"Don't expect a Cycladic landscape with white and blue houses, fish tavernas, and traditional buildings," says DANAI KINDELI about her home island, the rugged and diverse paradise that is CRETE.

CRETE island guide



We are delighted to share the Cretan tips from one of our favourite people we have been lucky enough to meet in Greece, DANAI KINDELI. Operator of the beautiful farmhouse accommodation METOHI KINDELIS in Chania, Danai offers her thoughts on where to eat, when to swim, and how to best enjoy the island.

What are your favourite places to eat in CHANIA, CRETE and why?

Food is important to Cretans and we are pretty spoiled about it, while the local ingredients are really good, therefore avoiding the touristy places, it is hard to have a bad meal. Besides the classic tavernas scattered in town and around the villages there are some less traditional options worth trying.

I love a meal at SALIS gazing at the Venetian harbour while enjoying fresh food and wine from their awarded wine list! They cook local dishes with a twist, with vegetables they grow and ingredients sourced locally. My tip is to order lots of appetisers instead of main dishes to savour as many flavours as possible, such as the roasted eggplant, the delicious tarama, the deconstructed pastitsio with truffle and many more.

I love cocktails and bites at MAIAMI, the art studio and brasserie of artist Alexandra Manousakis at the locals favourite Koum Kapi area. Everything here is curated by Alexandra, from the beautiful large space set by the water, filled with ceramics and colour, to the hearty, funky food and stylish cocktails. Overall it is the perfect spot for an easy and fun evening with friends.

For the fans of Mexican food a dinner at MATZENTA KUZINA DEL SOL is mandatory. This gastrotaverna is in a quiet residential neighbourhood of Chania and none of its guests are found there by chance. The owner and chef Dimitris after spending years in Mexico and having worked in high-end restaurants in Mykonos and Athens decided to create a place that would bridge the culinary worlds of Crete and Oaxaca, highlighting the local organic fruits and vegetables. Not only is the food very interesting, he is also a wonderful host. I love going there for a late dinner and finishing the night with conversations and mezcal cocktails at the bar.

A recent opening STERJA, in the popular Agios Nikolaos square, is the perfect choice for conscious travellers, as all ingredients are exclusively sourced in Crete, while the use of every ingredient is maximized (for example, lemons used in the food are peeled and distilled to be used in the cocktails and the very special creme brulée made with local milk and butter), hence the waste is minimal. The wine list made by the owners sommelier wife, is also very interesting, signaling the wine for its characteristics and producer's specifics, highlighting organic wines and female wine-makers.


"Food is important to Cretans, and we are pretty spoiled ... it is hard to have a bad meal."

CRETE is known for being the centre of Minoan culture which it is often regarded as the first civilization in Europe. Your mother worked as an archaeologist on Crete. Do you have any favourite facts or anecdotes about the history of the island?

Crete had different interesting and powerful cities throughout the centuries. Knossos and the Minoan civilization is certainly the most famous and incredibly important being the first matriarchal civilization in Europe where women made the most important decisions.

However my favorite one is the ancient city of Aptera, a site my mom excavated for years which has ruins from different eras from 3000 BC on to Classic, Hellenistic, Roman times, a Byzantine Monastery and an Ottoman fortress. On this site, one can see a good example of how civilisations were succeeding each other while contemplating the incredible view from the hill overlooking the Souda Bay. What I find very interesting is that the city developed commercial activity with Egypt—notably of many tons of snails yearly—while it reached 35,000 inhabitants in its peak.

An anecdote I find interesting is all the clay pots discovered in kitchens broken after the big earthquake that ruined the city, where archaeologists found traces of food, like figs, snails, lentils etc. My tip is to visit in spring when you walk among the wildflowers to admire the remains. After your visit you can stop at the neighbouring village of Megala Chorafia where the taverna Aptera or the Kafenio across the street for delicious traditional food and raki.


"What I find very interesting is that the city developed commercial activity with Egypt—notably of many tonnes of snails yearly—while it reached 35,000 inhabitants in its peak."

There are so many beautiful swimming spots on Crete, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. For first time visitors to the island what beaches or swimming spots do you think are priorities?

I find the contrast of Crete is best appreciated when swimming in the sea gazing at the mountains, especially when they are still covered in snow! One of my favourite places for that, is Falassarna beach (avoiding the main bay) , one of the few places to see the sun setting into the sea.

Then my favourite sea in the world to swim in is the Libyan sea all along Crete's South coast where one can choose among so many different beautiful bays.

Personally I like pebble beaches more because of how the water looks, like Sweet water, but there are many sandy beaches too like Ligres (to be avoided with wind).

I am not a big fan of Balos and Elafonissi because of the incredible crowds and would only recommend them if you visit from October to May but not in summer.

Other than Metohi Kindelis, what are good areas to stay in the Chania region and why?

It really depends on what experience eache traveller is seaking, but I find it interesting to explore the inland of the island as it is an important aspect of Crete's character. If one wants to choose a rural landscape as its base, I would choose Milia Mountain Retreat set in an olive grove. For design lovers with children I would suggest Ammos Hotel. I also love the south but the accomodation there is very basic.


"Don't plan all the details ahead; don't book all your dinners in advance! Let yourself feel the place, get in the local rhythm."

What things should one consider before visiting Crete? For example, do you think having a car is important?

1. Don't plan all the details ahead; don't book all your dinners in advance! Let yourself feel the place, get in the local rhythms, mingle with locals and see what feels right at the moment and not months before when you haven't seen and breathed the place. To experience Crete like a local you should take your siestas in the afternoon, go to the beach until sunset and go for dinner after 9pm.

2. Don't come for three nights, spend at least five days here! Crete is a big island and the Chania region alone has enough to keep you busy for weeks. The drive from the west to the east coast is five hours. Definitely rent a car to be able to explore, as the distances are big and the nicest beaches are on the south coast while the cities and most hotels are in the north.

3. Don't expect a Cycladic landscape with white and blue houses, fish tavernas and only traditional buildings. Crete has cities, universities, shops and contemporary landscapes and life but also very charming villages, high mountains and locals keeping the traditions alive! Make sure to explore all its aspects but accept that you will not see the whole island on one visit!

4. Don't refuse a treat! Hospitality is a very well known characteristic of Cretans and they can be insulted if they invite you to have some raki or desert and you refuse. If you really can't have it rather say you are on antibiotics or something of that sort..sadly driving is not a good enough excuse.

5. Try to avoid the busy summer months when the island is overcrowded. The best months to visit Crete are May and October, when it is more quiet, it is warm but not too hot so you can enjoy nature, seasonal food and observe local life.

6. When you go to a local taverna, don't go for the classic Greek dishes such as moussaka and Greek salad, you can try those at any Greek taverna in the world and they are not Cretan dishes. Our local cuisine has such depth and variety. Seasonality is king here so ask for the season's best.

7. Greeks are flexible and accommodating while Crete is a really safe place so do not hesitate to travel here even as a female solo traveler!