Koutalas beach, a real hidden gem. The beach is relatively undiscovered, has no facilities so it receives few visitors. But if you are looking to completely escape then look no further.  

Its highlight for me is the cave located close by known as God’s cave, which is only accessible by boat as the internet states. However, if you get to know the locals they’ll happily point out the steep narrow staircase situated at the top of the cliff in which you can reach the cave opening. Once at the bottom you can stand at the coastline edge and enjoy the sounds of crashing waves. It’s definitely a thinking sort of place.

There’s lots to consider and Crete as you can see makes a stunning location for a destination wedding.

My earlier blog on planning a destination wedding is packed with hints and tips on things to consider and of course if you are considering a wedding in Crete or Italy I would love to hear from you, my contact details are below.

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Enjoy living like a local and until next time…

Francesca x

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