Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Crete: One of the most scenic drives in Europe

Most scenic drive in Greece
Photo from Forbes

According to Forbes, the drive from Chania to Paleochora on the island of Crete is one of the most scenic drives in Europe.

“This four-hour journey begins in the charming waterfront city of Hania and takes you past Samaria, Europe’s longest gorge; the journey on to Kandanos features craggy mountainous terrain dotted with tiny villages of traditional stone houses, and 14th-century Byzantine churches. The windy roads are challenging, but the white-knuckled ride, through Palaeohora, with its pink sandy beaches and waves ideal for surfing is worth the journey.”

Should anyone indulge in the beauty of Crete by car, it is wise to take heed of road conditions. Professional organizations have deemed these roads, of a “Third World standard,” not to mention the number of cars has increased six-fold, though the poorly maintained, narrow and unlit roads have not been upgraded.

It is also wise to take personal responsibility as a driver. See, “Cretans want better roads,” which explains what Crete and the whole of Greece really need are better drivers. 😉

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  stathis wrote @ November 15th, 2008 at 19:38

four hour drive?! I did the route last year and it is very beautiful, but i don’t think it is the best in Greece, not to mention the best in Europe

  Thomas wrote @ November 15th, 2008 at 19:48

I did this drive once, over a year ago. I drove from Iraklio over to Chania, and then down to Paleochora, and then drove back the next day. I think calling the roads third-world standard is an exaggeration. It’s often narrow, but that can’t be avoided in a gorge. Ironically, improving the road would detract from the beauty.

I remember at one point two hawks swooped down in front of us from left and right. That was the closest I came to having an accident, in my excited attempt to look up above us.

As for Cretans wanting better roads, it’s true that roads are pretty bad here. But it’s foolish to blame accidents on them. Crete needs better drivers. They’re really bad. If you drive through a village, you have to watch out for 14-year-olds driving 4x4s. I’ve also never seen so much roadkill in one place. It’s either a sport down here, to see how many animals you can kill, or the animals are stupider here than anywhere else.

  Thomas wrote @ November 15th, 2008 at 19:50

Oops. I didn’t read the rest of the post you linked to before I posted my comment. It seems Luc agrees with me.

  maria v wrote @ November 16th, 2008 at 16:51

as a cretan who has travelled this route many many times (i used to work in paleohora one day a week), i know it is beautiful, but i would have to agree with stathis – there are also other more beautiful scenic drives elsewhere in hania (try the hania to rethimno route, taking the old road, not the motorway).
and yes, thomas, the cretans may want better roads, but most of them drive as though they own the roads themselves, with complete disregard for anyone else that happens to be using the road at the same time as they are.

  rositta wrote @ November 17th, 2008 at 02:59

I’ve not done that trip yet but we did drive from Athens to Pylos and then to Nafplio this fall and enjoyed both. Must say though that my husband who was driving was pretty white knuckled the whole time. We couldn’t believe how cars could still try to pass on tight mountain curves, are they nuts! We saw many shrines to those who didn’t make the curves but somehow that doesn’t act as a deterrent. Didn’t see a single police patrol car or radar anywhere…ciao

  dwain wrote @ November 17th, 2008 at 21:17

I haven’t made it down to Crete, yet, but I hope to be awed by a drive up to the Vikos Gorge next week. Papingo has been highly recommended. Not only am I hoping to be awed, but I hope to survive. A Portuguese expat last week gave me the best advice I’ve received so far: “Don’t drive defensively. Go offensive.”

Bring it on.

  KT wrote @ November 21st, 2008 at 21:21

i haven’t made it to crete yet, but i’ve always wanted to, maybe next summer. but yes i agree with most people greeks are the worst drivers

  kalliope wrote @ December 6th, 2008 at 07:17

I can’t say that Greece has the worst drivers. Has anyone driven in Portland, Oregon, USA??? We did a lot of driving in the Peloponnese this summer, and we thought the roads were amazing and the drivers albeit aggressive, seemed to be in control. Come to Portland, but know you take your life into your own hands. Friendly people, but can’t drive to save their lives!!!

  FMS wrote @ December 6th, 2008 at 15:56

For dangerous drivers, I can recommend Cairo and Karachi. The driving there makes Greek kamikaze roadusers look like amateurs.

  dwain wrote @ December 7th, 2008 at 19:41

Okay, the drives from Delphi to Lamia and from Meteora to Ioannina are gorgeous, particularly in the fall with the leaves changing.

  jen wrote @ December 28th, 2009 at 19:43

I live in Chania, and drive down to Paleohora many times and I have to say that I don’t think it’s the most beautiful out of Europe! And if you want to see bad roads, you should drive from Falasarna to Elafonisi, near to the coast. Now that’s dangerous.

It’s bad enough driving through unlit mountains, but it’s also so narrow that only one car can pass at a time. The government should take care of the roads…

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